Clanfield v Hamble Club

2pm  28 December 2015

Hampshire Premier League, Senior Division
Clanfield 0 Hamble Club 0 (att 22)

Until the start of this month I'd gone 139 games without seeing a nil nil draw, since then this was my fourth in just 11 games.

A glance at the league table shows the absence of goals was a surprise, as high-flying Hamble had scored 74 in their previous 18 league games. Two points dropped at Clanfield is a serious blow to their title hopes, and their desperation to win was exemplified by their keeper joining the attack for a couple of late corners.

From one of them, in stoppage time, the keeper thought he'd scored with header, only for the referee to rule it out, correctly I thought, for a foul.

Hamble should have had the match won in the first half. Chances came and went, twice they hit hit the Clanfield crossbar, and a penalty was saved.

Hamble dominated possession, but as the game wore on, particularly in the second half, they ran out of ideas and became increasingly frustrated.

Clanfield is a small village a few miles north of Portsmouth. The football club play at Peel Park, a village recreation ground with a car park, pavilion, and an undulating football pitch. Most of the pitch was roped off, but there's a rail, and a footpath, along one side.

Godalming and Farncombe Athletic v Balham

11am  28 December 2015

Surrey Elite Intermediate League
Godalming and Farncombe Athletic 1 Balham 3 (att 25)

After a football-free Boxing Day I made the most of the Bank Holiday to get to a couple of games in the south, beginning with a visit to "step seven" newcomers Godalming and Farncombe Athletic.

They've made a decent start to life in the Surrey Elite Intermediate League, but were always going to be in for a tough time against title-chasing Balham.

The home side threatened a surprise when they went in front early on, courtesy of an own goal, but once Balham got into their stride it wasn't long before they equalised.

Surprisingly, the score remained 1-1 until half time, despite chances for both sides. Even more surprisingly, although Balham were on top it took them until the 80th minute before they edged in front. Five minutes later a controversial third goal made the game safe.

Godalming and Farncombe are based at the Holloway Hill Recreation Ground. From the pavilion, the senior pitch is on the far side of a cricket square, and is bordered beyond by tennis courts and a children's play area, all of which were busy.

Just the near side of the pitch was roped off, with a few chairs set out to act as dugouts. Although a basic football venue, the recreation ground has the feel of a thriving community facility.

St Mary's College v BEADS

1.45pm  19 December 2015

Teesside League
St Mary's College 0 BEADS 5 (att 10)

Back in August I watched St Mary's pull off what appeared to be a surprise win at BEADS. Since then the College have shown it was no fluke, while BEADS have been having an average season.

With both sides in mid table I expected a close game, but instead the visitors won with the ease that I thought I'd see when they met first time. BEADS scored early, didn't take long to add a second, and were 3-0 by half time.

The game's best goal, a terrific strike from distance that found the top corner perfectly, made it 4-0 early in the second half. Goal number five came towards the end.

St Mary's were disappointing, but they managed some decent football towards the end and, although the game was lost long before, were a little unlucky not to score in the closing minutes.

Teesside League venues are often basic, and St Mary's use one of three pitches in the college playing field (what was St Mary's is now known as Trinity College). I'd expected it to just be roped off, but was pleasantly surprised to find it was railed along both touchlines, with a pair of dugouts and a few advertising boards on one side.

Hartlepool United U18 v Grimsby Town U18

11am  19 December 2015

Football League Youth Alliance, North East Conference
Hartlepool United U18 2 Grimsby Town U18 1 (att 43)

Grimsby may be a non-League club at present but they still have a youth team in the Football League Youth Alliance, and they were unlucky to come away from Hartlepool with nothing to show for their efforts.

The home side might have expected an easier game, as Grimsby have managed just one point so far and prop up the table. Neither side was able to convert chances into goals in a lively but goalless first half.

Hartlepool went in front early in the second period, but Grimsby weren't trailing for long, and within a minute or so it was 1-1. The home side's winner, about 10 minutes from time, was well taken and followed a goalmouth scramble. It was also tough on Grimsby, who'd played well.

Hartlepool's current youth team ground is among the more interesting academy venues to visit. Welfare Park in Blackhall Colliery was, until the 1990s, home to Wearside League side Blackhall Colliery Welfare.

Sadly the club folded before I visited, but now Hartlepool under 18s have moved it I was able to tick it off at last. It's a fully-enclosed ground, with a pitch that's railed off on three sides.

The ground may have had some cover in earlier days, but now there's a few steps of uncovered terracing in the centre of a grass bank that runs along one side.

Sarum Youth v Vale of Pewsey

2pm  12 December 2015

Wiltshire League
Sarum Youth 0 Vale of Pewsey 2 (att 14)

I began the day in west London, and needed to find a game that had survived the weather, was on a previously unvisited ground, and that was somewhere suitable to drop off my other half to spend a decent afternoon while I watched the football.

Sarum Youth ticked all the boxes, their Castle Meadow ground, in Wilton, is just outside Salisbury, the pitch was in good condition after the rain, and the day's weather forecast wasn't bad.

The home side have had a tough time in the Wiltshire League so far this season. They're currently without a win, although apparently they did get a league victory against Andover New Street Swifts, only to have it chalked off when the Andover club folded.

Vale of Pewsey are a thinly-disguised reserve side of  Wessex league Pewsey Vale, and a goal in each half was enough to give them a routine win.

Sarum's hopes of getting anything from the game ended midway through the second half, when they conceded a penalty and, as the foul denied a clear goalscoring opportunity, were reduced to 10 men. The penalty was scored emphatically, and the points were Pewsey's.

Despite their lowly league position Sarum battled well and showed plenty of endeavour. On another day they might well have got something from the game, but, equally, on another day Pewsey might have been out of reach by half time.

The Castle Meadow ground is basic, but pleasant. Players change in a modern pavilion, with a covered overhang, that's some distance from the only pitch. Ten chairs are laid out on the near side, in two sets of five to form a pair of makeshift "dugouts", while the far side is enclosed by the boundary fence and, beyond, some low rise industrial buildings.

University of Derby v Loughborough University III

1pm  9 Decemebr 2015

BUCS Midlands 2A
University of Derby 0 Loughborough University III 0 (att 30)

Up to last Wednesday I'd watched 139 consecutive matches without a goalless draw, but since then this was my third in six games.

Nil nil looked a likely result long before the end, as neither team were able to created much in the way of clear scoring chances. It was far from a dull game, just one lacking goalmouth excitement.

What thrills we did have were mostly packed into a lively final 10 minutes. A heavy challenge just outside the box resulted not just in a Loughborough free kick, but also in a fracas that ended with a red card for the visitors.

The free kick came to nothing but five minutes later, with a man advantage, Derby looked to have scored. The referee awarded the goal, but in the face of protests by Loughborough consulted the linesman (a Loughborough sub, no neutral assistants at this level). After a lengthy discussion the goal was ruled out for offside.

The frantic closing moments saw half chances at both ends, and an evening out of the numbers as a Derby player was red-carded, but no goals.

Derby's first team games are usually staged at Derby County's Moor Farm training ground, but this was played on an enclosed 3G pitch inside the university's Kedleston Road campus.

The new 3G is isn't on Google Maps yet, but click here for a map of its location

Army Air Corps v Intelligence Corps

7pm  7 December 2015

Army FA, Woolwich Cup Quarter Final
Army Air Corps 8 Intelligence Corps 1 (att 25)

The Woolwich Cup is a sort of league cup competition for teams taking part in the Army Football Association's two-division Massey Trophy competition.

Such a win for division two Army Air Corps, over first division opponents, might appear a surprise, but a glance at the current league tables shows a home win was always likely. AAC went ahead in the opening seconds, and were two up after three minutes.

Surprisingly, despite plenty of chances, they failed to add more goals before half time. They found their range in the second half though, racking up six more goals. Intelligence Corps' solitary goal was an 85th minute penalty, by which time they'd conceded seven of the eight.

Not all Army games are open to spectators, but AAC play at Tidworth Oval, a lovely venue with a terrific old-fashioned stand. Crucially the ground, which also caters for athletics, is outside the Wiltshire base, so getting in to watch the game wasn't a problem.

Berks County v Marlow United

2pm  5 December 2015

Thames Valley Premier League, Premier Division
Berks County 1 Marlow United 2 (att 18)

The Thames Valley Premier League is a recent rebranding of what used to be the Reading League, and this was only the second game I've ever seen it ... the first was 19 years ago.

As the top division has "step seven" status, and as I've now been to all the local clubs who play at higher levels, it won't be as long before I'm back to watch more. There was enough here to suggest it's a decent level of football, even if the strong wind and a bumpy pitch didn't help the game.

Apart from fitting in nicely after the morning's game at Eton, this fixture had two main attractions. Visitors Marlow United were unbeaten and challenging for the title, and the ground had a stand to provide shelter from the elements.

The John Nike Stadium, in Bracknell, is certainly an unusual venue for this level of football. A running track surrounds the pitch, so viewing from beyond the perimeter fence means you're distant from the action, but the stand is a good focal point, and offers a decent view.

Marlow United kept up their title challenge after a win that was deserved if hard work. They took a first half lead, but Berks County equalised before the break. The visitors always looked a bit sharper, in difficult conditions, and were rewarded with their second half winner.