Fletcher Moss Rangers v Milton

31 August 2011
Lancashire & Cheshire Amateur League, Division One
Fletcher Moss Rangers 3 Milton 0 (att 9)

I didn't fancy another early evening battling through the rush hour trying to make the kick off at a game slightly too far away, so I settled for a very local game and a visit to the Mersey Bank Playing Fields, on the southern edge of Manchester.

The ground is as basic at it gets, just an open pitch on a large playing field, with the River Mersey just a few yards away.

The game wasn't very memorable, with the home side having a very comfortable evening and wrapping up an easy win with three first half goals. At times, particularly in the first half, Fletcher Moss played some good football, but Milton were never in it.


Totton and Eling v Fawley

29 August 2011 (7.45pm)
Wessex League, Premier Division
Totton and Eling 2 Fawley 2 (att 42 officially, plenty more in reality)

Totton and Eling started life as the works team of British American Tobacco, and they were still playing under their old name of BAT Sports when I went to the former ground in 1989. They moved to new their venue, Millers Park at Little Testwood Farm, during last season.

They're very much the junior club on the site, which is dominated by the similarly-new home of Southern League AFC Totton. They were at home to Weymouth in the afternoon, hence Totton and Eling's match being moved to the convenient (for me) later kick off.

That the game wasn't so memorable is probably down to my own football fatigue, it being the third of three games in the day, than anything lacking on the pitch. The sides were evenly matched, and a draw was a fair result.

Like many new non-League grounds, it's a bit lacking in character, although the facilities are good ... a seated stand on one side and a small covered standing area behind one goal.



Alresford Town v GE Hamble

29 August 2011 (3pm)
Wessex League, Premier Division
Alresford Town 2 GE Hamble 5 (att 54)

A few years ago I drove all the way from my Salford home to New Alresford, near Winchester, for a midweek match in December, only for the game to be postponed around an hour before kick off, leaving me with no option but to drive all the way home again.

No chance of a frozen pitch causing problems this time though. In fact, the pitch looked immaculate and is obviously well looked after. The club have made the most of what in fact are fairly limited facilities. The ground is dominated by a two tier clubhouse, which contains covered seated and standing areas for spectators, both ends are open and the far side is out of bound to spectators ... but not for the handful who chose to watch for free from the far side of the temporary fencing.

The game was good, with GE Hamble (playing under yet another new name, they were Hamble ASSC last season, and Folland Sports when I visited them in the 1980s) looking very impressive and well worth their win.




Bletchingley v Tooting Bec

29 August 2011 (11am)
Surrey Elite Intermediate League
Bletchingley 0 Tooting Bec 6 (att 8)

An early start to get down to the leafy Surrey commuter belt for the first of three games today. Bletchingley play at Grange Meadow, a ground name which suggests, accurately as it turns out, that facilities will be limited.

In fact, when I arrived about 20 minutes before kick off club officials were still building the ground - assembling a pair of dugouts, hammering stakes into the ground surrounding the pitch and connecting them with tape to keep spectators off the playing area.

They have my sympathy for going to all that effort, only to be comprehensively outplayed by a decent Tooting Bec side, who scored three times in each half.

The fixture had done little to grab the attention of locals. Of the paltry eight spectators, another two were groundhoppers. Perhaps the villagers had all gone off to their country retreats for the weekend, or maybe they were all up the road at nearby Godstone's amazingly popular village fete.

Auldearn v Nairn Wanderers

28 August 2011
Forres and Nairn Welfare FA, McIntosh Rosebowl, First Round
Auldearn 5 Nairn Wanderers 1 (att 15)

It didn't feel much like August on a wet and very windy afternoon at Auldearn Recreation Ground. The home side had the very strong wind behind them in the first half, and made the most it, scoring three times inside the first 10 minutes. A fourth goal on the stroke of half time put Auldearn even more firmly in control.

There was a chance Nairn might stage a comeback, with the conditions in their favour in the second half, but, although they created more chances, they lacked the quality to threaten Auldearn. The home side added a fifth and the contest was over long before Wanderers managed a late consolation.

This was only the third Forres and Nairn Welfare game I've ever seen, but with the small number of venues used it meant I'd completed the league.




Alness United v Golspie Sutherland

27 August 2011
North Caledonian League
Alness United 2 Golspie Sutherland 0 (att 65)

A rare dip into the North Caledonian League for me, although as it's lost a few clubs I think I only need two more to complete it.

This was a very entertaining game, with a result that surprised me. Alness had the better of the first half, thanks mainly to the strong wind blowing in their favour, but failed to score.

I expected Golspie, who had threatened on the break, to take control in the second half, but the wind dropped and within 10 minutes or so of the re-start Alness had scored twice. A comeback always looked possible, but eventually Golspie ran out of ideas, and time.

Alness play at Dalmore Park, further out of town than the former ground I saw a game on back in the 1990s. There are two pitches, at right angles, and United use the one furthest from the changing rooms. It's surronded by wooden posts, although the pitch wasn't roped off, and there's a pair of dugouts. I believe the other pitch is used by Alness Athletic in the local summer welfare league.




AFC Crossleys v Sowerby United

26 August 2011
Halifax & District League, Premier Division
AFC Crossleys 2 Sowerby United 2 (att 45)

The Halifax League always begins its season with matches on Friday evenings rather than Saturday afternoons, which provides a good opportunity to squeeze some extra grounds in, despite the best efforts of the rush hour M62 to defeat me.

The traffic-packed motorway nearly beat me tonight, and the game I ended up at wasn't the one I'd planned for when setting off. It was a decent game though, with newly-promoted Crossleys fortunate to get a point in their opening game at a higher level.

They were behind early on, but levelled before half time. Crossleys went ahead in the second half, but Sowerby were the better team and always looked likely to score, which they did before the end for a draw.

No point expecting proper football grounds in the Halifax League, but for what is in effect a public park Crossleys' ground is okay, with the bonus of nice views of the surrounding hills.




Rock Rovers v Waddington

25 August 2011
East Lancashire League, Division Two
Rock Rovers 4 Waddington 0 (att 30)

Waddington's first game back in the East Lancashire League didn't get of to a great start, as they went two goals behind early on. I thought the first should have been ruled out for a foul on the goalkeeper, the second, less than a minute later, was a good finish but came from a free kick controversially awarded when a Waddington subsitute came onto the pitch without the referee's permission - at least that's what I think happened.

After that there wasn't a lot to report. Waddington battled well but rarely threatened to score, and it was well into the second half before Rock Rovers added two more goals for a deserved win. Waddington came close to a consolation goal late on.

Rock Rovers have been a nomadic club over the years. Last season they shared Barrowford's ground, but apparently that's unavailable this season so they've set up a temporary, season-long home at Marsden Heights Community College in Nelson. It's just a pitch in a large playing field behind the very impressive new college buildings. Nice views though.




Uppermill v Moldgreen

24 August 2011
Huddersfield & District League, Division One
Uppermill 5 Moldgreen 1 (att 22)

The first challenge for anyone visiting Uppermill's Greenfield Mill ground is finding it. Luckily that one was easy for me as I came here last season, only for the game to be abandoned in the first half due to a serious injury, so I knew where to park and which muddy path to follow that would eventually lead to the pitch.

The setting, on the edge of the Peak District National Park, is impressive, and the mill that gives the venue its name is visible beyond the far goal.

The game was good too, with the 5-1 final scoreline hard to predict following an even and goalless first half. If anything it was Moldgreen who looked better in the first half, but Uppermill took control once they went ahead two minutes into the second period.

As the match drew to an end it was midges, rather than the football, that preoccupied spectators. The damp evening providing ideal conditions for them, and they were the worst I'd suffered anywhere away from the west coast of Scotland.






Penyffordd v Gresford Athletic

23 August 2011
Welsh National League (Wrexham Aea), Premier Division
Penyffordd 4 Gresford Athletic 1 (att 45)

One of four regional leagues which sit at level three in the Welsh football pyramid, the grandly titled Welsh National League - the "Wrexham Area" in parenthesis brings it back down to geographical reality - has a reputation for basic facilities.

Penyffordd's ground is a new addition this season, having previously played on a school pitch in the village, they've now developed a base in the sports ground of a cement factory in nearby Padeswood. The pitch is enclosed and railed off with dugouts, while the surface isn't just sloping, but has a steep incline around the middle - it's as if one end is on a plateau above the other.

The players coped well with surface though, providing a very good evening's entertainment. Gresford were ahead thanks to a penalty inside five minutes, but paid for wasting further chances and were 2-1 behind by half-time.

The second half was end-to-end, and very competitive, but Pennyfford scored twice more to win by a rather flattering margin.

No programmes tonight, but they were advertised at the tea bar for £1 each and, I think, are normally produced for Saturday games.




Prescot Cables reserves v Richmond Raith Rovers

22 August 2011
West Cheshire League, Division Two
Prescot Cables reserves 2 Richmond Raith Rovers 0 (att 29)

For 70 minutes this looked like being the best nil nil draw I'd seen for a long time. Two sides playing fast, skillful attacking football, with keepers pulling off fine saves and the woodwork being struck several times.

The game was decided in the 71st minute. Richmond were enjoying their best spell of the game, but were caught on the break and with a Prescot forward bearing down on goal a chasing defender was judged to have fouled him. The penalty looked a little harsh, the defender's resulting red card was very harsh.

The penalty was converted, and within moments the visitors were down to nine men, a second red card the result of ill-judged comments to the referee.

Incredibly, even with nine men Richmond continued to create chances as they pressed for an equaliser, before, inevitably, they were caught on the break and Prescot added a second.

I don't normally visit grounds for reserve home games, but with AFC Liverpool sharing Prescot's main ground, the reserves are based at St Helens Sports College. Needless to say it's a basic venue, the pitch merely roped off along both touchlines, but with such an entertaining game the facilities don't matter.





St Harmon and District v Rhayader Town reserves

20 August 2011 (6pm)

Mid Wales South League
St Harmon and District 0 Rhayader Town reserves 3 (att 63)

I saw St Harmon play a home game back in 2000, but it took a while before I realised they'd moved to a new ground. The current venue is actually in the small village of Pant-y-dwr, north of St Harmon, and is a bit of a challenge to find. The unusual Saturday evening kick off seems to be an annual event, when a home game clashes with the Pant-y-dwr Village Show.

Last season Rhayader won this fixture 14-0, but the home side have improved since then, and I'd guess that Rhayader's second team aren't as strong. It was goalless at half time, but the visitors upped their game early in the second half and two quick goals put them in command, before a third rounded off the evening.



Abermule v Llanfyllin Town

20 August 2011 (2.30)

Mid Wales League, Division Two
Abermule 3 Llanfylin Town 0 (att 26)
First of two games today, amid the splendid scenery of mid Wales, with a visit to St Harmon's 6pm kick off to follow.

This was an entertaining if rather low key afternoon. The "crowd" was almost non existent at the scheduled kick off, little more than me and another groundhopper who'd travelled from Essex. Perhaps the locals knew something we didn't, as the game didn't get underway until nearly 10 minutes late.

Abermule dominated the first half, and deserved the two goal lead they established by half time. After the break Llanfyllin were much better, hitting the crossbar three times, but it was the home side who scored the half's only goal.

The ground is neat and tidy, with a small covered standing area on the far side from the entrance, flanked by dugouts. There was no formal admission charge, but a friendly club official collected donations from spectators.