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.

Lakenheath v Henley Athletic

2pm  17 November 2018

Suffolk Senior Cup, Second Round
Lakenheath 2 Henley Athletic 2, 4-5 on penalties (att 90)

Lakenheath are one of a number of clubs in the east of England who took the opportunity to step up to an expanded step six this season. They've made a good start at the higher level, but were dumped out of the county cup by step seven Henley.

It took a penalty shootout to decide the tie, after 90 entertaining minutes had failed to produce a winner.

Henley, from the Suffolk and Ipswich League, started the game well and took an early lead. Lakenheath equalised with half time approaching, but any thoughts that the more senior club would assert themselves were dispelled when Henley scored again at the start of the second half.

It didn't take Lakenheath long to make it 2-2, and they had the better chances as Henley's players tired towards the end of the game. But there were no more goals until the shootout, which had just gone into sudden death when Lakenheath failed for the second time, sending Henley through.

Lakenheath's ground, The Nest, is unusual. It's in a hollow and the pitch is surrounded on three sides by trees that were showing their attractive autumn colours.

Those three sides were out of bounds to spectators, presumably due to the lack of hard standing, but the one side that is available has a path, a seated stand and the clubhouse and changing rooms.

No floodlights yet, but it is a good ground. That said, I always find one-sided venues frustrating, partly as it's difficult to get varied photographs. I know it's to do with ground grading, but I don't understand why the FA think I can't stand on grass to watch football if I choose to.

Cambridge United U18 v Milton Keynes Dons U18

11am  17 November 2018

EFL Youth Alliance, South East
Cambridge United U18 5 Milton Keynes Dons U18 2 (att 36)

A road closure and traffic congestion meant the last few miles of the journey into Cambridge were stressful, but I just about made it by kick off and was rewarded by a good game.

A powerful header gave the home side the lead, but MK Dons were level before half time thanks to a penalty.

Cambridge regained the lead soon after the break, and the visitors collapsed as they conceded twice more in just a few minutes. MK Dons pulled a goal back, but it didn't take the home side long to regain their three goal cushion.

Youth team matches can often be sterile and dominated by risk-free football, but this was very entertaining, and Cambridge in particular were impressive.

Cambridge United play Youth Alliance games at the Clare College Sports Ground, at least once the cricket season is over. It's a large and well-maintained sports field, with the under 18s fixture in the far corner from the pavilion and other buildings.

Middleton Colts v Avro reserves

2pm  10 November 2018

Manchester League, Division Two
Middleton Colts 3 Avro reserves 1 (att 10)

Middleton Colts are new to the Manchester League, and to adult Saturday football I think, this season. They've made a good start though, and underlined their credentials by seeing off a strong Avro side.

It was a fast-paced and at times feisty match, with both teams playing some good football that wouldn't have out of place at a higher level.

Middleton Colts, kitted out like a team inspired by Dennis the Menace, shaded the first half and just about deserved their narrow 1-0 half time advantage.

They made sure of all three points when they scored twice more in the second half. Avro managed a late consolation, but by then there was too little time left to threaten a comeback.

The action took place on a 3G pitch at Hopwood Hall College, on the outskirts of Middleton. I'd checked the venue carefully before going to the game, having already watched football on three different grass pitches at the sprawling site.

North Manchester Athletic v George

10.15am  10 November 2018

Manchester Saturday Morning League, Division Two
North Manchester Athletic 2 George 2 (att 4)

The Saturday Morning League doesn't offer the best quality football available to see in Manchester, but it certainly doesn't lack for entertainment.

This match, between two of the sides near the foot of the lower division, turned on penalties. Two were scored, one was saved, and another that might have been given resulted in a harsh booking for diving.

North Manchester Athletic went ahead in the opening minute or so, and when they doubled their lead with a penalty before half time it looked like another defeat for George FC, one of the league's regular strugglers.

But the home side lost their grip in the second half. George had hope after they pulled a goal back, but when a North Manchester forward looked to have been tripped in the box all eyes turned to the referee. He penalised the player for a dive and booked him.

Moments later he did give a spot kick, at the other end, and it was scored to level it at 2-2. Then in the 90th minute North Manchester got another chance to try their luck from 12 yards, but they spurned the opportunity to win the game when it was saved. Great fun to watch for a neutral.

North Manchester Athletic's home venue, for this season at least, is a 3G pitch at Abraham Moss Community School in Crumpsall. It's a typical fenced-in all weather pitch, and took some finding from the car park which is a trek away.