FC Stratford v Kenilworth Town KH

2pm  29 December 2012

Midland Combination, Division Two
FC Stratford 2 Kenilworth Town KH 2 (att 34)

Once again a 3G pitch provided refuge on a day when finding a game guaranteed to go ahead on grass was a tricky proposition.

FC Stratford use the all-weather pitch adjacent to the newish Stratford Town FC ground. In effect, FC Stratford are Town's third team, with a name change from their previous "Stratford Town A" allowing them to compete in a league that otherwise has no reserve sides.

Like the afternoon's weather, the game got better after a poor start. Much of the first half was rain swept, and on the pitch there was little of note other than Stratford going ahead.

The rain had stopped by the time Stratford doubled their lead early in the second half, then a great fightback from Kenilworth saw them gain a deserved point in a game that was, on the whole, entertaining.

The ground is typical for a 3G set-up, with the floodlit pitch enclosed by a high fence. Spectators can stand inside, along the one side and half of one end that were roped off.

Castleton v Whalley Range reserves

2pm  22 December 2012

Lancashire and Cheshire Amateur League, Division Two
Castleton 1 Whalley Range reserves 4 (att 11)

A 3G pitch was the only way to be sure of seeing a game today, and so I headed to the all-weather surface at Rochdale's Matthew Moss High School, which on a Saturday afternoon is home to Castleton FC.

The venue is typical for a 3G ground. The pitch is enclosed by a high fence, but spectators can stand inside, and on a very gloomy afternoon the floodlights were on from the start.

Both sides are going well in the league's third tier, so I expected a close game, but Whalley Range were very impressive and dominated.

They established a 2-0 lead in the first half, but Castleton had hope after pulling a goal back just before half time. The home side's fightback didn't last long, and soon into the second period they conceded a third.

Whalley Range's final goal came with 30 minutes still to play, but despite chances at both ends there were no more goals.

On a day when the choice of matches was limited by the weather, this was a very good 90 minutes, and showed there's some decent football in this league.

British Airways v Hillingdon

2pm  15 December 2012

Middlesex County League, Premier Division
British Airways 1 Hillingdon 1 (att 20)

I was in west London for the weekend, and after a very wet Friday I remembered that British Airways home ground, The Concorde Club in Cranford, was apparently a reliable option in wet weather.

The pitch was in perfect condition, and I assume the well-maintained venue benefits from expert ground staff. The main pitch is closest to the clubhouse, and was roped off with dugouts. Step seven grounds vary depending on the league, and by Middlesex County League standards this is among the better ones.

The game was also among the better ones, and the standard of some football would easily have matched teams playing higher up the pyramid. Table-topping British Airways would have expected to win this, but mid-table Hillingdon played well and matched them.

Surprisingly, with both sides creating so many chances, the first half was goalless. Hillingdon went ahead after around an hour, but their lead lasted less then two minutes. As well as a goal each, both sides hit the woodwork (or whatever goal frames are made from these days) three times.

In the closing minutes Hillingdon were hanging on somewhat, but over the 90 minutes they deserved their point.

Craigroyston v Leith Athletic at Spartans FC

3pm  9 December 2012

East of Scotland FA, Alex Jack Cup Final at Spartans FC
Craigroyston 0 Leith Athletic 1 (att 250)

A close and entertaining cup final won by a single goal early in the second half. Leith were well worth their win, although Craigroyston spurned several good chances to equalise as Leith defended ever deeper in the closing minutes.

The Alex Jack Cup is for those East of Scotland FA clubs (in effect East of Scotland League clubs) who are not eligible to enter the Scottish FA Cup. This year's final was an Edinburgh derby, and Spartans' impressive new Ainslie park home, local to both finalists, was an ideal venue.

The ground has a 3G pitch, so no doubts about the game going ahead, and a large seated stand. A two-storey building houses changing rooms and a clubhouse, as well as providing a balcony for spectators.

The one surprise, for me, was that apart from the stand side the remainder of the ground has no hard standing, just grass. However, banking opposite and stand and at both ends does offer a good view of the action.

Tintwistle Athletic v Chorltonians

1.30pm  8 December 2012

Lancashire & Cheshire Amateur League, Rhodes Cup First Round
Tintwistle Athletic 1 Chorltonians 2 (att 12)

Had to stay close to home today, and this intriguing league cup tie, with the added benefit of a 3G pitch ensuring the weather wouldn't intervene, proved a great choice.

The Rhodes Cup is for the first teams across the Lancashire and Cheshire Amateur League's many divisions, and Premier Division high flyers Chorltonians may have expected an easy win against Division Two Tintwistle, who'd lost a league match against Chorltonians' reserves last week.

But the visitors were given a real fright by Tintwistle before the finally booked their place in the next round. The game's opening hour was goalless, despite chances at both ends and the home side coming closest.

Chorltonians finally went ahead when a free kick was floated into the penalty area, and ended up in the net. I'm not sure if it connected with a defender's head, a forward, or just the keeper's fist, but after such a fine performance it was soft goal for Tintwistle to concede.

The home side refused to dwell on the disappointment though, and were level thanks to a well taken goal just five minutes later.

Both sides continued to create chances as extra time beckoned, but a terrific finish just six minutes from the end put Chorltonians back in front, a lead they just about hung onto. Tough luck on Tintwistle, but a neutral it was a very entertaining game, and a good advert for the league.

Tintwistle Athletic use an all weather pitch at Glossopdale Community College, in the Hadfield area of Glossop and a short distance from Tintwistle itself. It's a typical 3G set up, with the floodlit pitch enclosed by high fencing, although spectators can stand inside.

One curiosity, that I can only recall seeing at one other 3G pitch staging "proper" football, was a pair of wires crossing the pitch (used to hang netting to divide the area into three five-a-side pitches). Whenever the ball hit a wire, altering its direction, the game restarted with a drop ball.

ISFA North U18 v ISFA South U18 at Shrewsbury School

2pm  2 December 2012

Representative Game
Independent Schools FA North U18 5 Independent Schools FA South U18 0 (att 58) at Shrewsbury School

This was the second time I've seen the annual match between the best players produced by independent schools in the north and the south. It's the culmination of a series of rep games played by each region, and helps determine the "national" ISFA side that plays further matches in the New Year.

Last time the game was at Repton School, which seems to alternate as the venue with Shrewsbury. Almost needless to say, for a fee-paying selected to host such a fixture, the facilities are very impressive. The school is set in huge grounds just across the River Severn from Shrewsbury town centre, and has an impressive collection of buildings around the sports fields.

The main football pitch, one of many, is barriered along one touchline, where there's hard standing for spectators, and at part of one end. The rest of the pitch is open, with dugouts on the far side. On the fenced side are two rows of uncovered bend seating, used as terracing this afternoon. A North v South under 16s game was played on an adjacent pitch.

Today's match was originally scheduled for last Sunday, but the wet weather caused a postponement. No problems today though, although it was a cold afternoon.

In terms of possession the game was closer than the score suggests, and I'd be surprised if many South defenders make the overall ISFA XI next after Christmas. They gave the North too many chances, and their strikers were in good form to take them.

Impressive finishing meant the North led 4-0 at half time, including a penalty, and the scoring was complete within 15 minutes of the second half. The South created chances, but the North's keeper had a great afternoon and made some good saves.

I'm yet to attend an ISFA Cup match, as a lot of hoppers do, but this is the third ISFA representative game I've seen on a Sunday and the standard of the football, and of the grounds, has always impressed.

Lewisham Borough (Community) v Lydd Town

3pm  1 December 2012

Kent Invicta League Challenge Trophy, Second Round
Lewisham Borough (Community) 0 Lydd Town 4 (att 22)

Unusually, for a weekend, I was working in central London this morning, but thanks to Lewisham's floodlights, and so a three o'clock kick off, I was still able to get to a new ground. Fortunately the weather in south east London was fine, or it could easily have been a football-free day.

Apart from the floodlights, there's not much to recommend Ladywell Arena as a football venue. The pitch is surrounded by an athletics track, although spectators can stand pitchside, and there's no cover. But the club seems well run, by friendly officials, and hot drinks and refreshments are available from a club room in the buildings behind the goal as you enter.

The cup tie, a quarter final, was entertaining. Lydd just shaded a first half after which they led 1-0. But the game's turning point was a straight red card for the home team's captain, guilty of kicking out at an opponent off the ball, just before half time.

What had been a tall order for Lewisham became all but impossible as Lydd doubled their lead early in the second half, then added two more for a comfortable win. Lewisham's keeper made some great saves to keep the score down.