Wisbech St Mary v Halstead Town

3pm  26 November 2016

Eastern Counties League, Division One
Wisbech St Mary 1 Halstead Town 1 (att 36)

Wisbech St Mary were one of several new clubs promoted to the Eastern Counties League this season, and they've made a good start at the higher level after stepping up from the Cambridgeshire League.

The visit of Halstead, beaten only once in the league, was going to be a tough test, but after a hard-fought afternoon I imagine both sides will be relatively satisfied to have taken a point.

Halstead went ahead early, and should have extended their lead by half time. They paid the penalty for failing to do so when Wisbech St Mary scored to level the game during the second half. All in all it was a decent game.

Wisbech St Mary is a village just outside the town of Wisbech. The football club is based at the local sports and community centre, which as well as the first team pitch has plenty of others for the club's many youth teams.

First team games are played on an enclosed ground that's floodlit and has cover along the near side, although at present there's no seats.

Hard standing runs along the near side, where it is set back from the pitch, and at both ends, but the far side is out of bounds, presumably because the lack of a path means it falls foul of league rules. I'm not a fan of three-sided grounds, and I can't understand why the Eastern Counties League should care whether or not I might get my shoes muddy, but despite that very minor irritation I enjoyed my visit.

Lincoln City U18 v York City U18

11am  26 November 2016

EFL Youth Alliance, North East
Lincoln City U18 1 York City U18 1 (att 56)

The first teams of Lincoln and York may be outside the Football League at the moment, but their youth sides are still members of the rebranded EFL Youth Alliance.

Unlike York, who've staged Youth Alliance games at their own training ground for years, Lincoln's youngsters lead a nomadic existence. This was the third home ground I've seen them on, and each one has been a school pitch.

For now at least they're at the Priory City of Lincoln Academy, which has a large playing field on Skellingthorpe Road. One side of the pitch is roped off, to keep spectators at bay, and that's about it in terms of facilities, although hot drinks seemed to be available from somewhere inside the distant school buildings.

The game began in bright sunshine, but that soon gave way to cloud, mist and falling temperatures. A goalless draw looked likely until an excellent finish put York went ahead midway through the second half.

The visitors had been the better team, but although they just about deserved the lead they held it for barely two minutes before Lincoln City equalised. No more goals, and overall not a bad game on a chilly morning.

Darlaston Town (1874) v Alcester Town

1.30pm  19 November 2016

Birmingham FA Vase, Second Round
Darlaston Town (1874) 2 Alcester Town 2, 4-2 on penalties (att 36)

Darlaston's former ground was among my favourite venues. Sadly it seems the City Ground is unlikely to stage football again, but at least the revived club now have a ground of their own and are making good progress.

Their progress to the third round of the Birmingham FA Vase was trickier than it should have been. After an undistinguished opening 65 minutes the tie came to life when Darlaston were awarded a penalty, from which they took the lead.

The Alcester player who gave the spot kick away has been booked in the aftermath, and collected a red card five minutes later after unwisely continuing his complaints to the assistant referee who'd given the decision.

But ten-man Alcester, who play Midland League football one level lower than West Midlands Regional League Darlaston, took advantage of sloppy defending to get a surprising equaliser. It wasn't long before Darlaston were back in front, but in the final minute Alcester managed to level again.

I was expecting extra time but instead the game went straight to penalties, and Darlaston progressed after scoring four out of four while Alcester missed a couple.

Darlaston Town (1874) were formed following the demise of the original club, and are developing a decent venue, The Paycare Ground. It's a former company sports ground, with a railed off pitch adjacent to a building that contains a clubhouse and the changing rooms.

At present there's no cover for spectators, but that will change soon as a concrete base has already been laid ready for a stand. Long-term the club will need to enclose the playing area and erect floodlights to progress, but they seem to have the necessary enthusiasm.

It was great to visit a club at this level run by such keen and friendly people, and with proper supporters embracing the grassroots game (including one who was very much dressed for the part). I'd love to see a Darlaston side climbing the football pyramid, and I wish them well.

Bellshill Athletic v St Roch's

2pm  12 November 2016

SJFA West Region, Central League, Division One
Bellshill Athletic 1 St Roch's 2 (att 125)

My reasons for choosing a particular fixture, or even an area of the country to head towards, can vary week to week. This time it was primarily the weather forecast; a band of heavy rain was due to have cleared the Glasgow area by early morning, and no matter how torrential it was I had several back-ups on artificial pitches.

A few games did succumb to the conditions, but not my first choice, which went ahead on grass at Rockburn Park in Bellshill.

Bellshill have been nomadic in recent years - this is third home ground I've seen them on - and after a period away only moved back into the town itself last season. Rockburn Park is basic for a West Region junior ground, but I gather it's intended a temporary venue until a permanent home is completed.

Basic it may be, but Bellshill Athletic are well organised and put plenty of effort into turning the ground into an acceptable venue for this grade of football.

A sturdy fence encloses the ground, allowing the club to take a gate, while potential free views are obscured by the use of sheeting attached to the fence. The pitch is roped off along the areas available to spectators, with the far end and most of the far side out of bounds.

Like (almost) all Scottish junior grounds there's a decent snack bar, part of a building behind the near goal that also houses the changing rooms, and a match programme adds to the feel of a proper football club.

On the pitch Bellshill, relegated last season, are again having a tough time. Visitors St Roch's, on the other hand, are on an upward trajectory, and did their promotion challenge no harm at all by collecting all three points.

It wasn't an easy afternoon for them though, despite the cushion of a fifth minute lead and Bellshill having a player sent off with over an hour to play.

Although they were second best, Bellshill looked capable of equalising despite their numerical disadvantage. They did so with just seven minutes left, but their joy was short-lived as St Roch's found time to get a winner before the end.

It was an enjoyable and at times feisty encounter, albeit one that threatened to boil over as the players returned to the changing rooms after the final whistle. By then I was outside the ground heading back to my car, so it was hard to tell what happened. As usual though, Scottish junior football is very competitive, and well worth the journey north.

Kirk Deighton Rangers v Sherburn White Rose

2pm  5 November 2016

West Riding Challenge Cup, Second Round
Kirk Deighton Rangers 0 Sherburn White Rose 2 (att 33)

The scoreline might indicate a comfortable and expected passage into the next round of the county cup for the higher ranked Sherburn, but in reality it was a tough 90 minutes.

Kirk Deighton, from the Harrogate League, matched their visitors, who play three levels higher, for most of the game, before succumbing to two late goals, the second a penalty. Both goals were when the hosts were down to 10 men, and had a stand-in keeper, due to injuries.

For most of the tie there was little between the sides. Both created chances, but Sherburn's keeper was busier as Kirk Deighton managed more efforts on target. Sherburn's shooting was mostly high and wide, sometimes comically so.

Without checking I can't be 100 per cent sure, but I think this was the first time I've seen a game in this cup, which brings together sides from West Yorkshire's district leagues as well as its two main amateur competitions, the West Yorkshire League and the West Riding County Amateur League. It was enjoyable enough to tempt me back for more.

Kirk Deighton's ground is probably among the better ones in the Harrogate League, although that's unsurprising as they had a spell in the West Yorkshire League themselves a few years ago.

It's an enclosed ground, with a fully railed-off pitch and a pair of dugouts, and changing rooms in a nearby building that's clad in advertising boards and contains a bar.

Foxton v Cherry Hinton

3pm  29 October 2016

Cambridgeshire County League, Premier Division
Foxton 0 Cherry Hinton 2 (att 56)

After the lunchtime game at Haverhill I couldn't decide which of two Cambridgeshire League games to watch. The decision was, in effect, made for me when I turned up at Fowlmere Village Hall unaware that the club have moved this season.

I'd normally double check a venue before setting off, but I knew Foxton was only a couple of miles up the road and was more than happy to watch their game instead.

Neither the hosts nor visitors Cherry Hinton have made great starts to the season, but it was the latter who took a step towards the middle of the table thanks to a goal in each half.

The two sides were evenly-matched until the first goal, but after that Cherry Hinton were on top, and deserved their win.

Foxton's home is a village recreation ground, a typical set up for the Cambridgeshire League, and is very pleasant. The pitch is roped off, and on the far side of a cricket square from a modern pavilion building that houses changing rooms and a tea bar.

Haverhill Borough v Cornard United

12 midday  29 October 2016

Eastern Counties League, Division One
Haverhill Borough 2 Cornard United 1 (att 122)

Haverhill Borough are a young club, having apparently been formed to fill a vacancy to share the facilities at Haverhill Rovers' New Croft ground a few years ago.

Initially they played on one of the outside pitches, before promotion meant the need for an enclosed ground and so a share with Rovers' pitch. This season's they've moved into a newly-built enclosed all-weather pitch, giving them a proper home of their own in what is an impressive sports complex.

I'm told some games are still played on grass at Haverhill Rovers' ground next door, but there was no danger of a switch for this game, as it attracted groundhoppers from far and wide as the first of three staggered kick offs in the Eastern Counties League.

Borough's new home is functional, and better than many with artificial surfaces. Spectators can access two sides, the near touchline, which has a seated stand and an a small covered terrace, and behind the right hand goal, which is just flat open standing.

There was plenty of room for the hundred plus crowd, although I wouldn't have fancied trying to get a decent view for the recent Haverhill derby, the first between the two clubs, which attracted a much larger attendance.

The game was slow to come to life, but after a goalless first half the second period was much better. Haverhill Borough scored twice to take control, but the visitors pulled one back to keep things interesting until the end.

Surprisingly the New Croft hasn't yet made it onto Google Maps, but here's a link to its location