Mere Town v Balti Sports

2pm  18 February 2017

Dorset Premier League
Mere Town 1 Balti Sports 1 (att 15)

Mere is in Wiltshire, but the town's football club looks across the nearby border into Dorset for football, and welcomed Weymouth-based league leaders Balti Sports for this game.

The match programme suggested Balti were poor travellers, and so it proved as they never really recovered from going behind very early. They equalised soon enough, but there were no more goals and if either team deserved to win it was the hosts.

Mere Town play on a railed off pitch in a the corner of the local recreation ground. It has advertising boards, dugouts and half of one side has hard standing for those who'd rather not muddy their shoes by standing elsewhere.

It was an enjoyable afternoon. A decent and very competitive contest, and Mere's opening goal meant I'd seen exactly 100 games since my last 0-0 draw (still some way to go to match my longest run of 194 though). Just Balti Sports left to complete visits to all the league's grounds.










Swindon Town U18 v Luton Town U18

11am  18 August 2017

EFL Youth Alliance, Merit League One
Swindon Town U18 1 Luton Town U18 1 (att 45)

The southern sections of the EFL Youth Alliance have begun their second stage 'merit leagues', in which the top and bottom halves of the south east and south west divisions form two new leagues.

Swindon and Luton both finished in the upper halves of their respective leagues, and kicked off their merit league campaigns with a point each after a lively game at Stanley Park in Chippenham.

Stanley Park is a sprawling football centre on the outskirts of the town. It was a busy on a Saturday morning with plenty of local youngsters making use of the facilities and enjoying coaching sessions.

My fixture was on the 'premier pitch', directly behind the pavilion building and fenced off along one side where there's also a pair of dugouts. The ground has been used for Wiltshire League football in the past, although as far as I'm aware it's not currently used regularly on a Saturday afternoon.

The first half wasn't great, the only moment of real quality was an excellent free kick which gave Swindon a deserved lead as half-time approached.

Thankfully the second half was much better. Luton stepped up and made more of a game of it, twice hitting the crossbar before eventually forcing home an equaliser. Both teams had chances to win, but in the end a draw was probably about right.








New Street v Cromwell

2pm  11 February 2017

Warrington and District League, Premier Division
New Street 1 Cromwell 2 (att 15)

A day when the weather was a factor in deciding where to go, and once my first choice game was called off I settled for the safe and easy option of a local trip to a match on a 3G surface.

The artificial pitch at Rainhill High School is relatively new, and provides a home ground for New Street FC, playing their first season in the Warrington League's top division.

There's not a lot to say about the venue, it's typical of its type with floodlights and enclosed by a high fence. No problems getting access inside the 'cage' for spectators.

Premier Division football in the Warrington League is usually good to watch, and this was no exception. New Street will be wondering how they failed to get anything from the game, although the blame lies with their poor finishing.

Cromwell's 20th minute opener was against the run of play and the only first half goal. New Street eventually converted a chance to equalise in the second half, but Cromwell got a decisive second to steal all three points.








Alnmouth United v Cullercoats

2pm  4 February 2017

Northern Alliance, Division One
Alnmouth United 2 Cullercoats 3 (att 17)

This fixture fitted in well at the end of a few days away in Northumberland, and what it lacked in skill it more than made up for in entertainment.

To be fair to the players the surface at Hotspur Park wasn't conducive to free-flowing football but, as is often the case at this level of the game, effort and endeavour are the important factors.

There was plenty from both teams. Alnmouth, finding their feet after promotion to this division last season, took a first half lead but held it for just five minutes before conceding an equaliser from the penalty spot.

They went back ahead thanks to a penalty of their own early in the second half, but always looked vulnerable in a game between two evenly-matched teams. Once Cullercoats levelled for the second time they had momentum, and it was no surprise when, moments later, they scored what proved to be the winner.

Hotspur Park is a rural venue. It's next to a cricket ground in countryside between the villages of Alnmouth and Hipsburn, not far from Alnwick. The pitch is roped off through wooden posts, and on one side there's a pair of dugouts and a few advertising boards.










Treharris Athletic Western v Caerau at Fochriw AFC

2pm  28 January 2017

Welsh League, Division Three
Treharris Athletic Western 1 Caerau 0 (att 43) at Fochriw AFC

I saw Fochriw lose comprehensively at Aberfan back in August, and since then the club has folded after pulling out of the South Wales Alliance League.

Rather than lying empty though, the Welfare Ground is now providing a temporary home for some Treharris games. The club have a new home in the pipeline, but the sudden closure of their historic Athletic Ground earlier this season, for health and safety reasons, left them needing to find alternative venues, and one of them is Fochriw.

Once Treharris move on I hope football is revived in Fochriw, as it'd be a real shame if such a fine football ground was left to be become derelict.

It's not just that it's enclosed, with a large covered standing area and grass banking on one side and some extra cover in front of the changing rooms in the corner, but it's built into the hillside in a village that's at the head of the valleys, and on a clear afternoon the views all round are great.

On the pitch a scrappy game was won thanks to an early goal for the hosts, while Caerau were disappointing for a team challenging at the top of the division.











Newport County U18 v Bristol Rovers U18

10.30am  28 January 2017

EFL Youth Alliance, South West
Newport County U18 2 Bristol Rovers U18 2 (att 61)

Once again the ever-shifting world of Youth Alliance venues gave me a new ground to visit, this time at Newport who have swapped one local school for another.

The last time I saw a Newport home game at this level they played at Llanwern High School, but they've recently moved to the nearby Lliswerry High School.

It's just a pitch on a large school playing field, taped off along the one touchline where spectators can stand, but enthusiastic school staff and helpers make visitors feel welcome and provide refreshments for those watching.

It was a great game. Newport went ahead early but Bristol Rovers soon equalised. The home side regained the lead before half time, but it wasn't long into the second half when Rovers levelled again.

Both teams had chances to win the game, but with no more goals it ended in a draw that was a fair result.

Some professional youth games can be sterile affairs, with performances and passing patterns more important than results, but this was a proper competitive match on an old-fashioned muddy football pitch.






Trethomas Bluebirds v Bridgend Street

7.30pm  27 January 2017

Welsh League, Division Three
Trethomas Bluebirds 0 Bridgend Street 3 (att 70)

Trethomas are new to the Welsh League this season, and after a good start went into this game as one of a number of clubs with sights on promotion.

But it was promotion rivals Bridgend Street who strengthened their hopes thanks to three second half goals to win an entertaining encounter.

I'm not sure how the first half ended goalless. A mix of bad luck and bad finishing meant both sides spurned plenty of opportunities to score. Two quick goals mid way through the second period swung the game in the Cardiff-based visitors' favour, and they added a third before the end.

Trethomas have one of the more interesting grounds in the Welsh League. They share the well-equipped home of Bedwas Rugby Union club, and this fixture was on a Friday night as the rugby club had a home game the following day.

The down side of this sort of arrangement is a grass surface that's more suited to rugby than football, and extra pitch markings which, to be fair, were less confusing than I thought they might be.

The positives are a decent ground, with seats and covered accommodation behind the goal at the clubhouse end, and more seats and cover along the touchline. Unfortunately the ground's main feature, a larger seated stand, was closed to spectators.