Leigh Athletic v Chapel Town

1pm  9 December 2017

Manchester League, Division One
Leigh Athletic 4 Chapel Town 0 (att 17)

Given the amount of snow I had to clear from my car in Manchester before heading to this game I was surprised to find none on the pitch at Leigh Sports Village.

Leigh Athletic have returned here after a season playing at Culcheth High School, but whereas they previously played on the grass pitch inside the Sports Village's running track, they now use a 3G pitch in a different part of the complex.

It's a basic set up, and typical of its type, but on a day when few grass pitches were playable locally, and even some artificial surfaces were ruled out by the amount of snow on them, it was good just to have a game that was on.

The football goals are in front of rugby posts, a sign that Leigh is primarily a rugby league town. For this game spectators were allowed to stand inside the high fence that surrounds the pitch, despite signs to the contrary, and a pair of neat dugouts on the far side provide accommodation for subs and coaches.

Leigh Athletic are going well in the league, and had few problems seeing off Chapel Town. They took a 15th minute lead, doubled their advantage early in the second half, and added two more near the end.

Chapel were hampered by losing their goalkeeper to a second half injury and having a player red-carded late on, but neither incident affected the outcome.










Ashland Rovers v Netherfield Albion

7.30pm  6 December 2017

Nottinghamshire Senior League, Division One
Ashland Rovers 1 Netherfield Albion 1 (att 15)

League leaders Netherfield left Ashland's Kingsway Park ground with their unbeaten record intact, but they dropped points for only the third time this season after a lively game that was enough to take my mind off the conditions.

Luckily it stayed dry, but it's an open venue with little shelter from the stiff breeze that was blowing across the pitch, making the playing conditions a challenge.

Netherfield looked set for a win after a 15th minute goal put them ahead, as they created the bulk of the scoring opportunities with the hosts mostly limited to half chances. But 12 minutes into the second half Ashland converted one to level the scores.

It set up a very enjoyable final half-hour or so, in which both teams threatened to score but neither did. Netherfield came closest with a late shot that came back off the cross bar.

Ashland Rovers are based in Kirkby-in-Ashfield, and are unusual at this level for having a floodlit ground.

Other than the lights there's not a lot at Kingsway Park. The pitch is enclosed by a wooden fence on one side and behind the far goal, while the other side borders the high fence of an adjacent artificial hockey pitch. The near end has a mesh fence behind which are the changing rooms.










Pontardawe Town v Garden Village

2pm  2 December 2017

Welsh League, Division Two
Pontardawe Town 1 Garden Village 2 (att 58)

Occasionally I get reminders of just how long I've been visiting non League football grounds. I was amazed to realise it was over 25 years ago that I saw Pontardawe lose a West Wales Senior Cup tie at their former ground.

A quarter of a century later and I returned to the Swansea Valley town to visit their new home, Parc Ynysderw. It's still a work in progress, but plenty of progress has been made in the relatively short time they've played here.

It's an enclosed football pitch that's part of a large playing field, and Pontardawe Town's pitch was looking an lot better than what teams in a trio of local games had to contend with elsewhere in the park.

There's small stand on one side, portable buildings providing pitchside changing rooms, and a snack bar to keep spectators supplied with food and drink.

Both these sides are on the fringes of the promotion battle, and Garden Village were celebrating a hard won three points at the end of 90 minutes.

They looked the better side, just about, but they had good fortune on their side. A first half lead looked to have been cancelled out by a Pontardawe equaliser, only for the referee, having initially given a goal, to have second thoughts when faced with vociferous complaints by Garden Village.

After consulting his assistant he changed his mind and ruled the goal out. From where I was standing I don't know if he eventually made the right call or not, but if Garden Village hadn't complained as vehemently as they did I'm sure it would have been 1-1.

Garden Village doubled their lead before the break. A second half goal for Pontardawe kept the game interesting for neutrals like me, but Garden Village defended well to hold out and earn all three points.









Newport County U18 v Bristol Rovers U18

10.30am  2 December 2017

EFL Youth Alliance, South West
Newport County U18 2 Bristol Rovers U18 4 (att 45)

I watched this same fixture in January, at County's current first choice youth team venue of Lliswerry High School, but this season's encounter caught my eye when I spotted it was being played on 'pitch two' at Dragon Park.

Dragon Park, in Newport, is Wales' National Football Development Centre, a bit like a mini version of the FA's St George's Park. I visited the main pitch in 2015 for an under 17 international, but the second pitch is some distance away from the main arena.

It's just an enclosed grass pitch, adjacent to a 3G ground that was hosting Newport v Bristol Rovers at under 16 level. While it's a more enclosed ground than the usual pitch at Lliswerry High School, the down side for spectators is having to watching from outside the fence that surrounds the pitch.

Peering through a fence isn't a great way to watch football, but at least it was an entertaining game. Newport took an early lead but it was soon wiped out and the first half ended 1-1.

Rovers began the second period in clinical fashion, scoring three times in the space of 10 minutes early in the half. Newport pulled a goal back to keep things interesting, but they couldn't manage a third and the visitors held on to win.








Lancing United v Westfield

2pm  25 November 2017

Southern Combination League, Division Two
Lancing United 4 Westfield 2 (att 15)

Following a couple of enjoyable days staying further east along the south coast at Rye, I headed west for football. After dropping my other half in Brighton for the afternoon I made made my way to the Croshaw Ground in Lancing.

It's a basic venue, even for step seven of the FA's non-League pyramid. The pitch is enclosed by a wooden fence, but sits in the middle of a public recreation ground. Home team players carry out the goal frames and dugouts before kick off, and put them back into storage after the final whistle.

It may be an unusual addition to players' pre-match warm up routines, but it did struggling Lancing United no harm as they eventually overcame Westfield following a lively and entertaining 90 minutes.

The home side had been in front twice, one in each half, but on both occasions Westfield had equalised. The goal that put Lancing United in front for the third time was against the run of play, but it proved decisive.

The drama continued to the end, with Westfield hitting the post in the final moments before the home team - who played the match with just 11 players, no subs - scored a fourth to confirm their win.










University of Manchester v University of Warwick

3pm  22 November 2017

BUCS Trophy, Last 32
University of Manchester 3 University of Warwick 1 aet (att 15)

I last saw a game at Manchester University's Armitage Centre sports ground in pre-blog 2003. The grass pitch used by Old Mancunians that day is still there, but the university's men's first team use a more recently installed 3G.

It's a typical artificial pitch that's floodlit and enclosed by a high fence, and part of a multi sports venue that's busy with student sport on a Wednesday afternoon. The Fallowfield ground was even busier in 1893, when it (or a site within a few yards of it) staged the 1893 FA Cup Final between Everton and Wolves.

It wasn't exactly a cup final crowd for this tie in the main British Universities and Colleges Sport cup competition, but those of us standing along the touchline saw Manchester eventually progress after throwing away a lead in the 87th minute.

They'd been ahead thanks to an early goal, and in a game between two sides both need of a goalscorer it looked like being decisive. But in the closing moments the home side tried to used a corner as a way of running the clock down, they gave the ball away and Warwick broke forward and equalised.

Extra time was compressed into two 10-minute halves, presumably as Manchester's second team and their opponents MMU were waiting to kick off at 5pm, but it was long enough for Manchester to score twice, and have a penalty saved, as they booked their place in the last 16 of the BUCS Trophy.








Beccles Town v Waveney

7.30pm  21 November 2017

Anglian Combination, Premier Division
Beccles Town 2 Waveney 2 (att 75)

I enjoy my occasional visits to games in the Anglian Combination, which has venues ranging in facilities from roped off pitches to proper grounds with floodlights and stands.

Beccles is in the latter category, and College Meadow can't be far from the requirements for step six football if the club were to pursue promotion from the Anglian Combination. As well as lights, the pitch is mostly railed off and there's a stand with seats along on side of the pitch.

I think the stand is a recent replacement for an aged predecessor, and the club deserve credit for mirroring the design of the old stand, rather than replacing it with an off-the-shelf prefab of the type seen at so many grounds.

Waveney, whose ground I visited towards the end of last season, made the most of a defensive error to earn a point from this game.

They deserved a draw, after starting well and taking a deserved lead before allowing Beccles back into the match. Two goals in quick succession had given the hosts a half time lead they'd looked like holding until the end, but Waveney's late leveller meant it was a point apiece.