Aveley v AFC Sudbury

3pm  30 December 2017

Isthmian League, Division One North
Aveley 1 AFC Sudbury 1 (att 271)

Having spent Friday in Brighton I was hoping to see a game in Sussex, but wet weather meant postponements so I journeyed north into Essex and the safety of the artificial surface at Aveley's new home.

The Parkside ground opened at the start of the season, and so for the third Saturday in a row I visited a newly-built football ground and was impressed by what I saw.

The main stand backs onto a nice clubhouse, with plenty more seats in another stand on the far side and covered standing areas behind both goals. The pitch is artificial grass, but the only markings on it are for 11-a-side football, unlike most of the 'caged' 3G and 4G pitches around.

Aveley seem to be getting good support in their new home, despite some indifferent form on the pitch. They should have won this game, but AFC Sudbury rescued a point thanks to an 88th minute equaliser.

The visitors had 10 men by that stage, after a player was red-carded for his reaction to the referee refusing to give a free kick (correctly, it looked a dive to me).

With a man advantage Aveley should have built on their first half lead, but despite playing well they failed to take any of the chances they created, including missing a penalty. In the end they paid the price with Sudbury's late goal.

CB Hounslow United v Banstead Athletic

3pm  23 December 2017

Combined Counties League, Premier Division
CB Hounslow United 0 Banstead Athletic 1 (att 56)

Pre-Christmas family commitments meant I was going to be in west London anyway, so I was fortunate the fixtures fell kindly and the weather was benign, allowing me to visit CB Hounslow United's new ground.

For a newly-built ground at this level 'The Lair', in Green Lane, is an impressive venue. A large clubhouse dominates the turnstile side of the ground, there's a well-proportioned seated stand on the opposite side, and a small covered standing area behind one goal.

The most surprising and unusual feature is an electronic scoreboard in the corner of the ground, which counts off the 90 minutes as well as keeping track of goals.

Sadly the scoreboard operator had little to do during this game (although being non-League I'm sure he or she had plenty of other jobs to be getting on with while we spectators enjoyed the action).

It was a game that needed a goal to come fully to life. Luckily we did get a goal, but unfortunately it came so deep into stoppage time there was barely time for CB Hounslow to restart the match.

The home side should have won. They were the better side and had more of the play, but they rarely looked like breaking down Banstead's well organised defence. The visitors occasionally looked dangerous on the break, and having withstood plenty of pressure they succeeded on the break in the final seconds.

Melksham Town v Hallen

3pm  16 December 2017

Western League, Premier Division
Melksham Town 3 Hallen 0 (att 285)

The south west seemed a good place to head to avoid the threat of frozen pitches, and once Melksham had confirmed the game was on I headed to the Wiltshire town to tick off the club's new Oakfield Stadium.

Like many new grounds it's very much on the edge of town, although it's close to, if not part of, a recent development that includes plenty of houses, at least one pub and several shops. On today's showing local people are supporting the club in numbers at the new ground, which is encouraging.

Most new grounds at this level have similarities with others, and Melksham's is a familiar design with the main feature being a seated stand built to the front of a two-storey building that houses changing rooms below and a clubhouse at the top.

It looks good though, and the clubhouse would have been a nice place to enjoy a pre-match pint had I arrived early enough. There's a smaller seated stand on the opposite side, while the rest of the ground is flat hard standing, with room for more building if necessary.

As well as the main football stadium there's several other pitches, and a home for Melksham's rugby union club, so it's a busy place most Saturdays.

The game was very much a slow burner. Clear chances were few and far between and although Melksham looked the better side it took them until the 78th minute before they opened the scoring. That was enough to beat Hallen, who conceded twice more in the time that was left.

Melksham's new ground isn't on Google Maps yet, but here's a link to to roughly where it is 

Leigh Athletic v Chapel Town

1pm  9 December 2017

Manchester League, Division One
Leigh Athletic 4 Chapel Town 0 (att 17)

Given the amount of snow I had to clear from my car in Manchester before heading to this game I was surprised to find none on the pitch at Leigh Sports Village.

Leigh Athletic have returned here after a season playing at Culcheth High School, but whereas they previously played on the grass pitch inside the Sports Village's running track, they now use a 3G pitch in a different part of the complex.

It's a basic set up, and typical of its type, but on a day when few grass pitches were playable locally, and even some artificial surfaces were ruled out by the amount of snow on them, it was good just to have a game that was on.

The football goals are in front of rugby posts, a sign that Leigh is primarily a rugby league town. For this game spectators were allowed to stand inside the high fence that surrounds the pitch, despite signs to the contrary, and a pair of neat dugouts on the far side provide accommodation for subs and coaches.

Leigh Athletic are going well in the league, and had few problems seeing off Chapel Town. They took a 15th minute lead, doubled their advantage early in the second half, and added two more near the end.

Chapel were hampered by losing their goalkeeper to a second half injury and having a player red-carded late on, but neither incident affected the outcome.

Ashland Rovers v Netherfield Albion

7.30pm  6 December 2017

Nottinghamshire Senior League, Division One
Ashland Rovers 1 Netherfield Albion 1 (att 15)

League leaders Netherfield left Ashland's Kingsway Park ground with their unbeaten record intact, but they dropped points for only the third time this season after a lively game that was good enough to take my mind off the conditions.

Luckily it stayed dry, but it's an open venue with little shelter from the stiff breeze that was blowing across the pitch, making the playing conditions a challenge.

Netherfield looked set for a win after a 15th minute goal put them ahead, as they created the bulk of the scoring opportunities with the hosts mostly limited to half chances. But 12 minutes into the second half Ashland converted one to level the scores.

It set up a very enjoyable final half-hour or so, in which both teams threatened to score but neither did. Netherfield came closest with a late shot that came back off the cross bar.

Ashland Rovers are based in Kirkby-in-Ashfield, and are unusual at this level for having a floodlit ground.

Other than the lights there's not a lot at Kingsway Park. The pitch is enclosed by a wooden fence on one side and behind the far goal, while the other side borders the high fence of an adjacent artificial hockey pitch. The near end has a mesh fence behind which are the changing rooms.

Pontardawe Town v Garden Village

2pm  2 December 2017

Welsh League, Division Two
Pontardawe Town 1 Garden Village 2 (att 58)

Occasionally I get reminders of just how long I've been visiting non League football grounds. I was amazed to realise it was over 25 years ago that I saw Pontardawe lose a West Wales Senior Cup tie at their former ground.

A quarter of a century later and I returned to the Swansea Valley town to visit their new home, Parc Ynysderw. It's still a work in progress, but plenty of progress has been made in the relatively short time they've played here.

It's an enclosed football pitch that's part of a large playing field, and Pontardawe Town's pitch was looking an lot better than what teams in a trio of local games had to contend with elsewhere in the park.

There's small stand on one side, portable buildings providing pitchside changing rooms, and a snack bar to keep spectators supplied with food and drink.

Both these sides are on the fringes of the promotion battle, and Garden Village were celebrating a hard won three points at the end of 90 minutes.

They looked the better side, just about, but they had good fortune on their side. A first half lead looked to have been cancelled out by a Pontardawe equaliser, only for the referee, having initially given a goal, to have second thoughts when faced with vociferous complaints by Garden Village.

After consulting his assistant he changed his mind and ruled the goal out. From where I was standing I don't know if he eventually made the right call or not, but if Garden Village hadn't complained as vehemently as they did I'm sure it would have been 1-1.

Garden Village doubled their lead before the break. A second half goal for Pontardawe kept the game interesting for neutrals like me, but Garden Village defended well to hold out and earn all three points.

Newport County U18 v Bristol Rovers U18

10.30am  2 December 2017

EFL Youth Alliance, South West
Newport County U18 2 Bristol Rovers U18 4 (att 45)

I watched this same fixture in January, at County's current first choice youth team venue of Lliswerry High School, but this season's encounter caught my eye when I spotted it was being played on 'pitch two' at Dragon Park.

Dragon Park, in Newport, is Wales' National Football Development Centre, a bit like a mini version of the FA's St George's Park. I visited the main pitch in 2015 for an under 17 international, but the second pitch is some distance away from the main arena.

It's just an enclosed grass pitch, adjacent to a 3G ground that was hosting Newport v Bristol Rovers at under 16 level. While it's a more enclosed ground than the usual pitch at Lliswerry High School, the down side for spectators is having to watching from outside the fence that surrounds the pitch.

Peering through a fence isn't a great way to watch football, but at least it was an entertaining game. Newport took an early lead but it was soon wiped out and the first half ended 1-1.

Rovers began the second period in clinical fashion, scoring three times in the space of 10 minutes early in the half. Newport pulled a goal back to keep things interesting, but they couldn't manage a third and the visitors held on to win.