Chorltonians v AFC Stockport

2pm  15 December 2018

Lancashire and Cheshire Amateur League, Rhodes Cup First Round
Chorltonians 1 AFC Stockport 1, 7-6 on penalties (att 2)

I needed to stay close to home today and in view of the weather I had expected to spend my afternoon standing inside a caged 3G pitch.

But the grass pitches at the Hough End Centre were playable, so I braved the horrid conditions to watch an intriguing league cup tie between teams separated by four divisions.

AFC Stockport are going well in the Lancashire and Cheshire Amateur League's sixth tier, but it was still a major surprise that they took division one Chorltonians to penalties. The feat was even more remarkable as they had a bare 11 players and no substitutes.

The weather was a leveller though. Heavy rain blown in by an icy cold wind made watching the action while keeping hold of an umbrella a challenge, and players on both sides did well to provide a decent spectacle in the conditions.

Chorltonians played into the wind in a first half that ended goalless. The home side had the better chances but AFC Stockport looked dangerous, and it was clear it wasn't going to be the easy home win I'd anticipated.

With the conditions more in their favour after the break Chorltonians broke the deadlock after 57 minutes. AFC Stockport held firm though, and deserved their equaliser.

They were hanging on towards the end of the 90 minutes, and goal line technology might have awarded the home side a late winner when the ball looked to have crossed the line before being cleared.

With no extra time it was straight to spot kicks to decide the outcome. AFC Stockport had a chance to win but what would have been the decisive penalty was saved. As it went into sudden death it was the home side who progressed.

Chorltonians are based at the Hough End Centre in south Manchester. It's the Greater Manchester Police sports and social club, and 20 years ago I visited to see the police team play a Manchester League fixture.

The pitch used then has since been turned into paddocks for police horses, although none were out in today's bad weather. There's still room for a pair of grass pitches though, and Chorltonians fourth team were at home on the other one.

Beverley Town v Pocklington Town

2pm  8 December 2018

Humber Premier League, Premier Division
Beverley Town 4 Pocklington Town 3 (att 38)

I had little opportunity to check matches on Friday night or Saturday morning so I made a late decision to head east. Not only did it seem the best direction in view of the weather, but Hull has plenty of 3G pitches as backups should games on grass fall to the conditions.

I didn't need a backup though as the grass pitch at Beverley's Norwood Recreation Ground was in perfect condition, showing the value of drainage work carried out while the club temporarily played elsewhere last season.

There are some very basic venues in the Humber's league's top division, which has step seven status from the FA, but Beverley's ground is one of the better ones. The pitch is part of a large sports club, but is enclosed by houses and a squash club building.

A combination of railings and rope provides a barriers to keep spectators at bay along both touchlines, and on the far side there are pair of new-looking dugouts. A few advertising boards are attached to the railing to give the ground a 'proper' feel.

It was good stuff on the pitch as well, not too surprising as hosts Beverley began this game in third place while Pocklington were top. It was lively throughout, with both sides playing some attractive attacking football.

Beverley got an early lead but it didn't take Pocklington long to get back level. The decisive moments were just before half time, when the home side scored twice in as many minutes to get a healthy 3-1 lead.

Pocklington were better in the second half and had they got the next goal the outcome might have been different, but it was Beverley who eventually struck. A 4-1 deficit was a tall order for Pocklington but they had some hope with they pulled one back with 10 minutes to go.

Beverley were hanging on at the end but it took the visitors until stoppage time to get a third goal back, and after that there was barely time to restart. It was a good advert for the Humber Premier League though, and I'd be keen to see either of these sides again this season.

Caribbean Sports v South Kirkby Colliery

1.45pm  1 December 2018

Sheffield County Senior League Cup, Third Round
Caribbean Sports 3 South Kirkby Colliery 0 (att 4)

In some ways this felt a little like a groundhopping throwback to a different time. A cup upset on a very muddy surface at a ground that surprisingly had cover, dugouts and an enclosed pitch.

The cover looks ready to collapse, and anyone standing under it would have to take care not to trip over the groundsman's mower. I didn't risk leaning on the the railings too hard, and I assume the rope is left permanently in place as on today's evidence there's little need to keep crowds off the pitch.

The Caribbean Sports Ground is a good one to visit though. Players change in a pavilion near the entrance then walk across a cricket pitch before heading down a steep bank to reach the football ground.

I arrived just a few minutes before the scheduled kick off, but apparently the home players assumed it was a 2pm start and so weren't ready on time. It got underway 15 minutes late at 1.45pm, but when they weren't warming up South Kirkby's players spent the extra preparation time watching their veterans team, playing over the fence on the adjacent Civil Service Sports Ground.

Perhaps South Kirkby should have insisted on a prompt start, as when play began they were on the back foot. Division One Caribbean Sports deserved their 15th minute lead from a penalty, and looked better than their Premier Division visitors.

But they failed to take their chances and the lead was still just 1-0 at half time. South Kirkby were better after the break and it became a very enjoyable end-to-end game. Neither side could find the net though, until a late Caribbean goal made the game safe. They added a third just before the end.

Sheffield Wednesday U18 v Hull City U18

11am  1 December 2018

Under 18 Professional Development League
Sheffield Wednesday U18 3 Hull City U18 1 (att 45)

I visited Wednesday's Middlewood Road training ground in 2002 but recent photos of youth team games suggested their under 18s now play on a different pitch to the one used back then, giving me an excuse to return.

The place has had a makeover in the last 16 years, with a new entrance and new facilities. The two grass pitches haven't shifted, but the one used by Sheffield Wednesday's under 19 team years ago has been turned 90 degrees and was staging an under 16s game today.

The pitch now used by the under 18s is closest to the club buildings, and the first you encounter on foot from the entrance, although how to reach it isn't immediately obvious when you go in.

Once they've found the pitch, spectators can watch from behind the goals, albeit through a fence, or along the far side, where only the area between the dugouts is off limits. I've no idea why dugouts aren't on the opposite side, if it's so important that spectators have to keep their distance.

There was more than enough room for the crowd who turned up on a dark and damp morning for a comfortable win against Hull's youngsters. An early penalty put Wednesday in front and a second goal came just before half time.

The home side added a third near the end, but will doubtless be annoyed at having allowed Hull City a consolation goal in the final moments.

All in all it wasn't a bad game for a youth team fixture at this level, and watching football at Sheffield Wednesday's training ground was a more relaxed and laid back experience than is sometimes the case at such venues.

Visa v Las Nuevas Maradonas

7.40pm  26 November 2018

London League, Midweek Cup Group B
Visa 1 Las Nuevas Maradonas 5 (att 1)

In London for work and looking for something to pass time on a Monday night I spotted the opportunity to tick off a new venue, and see my first game in the London League.

The London League, like its near-namesake the London Legal League, has midweek matches on 3G pitches around the capital, allocated by the organisers so every fixture is effectively at a neutral venue.

It's not the sort of football I'd travel far to see, but a few tube stops from my hotel to Maida Vale, followed by a short walk to pitch one at Paddington Recreation Ground, seemed worth the effort.

I wasn't surprised to be the sole spectator, and I wasn't surprised the standard of football wasn't high. A slightly late start meant two 37-minutes halves to fit the match into the time available, more than enough a chilly night.

The visitors scored some decent goals though, two in the first half and three in the second earning an easy win. Visa had one player who stood out from the rest, but a second half penalty was their only reward.

A plus point was that three neutral officials were appointed to officiate the match. On the down side Las Nuevas Maradonas wore training bibs over their striped Argentina shirts to distinguish them from Visa's varied collection white tops, adding to the makeshift feel of the game.

I could have ticked off another ground in the same competition 24 hours later ... but I decided a hotel with room service was a better option.

Bonnyton Thistle v Newton Stewart

3pm  24 November 2018

South of Scotland League
Bonnyton Thistle 7 Newton Stewart 0 (att 32)

After games earlier in the day which evoked Scotland's footballing past I headed to Kilmarnock for a look at the future.

Bonnyton Thistle are new to senior football, but in just their second season at this level they look equipped to progress, and the pyramid structure now in place gives them a realistic route into the Scottish League.

The Townholm ground is as new as the team. The pitch is artificial and in effect it's one-sided for spectators, with changing rooms and club buildings behind the goal at one end. The constituent parts of a seated stand are in the car park, ready to be put together and installed pitchside.

Bonnyton are going well in the league and had no problems seeing off Newton Stewart's young-looking team. The hosts were 3-0 up after 15 minutes, and not long later added a fourth.

The visitors steadied their ship after that, and their keeper made some impressive saves. Goal number five was the opening action of the second half, and Bonnyton got two more before the end. As well as scoring seven, they had three more ruled out for offside.

Bonnyton's ground isn't on Google Maps yet but here's a map of its location

Quayside Thistle v Third Lanark

12 midday  24 November 2018

West of Scotland Amateur Cup, Third Round
Quayside Thistle 1 Third Lanark 4 (att 14)

It was a quirk of the fixtures that meant I got to watch Third Lanark just minutes after a match at Cathkin Park. I'd been looking for alternative games in case the earlier game was off when I spotted this cup tie had a noon start.

The kick off time was perhaps a good compromise as Quayside Thistle compete in the Strathclyde Saturday Morning League while Third Lanark play afternoon football in the strong Central Scottish Amateur League.

The away win was no surprise, but the Strathclyde League is a good standard of football and Third Lanark had to play well to progress. They had a 2-0 lead, the second goal a penalty, before Quayside got one back just before half time.

I felt the away side might need a third goal to make the game safe. It took them until well into the second half to get it, and not long later a fourth followed.

This cup time had been abandoned a week ago due to a serious injury, and thankfully there were no such problems today.

Last week Quayside had hired a pitch at Toryglen, but this time the venue was the 3G pitch at Glasgow's Greenfield Football Centre, close enough to Cathkin Park to allow me to see all of both games.

Hampden v United Clydebank Supporters

10am  24 November 2018

Glasgow Colleges League, Premier Division
Hampden 2 United Clydebank Supporters 5 (att 9)

The Glasgow Colleges League is one of the lesser Saturday morning leagues in Scotland but the attraction of this fixture was the venue more than the game, a chance to watch football at Cathkin Park.

The iconic venue was home to Third Lanark until the club went bust in 1967. The pitch remains, as do remnants of the terracing and the old boundary wall, echos of a past when Third Lanark where one of Scotland's leading sides.

I was surprised how much of the old terracing is still there, in between the mature trees that have devoured much of the rest of what would have been a huge bowl. The crush barriers are, I think, a more recent addition.

No trace remains of the old stand, which stood on the side of the pitch which is now open and has a small car park and storage containers for goalposts and corner flags.

Cathkin Park is now home to Hampden AFC on Saturday mornings, but as with many Glasgow amateur sides pitches tend to be hired on a week to week basis depending on availability and weather. The surface was heavy and I suspect postponements are common through the winter.

Given what happened to Third Lanark (the name has since been revived by an amateur club) it was fitting that Hampden's visitors should be a club set up when the old Clydebank FC was in its death throes.

United Clydebank Supporters were unable to prevent the demise of their club, but were instrumental in a new Clydebank FC being established as a junior team.

At such a venue the football itself was almost secondary, but both Hampden and UCS (as the visitors are usually known) put on a good show for the handful of spectators. Hampden started well and took a deserved early lead.

UCS levelled against the run of play, and went ahead just before half time. The game's decisive moment was a Hampden penalty, saved at the start of the second half. UCS soon extended their lead, and went on to win comfortably.