Jeanfield Swifts v Edinburgh United

7.15pm  27 May 2015

SJFA East Region, Premier League
Jeanfield Swifts 4 Edinburgh United 0 (att 59)

Perth is a long way for an evening's football, but with the season in England and Wales winding down it's north of the border where there's still plenty to see.

One of the many good things about Scottish Junior football is that even late-season matches with little at stake are truly competitive. This was Jeanfield's final league game, Edinburgh United have enough fixtures left to climb the table, but can't go up or down.

The home side's football impressed me, particularly in the first half as they raced into a three goal lead. Perhaps United were suffering the effects of what must have been a challenging rush hour journey north, perhaps they were missing a few regulars.

Jeanfield only added one more in the second half, although they spurned a few chances. Edinburgh United had their moments, and on another day might have got a consolation goal.

The competitive nature of Junior football was evident in the final few minutes, as the referee struggled to maintain control during bouts of ill-discipline and scuffling. He brandished a few yellow cards, one or two reds might have been more appropriate.

Jeanfield's Riverside Stadium is relatively new. It's trim, neat and tidy - much like the city itself - and has a couple of steps of terracing under a high-angled roof built onto the front of the pavilion.











Folly Lane Old Boys v Whitnash Town

6.30pm  26 May 2015

Coventry Alliance, Premier Division
Folly Lane Old Boys 2 Whitnash Town 2 (att 355)

If you wanted a thrilling climax to a football season then Folly Lane's London Road ground, in Coventry, was the place to be.

Going into this final game, Folly Lane were second, a point behind leaders AEI Rugby, and a point ahead of third place Whitnash. Whoever won this fixture would be champions, while AEI, having completed their games, could only watch from the sidelines hoping for a draw that would seen them crowned champions on goal difference.

They weren't alone on the sidelines. Groundhoppers from far and wide joined a huge turnout of locals, lining a pleasant park pitch that was roped off on both touchlines. Folly Lane's changing rooms and clubhouse are on the other side of the busy London Road.

Folly Lane started on the front foot, but while they enjoyed most of the possession it was Whitnash who looked more dangerous. It was the visitors who went in front, after about 30 minutes, but Folly Lane equalised shortly before half time.

Their celebrations took an unfortunate turn though, as a ball volleyed in the direction of a Whitnash follower earned Folly Lane a red card.

A man advantage should have handed the initiative to Whitnash, but a soft penalty early in the second half put the home side 2-1 up. As the game neared its end Folly Lane players tired, suffering from their numerical disadvantage. Whitnash pressure was finally converted into a goal with less than 10 minutes left.

That set up an exciting final few minutes, as both sides pushed forward in search of a title-winning goal. A clear penalty, in stoppage time, gave Whitnash the perfect opportunity to win (and a resulting scuffle saw another red card as Folly Lane finished with nine men).

But the penalty was saved, and in the final seconds neither team could muster a goal and so the small contingent from AEI Rugby were celebrating at the final whistle. Great stuff!









Edusport Academy v Abbey Vale

3pm  23 May 2015

Cree Lodge Cup, Semi-Final
Edusport Academy 5 Abbey Vale 2 (att 9)

Having watched Edusport's team of young French footballers ease past Upper Annandale in Thursday's Cree Lodge Cup quarter-final, I headed to their Hamilton home to take in their semi-final.

Visitors Abbey Vale were likely to be a tougher nut to crack, having beaten Edusport in the final of another cup during the week, and they seized on defensive errors to take a 2-0 lead in the first half hour.

Unfortunately for Abbey Vale, Edusport didn't make any more defensive errors, and eventually their total dominance of possession was converted into enough goals for a comfortable win.

Edusport had drawn level by half time, and two second half goals effectively settled the tie. Abbey Vale were rarely able to attack, although they did manage to exert some pressure near the end, hitting the crossbar with five minutes left. The game's last meaningful action was a 90th minute fifth goal for Edusport.

Watching the game was a curious experience. Edusport, a residential academy for young French footballers, play home games on the 4G pitch at the Hamilton Palace Sports Ground.

As a football club, what Edusport lacks is supporters. Despite free admission I counted just nine of us who watched all, or most, of the game. A few others wandered in and out, stopping to watch the action for a few minutes, but presumably unaware that it was a cup semi final, or who was playing.

All-weather pitches in sports centres are rarely interesting venues, but the Hamilton Palace version isn't bad. The pitch is fenced off on all four sides inside the high mesh fence, so spectators can watch from anywhere around the pitch.









Upper Annandale v Edusport Academy

7.30pm  21 May 2015

Cree Lodge Cup, Second Round
Upper Annandale 0 Edusport Academy 5 (att 44)

I nearly visited Upper Annandale's Moffat Academy ground back in August, but decided against a long journey for a school pitch that's apparently just a temporary home before the club returns to its traditional base at Hope Johnstone Park.

But as this cup tie was postponed from Monday, to a night when it was the only option for a new ground at a reasonable level, I was happy to head north. Moffat is a pleasant town, and as school pitches go Upper Annandale's home pitch isn't bad.

It's one of two football pitches side by side on the playing field, with one end and one side roped off for spectators. The opposite side, out of bounds, has a pair of temporary dugouts and some advertising boards.

Monday's postponement meant Edusport were playing this just 24 hours after defeat in another of the South of Scotland League's many cup competitions. Both teams seemed down to the bare bones though, with neither managing any substitutes.

As a cup tie it was over quickly. Edusport were 2-0 up inside 10 minutes, and scored a third after 20. The second half was more even, but Edusport's eye-catching football was above anything the home side could muster, and they added two more second half goals. A late red card for the visitors was their only blemish.

Edusport are new to league football this season, and have bought a touch of Gallic flair to the robust world of the South of Scotland League. To quote from its website, Edusport is a "residential football academy, based in Scotland, for young French footballers". The idea is that they develop as players, learn English, and get the chance to impress professional clubs who might sign them.

Watching a team of young Frenchmen running rings around the opposition on a school pitch in Moffat was entertaining, and I'm tempted to watch their semi-final on Saturday.








Dringhouses v Riccall United at Wigginton Grasshoppers

6.45pm  20 May 2015

York League, Senior Cup Final at Wigginton Grasshoppers FC
Dringhouses 4 Riccall United 3 (att 123)

As a cup final this was very much a slow burner but, as a neutral, patience was rewarded with a thrilling climax as underdogs Dringhouses scored three times in the final 10 minutes to steal the cup.

To be fair they'd been the better side for much of the game, but were wasteful in front of goal and looked to have been undone by the superior finishing of Riccall who were looking to add the cup to the Premier Division title they'd already won.

Riccall scored the only goal of a rather scrappy first half, and when they doubled their lead early in the second period it looked to be game over. Dringhouses got back into the game thanks to a penalty, but a third goal for Riccall appeared to end any thoughts of a fightback.

Dringhouses weren't beaten though, and were urged on by the majority of the crowd. An 80th minute goal reduced the arrears to 2-3 and gave them hope, an 86th minute equaliser looked to be taking the tie to penalties, until their dramatic stoppage time winner.

Venue for the final was Wigginton Grasshoppers' home in Mill Lane. It's a complex that's a sort of sporting hub for the village, a few miles north out of York. The main football pitch is roped off, with some advertising boards and modern dugouts. There's even two small covered areas for spectators at one end, which I assume where the former dugouts.

The only surprise, with it being a cup final and attracting a decent crowd, was that the league made no effort to charge admission or even take a collection. Ultimately the game provided entertainment well worth paying for.











Rimington v Skipton LMS at Skipton Town

6.30pm  19 May 2015

Craven FA, Challenge Cup Final at Skipton Town FC
Rimington 4 Skipton LMS 0 (att 108)

This must be the first time I've seen the same club play twice in 24 hours, but unlike the side LMS put out for the previous night's league game against Grassington this was the full-strength side.

Alas they were no match for Rimington, who won this season's East Lancashire League and seem to be the current dominant side in Craven district football.

They went ahead after 12 minutes, and doubled their lead by half time. Two more second half goals were enough to secure a comfortable win, and with better finishing they might have scored more.

LMS battled well, but were very much second best and once they went behind their chances of success looked slim.

It was pleasing to see this game, at Skipton Town's well-equipped Deman Stadium in Engine Shed Lane, as I'd turned up on the original date, 8 May, only for the game to be called off after a pre-match torrential downpour left the pitch waterlogged.

The ground, only a few yards from LMS's Sandylands home, has a two-story pavilion, with a couple of steps of cover built into the front. The near side of the pitch was taped off to stop spectators encroaching, while the far side has just enough room to stand between the pitch at the fencing that encloses the ground.










Skipton LMS v Grassington United

6.30pm  18 May 2015

Craven and District League, Premier Division
Skipton LMS 1 Grassington United 5 (att 15)

Tonight Skipton LMS play in the final of the prestigious Craven FA Cup, so a meaningless end-of-season league fixtures just 24 hours before the big game was never going to be a highlight of the season.

To be fair I had been warned, when checking the game was definitely going ahead I was told that LMS intended to field a weakened side. The side was so weak they kicked off with just 10 men, although they did eventually muster a full 11, and even a couple of subs.

As a match it was a no contest. Grassington took an early lead, and by half time were 4-0 ahead, despite not playing great football themselves.

The second half was at least more even. What should have been Grassington's fifth goal was bizarrely ruled out by the referee, who thought the ball had hit a post when it in fact it rebounded off the rear stanchion inside the goal.

The visitors' official fifth wasn't long in coming though, and against the odds it was LMS who scored the game's final goal. Hopefully it'll be a very different LMS I see in tonight's final.

LMS's Sandylands home is a something of a Skipton sporting hub, as part of a complex that includes well-equipped cricket and rugby grounds, tennis courts and a sports centre. The football ground is enclosed, with changing rooms near the entrance and a narrow pitch with a dugout on either side.