New Bohemians v Boynton Sports

6pm  28 March 2018

Sheffield County Senior League, Division Two
New Bohemians 1 Boynton Sports 1 (att 25)

The clocks have gone forward and so it's time to begin the annual spring scramble to beat rush hour traffic and make a series of midweek early kick offs.

Getting from Manchester to Sheffield by 6pm is a challenge after work, and despite setting off with what should have been plenty of time I still arrived at the side of the Forge Valley School pitch just a few minutes before the game got underway.

It was worth the effort though, as the sides second and third in the table played out an entertaining and at times feisty draw.

Boynton were the better side from the off and deserved their early lead. They lost their way about 10 minutes before half time when they had a player red-carded following an incident in which Boynton thought they'd scored but the referee decided the ball hadn't crossed the line.

While the goalmouth scramble, and the arguments that followed it, were taking place the New Bohemians goalkeeper was lying still, apparently knocked out in a challenge that lead to the chance.

Once order was restored the visitors were down to 10 men while the home side had a stand-in keeper, although rolling substitutions at this level meant Bohemians' original keeper was back in goal for the second period.

With their numerical advantage New Bohemians eventually levelled, then spurned a great opportunity to claim all the points when a late penalty was off target.

The action took place on a grass pitch on a school playing field. No facilities, although one touchline was roped off to keep spectators in check.

Eyam v Bamford

2pm  24 March 2018

Hope Valley Amateur League, Division A
Eyam 1 Bamford 6 (att 33)

I usually enjoy my occasional visits to games in the Hope Valley League, and being based in New Mills for the weekend, on dog and house sitting duty, gave me an excuse to tick off another of its village clubs.

Grounds at this level are basic, but the scenic setting at Eyam more than makes up for the lack of facilities, while on the pitch effort and endeavour makes up for the what the players might lack in skill.

It's been a tough season for Eyam. They went into this match bottom of the league's middle division, but still just about in touch with the clubs above them.

Trailing 1-0 at half time they might have fancied their chances of getting back into this game, but once Bamford doubled their lead there was only going to be one outcome. The home side tired on their heavy pitch, and it was one way traffic for most of the half.

Eyam's consolation goal prompted a cheer from the crowd, a sizeable number for this level of the game, but they were already well beaten by the time they scored it.

The club are based at Hawkhill Road, where there's a large car park (a necessity given the village's popularity with tourists), a pavilion that houses the changing rooms and, a short walk away, the football pitch.

Skegness Town v Wyberton

7.45pm  21 March 2018

Lincolnshire League
Skegness Town 5 Wyberton 1 (att 140)

Thirteen years ago, almost to the day, I watched as Skegness Town were hammered 5-0 at home to Wyberton at their run-down former Burgh Road ground.

Fast forward to 2018 and the club's fortunes appear to be have been transformed. Not only did they score five against the same opponents, but they've settled into their new Vertigo Stadium and have facilities suitable for a team set to climb the divisions.

For a step seven venue it's very impressive, with nice clubhouse behind the goal near the entrance, a pair of small stands providing seats and covered standing, a path around all four sides and, obviously for a 7.45 kick off in March, floodlights.

On the pitch the Lincolnshire League title might just be beyond Skegness Town this year, but they're likely to finish in a promotion position, and on the evidence of this match they'll do well at a higher level.

They played some fine football in the first half and went into the half-time break with a 3-0 lead. Wyberton scored a great goal early in the second period the keep things interesting, but a pair of late goals for the hosts, one a penalty, ended any chance of a comeback.

The Vertigo Stadium isn't on Google Maps yet, but here is a link to its location

Mallaby v Rainhill Town

3pm  17 March 2018

West Cheshire League, Division One
Mallaby 3 Rainhill Town 3 (att 15)

I had a choice of afternoon games after the day's earlier match at Liverpool Baltic, and eventually settled on a visit to the Wirral Tennis Centre in Birkenhead to recomplete the West Cheshire League's three divisions.

Tennis may be the main sport here, but the newish 3G football pitch is home to both Mallaby and Mersey Royal, who play in the league's third tier. With top flight Mallaby struggling, and Mersey Royal going well, they could be meeting in division two next season.

Mallaby earned a welcome point in their battle against relegation, but it'll feel like two points dropped after they twice conceded equalisers as the game moved into stoppage time.

The game's early exchanges did little to suggest a thrilling finish was likely. Rainhill looked the better side and deserved their 1-0 half time lead. They should have doubled their advantage in the opening moments of the second half, but missed a sitter and within a minute Mallaby were level.

The home side edged in front with less than 10 minutes remaining, and looked like holding on for a win until they conceded in the 90th minute. Amazingly, as I walked towards the exit and the welcome warmth of my car, Mallaby went back in front.

But Rainhill weren't finished and just two minutes later, five minutes into stoppage time by my watch, a corner was headed in to make it 3-3. After that there was barely time for Mallaby to kick off, but a shot direct from the restart forced a save from the Rainhill keeper, and then the final whistle blew.

Liverpool Baltic v Liverpool Medics

11.30am  17 March 2018

Liverpool County Premier League, Division Two
Liverpool Baltic 3 Liverpool Medics 5 (att 4)

I was planning a day in Scotland, but ever more ominous weather forecasts made me question the wisdom of a night-time drive home through snow and ice.

What finally swung it for me was the discovery, on Friday night, that for some unknown reason this fixture, in the lowest of the Liverpool League's three divisions, had been moved to a morning kick-off.

It was very much a local derby, as Baltic and Medics are two of three teams in the league who play home games at Barnham Drive Playing Fields in the Childwall district of Liverpool. It's a basic playing field, with a few pitches, and some utilitarian changing rooms in a small car park.

As well as being the name of the home side, Baltic was also an apt description for the conditions. At times it was sunny, at times we had blizzards, but it was freezing cold throughout.

Luckily there were plenty of goals to keep a small crowd entertained. Liverpool Baltic began the match a player short, and while they eventually got up to full strength they were outplayed in the first half. Medics scored five, including two penalties, before half time.

I don't know what Baltic's half time team talk consisted of, but perhaps they should try it before the next match, as they were like a different side in the second period. Three goals back was a decent reward for their efforts, although Medics' lead was never in doubt.

One curiosity was the appearance of a programme. I'm sure Liverpool Baltic don't issue for most matches, and two of the three groundhoppers present (me included) were tempted by the kick off time rather than the chance to collect some more paper.

The fourth spectator was a friend of some of the Baltic players, and was roped into being the club's semi-official programme seller. Although unexpected, it was a welcome addition to my programme collection.

Accrington Amateurs v Thornleigh

2.30pm  10 March 2018

Lancashire Amateur League, Division One
Accrington Amateurs 1 Thornleigh 5 (att 6)

After my morning game in the Altrincham League I had the rare treat, on a Saturday, of going home for lunch before heading out again for the short drive north into Lancashire for my second match.

The last time I watched Accrington Amateurs they played on a sports field next door to Accrington Stanley, but in recent years they've become nomadic and for 2017/18 have set up home on a 3G pitch at a local school.

The pitch looks new and Accrington Academy is modern facility, so with the added benefit of little risk of the wet weather causing a postponement it was a good choice for my afternoon game.  That said, the venue is high up and exposed , and it was just as well it wasn't grass given the amount of rain during the match.

Luckily the game was good enough to take my mind off the conditions. Visitors Thornleigh were deserved winners, but the size of their victory was flattering.

They had their keeper to thank for several good saves, and it was sharper finishing that gave them a 2-0 lead by half time. Accrington began the second half well, and pulled a goal back, but a third for Thornleigh settled the outcome. Two late goals were harsh on the home side.

Kartel Sports v Sale Amateurs

10.30am  10 March 2018

Altrincham and District Amateur League, Division One Challenge Trophy
Kartel Sports 1 Sale Amateurs 0 (att 10)

Needing to stay close to home today I got lucky when I spotted that one of the day's Altrincham League fixtures had been brought forward to a morning start, allowing the players a chance to watch the lunchtime Premier League game at Old Trafford.

Fortunately the grass pitch, at Altrincham Athletics Club, was playable despite recent rain, and the two sides produced a match that was competitive and entertaining even if the skill levels weren't too high.

Kartel won't be complaining though, as their 58th minute goal was enough to win the game despite being second best for most of it. Sale Amateurs missed plenty of chances, failed to convert two penalties, one in each half, and finished the game with a man advantage following a Kartel red card.

The ground, accessed from Park Road close to the centre of Timperley, is as basic as you'd expect in this league. Players change in a building close to the enclosed athletics track, and have a short walk to a playing field with room for a couple of pitches.

A public footpath running alongside one touchline at least provides some hard standing for anyone watching the game, and also provides a steady stream of dog walkers who got some extra entertainment while taking their pets for a Saturday morning stroll.

Neston Nomads v South Liverpool

3pm  3 March 2018

West Cheshire League, Division One
Neston Nomads 1 South Liverpool 1 (att 50)

From my lunchtime game in Widnes it was an easy drive to the outskirts of Ellesmere Port, and to the Vauxhall Sports and Social Club, where Neston Nomads have taken one of a pair of artificial pitches as their new home.

The pitch backs on the Vauxhall Motors FC's ground, and is a typical 3G set-up but with a proper spectator area running the length of one side.

Although there was no game on Vauxhall's pitch, the snack bar was open, providing respite from the cold and and dispensing very welcome hot drinks to spectators. I'm not sure how many usually watch Neston, but the fixture attracted a lot of neutrals with so many games called off.

It promised to be a good game, with visitors South Liverpool top of the league and Neston third, and it didn't disappoint.

The away side scored a first half penalty to lead at the break, and looked likely to claim all three points, until a fantastic scissor kick was struck perfectly to give Neston a deserved and spectacular equaliser.