Bradford Olympic v Toller

6.15pm  29 August 2018

West Riding County Amateur League
Bradford Olympic 5 Toller 1 (att 45)

Last night I watched a game in the West Yorkshire League, and as that league has got stronger in recent years its near neighbour, the West Riding County Amateur League, has gone into decline.

It's still clinging on to its step seven status from the FA, putting it on a par with the West Yorkshire League's top flight. But this season it's down to a single division, and with clubs of varying standards some mismatches are inevitable.

This fixture didn't fall into that category, even though visitors Toller were well beaten. They actually took the lead after two minutes, but that was as good at the evening got for them. Bradford Olympic were soon level, and ran away it in the second half scoring four times.

Olympic played last season as Bradford FC, but with a change of name has come a change of home. They've moved into the Eccleshill Sports and Social Club ground which is an impressive, if untidy, venue.

Apparently it was once a cricket ground, before being converted into a home for s short-lived rugby league side. The pitch is floodlit, although the lights weren't used for this game, and the playing area is fully railed off. There's dugouts, the remains of some terracing and a good elevated view from the entrance near the car park.

Ilkley Town v Rawdon Old Boys

7.30pm  28 August 2018

West Yorkshire League, Premier Division
Ilkley Town 3 Rawdon Old Boys 1 (att 65)

Ilkley Town's new ground has gone largely under the radar, but that's not too surprising as they've moved just a few yards to a new pitch and are still based at the Ben Rhydding Sports Club on the edge of the town.

Their former pitch, which I visited in 2013, is still in place and might still be used from time to time, but this season Ilkley are playing on a new enclosed and floodlit 4G pitch. For spectators it's better than many venues of this type, with access around most of the perimeter.

It was nice to have a floodlit new ground to visit relatively close to home, sparing me the usual stressful effort to battle rush hour traffic for a more distant venue or a much earlier kick off time.

The top division of the West Yorkshire League can usually be relied upon to produce a decent standard of football, and this game fitted the bill. Two good sides played a competitive and enjoyable game, aided by the smooth artificial surface.

Ilkley opened the scoring after 20 minutes, but a penalty for Rawdon levelled the score before half time. The home side got on top as the second half progressed, and two goals in the final 20 minutes gave them a deserved win.

Ilkley Town's new pitch isn't on Google Maps yet but here's a map of its location

Vale United v STM Sports Old Boys

11am  26 August 2018

South Wales Alliance League, Division Two
Vale United 7 STM Sports Old Boys 1 (att 165)

After a day of Gwent County League games the organised hop turned its attention to the South Wales Alliance League on Sunday, although Vale United, the first of the the day's three grounds, was the only one I needed.

The club are relatively new but have progressed rapidly to the second division of the league, the seventh tier of domestic Welsh football. They're based in Corntown, a village just outside Bridgend, and have a neat and tidy venue.

The pitch is railed off, and advertising boards and dugouts complete the ground. There's no cover for spectators though, which would have been useful as the game was played in constant torrential rain.

Given the conditions the players deserve credit for putting on a decent game. Vale United ran out easy winners, but it was late goals that gave the final score its lopsided appearance.

The home side were 3-0 ahead at half time, but a converted penalty early in the second half gave STM some hope. A fourth for Vale put the game out of reach, before the visitors' demoralised defence leaked late goals.

Villa Dino Christchurch v Newport Civil Service

4pm 25 August 2018

Gwent County League, Division One
Villa Dino Christchurch 1 Newport Civil Service 3 (att 201)

The Villa Dino is a restaurant in Newport, but whereas I'd just assumed they were a long-standing sponsor of Christchurch the match programme informed me that Villa Dino FC had merged with Christchurch to form the current club in the 1990s.

They're long established in the Gwent County League, and have taken up residence at the well-equipped Whitehead Sports Ground in Bassaleg where the facilities may allow them to step up into the Welsh League if they can get it together on the pitch.

They were anything but together in the opening minutes of this game, defensively at least, and it didn't take long before Newport Civil Service - Welsh Leaguers themselves until recently - had a 2-0 lead.

Villa Dino pulled one back in the second half but Civil Service added a third goal to put the result beyond doubt. The visitors did have a player sent off towards the end but there was little chance of a home team comeback.

The ground has railed off pitches for both rugby and football, although as yet there's no cover for spectators by the football pitch, which Villa Dino Christchurch would need should they want promotion.

This game marked the three-quarters point of the day's games for most groundhoppers on this hop but thankfully I'd already been to the day's final venue, at Pill YMCA, so I was spared a fourth game that might just have tested my keenness for non-League football. These days three matches in a day is plenty.

Rogerstone v Newport Corinthians

1.30pm  25 August 2018

Gwent County League, Division Two
Rogerstone 1 Newport Corinthians 2 (att 161)

The day's second hop match took me to Rogerstone's Welfare Ground, a very short drive from the morning match and another pleasant location to watch a game of football.

It's a multi-sport venue, and a cricket match was already underway by the time the cars and coach loads of groundhoppers arrived for a fixture in the middle of the Gwent County League's three divisions.

Rogerstone were promoted from the third tier last season, and if this game is anything to go by they'll need to be sharper in front of goal if they're going to thrive in their new division. They created chance after chance, by by the time they finally scored, very late in the game, they were already 2-0 down.

It set up an interesting final few minutes, but Newport Corinthians held firm and won the game thanks to a goal in each half.

Like most, if not all, Gwent League grounds Rogerstone's pitch is railed off. As this was a groundhop game the club had to take a gate, so an area around the ground was taped off to encourage people to find the entrance and pay their admission.

AC Pontymister v Blaenavon Blues

11am  25 August 2018

Gwent County League, Division One
Athletic Club Pontymister 3 Blaenavon Blues 2 (att 238)

Organised hops staged over a bank holiday weekend can be a mixed blessing. The chance to visit extra games on new grounds is hard to resist, but battling holiday traffic, especially in August, can make it seem more trouble than it's worth.

I didn't bother with this hop's Friday night game, but as I needed first three (out of four) on the Saturday I decided to brave to motorways and head to South Wales. Just as well I left home very early, as I had to detour through Wolverhampton to avoid a closed M6.

Fortunately (and with thanks to my satnav) I still made it to AC Pontymister's ground with nearly half-an-hour to spare, and was rewarded with a decent game at a venue that exceeded my expectations.

Essentially it is just a railed off pitch, but it feels quite enclosed and the views around the ground are better than you might imagine for a suburb or Newport.

Blaenavon Blues went into half time having scored the only goal, but the second half was very entertaining, with the sides trading goals before the home team got a late winner from the penalty spot.

As is often the case with hop games, especially the first of the day, it was as much a chance to catch up with some old acquaintances as to concentrate on the football, but this game was good enough to hold my attention.

Vulcan v Winstanley Warriors

6.30pm  22 August 2018

Cheshire League, League One
Vulcan 2 Winstanley Warriors 1 (att 30)

Groundhopping doesn't always go to plan. Last week I drove to Mesnes Park in Newton-le-Willows only to discover that Vulcan's opponents couldn't muster 11 players for their league fixture and so the game was off.

Thankfully it wasn't a lengthy journey, and I didn't have to wait long to try again. This time I had more success as Winstanley Warriors were warming up on the pitch when I arrived.

It was only late last season that I discovered Vulcan had relocated, slightly, since I last saw them at Mesnes Park in 2011. Their current pitch is in a different part of the park, a short uphill walk from where they played previously.

It's just a basic park pitch, but Vulcan make good use of brightly-coloured stakes, rope and temporary dugouts to turn it into an acceptable football ground.

By rights Vulcan shouldn't be playing at Mesnes Park at all now, but the club are still waiting for a long overdue move into their new ground. It's part of a redevelopment of the old Vulcan Foundry, where locomotives were built before it, along with its sports ground, were closed.

Two first half goals put Vulcan on track for a win against Winstanley. They should have made the game safe with a second half penalty, but it was saved and when the visitors scored a penalty of their own, with two minutes left, it set up a nervy finish for the hosts.

Winstanley never really looked like equalising though, even with an oddly-generous amount of stoppage time which meant it was quite dark when the final whistle was eventually blown.