Commercial HQ v Seacroft Working Mens Club

11am  23 June 2019

Leeds Sunday League, Play-off Cup Group A
Commercial HQ 2 Seacroft Working Mens Club 3 (att 20)

This was a summer league game but as my football season runs from July until June this will probably mark the end of my 2018/19 season. 2019/20 is likely to begin in a fortnight or so.

A curiosity of this year's Leeds Sunday League is that while all the games are on pitches at Fearnville Playing Fields, one fixture each week is on what is designated as 'pitch six' which is some distance from the other three.

The pitch is close to Fearnville Leisure Centre, and just beyond a railed off rugby pitch. No facilities for people watching football of course, not that you'd expect any at this level. In common with other Leeds Sunday League games each side is responsible for a goal net.

It's a league with a big gulf between teams and some one-sided scorelines, but this was a closely contested match between two sides who haven't had the best of starts to the fledgling season.

Seacroft always had the edge. They scored first, and although they were pegged back they went back in front in the final moments of the first half.

Commercial HQ thought they'd equalised with about 20 minutes left but the referee ruled the ball hadn't crossed the line. I couldn't tell from my vantage point, but if he did keep it out then it was a great save by the Seacroft keeper.

I could understand the frustration of Commercial's would-be goalscorer, as he was convinced it was a goal, but that didn't justify the abuse he gave the referee. His subsequent red card was justified, but as he'd been subbed moments before earning it his side at least played on with 11 men.

Five minutes after that a Seacroft penalty put them 3-1 up, and that provided decisive despite a rather soft penalty in the closing minutes which allowed Commercial to cut the gap to 2-3.









Khalsa Football Federation, Leicester Tournament

22 June 2019

Khalsa Football Federation Tournament at LCC Employees' Sports Ground, Leicester

I hoped this year's Khalsa tournament in Leicester might allow me to watch games on different pitches after last summer's enjoyable visit, and I got lucky with most games being played over the road at a different ground.

Three pitches at the LCC Employees' Sports Ground were in use this year, as well as the Aylestone Playing Fields and GNG FC's ground. All are on Braunstone Lane East, which was busy with players, officials and spectators.

The fixtures were organised in a way that meant I could watch three games, one after the other, and ticking all three pitches at the Employees' Ground. That plan was nearly scuppered when unsavoury incidents after the opening matches caused delays.


9.30am
Division Two, First Round
GSA Youth 4 FC Panjab Sandwell 2 (att 30)

This year the Khalsa Football Federation has split its tournaments into four grades. Division Two is the lowest, but this tie pitched the winners of the last two competitions and the standard was higher than previous bottom tier games I've seen.

There certainly seemed some needle between the sides, and when GSA went 3-2 ahead with less than 10 minutes remaining it boiled over. Panjab Sandwell claimed there had been a foul in the build up, but as every school-age player learns you play to the whistle, and Panjab didn't.

I'm not sure why the referee didn't simply insist on restarting, but the game didn't get back underway for seven minutes, with coaches as well as players having over-long discussions with the officials.

Once play finally restarted GSA got a fourth to rub salt into Panjab's wounds. The late finish, with more arguments after the final whistle, hampered the teams who wanted to warm up for their match that was due to follow on the same pitch. The drama wasn't over though.








11.45am
Premier Two Division, Quarter-Final
AFC Coventry Lions 1 GSA reserves 3 (att 50)

At the conclusion of the first game we moved to what the Khalsa Football Federation had designated as 'pitch three', where a tie scheduled to begin at 11.15am. But while the game on the other pitch was over the action was far from finished.

I was too far away to see what caused it, and whether any individuals or clubs were to blame, but a mass brawl involving players, club officials and spectators must have been an embarrassment to the competition organisers.

Police arrived, but it still took some time before tempers were calmed. On our pitch GSA's second team's pre-match preparation included a sprint onto the adjacent pitch where their GSA Youth colleagues were involved in the scuffles.

Coventry Lions' players looked on bemused, as did those of waiting for this game to begin. At one point it seemed GSA reserves might even pull out and forfeit the tie, but eventually common sense prevailed and we got underway.

It wasn't a great match. GSA were much too strong for the Lions and won comfortably, with all the goals in the first half. Coventry Lions' goal is worth a mention though, a fantastic free kick which gave them brief hope when they pulled the score back to 1-2.








1.15pm
Premier Division, Quarter-Final
Derby Singh Brothers 1 Smethwick 1, 4-1 on penalties (att 45)

With the earlier game running so late we got lucky that the preceding game on what the Khalsa FF called 'pitch four' went to a penalty decider. It meant this tie, my final game of the day, started a minute or two after GSA reserves had wrapped up their win.

The top division of Khalsa football is usually a good standard. To be fair there was some decent football in this game, but the sides cancelled each other out and it wasn't a great game to watch.

Derby Singh Brothers were ahead early on, and might have regretted missing a clear chance to double their lead in the second half when Smethwick equalised soon after. In the penalty shootout Smethwick never got going, and when Derby scored their fourth spot kick out of four it was enough to win the tie.








Latvia v Slovenia

9.45pm  10 June 2019

UEFA European Championships, Qualifying Group G
Latvia 0 Slovenia 5 (att 4,011)

After watching Lithuania in Vilnius on Friday night I arrived in Latvia's capital, after a detour via the Baltic coastal resort of Palanga, in time for their Monday night game.

The Daugava Stadium in Riga is very much in the style of former Eastern-bloc bowls with huge floodlight pylons that dominate the skyline. It's three-sided, with the side opposite the main stand having a scoreboard and little else, and there's no cover. Thankfully the rain stayed away.

Wikipedia tells me the current capacity is around 10,500, in which case the official crowd figure looks a generous over-estimate. Perhaps they counted tickets sold rather than those who turned up, as Latvia's heavy home defeat to Israel on the Friday night must have deterred some.

Home fans who stayed away might have a wise decision, as Slovenia romped to a comprehensive win while barely breaking sweat. They dominated possession from the start and were 4-0 up after a very one-sided opening half.

Things didn't get any better for the hosts after the break, as the fifth goal went in only two minutes after the re-start. Slovenia should have added more goals, while Latvia mustered little more than the occasional shot from distance that was comfortably saved.

At least tickets were a bargain. Only seven euros for a seat behind the goal, although that did mean I was unable to access the media and VIP area in the main stand to blag a programme. Luckily, eBay was able to fill that gap in my collection.











Lithuania v Luxembourg

9.45pm  7 June 2019

UEFA European Championships, Qualifying Group B
Lithuania 1 Luxembourg 1 (att 3,263)

It's been a while since I last made progress in my quest to see football in each of UEFA's 55 member nations, but I reduced the tally left to 12 thanks to the latest batch of international fixtures and a long weekend in the Baltic states.

First up was a Friday night game at Lithuania's compact national football stadium in Vilnius. The ground is small, so unlike matches against some countries the visit of Luxembourg meant getting tickets was easy.

It also meant it was a truly competitive fixture, a relative rarity for both these sides. I've seen Luxembourg a few times over the years, including a 9-0 defeat at Wembley, but this was the first time I'd seen them score.

Their first half opener should have set them up for a win, especially when the hosts had a player sent off just before half time. But in the second half the 10 men staged a stirring fightback, and deserved their well-taken equaliser with about 15 minutes left.

The end of the game was exciting as Lithuania, urged on by their supporters, searched for a winner but were vulnerable on the break. Neither team could score again though, and the home were reduced to nine after a second red card in the final moments.

The LFF Stadium is an easy walk from Vilnius's attractive city centre. It's a three-sided ground, with most of the seats uncovered and an artificial pitch. The open end, nearest the entrance, has a mini pitch but was put to good use as a beer garden, complete with bean bags for fans taking a leisurely approach to supporting their country.









Bramley Amateurs v New Armley

11am  2 June 2019

Leeds Sunday League
Bramley Amateurs 0 New Armley 7 (att 18)

Last year's Leeds Sunday League finished with just six clubs so I wasn't certain it would return for a 2019 summer season, but it got underway today with an eight-team division.

The four fixtures in the opening round were all at the Fearnville Playing Fields in east Leeds, three on adjacent pitches close to South Parkway Approach and one some distance away and out of sight.

I was last at Fearnville in July, but as I consider different pitches to be separate grounds I settled this time on a game that would also count as a 'tick', as well as a chance to watch a game after a blank Saturday.

Bramley Amateurs and New Armley played on 'pitch one' (if the pitch allocations on the league's Full Time website are to be believed). It has the benefit of a grass bank on one side, topped with trees that would have been useful if the rain that threatened had materialised.

New Armley were much too strong for Bramley Amateurs. They were ahead early, and had a 3-0 advantage by half time. The second half was low key until Bramley collapsed towards end, allowing their opponents to increase their tally to seven.










Berwick Seniors v Crusaders at The Stanks, Berwick

6.30pm  25 May 2019

Berwick Charities Cup, Group A
Berwick Seniors 1 Crusaders 5 (att 85)

Thanks to Kinnoull and Forfar Albion bringing their kick off forward an hour to 1.30pm I had time for a leisurely drive south and back over the border into England to visit one of the country's more unusual football grounds.

The Stanks is a pitch hemmed in next to Berwick-upon-Tweed's historic town walls, and only becomes a football ground in spring and early summer to stage matches in the the annual Berwick Charities Cup.

Competing teams are a mixed bag of established clubs and sides put together just to take part in the tournament, which is held on a round robin group basis before the knockout stages are reached. All games are played at The Stanks.

Both these sides had lost the opening fixture, and Berwick Seniors had conceded nine in the process. They looked set for a similar reverse when Crusaders went ahead well inside the first minute. A second goal followed soon after but that was it for the first half.

Berwick Seniors lived up to their name both by wearing Berwick Rangers kit and appearing to be a veterans' side. They got a goal back in the second half, but a collapse near the end saw a young Crusaders side (wearing Eyemouth United kit) score three in as many minutes.

Having seen games on nearly 4,800 football grounds I don't think I've even been anywhere quite like The Stanks. The Elizabethan town walls loom over one side and one end, with good views and some seats if you climb to the top, while a narrow road, leading to the golf club and the North Sea, encloses the rest.

It was good to see a sizeable crowd out to watch the game, and donations from spectators will have helped the charities the cup is set up to support.