Brecon Northcote v Hay St Mary's

2.30pm  23 September 2018

Radnorshire Cup, First Round
Brecon Northcote 1 Hay St Mary's 5 (att 48)

It's been a tough week for Brecon Northcote. A few days ago they withdrew their struggling first team from the Mid Wales League, to concentrate their resources on the second team playing at a lower level.

On Saturday the reserves, now effectively the first team, suffered a heavy defeat against Knighton Town, who had taken the same decision to regroup in the Mid Wales South League.

Against the background I was a little surprised to learn that this cup tie was going ahead, and Northcote deserve credit for not only fulfilling the tie but also for putting up a decent effort against their local rivals from Hay-on-Wye.

Ironically, had Northcote not pulled out of the league they would have faced a Mid Wales League game against Hay St Mary's on Saturday. Instead Hay had a day off, but the extra rest wasn't evident as they made hard work of progressing in the Radnorshire Cup.

They were, not surprisingly, comfortably the better side, and Northcote's keeper was busy as he helped restrict them to a 2-0 half time lead. But the home team got the opening goal of the second half and threatened a cup upset, before more goals for Hay put the tie out of reach.

It was a scrappy game, not helped by a strong and rather chilly wind that blew across the pitch at the Brecon Sports Association ground. The pitch is barriered on one side by a wooden fence, and there's a pair of dugouts, but other than that it's an open pitch.

It is good to see Brecon Northcote continuing though, and the match programme talks of a future promotion push back to a higher level of football. There's certainly plenty of local interest, the crowd for this game comparing favourably with the tiny attendance at the now-defunct Brecon Town when I visited for a tie in this cup in 2012.

Holmes Chapel Hurricanes v Cheadle Heath Nomads reserves

3pm  22 September 2018

Cheshire League, League One
Holmes Chapel Hurricanes 3 Cheadle Heath Nomads reserves 3 (att 11)

Wanted a local trip today and mulling over various possibilities I settled on a trip to Cheshire League newcomers Holmes Chapel Hurricanes.

I think it's the club's first season in senior football, having been established to cater for youngsters. Not surprisingly they're taking time to find their feet at this level, but the point they got from this game keeps them clear of the foot of the table.

It was a point that didn't look likely for much of the game. Cheadle Heath were stronger and sharper, and there was little indication that their 2-0 half time lead would be threatened. A second half penalty gave Holmes Chapel hope, but a third goal for the visitors appeared to extinguish it.

But the Hurricanes weren't finished. They kept plugging away and two goals in the final 10 minutes were just reward for their efforts. It was a good game for the neutral.

Holmes Chapel Hurricanes, like fellow Cheshire League newcomers Club AZ, play on an artificial pitch at Holmes Chapel Leisure Centre. Such grounds are rarely interesting to visit but this isn't too bad. There's a spectator area running the length of one side, and some covered seating in the form of metal benches under what is best described as a pair of permanent parasols.

Waldon Athletic v Alphington

3pm  15 September 2018

South West Peninsula League, Division One East
Waldon Athletic 1 Alphington 1 (att 38)

The early kick off at Bristol City's under 18s game gave me a wider scope for my second match of the day, but I was dependent on a compliant M5 to make it as far as Torquay. Despite a slow start I was on the English Riviera in plenty of time to recomplete visits to all the clubs in the South West Peninsula League's three divisions.

I'd taken a look at Waldon's Windmill Hill ground once before, on a day when I decided instead to watch another South Devon League game nearby. It's a very basic, and I was surprised when the club was given the nod for promotion to 'step seven' football.

To be fair it's no worse than step seven grounds elsewhere in the country, particularly in the south east where standards tend to be laxer. The pitch is roped off, there's pair of temporary dugouts, and the changing room building houses a tea bar and provides a small amount of shelter for spectators.

On the pitch next door, Babbaccombe Corinthians' second team were knocking Offwell Rangers out of the Devon Intermediate Cup.

Waldon have made a solid start to life in the Peninsula League, and were good value for the point they gained against Alphington. Both goals were in the first half, Waldon going ahead before a deflected cross went into the net for Alphington's equaliser.

A hard and bobbly pitch didn't help the players, but overall it was an enjoyable game, and great value for the £2 admission charge which included an informative programme.

Bristol City U18 v Cardiff City U18

10.30am  15 September 2018

Under 18 Professional Development League
Bristol City U18 1 Cardiff City U18 0 (att 44)

Lucky I took the time to phone Bristol City to check this game on Friday, as otherwise I wouldn't have known that the kick off had been moved forward 30 minutes from the previously advertised 11am start.

It did mean setting off from home in Manchester even earlier, but a lot of Bristol City's youth team fixtures are lunchtime kick offs, making doubling them up with afternoon matches tricky, so at least the early start helped in that respect.

When I phoned to check the game I also checked the venue carefully. Bristol City's academy is at the SGS (South Gloucestershire and Stroud) College's WISE (West of England Institute of Specialist Education) campus in Stoke Gifford. I'd previously seen a game on the 'show pitch', enclosed by a running track and now home to Bristol City's women's team, and wanted to make sure this wouldn't be a revisit.

I needn't have worried. As I suspected and hoped, the club's academy pitches are adjacent to the show pitch. The under under 18s game was a grass pitch while Bristol City and Cardiff met at under 16 level on an artificial pitch next door.

In an era where many clubs seem to want to deter spectators from youth team games it felt refreshingly laid back at Bristol City. There was plenty of access around the pitch, limited stewarding, and teamsheets were freely available. Then again, the late change to the kick off time might have caught out some.

Sadly it wasn't a game that will live long in the memory. It was a tetchy affair with few chances. The solitary goal was a swift 33rd minute counter attack by the hosts, who'd been under pressure until then but hadn't looked like conceding.

There wasn't much between the sides, and despite the rarity of a teamsheet none of the names on it stood out as great prospects for the future, at least based on this 90 minutes.

Royal Albert v East Kilbride Thistle

2pm  8 September 2018

SJFA West Region, League One
Royal Albert 0 East Kilbride Thistle 1 (att 45)

Royal Albert Athletic (to give their rarely-used full title) are usually among the whipping boys at the wrong end of the West Region leagues. That changed last season when they won their division, an impressive feat considering they were effectively homeless due to major drainage problems at Tileworks Park.

I wondered if they'd ever be able to return to the ground in Stonehouse, but a few weeks ago they finally did, following extensive work to sort out the troublesome pitch.

Tileworks Park was previously home to the now-defunct junior club Stonehouse Violet. Royal Albert moved in after losing their own former ground in nearby Larkhall. Fingers crossed for them that after promotion and a return 'home' they can get some stability.

It's a neat and tidy ground, that seems to have been co-opted into a municipal sports facility. The pitch is railed off, with dugouts on one side and a small and low-roofed covered standing area for spectators opposite.

Royal Albert have a long history, and even played in the Scottish League in the 1920s. After their promotion last season they've made a good start to life in the higher division, and were unlucky to lose a close game to local rivals East Kilbride Thistle.

The only goal came in the first half, and Royal Albert were out of luck, twice hitting the frame of the goal. It was a game that was interesting without being exciting, but I was just pleased to have got to a ground that I thought I might have missed forever.

Windlaw v Southside White Cart

11am  8 September 2018

Strathclyde Saturday Morning League, Championship A Division
Windlaw 1 Southside White Cart 4 (att 8)

My first Scottish Saturday morning game of the season took me to the Barlia Football Centre, in the Castlemilk area of south Glasgow.

Windlaw are one of the Strathclyde League's established clubs, but were relegated from the top division last season and after this comprehensive defeat they're still awaiting their first point in the second tier.

Southside White Cart were also pointless ahead of this game, having lost their opening two matches, but a couple of great strikes from distance gave them a 2-0 half time lead and put them in control.

Windlaw face a tough season if this performance is anything to go by. They gifted White Cart a comical third goal when a lack of communication between goalkeeper and defender resulted in a goal kick rolling straight to a forward who had the simple task of knocking it back into the empty net.

The home side had some hope when a penalty reduced the arrears and White Cart had a player red-carded, but before long another red card made it 10-a-side and a fourth away goal ended the contest.

Windlaw had another player dismissed in the final minute, so ended with a deficit of players as well as goals.

The Barlia Football Centre's only football pitch has a 3G surface, and is a more interesting venue than you might expect. The changing rooms are in a brightly-painted building that sits at the top of a steep bank, which has steps down to the pitch and a few rows of terracing at the bottom.

The pitch is showing signs of wear, and of the unwelcome attention of vandals, but it's a well-used facility. I arrived in time to see the end of a youth match, and as my game ended players were warming up ahead of a 1pm kick off, with another amateur game scheduled for 3pm.

Jubilee Sports v Stocksbridge Park Steels reserves

6pm  5 September 2018

Sheffield County Senior League, Premier Division
Jubilee Sports 2 Stocksbridge Park Steels reserves 2 (att 65)

This week a year ago I saw Jubilee Sports play a home game on a basic school playing field, but this season they've moved a short distance to their proper home, at Sheffield's Jubilee Sports and Social Club.

I'm not sure why they couldn't play games here previously, but from a spectator point of view it's a much better venue. It's just a roped off pitch, but the social club building is alongside and has a first floor balcony which also provides some cover for people below.

It was a feisty and competitive match, and one that threatened to boil over in the moments after the final whistle. Stocksbridge had just scored a stoppage time equaliser, only a few minutes after a converted penalty had put Jubilee in front.

Jubilee's spot kick had completed a remarkable turn around, as they'd ended the first half trailing 1-0 and reduced to 10 men having had a player sent off. But Stockbridge's late goal meant it ended all square, which was a fair outcome.