Bodedern Athletic v Denbigh Town

2pm  26 January 2013

Welsh Alliance, Division One
Bodedern Athletic 0 Denbigh Town 1 (att 40)

Yet again the weather meant it was a case of finding a game that was on rather than choosing a fixture that particularly appealed, but the visit of league leaders Denbigh to Anglesey was likely to be a decent game, and so it proved.

They had to battle hard to earn their 1-0 win, achieved thanks to a 70th minute goal they just about deserved, although Bodedern were unfortunate not to get a point.

It was a rather different match than my 2001 visit to Bodedern's former ground, at the local school, when they thumped Barmouth 18-0.

I'm not sure when Bodedern moved to the new ground, behind the village hall, as I they'd been playing here a while before I realised.

The ground is better than I'd expected. The pitch is rather tightly enclosed, with a neat seated stand behind the goal towards one corner, and three former dugouts dotted around the perimeter to provide extra cover (plus a pair of proper dugouts serving their originally-intended purpose).

Whitletts Victoria v Kilbirnie Ladeside

1.45pm  19 January 2013

SJFA West Region, Super League, Division One
Whitletts Victoria 2 Kilbirnie Ladeside 2 (att 201)

With much of the country in the grip of snow and ice, and most matches succumbing as a result, today was case of finding any game on a new ground that was going to be played. The west of Scotland had escaped the worst of the weather, and with coastal areas likely to avoid the frost Ayr-based Whitletts was the ideal location to head to.

Whitletts had been scheduled to play away to Kilbirne today, but the fixture was swapped towards the end of the week once it was clear that Kilbirnie's ground had no chance of being playable, while the Dam Park Stadium was likely to be okay. As always on these occasions, it was a relief to see players warming up on the pitch when I arrived.

The club were well rewarded for staging the match, one of only a few non League games to survive in Scotland today. Even the town's senior side, Ayr United, had their Scottish League game postponed, and the resulting crowd, officially 201, was apparently their highest of the season.

Unfortunately they couldn't manage what would have been their first league win of the season, denied by an 80th minute penalty not long after the visitors had been reduced to 10 men following a sending off.

Kilbirnie had opened the scoring with an early goal, but Whitletts fought back to lead 2-1 at half time. Even after Kilbirnie's spot kick leveller the home side had chances to score.

Whitletts only moved to Dam Park recently, following the sudden closure of their former ground. I think the club have long terms plans to find a permanent home, but for now Dam Park is a decent venue. The large elevated stand gives a good view, and there's open terracing on the stand side, and grass banking around the rest of the ground.

On a day when finding a game was a challenge, this was a very good afternoon's football.

Ayre United v Malew

2pm  12 January 2013

Isle of Man League, Division Two
Ayre United 7 Malew 1 (att 36)

This was my fifth game in the Isle of Man, but the first time I've watched football outside the Premier League.

There's quite a gulf between the island's two first team divisions (Premier League and, refreshingly, Division Two), as shown by some very one-sided scorelines in last weekend's Manx FA Cup matches, and the standard at Ayre United was a long way short of the previous night's game at St John's.

That's not to criticise though,  Ayre played some neat football and scored some decent goals on their way to a predictably easy win again the league's bottom side.

Ayre were 4-1 up by half time, and should have scored more in a first half when Malew struggled to defend and kept giving the ball away.The visitors were more solid after the break, and it took a while before Ayre added their fifth, after which goals six and seven soon followed.

Ayre United are based in the village of Andreas, to the north of to the island. The main appeal of the game for me was the venue, as having a hire car it made sense to visit a ground that was likely to be awkward by public transport.

The Andreas Playing Field is in the grounds of the local school. The pitch is open, but there's a clubhouse, including a tea bar, and advertising boards behind on goal, and a floodlit training area, so it does feel like a football venue.

St John's United v Peel

7pm  11 January 2013

Isle of Man Premier League
St John's United 3 Peel 2 (att 220)

St John's appear to be one of the Isle of Man's more progressive clubs, and have been making good use of their newly-installed floodlights to stage a few games on Friday nights. If the game I attended is any guide then they're attracting decent crowds as well, although many had made the short trip from local rivals Peel.

Given the large crowd I was surprised the club didn't make any effort to make a bit of money by charging admission, or offering a programmes or raffle tickets for sale. Still, I imagine the bar did good business, and the tea bar was certainly busy.

As well as floodlights, the Mullen y Cloie ground has a fully enclosed pitch, with dugouts and advertising boards to give if the feel of a "proper" ground.

The game was good, and reinforced my impression that domestic football on islands if often of a high standard. If you're a decent player based on the Isle of Man then you're likely play for a local club, unless you're good enough to make it worth moving to the mainland as a professional. In England, good players at this level would soon be tempted to clubs higher up the pyramid.

Peel had most of the early possession, but were toothless in front of goal, while St John's took an early lead with their first attack. It remained 1-0 at half time, but a flurry of early second half goals took the score to 3-1, before a late goal back for the visitors added interest for the closing moments.

Thorniewood United v Camelon Juniors at Ravenscraig Indoor Arena

4pm  5 January 2013

SJFA Scottish Junior Cup, Third Round Replay, at Ravenscraig Regional Sports Facility Indoor Arena
Thorniewood United  2 Camelon Juniors 3 (att 170)

Not the first time I've seen a game under a roof, but this was a curious late afternoon game at the very impressive sports centre built on part of the huge site of Motherwell's former steelworks.

Thorniewood's usual ground, Roberston Park, was declared unfit for this replay, and after six previous postponements the club had booked the all-weather indoor pitch at Ravenscraig to guarantee the game would go ahead whatever the weather.

They were rewarded with a bumper crowd, including many groundhoppers seeking their second game of the day, but not with any further progress in the Scottish Juniors primary cup competition.

The first match between the sides had ended 3-3, with all six goals in the first half, and the two sides provided another entertaining opening 45 minutes, with the score at 2-2 at the break. Camelon dominated the second half, but it took a 90th minute goal for them to win the tie.

Watching games outside on 3G pitches it's often easy to forget the surface isn't grass. But a game inside a sports hall, albeit a very large one with a full size football pitch, you can't escape the fact that it just doesn't feel right.

Players' shouts echo around, and when the ball hits the roof (which it did less often than I'd expected) play restarts with a drop ball. Pitchside the indoor arena has around 450 seats, although the best view is probably from the elevated balcony, accessed via a first floor cafe, behind the goal.

An odd experience, but better than another postponement for the two clubs, and a opportunity to visit an extra ground for me.

West Calder United v Spartans Juniors

1.30pm  5 January 2013

SJFA East Region, South Division
West Calder United 1 Spartans Juniors 3 (att 33)

I chose this game from the two options I had that would allow me to also watch the curiosity of a Scottish Junior Cup match being played indoors at 4pm.

It wasn't a bad game, with Spartans Juniors, effectively the second team of the club who play in the East of Scotland League, surprisingly comfortable winners.

The visitors scored a penalty for the first half's only goal, and were in complete control when they added a second after the break. West Calder threatened to make a game of it when they netted a penalty of their own, but Spartans quickly re-established their two goal cushion.

The ground, Hermand Park, is relatively new, and a step up from the club's former home. It's fully enclosed, with a tea bar, covered standing area, and friendly club officials.

Newport County v Wrexham

7.45pm  4 January 2013

Football Conference, Premier
Newport County 1 Wrexham 1 (att 3,627)

This was the first time I'd seen the reborn Newport County play a home game, having visited their previous ground for a Welsh League game before County took up residence. The attendance at this was actually higher than when I saw the "old" club play Swansea City at Somerton Park in a Fourth Division game back in 1988.

The whole evening had the feel of an old-fashioned lower division league game, with a muddy pitch, plenty of terracing with a mixture of stands, and an enthusiastic and noisy crowd. Newport County's new home, Rodney Parade, is of course better known as the home of rugby in the town.

While the quality of the football wasn't as high as you might expect for the sides lying second and third in the table, the entertainment was great.

Newport missed a penalty before Wrexham took a first half lead, to the delight of their 421 travelling fans. The home side's second half equaliser was deserved, and despite chances at both ends the game finished a draw.

I rarely look forward to visiting the new grounds at this level, but if more of the experiences were like this it'd be a different matter.

Maidstone United v Sittingbourne

3.15pm  1 January 2013

Isthmian League, Division One South
Maidstone United 2 Sittingbourne 1 (att 2,291)

Comfortable derby win for Maidstone, against their former landlords, to maintain their promotion challenge in their first season at the new Gallagher Stadium.

Both Maidstone's goals came in the opening 20 minutes of a first half they dominated from start to finish. Sittingbourne were better after the break, but never threatened to alter the game's outcome, their consolation goal coming deep into stoppage time.

Unlike many new football grounds, The Gallagher Stadium is refreshingly close to the town centre, although that does make parking a challenge (the 15 minute delay to kick off, to let the large crowd in, cost me an extra £1.50 in car parking).

It has an all weather pitch (so just one of my last six matches has been on grass) and an impressive seated stand. The side opposite the stand is flat open standing, and there are basic covered standing areas at each end.

For most clubs at this level such a ground would be more than adequate, but Maidstone are getting large crowds this season, and many of the today's record attendance will have struggled to see much of the game, with spectators standing several deep around the pitch. A few steps of terracing around the ground would help.