Alumni v BRNESC

2.30pm  28 November 2015

Liverpool County Premier League, Division One
Alumni 3 BRNESC 2 (att 12)

After the morning's game at Everton's training ground I had few choices for a new venue in the afternoon, and in view of the heavy rain I chose the easy option of the guarantee of a game on an artificial pitch.

Alumni are into their second season using the 3G surface at the Wavertree Sports Park. It's a typical 3G set-up, with the pitch floodlit and enclosed by a high fence. Spectators are able to stand inside the "cage", although that might change if the club wins promotion to the "step seven" top division.

They kept up their promotion challenge with an expected victory against the division's bottom side, who've failed to pick up a point, on the pitch, so far this season (they've been awarded three after Eli Lilly fielded an ineligible player against them).

But BRNESC (in full the British Rail North End Social Club) put up a decent fight, especially in the second half after trailing 2-0 by half time. They scored twice in quick succession to draw level, and might have gone on to score again.

However, Alumni managed to retake a grip on the game, and scored a late winner to leave BRNESC at the foot of the table.

Everton U18 v Wolverhampton Wanderers U18

11.30am  28 November 2015

Under 18 Premier League
Everton U18 0 Wolverhampton Wanderers U18 8 (att 66)

Everton went into this game top of the North Division and unbeaten at home, Wolves hadn't won away, so the visitors to score eight without reply was more than just unexpected.

They went a goal up in the opening minute and then added two more inside the first quarter-of-an-hour. They began the second half as well as they had the first, soon doubling their lead to 6-0, two more goals completed the rout.

Chatting to a couple of Everton followers, I was told that several regular players were missing. Apparently some U21 players have gone out on loan, so the U18 team has been raided to plug the gaps.

I guess that's how football at this level works, but it shouldn't detract from a brilliant performance by Wolves, who scored some cracking goals.

Everton have now settled firmly into their Finch Farm training ground in Halewood. I last visited in 2008, but recent reports suggested that the U18 side now regularly play on a different pitch to then, hence a return to "tick" the venue.

The pitch is just to the left as you enter the complex, and is fenced along the far side where spectators are permitted to stand. Everton seem more than happy to allow spectators to these games, unlike some clubs.

Aberbargoed Buds v Risca United

7.30pm  27 November 2015

Welsh League, Division One
Aberbargoed Buds 4 Risca United 3 (att 110)

Welsh League rivals Aberbargoed and Risca have both left their traditional homes this season, to become co-tenants at the new Centre for Sporting Excellence in Ystrad Mynach.

It's a great facility, with separate grounds for both football and rugby, each with an artificial surface and large seated stands. The football arena can seat around 500, and this local derby between the two clubs attracted a decent turnout, including plenty of fellow groundhoppers.

The crowd was well rewarded for turning out in grim weather on a Friday night, as Aberbargoed and Risca provided a great game of football. In the first half Risca led twice, but both times Aberbargoed struck back.

The sides traded more goals in the second half, before the "home" side came out on top 4-3. Risca were unlucky to lose, and had they scored again to get a point no neutrals would have complained at the outcome.

Durham University v Loughborough University

1pm  25 November 2015

BUCS Premier North
Durham University 1 Loughborough University 2 (att 45)

University football can be variable in standard, but the two regionalised top leagues, Premier North and Premier South, are well worth watching, and normally feature sides from institutions who specialise in elite sport.

Durham and Loughborough were battling it out in various sports today, and the Graham Sports Centre at Maiden Castle, just outside Durham, was a hive of sporting activity (which made finding a parking spot my first challenge).

Durham's footballers had a 100 per cent from their opening six games, but Loughborough gave fresh hope to those hoping to challenge them for the title by snatching a surprise win. They took a first half lead, then held firm in the face of increasing Durham pressure until late on.

Once the home side finally made it 1-1 they looked more likely to get the winner, but instead it was Loughborough who got a controversial, and decisive, second goal in the final minute.

As the ball went in the linesman raised his flag for offside, then changed his mind as the offside player hadn't touched the ball on its way into the net. Whether he'd impacted on the keeper's chances of saving it is another matter, and the outcome was harsh on Durham.

Overall it was a tight game between well-matched sides, but clear chances were few and far between. It was played on one of several artificial pitches at Maiden Castle, but with around 200 seats, uncovered, along the touchline it's quite a good ground for this type of game.

Laverstock and Ford v Salisbury

7.45pm  24 November 2015

Salisbury Hospital Cup, Quarter-Final
Laverstock and Ford 2 Salisbury 1 (att 220)

The Salisbury Hospital Cup doesn't have a high profile, even in Salisbury, but the visit of the phoenix club formed from the ashes of Salisbury City meant this was a big occasion for Laverstock and Ford.

The vast majority of the 200 plus crowd were supporting the visitors, managed by Steve Claridge and riding high at the summit of the Wessex League Premier Division, a division higher than the hosts.

Salisbury rested a few regulars for this tie, but with no reserve side it was still a strong side that should have had not trouble progressing to the last four. But Laverstock and Ford proved to be no pushovers.

The visitors started brightly and it looked to be just a matter of time before they scored, but instead it was the home side who took a surprise lead, and they held it to the break.

The second half was great entertainment, as Salisbury upped their game in search of an equaliser, while always looking vulnerable to Laverstock and Ford's swift counter-attacking.

Eventually, inevitably, Salisbury made it 1-1, but then with 10 minutes left, and just as I was contemplating 30 minutes extra time (and a late and long drive home), Salisbury conceded a calamitous own goal to gift the tie to the hosts.

Ford and Laverstock are neighbouring villages on the eastern edge of Salisbury. The football club is based in Laverstock, and has a nice social club next to a pitch that's fully railed-off, with a pair of small seated stands, and a covered standing area, clustered in the corner near the entrance.

Abbey Rangers v Dorking Wanderers reserves

7.45pm  23 November 2015

Combined Counties League, Division One
Abbey Rangers 1 Dorking Wanderers reserves 0 (att 48)

A few hours after a return visit to Colchester United's training ground to see a game on the main pitch, I made another return trip, this time to the new main pitch at Abbey Rangers.

I'd previously seen Abbey play a Surrey Elite Intermediate League game on the old main pitch that was some way from the clubhouse. Since then promotion to the Combined Counties League has meant a need for improved facilities, and the club have created a decent ground closer to the clubhouse (and not overlapping their old pitch, hence my return).

The Addlestone Moor pitch is railed off, has a paved pathway around two sides, and a covered area, built onto the clubhouse, behind the goal. No seats yet, but I'd guess a seated stand is in the pipeline.

This fixture came hot on the heels of what sounded like a gruelling extra time FA Vase defeat on the Isle of Wight for Abbey, which might explain a somewhat sluggish performance against opposition I expected them to defeat comfortably.

The highlight was a terrific first half volley, which turned out to be the evening's only goal. Abbey thought they should have had a couple of penalties, I agreed with them about the first, but not the second.

Dorking's second eleven looked solid but unspectacular, although they came very close to snatching a draw as they piled on some pressure in the closing minutes.

Colchester United U21 v Brentford U21

1pm  23 November 2015

Under 21 Professional Development League 2
Colchester United U21 3 Brentford U21 1 (att 48)

The last time I visited Colchester's Florence Park training ground, in Tiptree, the main pitch was too wet and so the youth team played on a distant alternative pitch.

I felt a need to return to watch a game on "pitch one", and this under 21 game fitted the bill. Having arrived, and found a spot in the small car park, I was relieved to see players warming up on the required pitch.

The pitch had been railed off since my previous visit (as has "pitch three", the one they used last time). Spectators can stand on a paved area to the front of a large building which houses changing rooms, offices and, no doubt, other football club infrastructure. There's a pair of dugouts on the opposite side.

The game was okay, without reaching any great heights. Colchester took a first half lead, but were pegged back before the break when Brentford scored from a very well-taken free kick.

The home side had the edge though, and although it took two late goals to seal victory it was a win they certainly deserved.

Florence Park isn't yet on Google Maps, but click here for map showing its approximate location

East Manchester v Westbury Sports Club

2.30pm  21 November 2015

Manchester League, Division One
East Manchester 7 Westbury Sports Club 1 (att 12)

I saw Westbury Sports Club lose at home back in August, and so far it's been a tough first season for them in the Manchester League.

They're yet to win a league game, and were never likely to get much from a visit to promotion-chasing East Manchester. Still, the 7-1 defeat was an improvement on the 14-3 loss they suffered in the reverse fixture.

East Manchester scored two early goals, then doubled their lead with two more as half time approached. Number five came at the start of the second half, before Westbury pulled one back.

The visitors comeback was shortlived, and East Manchester scored a couple more as they cantered to victory. Credit to Westbury though, they never gave up and showed enough spirit to suggest better results aren't far away.

East Manchester have been playing home games at Wright Robinson Sports College, in Gorton, for a few years now. Since I last saw a game here, a new 4G pitch has been added, and East Manchester have made it their home.

Like most grounds of this type it's enclosed by a high fence, and it's floodlit. Unlike some there's a proper path for spectators that runs around all four sides, so it's not a bad place to watch a game.

Manchester City U18 v Blackburn Rovers U18

11am  21 November 2015

Under 18 Premier League
Manchester City U18 2 Blackburn Rovers U18 2 (att 100)

The focal point of City's impressive academy, just across the road from the Etihad Stadium, is a mini stadium used mainly by the club's women's and "elite development" (aka reserve) sides.

But there's also more than a dozen additional pitches, most with small seated stands for spectators, and the club's under 18 side played this game on pitch number eight, a short walk from the main academy building.

Unlike some clubs, spectators are able to watch youth team games at City, although the process of signing in, and having to wear visible id, made me feel more like a prison visitor than a fan watching a game of football.

Youth team matches at this level can be sterile affairs, but this game was rather scrappy, in a good way though as it felt more like a proper game, with players striving to win rather than impressing the coaches by not giving the ball away.

Blackburn impressed me, and deserved their 2-1 half time lead after coming from behind. City's opening goal had been against the run of play, but it took an error by the home keeper for Rovers to go in front.

They looked like maintaining their advantage during a lively second half, but City's pressure eventually paid off with a late equaliser.

The City Football Academy isn't yet shown on Google Maps, but click here for a link to its location

Leicester University v Oxford Brookes University

2pm  18 November 2015

BUCS Midlands 3A
Leicester University 0 Oxford Brookes University 1 (att 4)

More midweek afternoon university football, this time at Leicester University's impressive sports ground in Stoughton Road, Oadby.

The home side's first and second teams were both in action, the first eleven using the pitch closer to the changing rooms and car park, while the seconds took on Aston University on the pitch next door.

I expected an interesting game, with visitors Oxford Brookes having won all three of their previous fixtures. Sadly, the wind and rain made good football difficult, despite a surprisingly good pitch.

Oxford looked the better side, and were good value for their single goal win, the deadlock broken just a couple of minutes before half time. Credit though to both sides for playing what was an enjoyable game to watch, in difficult conditions.

If the wind and rain made football challenging, it must have been a nightmare for the teams from Leicester and Birmingham who were playing "ultimate frisbee" on one of the other pitches.