Harborough Town v Rothley Imperial

29 November 2011
Leicestershire Senior Cup, Second Round
Harborough Town 2 Rothley Imperial 1 (att 36)

Second time I've seen Rothley this month, and like last time it was a good game. Rothley effectively play one league lower than Harborough, but scored early in a first half in which they looked the better side.

Perhaps it was having the stiff and chilly breeze at their backs which aided Rothley in the first period, as soon after half time Harborough levelled, and went on to control the half. With the temperature dropping I didn't fancy extra time, so was relieved with Harborough got a deserved winner about five minutes from time.

This was my second visit to see a team called Harborough Town at this venue, but the old pitch, used by the current club's predecessors, is now an all weather pitch. The new ground is next door, and is entered via an impressive clubhouse, housing a bar, tea bar and even a shop selling club shirts and merchandise.

The ground itself is rather featureless, with just a small covered standing area, presumably to comply with ground grading. It's only Harborough's second season at this level though, so the ground should perhaps be seen more as a work in progress.

Ground no 3,667

Gas Recreation v Buckhurst Hill

1.30pm  26 November 2011
Essex Premier Cup, Third Round
Gas Recreation 3 Buckhurst Hill 0 (att 30)

A cup tie which paired teams from the top tiers of the Essex and Suffolk Border League and the Essex Olympian League, and it was the Border league which came out on top. No surprise really, as "The Gas" have been among the league's top sides for several years.

Buckhurst Hill battled well, but never recovered from going a goal behind inside the opening 30 seconds. Gas Rec were 2-0 ahead by half time, and didn't look like losing their grip on the tie during a second half in which the visitors pressed and created chances, but looked vulnerable at the back, eventually conceding a third.

The Bromley Road ground in Colchester is basic but pleasant. The main feature is a pavilion, with the club's nickname picked out on the tiled roof, and which houses changing rooms and a tea bar, while the pitch is partly fenced off and mostly roped off.

Ground no 3,676

Colchester United U18 v Brentford U18

11am  26 November 2011
Football League Youth Alliance, South East Conference
Colchester United U18 1 Brentford U18 3 (att 48)

With a new training ground on the way, this could be the final season that Colchester United's youth team games are played at the Garrison B ground. That's why I left home before sunrise for the lengthy journey to Essex.

The game was okay, if not particularly memorable, but it was worth the early start and long drive to visit the ground. Unusually for youth team venues, it's a "proper" ground, with floodlights and a seated stand, and programmes are available. There's easy access for the public, despite it being a military sports ground.

Brentford were fairly comfortable winners. They went ahead midway through the first half, and when they doubled their lead in the second half the contest looked to be over. Colchester pulled a goal back, but the visitors ended the game in the ascendancy, missing a late penalty before scoring an even later third goal.

Ground no 3,675

New College Swindon v Wootton Bassett Town

3pm  19 November 2011
Hellenic League, Division One West
New College Swindon 0 Wootton Bassett Town 2 (att 55)

The home side - who even in their own match programme can't seem to decide if they're called New College Swindon FC or New College Academy FC - play in the extensive Supermarine Sports and Social Complex.

The main football ground here belongs to Southern League Swindon Supermarine, and it seems that New College tend to use their ground if its available, rather than their "official" home pitch, which doubles as a venue for Supermarine's rugby club.

Cambridge City were Southern League visitors today, thus ensuring that New College played on the rugby ground and keeping me, and a number of other groundhoppers, happy.

I can see why the club might prefer the alternative ground though. While a lot of work has clearly been done to enclose the ground and erect some basic cover for spectators, the grass is of a length better suited to rugby, and markings for both codes are visible on the pitch.

New College's attractive passing game would also be more suited to a better surface, and their young players were outmuscled by Wootton Bassett's more direct approach.

The clash of playing styles made for an interesting game. Wootton Bassett went ahead in the first half, and doubled their lead with a penalty very late in the second. They deserved their win, but New College should continue to hold their own in the Hellenic League following last season's promotion.

Ground no 3,674

Bristol City U18 v Cardiff City U18

11am  19 November 2011
Premier Academy League
Bristol City U18 0 Cardiff City U18 2 (att 50)

Nice to go to a Premier Academy League game where visiting spectators are welcomed, rather than being grudgingly tolerated and treated with suspicion, as seems increasingly to be the case these days.

Bristol City's youngsters use the club's training ground, part of the huge QEH sports ground, primarily set up for rugby, just outside Bristol near the village of Failand. Free teamsheets where available from a friendly chap overseeing the car park, and he helpfully pointed me in direction of the pitch, which was hidden from view and a fair walk from the entrance.

As well as the Under 18s game, the two sides met at Under 16s level on an adjacent, parallel, pitch. Spectators are limited to half of the touchline between the two pitches, as well as space behind the goal.

Cardiff took an early lead with a penalty, and sealed their win with a second goal midway through the second half. They probably deserved to take all the points.

I quite enjoyed the game, but looking back on it neither keeper had much to do and, as is often the case with Academy games, the neat and precise football too often lacked a cutting edge.

Ground no 3,673

Guernsey v Feltham

12 November 2011
Combined Counties League, Division One
Guernsey 2 Feltham 0 (att 1,752)

I grew up in Feltham, and Feltham Arena was where I watched my first ever non League match, in December 1984, when the home side were soundly beaten by Banstead Athletic.

These days I still follow Feltham's progress, usually from afar, but if they play on a ground I've not been to I try to get to the games when I can. So once the season's fixtures were released it was an easy decision to pick this weekend for a mini break in Guernsey.

With the home side making a good start in their debut season, and Feltham on a losing run, I feared it could be defeat even more comprehensive than the Banstead match, but Feltham defended well and made life difficult for the hosts.

Guernsey deserved the win, but it took them until the 33rd minute to go in front, and Feltham always looked capable of getting an equaliser before Guernsey's second goal just 11 minutes from the end. All in all an enjoyable game, and having seen some poor Feltham performances in the last few years I was very impressed with their football.

Guernsey play at the Footes Lane Stadium, on the outskirts of the island's capital St Peter Port. As a football ground it's not the best, especially with a large crowd. There's a modern seated stand, sold out for this game, spectators can stand behind both goals, but on the far side, where I stood, the standing area is beyond the running track and behind a pair of large dugouts.

Despite the size of the crowd, Guernsey's best of the season so far, the atmosphere was a little muted. The club employed a band, literally trying to drum up some more vocal support, and they had some effect. The game also marked the debut of Guernsey's mascot, Roary the Lion, who entertained the crowd with his antics. Sky Sports were also in attendance, and a feature on the game will appear during next weekend's Soccer Saturday show.

I know the 16-year-old me, walking home from Feltham Arena 27 years ago, would never have imagined flying from Manchester to the Channel Islands to watch a Feltham game.

Ground no 3,672

Aylestone Park v Rothley Imperial

8 November 2011
Leicestershire Senior League, Premier Division
Aylestone Park 4 Rothley Imperial 2 (att 82)

Almost certainly the only time I've ever seen a game with four penalties. Add an own goal and a red card, and very committed displays by two of the league's better sides, and you get a good evening's entertainment.

The penalties were shared two apiece. Three were scored, while the Aylestone Park keeper parried one of Rothley's but had no chance when the rebound was lashed passed him. One of the additional goals that won the game for Aylestone was an own goal. Although the home side were helped by a second half dismissal for the visitors, they deserved to win the game.

Aylestone Park's Mary Linwood Recreation Ground is new this season. There's two pitches, both floodlit and enclosed, with a small covered standing area alongside the main pitch. A smart clubhouse behind the goal incorporates a tea bar and changing rooms.

A good night out, and worth battling through rush hour traffic for one of the very few remaining new grounds I can get to after a full day at work.

Ground no 3,671

Brighton & Hove Albion v Barnsley

6 November 2011
Football League, Championship
Brighton & Hove Albion 2 Barnsley 0 (att 19,841)

Recompleted "the 92" for the umpteenth time with a visit to Brighton's new home. If the previous days visit to Rusthall was everything I enjoy about visiting non League grounds, an afternoon at the American Express Community Stadium reminded me why I rarely watch league football these days, except when dutifully visiting any new grounds that crop up.

The game was ok - I'm sure there'll be plenty of detailed match reports elsewhere online - but as an afternoon's entertainment I certainly wasn't worth the £32 (including £2 booking fee) that it cost. Yes the stadium looks nice, the seats are padded and there's plenty of leg room.

Many of the seats probably had a better view of the pitch than mine, which was too low towards one corner, and many, unlike mine, probably didn't have annoying people sat in front who insisted on leaping to their feet every time Albion crossed the half way line.

On Saturday at Rusthall I paid my admission money then drove through the stand to get to the car park. At Brighton I had to park miles away, and catch a bus to the ground, sprinting out at the final whistle to give myself a chance of an early bus back to car before the long trek home. The programme was good, although at £3 it ought to be.

At least it's the only new League venue this season.

Ground no 3,670

Rusthall v Lydd Town

2pm  5 November 2011
Kent Invicta League
Rusthall 2 Lydd Town 1 (att 84)

Just the sort of afternoon that reminds why I enjoy this hobby so much. An entertaining game between two sides showing plenty of endeavour, friendly people and a quirky football ground.

Rusthall play at Jockey Farm, and as the name suggests it is a farm. It's not easy to find, but as you drive up the short approach road, towards some stables, a sign to the left advertises eggs for sale, while a sign to the right directs you to Rusthall Football Club.

A friendly chap on the gate collects £3, a bargain as it includes admission and a smart full colour programme, then to reach the car park you have drive between the clubhouse and pitch, under the covered standing area. It's wide enough to accommodate cars and spectators, but obviously isn't ideal and an item in the programme suggests the club are looking at plans for a new entrance.

The rest of the undulating pitch is railed off, with dugouts on the far side and plenty of hard standing. A second pitch runs parallel, with its own small covered area built on the back of the dugouts, and despite it's rural setting it feels enclosed.

The game was good. Neither side had made great starts to the inaugural Kent Invicta League season, and Rusthall had struggled for goals, so when Lydd took a first half lead they might have expected to go on and win. Rusthall had other ideas though, equalising before half time, then having the better of the second half during which they scored the winner.

Ground no 3,669