Mallaby v Rainhill Town

3pm  17 March 2018

West Cheshire League, Division One
Mallaby 3 Rainhill Town 3 (att 15)

I had a choice of afternoon games after the day's earlier match at Liverpool Baltic, and eventually settled on a visit to the Wirral Tennis Centre in Birkenhead to recomplete the West Cheshire League's three divisions.

Tennis may be the main sport here, but the newish 3G football pitch is home to both Mallaby and Mersey Royal, who play in the league's third tier. With top flight Mallaby struggling, and Mersey Royal going well, they could be meeting in division two next season.

Mallaby earned a welcome point in their battle against relegation, but it'll feel like two points dropped after they twice conceded equalisers as the game moved into stoppage time.

The game's early exchanges did little to suggest a thrilling finish was likely. Rainhill looked the better side and deserved their 1-0 half time lead. They should have doubled their advantage in the opening moments of the second half, but missed a sitter and within a minute Mallaby were level.

The home side edged in front with less than 10 minutes remaining, and looked like holding on for a win until they conceded in the 90th minute. Amazingly, as I walked towards the exit and the welcome warmth of my car, Mallaby went back in front.

But Rainhill weren't finished and just two minutes later, five minutes into stoppage time by my watch, a corner was headed in to make it 3-3. After that there was barely time for Mallaby to kick off, but a shot direct from the restart forced a save from the Rainhill keeper, and then the final whistle blew.

Liverpool Baltic v Liverpool Medics

11.30am  17 March 2018

Liverpool County Premier League, Division Two
Liverpool Baltic 3 Liverpool Medics 5 (att 4)

I was planning a day in Scotland, but ever more ominous weather forecasts made me question the wisdom of a night-time drive home through snow and ice.

What finally swung it for me was the discovery, on Friday night, that for some unknown reason this fixture, in the lowest of the Liverpool League's three divisions, had been moved to a morning kick-off.

It was very much a local derby, as Baltic and Medics are two of three teams in the league who play home games at Barnham Drive Playing Fields in the Childwall district of Liverpool. It's a basic playing field, with a few pitches, and some utilitarian changing rooms in a small car park.

As well as being the name of the home side, Baltic was also an apt description for the conditions. At times it was sunny, at times we had blizzards, but it was freezing cold throughout.

Luckily there were plenty of goals to keep a small crowd entertained. Liverpool Baltic began the match a player short, and while they eventually got up to full strength they were outplayed in the first half. Medics scored five, including two penalties, before half time.

I don't know what Baltic's half time team talk consisted of, but perhaps they should try it before the next match, as they were like a different side in the second period. Three goals back was a decent reward for their efforts, although Medics' lead was never in doubt.

One curiosity was the appearance of a programme. I'm sure Liverpool Baltic don't issue for most matches, and two of the three groundhoppers present (me included) were tempted by the kick off time rather than the chance to collect some more paper.

The fourth spectator was a friend of some of the Baltic players, and was roped into being the club's semi-official programme seller. Although unexpected, it was a welcome addition to my programme collection.

Accrington Amateurs v Thornleigh

2.30pm  10 March 2018

Lancashire Amateur League, Division One
Accrington Amateurs 1 Thornleigh 5 (att 6)

After my morning game in the Altrincham League I had the rare treat, on a Saturday, of going home for lunch before heading out again for the short drive north into Lancashire for my second match.

The last time I watched Accrington Amateurs they played on a sports field next door to Accrington Stanley, but in recent years they've become nomadic and for 2017/18 have set up home on a 3G pitch at a local school.

The pitch looks new and Accrington Academy is modern facility, so with the added benefit of little risk of the wet weather causing a postponement it was a good choice for my afternoon game.  That said, the venue is high up and exposed , and it was just as well it wasn't grass given the amount of rain during the match.

Luckily the game was good enough to take my mind off the conditions. Visitors Thornleigh were deserved winners, but the size of their victory was flattering.

They had their keeper to thank for several good saves, and it was sharper finishing that gave them a 2-0 lead by half time. Accrington began the second half well, and pulled a goal back, but a third for Thornleigh settled the outcome. Two late goals were harsh on the home side.

Kartel Sports v Sale Amateurs

10.30am  10 March 2018

Altrincham and District Amateur League, Division One Challenge Trophy
Kartel Sports 1 Sale Amateurs 0 (att 10)

Needing to stay close to home today I got lucky when I spotted that one of the day's Altrincham League fixtures had been brought forward to a morning start, allowing the players a chance to watch the lunchtime Premier League game at Old Trafford.

Fortunately the grass pitch, at Altrincham Athletics Club, was playable despite recent rain, and the two sides produced a match that was competitive and entertaining even if the skill levels weren't too high.

Kartel won't be complaining though, as their 58th minute goal was enough to win the game despite being second best for most of it. Sale Amateurs missed plenty of chances, failed to convert two penalties, one in each half, and finished the game with a man advantage following a Kartel red card.

The ground, accessed from Park Road close to the centre of Timperley, is as basic as you'd expect in this league. Players change in a building close to the enclosed athletics track, and have a short walk to a playing field with room for a couple of pitches.

A public footpath running alongside one touchline at least provides some hard standing for anyone watching the game, and also provides a steady stream of dog walkers who got some extra entertainment while taking their pets for a Saturday morning stroll.

Neston Nomads v South Liverpool

3pm  3 March 2018

West Cheshire League, Division One
Neston Nomads 1 South Liverpool 1 (att 50)

From my lunchtime game in Widnes it was an easy drive to the outskirts of Ellesmere Port, and to the Vauxhall Sports and Social Club, where Neston Nomads have taken one of a pair of artificial pitches as their new home.

The pitch backs on the Vauxhall Motors FC's ground, and is a typical 3G set-up but with a proper spectator area running the length of one side.

Although there was no game on Vauxhall's pitch, the snack bar was open, providing respite from the cold and and dispensing very welcome hot drinks to spectators. I'm not sure how many usually watch Neston, but the fixture attracted a lot of neutrals with so many games called off.

It promised to be a good game, with visitors South Liverpool top of the league and Neston third, and it didn't disappoint.

The away side scored a first half penalty to lead at the break, and looked likely to claim all three points, until a fantastic scissor kick was struck perfectly to give Neston a deserved and spectacular equaliser.

Cronton Villa v Rainhill Town Y&D

12 midday  3 March 2018

Warrington and District League, Premier Division
Cronton Villa 3 Rainhill Town Youth & Development 0 (att 25)

On a day when I thought weather-related postponements might mean I'd struggle see a game on a new ground I ended getting to two, thanks to Widnes-based Cronton Villa finding an alternative venue to get their fixture played.

They swapped their frozen grass pitch for a playable 3G at the Ormiston Chadwick Academy, and the early kick-off, necessary as another game was due later in the afternoon, tempted me to attend for the first part of a chilly double.

Top division games in the Warrington League are usually of a good standard, and this was no exception. Cronton upset the form book somewhat with a comprehensive win, thanks to two first half goals and another after the break.

The Rainhill side in this league is effectively their third team, as they have first and reserve teams in the West Cheshire League. Remarkably, they also have two further sides playing in the Warrington League's lower divisions.

The 3G pitch at Ormiston Chadwick Academy, a school in Widnes, is pretty much as you'd expect, although it's better than some as there is a barriered area for spectators running most of the length of one side.

Stoke City U23 v Liverpool U23

5pm  25 February 2018

Premier League Cup, Group G
Stoke City U23 0 Liverpool U23 4 (att 130)

At the same time as a couple of Premier League teams were playing the final of the Football League's cup at Wembley, the Premier League's own cup competition was progressing from its group stage to the knock out rounds.

The Premier League Cup doesn't feature first teams though, and it was Stoke and Liverpool's under 23 sides who battled it out for the chance to qualify from Group G of the Champions League-style tournament.

The sides went into their final group game level on points, but the visitors' superior goal difference meant they only needed a draw. From the start it was clear that Liverpool would achieve that objective with ease, as they were far the better side.

Two goals in each half were enough for a comfortable win, and Liverpool weren't hampered by the late dismissal of a player for retaliating after being fouled. To be fair, the Liverpool teamsheet had more familiar names than Stoke's, including England international Nathaniel Clyne, on his way back from a long-term injury.

Stoke's current venue for most games at this level is the FA's centre at St George's Park, near Burton. I'd phoned ahead to check which pitch the game would be on, and was tempted out on a very cold evening by the chance to tick off 'pitch four', which has a pair of seated stands running the length of one side of the pitch.

I think there are 12 full size pitches at St George's Park, and this is the fifth I've been to. Previous visits were to see Burton Albion reserves on pitch one, an Independent Schools FA game on pitch five, and Derby County under 21 on pitch six, as well as a pre-blog visit to a Burton Albion youth team game on pitch 12.