Alcester Town v Badsey Rangers

2pm  27 December 2014

Midland Football League, Division Three
Alcester Town 4 Badsey Rangers 0 (att 49)

This was third home ground I've seen Alcester Town on, although both previous visits were well over 20 years ago.

I didn't think I was going to make it to this one, the motorway traffic south from Manchester was crawling, and I approached Alcester via a very busy Stratford-upon-Avon, where I dropped my other half and her parents for a spot of shopping and sightseeing.

Arriving just a few minutes before kick off, the sights in Alcester were better than I'd expected. The club's latest home ground isn't bad for a team in the Midland Football League's lowest division. The pitch is enclosed by a combination of plastic fencing and rope, there's dugouts, and a former golf driving range provides extensive cover behind the goal.

Alcester are top of the league, and had no problems overcoming local rivals Badsey. The home side scored twice in each half, and while Badsey played their part in a decent enough game they never really threatened the hosts.

Promotion beckons for Alcester, and with a good ground with scope for the necessary improvements they give the impression of a club on the up.

Parley Sports v Poole Borough

2pm  20 December 2014

Dorset Premier League
Parley Sports 3 Poole Borough 1 (att 30)

I had doubts about this game as Poole Borough had been unable to field a side for their league match last week, and while they at least turned up at Parley they're likely to incur the wrath of the Dorset Premier League once again.

It was a surprise that Parley, going well in the league, had only managed one goal as the game approached half time. Poole Borough had already collected several bookings, and earned their first red card just before the break, a player managed to get himself sent off for arguing with the referee after being penalised for a foul throw.

The second half was likely to be a matter of how many Parley would score, but they were sluggish and it was well into the half before they doubled their lead.

A defensive mix up handed Poole a lifeline, and the chance of a point, but a controversial penalty in the final couple of minutes sealed Parley's win, and did nothing for Poole's unwarranted sense of injustice. They still had time to pick up a second red card, the keeper ordered off for a foul close to the halfway line that denied a goalscoring opportunity.

A less lenient referee might have dished out a few more cards to the visitors, and would have been wise to crack down on the antics of their bench.

After the final whistle tensions boiled over. I didn't see what started the altercation, but what I saw of the brawl that followed, involving players, spectators and club officials, I suspect the visitors were again at fault.

The match officials will no doubt report it to the league, and hopefully I won't be watching Poole Borough again any time soon.

That said, just before the end of the game, and before things turned really ugly, I was chatting to one of the Poole contingent. I sympathise with people, like him, who do their best to do the difficult job of running a football club at this level, only to be undermined and embarrassed by the antics of their players and coaches.

As for Parley, it appears to be a football club attached to a thriving social club. The main pitch is mostly railed off, with dugouts, but no cover for spectators. Perfectly adequate for this level of football,and not a bad place to spend an afternoon.

AFC Bournemouth U18 v Plymouth Argyle U18

11am  20 December 2014

Football League Youth Alliance, South West Conference
AFC Bournemouth U18 2 Plymouth Argyle U18 2 (att 64)

AFC Bournemouth are another club who tend to move their youth team games to various venues. They began this season at Canford Arena, but recent games have been played in the opulent surroundings of Canford School, apparently while some work is carried out on the Arena pitch.

Canford is an independent school just outside Wimborne, and its playing fields have been used as a training ground by Bournemouth's footballers in the past.

Today's pitch was some distance from the main school buildings. As usual for these matches, one side of the well-cared for pitch was for spectators, the other for subs and coaching staff.

The game was okay, without hitting any great heights. The home side just about edged it, but twice they took the lead and both times they allowed Plymouth to equalise within just a couple of minutes. The sides shared a goal each in each half.

Independent Schools FA U18 v Welsh Colleges

6pm  17 December 2014

Representative Game
Independent Schools FA U18 2 Welsh Colleges 1 (att 47) at St George's Park

The last time I visited the FA's National Football Centre, St George's Park, was in 2009. Back then it was mothballed, and consisted of temporary buildings and a few pitches, one of which staged a Burton Albion youth team game.

That was played on what is now "pitch 12", aka the "Gordon Banks pitch". Tonight's game was on "pitch 5", not yet named after anyone, but close to the car park and the massive football centre that, along with a Hilton hotel and conference centre, dominates the sprawling site.

St George's Park is undoubtedly impressive. In tandem with this fixture the ISFA's under 16s were playing on a full-size indoor pitch ("pitch 7", named after Sir Alf Ramsey).

For spectators the facilities at pitch 5 are spartan. It's just a floodlit pitch surrounded by advertising boards, with no shelter from the rain and hard standing provided by a footpath on just one side. Shame they didn't play on the unused "pitch 6", which has a seated stand along one side.

The cream of players from the English public schools system deserved this win against the Welsh Colleges, despite a late scare. They scored both their goals during a first half in which they looked the much better side.

The Welsh were better in the second half, but couldn't take their chances. When they were on target the ISFA keeper made some good saves. He could do nothing about a stoppage time penalty though, and as the offence resulted in an ISFA red card the final moments saw a frantic finish, with the Welsh coming close to equalising, but the Independent Schools held on to win.

Askam United v Ambleside United

2pm  13 December 2014

West Lancashire League, Division One
Askam United 5 Ambleside United 1 (att 32)

A visit to the Furness peninsula to finally complete all three divisions of the sprawling West Lancashire League, just over 23 years after ticking my first ground in it, not far away at Barrow-based Vickers.

It's often said that the road to Barrow is Britain's longest cul-de-sac, but if you turn off the A590 a few miles before its end you can reach Askam in Furness, and small town with a neat and tidy football ground in Duddon Road.

There's a pleasant clubhouse near the entrance, and pitch enclosed by a wooden fence, with dugouts and one or two advertising boards. It couldn't hardly be any closer to the Duddon Estuary, and on an afternoon when the wind blowing in from the coast was bitterly cold, there's not much in the way of shelter.

Perhaps Askam are used to the conditions though, as they comfortably saw off Ambleside despite having a player red-carded at the start of the second half.

By that stage they'd already gone 2-0 up, scoring both goals while playing into the wind in the first half. Any thoughts Ambleside had of using their numerical advantage to stage a comeback were quickly dashed, as it wasn't long before the 10 men had doubled their lead.

The visitors did pull a goal back, and missed chances to make the game closer, but the final action of note was an 88th minute fifth goal for Askam.

Upton Athletic v Bovey Tracey reserves

2.30pm  6 December 2014

South Devon League, Premier Division
Upton Athletic 19 Bovey Tracey reserves 2 (att 17)

A remarkable result, although I admit to having left the game thinking it had finished 18-2. I kept a note of the goals, but must have missed or forgotten one as the official result said Upton had scored 19, with a list of goalscorers which tallies with the higher scoreline.

Whatever the final score, it was excellent performance from Upton, who scored five in the opening quarter of an hour, and led 9-0 (at least according to my notes) at half time. Some of their football was worthy of a much higher league, although were aided by the quality of the visitors.

Credit to Bovey Tracey though, who despite being entirely outplayed continued to try, and who were rewarded with a couple of late goals. Needless to say, the result keeps them rooted at the bottom of the table, on a day when their first team were on the wrong end of 0-9 scoreline

The Torquay-based clubs in the South Devon League tend to have basic grounds, and Upton's base is fairly typical. It's shared with a cricket club and the sloping pitch, not even roped off, is on the far side of a cricket square from the pavilion.

Torquay United U18 v Cheltenham Town U18

11am  6 December 2014

Football League Youth Alliance, South West Conference
Torquay United U18 2 Cheltenham Town U18 4 (att 13)

A lively and entertaining game played at Torquay's Seale Hayne training ground on the edge of Newton Abbot.

The home side were outplayed in the first half, with Cheltenham playing some great football on their way to establishing a commanding 3-0 lead.

Torquay put up more of a fight in the second half, reducing the arrears thanks to an early penalty, then making it 2-3, with about 20 minutes left, from a free kick given after a foul which resulted in a red card for Cheltenham.

But any thoughts the Devon side had of completing their comeback didn't last long, as within a couple of minutes the 10 men of Cheltenham had scored to lead 4-2, an advantage they held to the end.

Torquay's youth team venue is Seale Hayne, a college complex just outside Newton Abbot, although the pitch is some distance from the main college buildings, and is just off the main A383 road. The "crowd", with included two other groundhoppers, must be the smallest I've ever been part of for a Youth Alliance match.