Langwathby United v Ambleside United

1.30pm  28 October 2017

Westmorland Senior Cup, Second Round
Langwathby United 2 Ambleside United 7 (att 2)

It was always likely to be a tough task for Langwathby to pull off a county cup shock against Ambleside, who play two divisions higher in the Westmorland League, and despite a spirited effort they were well beaten.

Sadly the lure of a senior cup tie didn't tempt any locals to watch. At kick off I was the sole spectator, and even though someone connected with Ambleside soon arrived to double the attendance I can't recall ever been being part of such a small 'crowd' for a Saturday afternoon game.

In fact Langwathby United, struggling in Westmorland League Division Three, could only muster 11 players, no substitutes and no one to run the line. Ambleside at least had a coach and a sub, which was handy as they lost a player to an early injury.

The visitors were 4-0 ahead by half time, and should have scored more than the three they got after the break. Despite netting twice in the second half Langwathby never threatened any sort of comeback.

I've driven past Langwathby's ground a few times so it was good to finally visit to see a game. It's just outside the village, on the main road from Penrith. There's a modern pavilion, beyond which is a sports field, with the senior football pitch on the far side of a cricket square.

No facilities for spectators, not that you'd expect any at this level of course, and based on this experience Langwathby United aren't exactly drawing in the crowds. It's a shame because it's a nice place to watch a match, and local grassroots football needs all the support it can get.

St Helens Town v Litherland REMYCA

7.30pm  26 October 2017

Liverpool Senior Cup, First Round
St Helens Town 1 Litherland REMYCA 2 (att 114)

St Helens Town have endured a frustratingly long exile from their home town, which finally ended at the start of the season when they took up residence in their new Ruskin Drive ground.

I'd heard poor reports of the facilities before my visit, but while it's not a ground that will set pulses racing it's nowhere near as bad as some people have suggested.

It does have an artificial pitch, which doesn't bother me as much as it does some, but the seated stand is a good size and there's access around three sides, with just the far touchline, where the dugouts are situated, out of bounds.

Most importantly for the club though it's back in St Helens. It's also home to Cheshire League side Pilkington FC, and it was the Pilkington's sports ground before it was redeveloped into its present state.

The pitch I once saw Pilkington play on is now covered by an artificial rugby pitch, presumably for the league code, and is next to the football facility.

One quirk of the venue is a 10pm curfew on the floodlights, hence this cup tie kicking off earlier than usual to ensure time for penalties in the event of a draw (no extra time in the Liverpool Senior Cup apparently).

No need for spot kicks though as Litherland REMYCA won an entertaining tie. The home side scored first, against the run of play, but the visitors netted twice to lead 2-1 by half time. No further goals in the second period, as St Helens did all they could to get back into the tie but for the most part created only half chances.

Leicester Nirvana v AFC Wulfrunians

7.45pm  24 October 2017

FA Vase, First Round Replay
Leicester Nirvana 4 AFC Wulfrunians 1 (att 57)

A draw in their FA Vase tie at the weekend set up a midweek replay in Leicester and gave me a chance to tick off one of two newish venues I need to recomplete the United Counties League.

I'm still surprised to see Leicestershire clubs in this league as traditionally, and for most of the time I've been watching games in it, it's heartland has been further south in and around Northamptonshire.

The way they've started this season suggests Leicester Nirvana may be passing through on their way up the pyramid. They're top of the table, and after a slow start had little problem seeing off AFC Wulfrunians at the second attempt.

The home side went ahead late in the first half, and had good fortune to net a second in stoppage time at the end of the half. The goalscorer looked clearly offside from where I was standing, and I'm baffled how neither the referee nor his assistant spotted it.

Wulfrunians' anger was understandable, and it proved a pivotal moment in the game. The visitors had the stiff breeze at the backs for the second half, and when they reduced the arrears it looked as if they had momentum behind them.

But Nirvana were decisive on the break and two more goals kept them on the long road to next spring's Vase final at Wembley Stadium.

Nirvana haven't been at their Hamilton Park base long, but it's already been developed into a good facility. Near the entrance there's a clubhouse that's behind the goal, and the enclosed pitch has both a seated stand and a covered standing area.

Coxhoe Athletic v Sunderland West End

2.30pm  21 October 2017

Wearside League
Coxhoe Athletic 1 Sunderland West End 8 (att 50)

Coxhoe may have been on the wrong end of a thrashing at the hands of Sunderland West End, but a visit to their Beechfield Park home epitomised why I enjoy visiting non-League football grounds so much.

It's a lovely venue, with only the lack of floodlights preventing it staging football at a higher level. The pitch, which looks well cared for, is surrounded by a collection of small stands and bits of cover, as well as one or two benches.

There's a decent snack bar for pre-match and half time refreshments, and the club and its friendly officials seem to get a good level of support from locals.

It's a ground I've wanted to visit for a while, and I was pleased when the Coxhoe Athletic name was restored to the Wearside League after a brief period when, to keep football going in Coxhoe, they took the identity of Spennymoor's reserve side.

They're still a young team though, and after taking an early lead thanks to a penalty they were comprehensively outclassed by a impressive Sunderland West End side. The visitors were soon level, and had a 4-1 advantage by half time.

Goal number five was in the opening minute of the second period, after which West End went half-an-hour without scoring, but as the hosts tired in the closing minutes three more goals were added to the tally.

An off-day for Coxhoe, but at least they've got a team of their own again, and I thoroughly enjoyed my visit despite the lopsided scoreline.

Mowbray Community Church v Relentless FC Bradford

10.30am  21 October 2017

Yorkshire Christian League, Division One
Mowbray Community Church 2 Relentless FC Bradford 1 (att 10)

I had planned to head south, but with weather forecasters warning of the impact of Storm Brian I decided north and east were better directions to avoid the possibility of postponements or, at the very least, unpleasant conditions for watching football.

First up was my first taste of the Yorkshire Christian League, having been tempted by enjoyable games in other Christian leagues which stage matches on Saturday mornings.

Ordinarily I'd have started with a top division game, but second tier Mowbray's North Yorkshire location fitted well with my plans for the afternoon, and I was intrigued by the team being based in a small rural village rather than a playing field in Leeds, Bradford or York.

A 20-year-old plaque in the changing rooms at Darley Playing Fields refers to a Darley AFC, who have presumably since folded. Their erstwhile pitch, in Nidderdale between Skipton and Harrogate, is a lovely place to watch a game.

The changing rooms are in a pitchside building that also houses the Darley village shop and Post Office, from where hot drinks and snacks are also available. In front of the shop is some decking, with picnic tables, overlooking the pitch.

On the pitch the standard of football wasn't great, but the entertainment was. Relentless went into the game bottom of the league without a win, but were desperately unlucky not to get at least point after leading at half time.

They were better side for the first 45 minutes, but surrendered their lead to a Mowbray leveller early in the second half. The visitors had chances to get back in front, but failed to take them and paid the price when Mowbray got a winner just two minutes from time.

Leith Athletic v Tynecastle at Preston Athletic FC

2.30pm  15 October 2017

East of Scotland FA, Alex Jack Cup Final at Preston Athletic FC
Leith Athletic 0 Tynecastle 3 (att 220)

Back in May I watched as these two sides contested the East of Scotland League Cup Final. On that day Tynecastle took a first half lead but were unable to withstand a second half recovery by Leith Athletic.

I thought I might be in for a repeat as Tynecastle once again went into the half time break with a one goal advantage after a lively first half. But this time Leith were unable to stage a comeback.

Whether the memory of May's defeat was a factor I don't know, but Tynecastle's desire and determination to protect their lead was greater than anything Leith could muster to get back into the game.

An own goal doubled the advantage, and a late third goal put the outcome beyond any doubt, meaning Tynecastle were able to lift the Alex Jack Cup, a competition open to the handful of East of Scotland League clubs who aren't eligible for the season's Scottish FA Cup.

As winners, Tynecastle now enter a play for a place in next season's Scottish Cup, although these days there seem to be so many ways of qualifying for the national cup I don't understand why the Scottish FA don't just open it up to anyone who wants to enter.

The venue for this year's final was the impressive Pennypit Park in Prestonpans, home to Preston Athletic FC. The ground's main feature is a good-sized seated stand (identical to the stand at the next door rugby stadium), and grass banking surrounds the rest of the pitch.

Aslockton and Orston v Linby Colliery Welfare

3pm  14 October 2017

Central Midlands League, South Division
Aslockton and Orston 2 Linby Colliery Welfare 3 (att 46)

I had completed the full set of Central Midlands League grounds last season, but Aslockton and Orston were one of three new clubs to join for 2017/18 whose grounds I'd not been to.

The club are based at Orston Recreation Ground, a very rural venue that's just outside the village of Orston. It's been used by clubs with various names in recent years, and Aslockton and Orston is a renamed version of Aslockton Cranmers who played here last season.

The new name apparently recognises the support the club has had from the village in which they're (almost) based, and I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people watching the game. The crowd also included support for Linby, a couple of whose fans who enthusiastically wielded old-fashioned rattles when their team scored.

Their side had to come from behind to win an entertaining game. Linby started the game well enough, but once they went a goal down they looked poor. They were better after the break though, and two second half goals put them ahead.

Aslockton and Orston's young side battled back and managed to level, but it was the visitors who scored a decisive late goal to claim all three points.

A lot of work has gone into turning Orston Recreation Ground into a proper football venue. There's a new clubhouse close to the railed-off pitch, which also has a pair of dugouts and a small covered area with a few chairs inside.