Isle of Man League v Liverpool County Premier League at the Douglas Bowl

6pm  18 November 2017

FA Inter League Cup, Second Round at The Bowl Stadium, Douglas
Isle of Man League 7 Liverpool County Premier League 4 aet (att 250)

The Isle of Man has a good record in this competition, having won it twice, but it took 120 minutes of dramatic football before they were able to advance into the quarter-finals this time around.

It looked as if the visitors from Merseyside had done enough when the tie entered the 89th minute and they led 4-3, but to the delight of the home supporters the Isle of Man netted in the final minute to set up extra time.

It was a huge blow for the Liverpool County Premier League, but even though they'd been ahead for most of the match the home side always looked capable of coming out on top.

Two early goals had given the visitors a lead, but the Isle of Man were dangerous going forward and it was no surprise when they pulled a goal back. What was a surprise was that Liverpool soon restored their two goal advantage, from the penalty spot.

The Isle of Man again pulled a goal back before half time, but soon after the break a fantastic free kick made it 4-2 to the visitors.

Predictably - it was that sort of game - it wasn't long before the Isle of Man reduced the deficit for 3-4. Then the game's pivotal moment, as a second spot kick for the visitors, harshly awarded I felt, was well saved.

A fifth goal might have ended Manx hopes, but instead Liverpool defended their single goal lead deeper and deeper, and were eventually undone by the very late Isle of Man leveller.

Having finally got level, the Isle of Man were odds on to win in the extra 30 minutes, and did so by scoring three times. Harsh on Liverpool, and if I see another game as dramatic as this during the rest of the season I'll be surprised.

The venue was the Douglas Bowl, effectively the island's national football stadium. It's got an artificial pitch, and is ringed by around 3,000 seats, covered on one side. When it's not hosting the Isle of Man's representatives sides it's the home ground of St Mary's AFC, who play in the local premier league.










Foxdale v RYCOB

2pm  18 November 2017

Isle of Man League, Division Two
Foxdale 4 Ramsey Youth Centre and Old Boys 0 (att 35)

Is there a better ground address in football than Billy Goat Park, Stoney Mountain Road in Higher Foxdale?

The evocative-sounding venue was just one reason to tempt me to this game. The main one was that it was the day's outstanding fixture in the division, between two promotion contenders.

Foxdale claimed all three points thanks to four goals in the final 20 minutes or so, having been second best for much of what had been a scrappy encounter until then.

The home side's keeper had made some good saves to keep his team in the match, and then capped a fine performance by scoring from a free kick deep inside his own half. Only the second time I can recall seeing a goalkeeper score in such a fashion.

That was Foxdale's third goal, in the closing minutes, and it was quickly followed by their fourth. Youthie, as the visitors are known, collapsed once they went behind.

The current incarnation of Foxdale's football club is a relatively recent one, if Wikipedia is to be believed, and Billy Goat Park dates from the mid 1990s. It's a proper football ground though, with cover for spectators provided by an overhanging roof built onto the front of a pavilion behind the goal.

Pairs of dugouts are on both sides of the pitch, and seem to be used by a combination of coaching staff, substitutes and supporters. Like many Manx football grounds, it serves a campsite during the TT races, which presumably earns the club some valuable extra income.










Tobermore United v Lisburn Distillery

2pm  11 November 2017

Northern Ireland Football League, Premier Intermediate League
Tobermore United 3 Lisburn Distillery 0 (att 75)

The most recent restructuring of Northern Irish football has seen the third tier renamed as the Premier Intermediate League, making it the country-wide top level of 'intermediate' football, below the two divisions of 'senior' teams.

That Lisburn Distillery now find themselves at this level surprised me when I checked the fixtures for this trip. Distillery FC, as they were then called, was the first ground I visited in Northern Ireland, when I saw them surprise Linfield with a 1-0 win in 1992.

Surprisingly I've not seen them since, but 25 years on and this time they were on the wrong end of an unexpected result at Tobermore. The visitors started well enough, dominating the opening exchanges, but they had no answer once Tobermore edged in front.

Two goals in quick succession put the home team 2-0 ahead by half time, and a third goal early in the second half killed off any chance of a Distillery recovery, to the frustration of their fans who must have made up at least half the crowd.

Tobermore United play at Fortwilliam Park, on the outskirts of the County Londonderry village. The ground is dominated by a stand that runs the length of one side and has a single row of seats as well as terracing.

Dugouts are on the opposite side, where there's a few steps of uncovered terracing, but that side was closed for this game, making it effectively a one-sided ground, with some additional space behind the goal near the entrance.

Presumably the far side is opened for occasional visits of clubs with large travelling support, as it has its own set of turnstyles and would allow for easy segregation. There was a time when Distillery would have been considered a 'big' club. Despite this defeat they remain top of the league though, so perhaps they're starting the long climb back.











Cloughmills v Northend and District

10.15am  11 November 2017

Ballymena Saturday Morning League, Division Two
Cloughmills 0 Northend and District 6 (att 20)

One of my occasional day trips to Northern Ireland, and as usual after an early arrival I passed some time before my main game by dipping into the Ballymena Saturday Morning League.

The attraction of Cloughmills, other than being a new ground to visit, was that the club's active Twitter account had confirmed the game, and the venue in Rasharkin looked more interesting than multi-pitch playing fields in Ballymena.

Drumbolcan Park in Rasharkin is  good facility, surprising as far as I can tell the village no longer has a team playing Saturday afternoon football.

The single pitch, which looks quiet small, is enclosed by a wooden fence, and is next to a modern community building which includes the changing rooms. A pair of dugouts are looking a bit battered, but complete the picture of a 'proper' football ground.

Northend and District were very much a 'proper' football team, particularly in a dominant first half. They took the lead with a fantastic long range strike that wouldn't have been out of place at much higher levels of the game.

They scored three more before half time, taking ruthless advantage of some sloppy play by the hosts. Cloughmills tightened up after half time, limiting Northend to just two more goals.











Keele University v Walsall Phoenix reserves

7.30pm  6 November 2017

Staffordshire County Senior League, Division One
Keele University 4 Walsall Phoenix reserves 1 (att 28)

My last visit to see football at Keele University was in 2002, when they played on a grass pitch surrounded by a running track.

That ground still exists, and is apparently used for most Saturday afternoon games, but midweek night matches are on a newer floodlit 3G pitch next door. Both are part of the busy sports centre on the campus at Keele.

In most respects it's a typical artificial pitch enclosed by a high fence, but it does benefit from a proper area for spectators along one side and a small seated stand, which is a rarity for these type of grounds in England.

For me, and the handful of other groundhoppers who made up a fair proportion of the crowd, it was a case of taking the opportunity to tick off the ground rather than the visit of Walsall Phoenix's second team being particularly attractive.

It wasn't a bad game though, with Keele playing some decent football as they scored twice in each half for a comfortable win. The visitors' second half goal was well taken, but the game was already beyond them by the time they scored.







Moston United v Swinton

3pm  4 November 2017

Lancashire and Cheshire Amateur League, Division Two
Moston United 1 Swinton 4 (att 20)

I picked this game as the 3pm kick off allowed me to watch Leicester (the team I support from my armchair) away at Stoke on TV, and still get a new ground, not something I can do very often.

Moston United are new team this season, and appear to have some connection with FC United of Manchester. They play in FC United kit, and their home ground is the 3G pitch next to the Broadhurst Park stadium.

They have a young side, and having started the season well I expected them to see off visitors Swinton, but the result turned out to be something of a surprise.

The visitors went ahead thanks to a penalty, and got a second before half time when a free kick was misjudged by the Moston keeper who allowed it to creep in at his far post.

Moston pulled a goal back in the opening minute of the second half, but if they thought - as I did - that it'd be a springboard to get back into the game, they were wrong. Swinton responded by quickly adding a third, and a late fourth goal gave them a resounding win.

The 3G pitch at FC United is exactly as you'd expect this sort of ground to be. It's floodlit, thus making 3pm kick off possible in November, and enclosed by a high fence.








George v Partington Rovers

10.15am  4 November 2017

Manchester Saturday Morning League, Division Two
George 5 Partington Rovers 4 (att 6)

In 2011 I watched George FC's first ever match in the Manchester Saturday Morning League, when they lost heavily at home. But despite that tough start I'm pleased to see they've become an established club.

They even had a brief spell running an afternoon side in the Altrincham and District League, in which today's visitors Partington currently run a couple of teams. Neither of these two have started the season well, and while that was reflected in the quality of football it was hugely entertaining.

George went ahead in the opening minute, but Partington soon levelled. The home keeper let a free kick slip through his hands to put the visitors in front, and then two goals in a minute gave Partington a 4-1 half time lead.

The scoreline was harsh on George though, and they began the second period determined to do something about it. Ten minutes after the restart they pulled a goal back, and from then on the momentum was with them.

That they managed to overturn a 1-4 half time deficit to end up 5-4 winners was remarkable, and great fun to watch. It must have been tough to take for Partington, but for a neutral observer it was terrific.

George have moved grounds since my 2011 visit. They're now based on one of three full size pitches at Broadway Park in the Davyhulme area of Manchester.