University of Bradford v York St John University III

6pm  22 March 2017

BUCS Northern 5D
University of Bradford 4 York St John University III 1 (att 60)

I had planned to watch Bradford Park Avenue's visit to Darlington this evening, but that fixture failed an afternoon pitch inspection so I ended up at a game in Bradford instead.

BUCS - British Universities and Colleges Sport - matches are usually on Wednesday afternoons,  but Bradford made use of the floodlights at their Laisteridge Lane ground, kicking off at the useful (to me) time of 6pm.

The crowd was bigger than I'm used to at BUCS games, but that owed much to this being a title decider. The teams went into this, their final fixture, level on points so it was winner takes all, with a draw apparently favouring the visitors.

Bradford were excellent in the first half, combining skill and strength to good effect and fully deserving their 2-0 half time lead. York St John hit back early in the second period, and having reduced the arrears enjoyed their best spell in the match as they looked likely to equalise.

They couldn't capitalise on their pressure though and eventually Bradford clicked back into gear and scored a well-taken third goal. The hosts got a fourth in stoppage time, which was harsh on York St John.

I think the all-weather pitch at the university's sports park is new, I don't recall Bradford University playing games here previously. It's a typical 3G set up with the pitch enclosed by a high fence.

High-rise student accommodation looms over the pitch at the near end, while the nearby Bradford Grand Mosque provides a striking backdrop.

All in all a good evening, despite the miserable weather. I doubt Darlington v Bradford Park Avenue, had it been on, would have been as fun to watch.









Penn and Tylers Green v Didcot Town reserves

3pm  18 March 2017

Hellenic League, Division One East
Penn and Tylers Green 5 Didcot Town reserves 1 (att 57)

Penn and Tylers Green's move to a new pitch at the start of the season is likely to prompt debate among groundhoppers as to whether or not it counts as a 'new' ground.

It's the same address, clubhouse and changing rooms as where they played previously, and the old ground still exists and is still used, just beyond the new arena.

My rule is a different pitch counts as a different ground, and so a return visit to French School Meadows in Penn was my agenda for this season.

The club is on the up. The new pitch has coincided with a team flying high at the top of the division, and this comfortable win against Didcot's second eleven took them a step closer to being crowned champions.

I'm not sure if promotion would follow though, as the ground isn't yet floodlit and there's no seats in the covered enclosure that's been erected on one side. The ground is a work in progress though, and while it's already a nice venue further improvements will surely follow.

Penn and Tylers Green dominated the opening half against Didcot, and deservedly led 3-0 at the break. The visitors were better in the second half and made more of a game of it, but the hosts still added two more goals before Didcot managed a late consolation.










Zion Athletic v Zion City

10.30am  18 March 2017

West Midlands Christian League, Division One
Zion Athletic 6 Zion City 1 (att 8)

Having enjoyed a recent match at Clarendon I returned for another dose of West Midlands Christian League football, this time between similarly-named sides level on points and battling against relegation.

Athletic look in better shape to beat the drop, not just because of the points they got from this easy win but because City could only muster 10 players for the kick off. They did get up to full strength during the second half but by then the game was well beyond them.

They battled well though, and despite an early lead Athletic had to work hard for their goals. They led 3-0 by half time, then doubled their tally in the second half despite the blip of allowing the visitors a goal back.

The venue was the rural setting of Brown Westhead Park in Wolverley, just outside Kidderminster. It was a busy place hosting children's and youth matches on most of the pitches, while the Zions' clash, on pitch five, was the only senior game.








Redcar Town v Guisborough Three Fiddles

7.30pm  15 March 2017

Teesside League
Redcar Town 2 Guisborough Three Fiddles 0 (att 38)

New floodlit grounds I can get to after work after thin on the ground these days, so I'd been keeping an eye on the Teesside League fixture list after discovering that Redcar Town had illuminated their Trunk Road ground earlier this season.

The facilities are impressive for a team at this level, particularly in a league where most grounds are very basic. There's no cover for spectators yet but the venue is enclosed by a sturdy wooden fence, and club buildings pitchside include a canteen serving food and drinks.

The ground is named after former local MP Mo Mowlam, and beyond the enclosed arena a large sports field has several pitches, presumably used by the club's junior sides.

Redcar Town seem ambitious, and while the Teesside League title may be beyond them this season they're certainly a club who could be climbing the leagues before long.

They saw off Guisborough Three Fiddles thanks to two second half goals, after a decent game that was entertaining enough to take my mind off the chilly breeze blowing across the ground.









Carharrack v St Ives Town at Illogan RBL AFC

3pm  12 March 2017

Cornwall Combination League Cup Semi-Final at Illogan Royal British Legion AFC
Carharrack 1 St Ives Town 3 (att 170)

Had it not been for late and unavoidable changes to the Carmarthenshire League's hop schedule I'd have spent Sunday morning at Pontlliw, but as their game was postponed I instead spent it driving into Cornwall.

Thankfully Premier Inn allowed me to swap my pre-paid and non-refundable hotel in Llanelli for an alternative in Somerset, and so it was a relatively straightforward drive to Oxland Parc in Illogan, just outside Redruth.

Illogan's first team play in the South West Peninsula League but their reserves are in the Cornwall Combination, and Oxland Parc was a fine venue to host the first of the Combination's League Cup semi-finals.

The ground is fully enclosed, with a seated stand on one side, a small amount of cover between the dugouts on the opposite touchline, and a smart clubhouse behind the goal.

With my journey home likely to take up to six hours I was keen for the tie to be settled in 90 minutes rather than be delayed by extra time and, potentially, penalties. Underdogs St Ives surprised the league leaders and cup holders by taking an early lead, but Carharrack were soon level.

St Ives went back in front with about 20 minutes left, and managed to hold out despite plenty of pressure from Carharrack, adding a third goal on the break in stoppage time. Not long after that the final whistle went, signalling celebrations among the St Ives contingent, and the start of a long drive back to Manchester for me.















Seaside v Carmarthen Stars

4pm  11 March 2017

Carmarthenshire League, Premier Division
Seaside 2 Carmarthen Stars 0 (att 175)

The day's third and final groundhop match was at the Llanelli home of another of the Carmarthenshire League's leading sides of recent years, Seaside AFC.

Their Crown Park ground was better than I'd expected, with a pleasant social club looking out over a playing field with a couple of football pitches. The main pitch was roped off, with a few advertising boards and even some cover for spectators, which looked a little like former dugouts given a new use.

It was another entertaining and highly competitive game. The hosts scored a goal in each half for a deserved win. Carmarthen Stars had a player red-carded towards the end, but played their part in a match that was good to watch, rounding off a good, if long, day.










Evans and Williams Sports Club v Trostre Sports

1.30pm  11 March 2017

Carmarthenshire League, Premier Division
Evans and Williams Sports Club 0 Trostre Sports 1 (att 134)

The second match of the Carmarthenshire League hop wasn't actually a hop match at all, but a late replacement after some rearranged West Wales Intermediate Cup ties meant changes to the original schedule.

Trostre had been due a home match on the hop, but having already been to their ground it suited me that their new fixture at Evans and Williams was a 1.30pm kick off and was co-opted onto the schedule for groundhoppers.

A programme was produced for the match, but other than that there was none of the usual extras that groundhop matches bring.

I'm not sure what the players made of playing in front of a large crowd, but it was terrific match between two sides battling at the top of the league. Trostre's first half goal was enough to win a very competitive encounter.

Evans and Williams originated as a works team, its roots in the Evans and Williams Wagon Works. They play at Penygaer Playing Fields, basic venue in Llanelli with several pitches, changing rooms and a car park. The game was on pitch number three, while Evans and Williams reserves played next door on number two.