Wombwell Main v Dearne and District

7.45pm  26 February 2019

Doncaster and District Challenge Cup, Quarter-Final
Wombwell Main 10 Dearne and District 1 (att 130)

No cup upset in south Yorkshire as Doncaster League Dearne were outclassed by Wombwell Main, who play four divisions higher in the top flight of the Sheffield County Senior League.

The gulf between the two sides was huge. Wombwell were goal up after two minutes, four clear after 20 and had a 7-0 lead before half time brought some respite for Dearne's players, who'd barely got a kick.

Wombwell couldn't maintain the same intensity in the second period, and to be fair they had no need to. Dearne got the half's opening goal just three minutes in, but Wombwell eventually made it into double figures.

Some detective work was needed to track down the venue for this tie. Neither team has floodlights (despite what the Doncaster Senior League's website suggests for Dearne) and so Wombwell hired the artificial pitch at the Dearne Advanced Learning Centre in Goldthorpe.

It may have been Wombwell's home game but, as the name suggests, the venue is closer to Dearne and being a local derby it attracted a large crowd. I counted around 130 people lining the touchlines, for a game when I'd have expected barely a sixth of that.

It was a shame that such a large crowd witnessed a one-sided cup tie, but it was good to see such a turnout for a local game, and I'm sure that, like me, they were impressed by the quality of Wombwell's football and by Dearne's effort.








Tredworth Tigers v Leonard Stanley

2pm  24 February 2019

Stroud and District League, Presidents Cup Quarter-Final
Tredworth Tigers 5 Leonard Stanley 1 (att 29)

The Stroud Charity Cups used to be a good source of Sunday fixtures but last summer they ended as independent competitions and were absorbed into the Stroud and District League.

Some clubs outside the Stroud League still take part though, and that's probably why Tredworth's home tie with Gloucestershire Northern Senior League side Leonard Stanley was played on a Sunday.

Handy for me and some other groundhoppers, all tempted to Spa Road in Gloucester for a chance to tick off the ground on a day of the week when senior football is usually thin on the ground, but a test for the players who had league matches just 24 hours earlier.

Sides for local cup ties on Sundays can be of a mixture depending on fitness and availability, and that might explain how Leonard Stanley were outclassed by a team that plays two divisions lower. Then again, the visitors are bottom of their league while Tredworth are going well.

As a contest it was all over inside the first half as Tredworth scored three without reply. The visitors were a little unfortunate though, hitting both the crossbar and post during an entertaining opening 45 minutes.

Tredworth scored twice more as they dominated the second half, although Leonard Stanley got some consolation when they pulled a solitary goal back before the end.

Tredworth's ground, The Spa, is a sports ground in a leafy part of Gloucester not far from the city centre. The pitch is on the far side of a cricket pitch from the changing rooms, and a mild and sunny afternoon it was a pleasant place to watch a game.










Rhosllanerchrugog v Rhydymwyn

2pm  23 February 2019

Welsh National League (Wrexham Area), Division One
Rhosllanerchrugog 1 Rhydymwyn 0 (att 12)

Rhosllanerchrugog has a place in history as one of the pioneers of football in the Victorian era, and while the current club is a more recent incarnation it's good to see the name has been revived.

The club has progressed quickly to the lower division of the Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) - part of the fourth tier of Welsh football - and promotion this season is still possible. They kept that hope alive with a hard-earned win against Rhydymwyn.

In truth it wasn't a great game. The solitary goal, 11 minutes into the second half, was a rare moment of quality in an otherwise untidy encounter. The poor surface didn't help, and some of the referee's calls were perplexing to me as a neutral (while accepting that refereeing is never easy, especially without assistants).

For some reason (unknown to me) there seemed to be some needle between the sides. The referee let some robust early challenges go unchecked, and that set the tone for a fixture that simmered throughout. It came close to boiling over in the moments after the final whistle, but tempers were eventually calmed.

Rhosllanerchrugog are based at Rhos Rugby Club. Their pitch is railed off but there's no other facilities, and it's quite a hike from the changing rooms in the rugby club's pavilion.








Fielden Park v Heston

10.15am  23 February 2019

Manchester Saturday Morning League, Division Two
Fielden Park 2 Heston 7 (att 8)

Hough End Playing Fields are Manchester's equivalent of the capital's Hackney Marshes, with multiple pitches stretching into the distance. Given the amount of football played there I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to visit.

It perhaps says something about the state of amateur football in England at the moment that on a fine Saturday morning only two pitches were in use. None of the others were staging so much as a impromptu kickabout.

My game, in the second tier of Manchester's Saturday morning league, was on the pitch closest to the car park and to the graffiti-covered former changing rooms, now redundant following the recent addition of an adjacent sports centre.

The pitch wasn't great, perhaps a clue as to why so many teams use facilities elsewhere, but it was an entertaining game.

Visitors Heston were ahead early and played some decent football as they established a commanding 4-1 lead by half time. Fielden Park struggled to stay in the game, and any chance they had disappeared when a second half penalty went tamely wide. Late goals added gloss to Heston's win.








Long Sutton Athletic v Leverington Sports

2pm  16 February 2019

Peterborough and District League, Premier Division
Long Sutton Athletic 1 Leverington Sports 1 (att 40)

Whether or not to count visits to grounds when games get abandoned is a topic that often divides groundhoppers. My rule is I'll count it if the match reaches at least half time, so I still needed Long Sutton after my fixture there two years ago was halted by an injury inside 10 minutes.

As we were staying relatively nearby for the weekend, albeit over the border into Norfolk, it seemed a good opportunity to return to the London Road ground in the hope of seeing a full 90 minutes (or at the very least 45).

No such problems this time, as Long Sutton and local rivals Leverington played out a rather scrappy 1-1 draw that went the distance.

The visitors looked the better side from the start but failed to take early chances and game became something a stalemate during a goalless first half. Leverington went in front 10 minutes into the second half, but poor defending allowed Long Sutton to equalise minutes later.

Leverington should have claimed all three points in stoppage time when they were awarded a penalty, but the spot kick was a poor one and Long Sutton's keeper kept it out to earn his side a draw.

Having visited before I knew what the expect at the ground, but it is a cut above many at this level, with floodlights, a small stand, dugouts and a clubhouse behind the goal nearest the entrance.










Walton Casuals v Taunton Town

3pm  9 February 2019

Southern League, Premier Division South
Walton Casuals 0 Taunton Town 1 (att 238)

When I began watching non-League football in the 1980s Walton Casuals were a curiosity, as the only first team playing other clubs' reserves in the Suburban League. They'd moved to the Surrey County Premier League by the time I visited in 1992, and their progress since then has been huge.

I was one of fewer than 20 people who watched them beat British Telecom in 1992, on a ground next door to the site of the newly-developed Elmbridge Sports Hub where they now play. As far as I could make out, the site of the old pitch is now an athletics track, with the new football ground right next door.

The venue is dominated by a large seated stand, with a clubhouse facility behind the seats at the top. The rest of the ground is open flat standing, but there's plenty of room for further development and a base that's been laid behind the dugouts on the far side suggests more spectator accommodation is imminent.

The ground is also home to Walton and Hersham, once the town's main club but now playing two divisions lower. Unless the banners and signage around the ground are changed depending who's at home then it's very much Walton Casuals' ground.

Casuals' rapid progress in recent years may be stalling a bit this season. Relegation remains a possibility after a comfortable but unspectacular loss to league leaders Taunton, who scored the only goal midway through the first half.

Walton passed the ball around nicely enough, making the most of the excellent 3G surface, but in the first half they rarely made any meaningful inroads into Taunton's defensive third of the pitch. The home side were more direct after the break, but even then chances to level the score were fleeting, and Taunton were largely untroubled.










Old Bradfieldians v Old Chigwellians

12 midday  9 February 2019

Arthurian League, Premier Division
Old Bradfieldians 1 Old Chigwellians 2 (att 3)

With the weather making football on grass a bit of a lottery I opted for a risk-free option of a pair of games on artificial surfaces, taking advantage of one of the Arthurian League's regular lunchtime kick offs.

The 3G pitch at Hampton Sports Centre is home to a several clubs, so most Saturdays there are games at both midday and two o'clock. Today's early game was a premier division fixture, more attractive than delving into the lower divisions.

It wasn't the greatest of games, although a strong breeze didn't help the players, but Bradfieldians will be wondering how they lost. They were on the front foot most of the game, and were denied time after time by Chigwellians' excellent goalkeeper.

The home side eventually broke the deadlock with about 15 minutes left and, as Chigwellians had barely managed a shot, that looked to be game over. But in stoppage time the away team stunned the hosts, scoring twice with what might have been the only efforts they had on target in the entire match.

The buildings at Hampton Sports Centre are showing their age, but the 3G pitch looks quite new and provided a decent surface. It's a typical caged venue, but there was no problem for the three spectators (two of us groundhoppers) to stand inside next to the pitch.








Little Oakley v Halstead Town

3pm  2 February 2019

Eastern Senior League, Division One South
Little Oakley 1 Halstead Town 3 (att 100)

Groundhopping in winter weather can take you in unexpected directions, sometimes literally. I was planning to go Scotland, but pitch inspections even for games on artificial surfaces put me off, whereas Little Oakley tweeted early that their game was definitely going ahead.

So instead of a 400 mile round trip north I made a 500 mile round trip south, to the outskirts of Harwich and one of the few 'step six' venues I was yet to visit.

Having made the long journey I was relieved when I arrived that temperatures were above freezing and players were on the pitch warming up. Late postponements on days like this are becoming too common, often with no thought to those whose have travelled to watch (not that groundhoppers should get any extra consideration, no one forces me to drive hundreds of miles in poor weather).

I got a friendly welcome at Little Oakley, and after a welcome pre-match coffee I eventually left the warmth of the clubhouse to stand pitchside in the cold. The weather might have impacted the first half, which wasn't great.

Halstead, second in the league, were the better side. They went ahead with a well taken goal, then doubled their lead with a penalty. By half time it was 10-a-side, as well as 2-0, after a bad challenge, and the reaction to it, earned a red card for each side.

The second half was better, and Little Oakley pushed hard to get back into the game. The visitors held firm though, and got a third goal to put the points out of the home side's reach. Little Oakley did get a late consolation.

The Memorial Ground is a basic venue but a pleasant one. There's a small seated stand on one side, a small covered area behind the goal nearest the clubhouse, and a path that provides hard standing on two sides.