Buckingham Town v Wootton Blue Cross

31 December 2011
United Counties League, Division One
Buckingham Town 2 Wootton Blue Cross 0 (att 78)

I began 2011 with a game at Weston-super-Mare, and might have returned to the town on New Year's Eve had the weather not meant the predictable postponement of Westland United's Somerset County League game.

As an alternative fixture this wasn't bad, as it was the final ground I needed to comple the United Counties League for the first time, over 25 years after starting with a visit to Baldock Town. Buckingham Town were evicted from their traditional Ford Meadow ground during the summer, and are currently using a ground in nearby Winslow.

The ground is basic - just a roped off pitch - but the friendly club officials are very enthusiastic and do their best to turn it into suitable venue on matchdays. Hopefully Buckingham Town will be back playing in the town itself before too long.

As for the game, Buckingham were well worth their straightforward win, secured with a goal in each half. It wasn't the most thrilling game, but both goals were good finishes, and the temporary nature of the ground meant the crowd was boosted by a number of other groundhoppers, so it was nice to catch up with a few people I've not seen for a while.





Woodley Town v Newbury

27 December 2011
Hellenic League Cup, Second Round
Woodley Town 2 Newbury 2 aet, Woodley won 4-3 on penalties (att 72)

Woodley play in Division One East of the Hellenic League, a "step 6" league and so in theory one that should be subject to similar minimum ground grading standards as other step six leagues across England. Quite how Woodley's East Park Farm ground ticks the ground graders boxes is anyone's guess, even taking into account the Hellenic League's lax track record when it comes to facilities.

One side and one end of the pitch is enclosed by a wooden fence, the far side is roped off, with temporary-looking dugouts, while the far end is open. There's no facilities for spectators, and you only have to pay for admission if you're honest enough to walk over to a table where club officials sold programmes and hot drinks.

That said, everyone at the club was very friendly, and I guess the ground was adequate even for today's higher than usual attendance.

League leaders Newbury would have been favourites to win this, but they made heavy weather of an even first half. The turning point was a red card for a Newbury player late in the first half, deserved if what I was told he'd said to the referee was accurate. A defensive error in the half's closing moments gave Woodley the lead.

They held the lead until stoppage time, but paid for missed chances when Newbury converted a penalty to take us into extra time. Although a good game, I didn't welcome an extra 30 minutes, given the falling temperatures and the lengthy drive home.

A goal each in extra time, Newbury again equalising right at the end, meant a penalty shoot out. Newbury had a chance to win but the crucial penalty was saved, before Woodley won in sudden death, to earn a third round tie at Premier Division Shortwood United.





East End Park WMC v Otley Town

17 December 2011
West Yorkshire League, Premier Division
East End Park WMC 0 Otley Town 1 (att 21)

Couldn't go too far today, and with the weather being kinder on the other side of the Pennines a trip to Leeds was a ideal. No problems with the pitch at East End Park's Skelton Road ground, hemmed in amongst tight-knit streets not far from the centre of Leeds.

The game was good, although a for a long time I thought I'd be watching a goalless draw for the second weekend in a row. Otley kept their title challenge on track with the only goal, cleverly backheeled, after about 70 minutes. The result was harsh on East End Park, who I thought deserved a draw.

The ground is typical for the West Yorkshire League, railed off with dugouts but no cover for spectators. However, unlike many venues in the league, it's completely enclosed, and if you look closely at the overgrown banking on one side you can make out the remains of terracing from the days when the ground had much larger crowds than turned up this afternoon.

Ground no 3,682







Hollands and Blair v West Wickham

1.30pm  10 December 2011
Kent Senior Trophy, Second Round
Hollands and Blair 3 West Wickham 2 (att 42)

Another trip into Kent as I work my way through the grounds I need to complete county's new "step six" Kent Invicta League - just three left to go now.

Hollands and Blair's Gillingham ground wasn't as good as my two previous visits, to Bearsted and Rusthall. The ground is fully enclosed, but there's no stand or cover and it's only railed off along the sides.

But like the other grounds it is neat and tidy, and with a proper entrance, nice clubhouse and a programme it has the feel of a proper football ground.

The game was a tough one to predict the outcome. West Wickham play in the Southern Amateur League, a competition where clubs rarely play opposition from outside the Amateur Football Alliance (the "county" FA to which many London amateur clubs, primarily old boys sides and banking and private company teams, affiliate to).

Hollands and Blair had the edge and deserved their win, but it was a tight game and West Wickham were unfortunate not to at least take it into extra time. The home side scored the first half's only goal, but West Wickham were level 12 minutes into the second. Two great goals, the first an unstoppable strike from about 40 yards, put Hollands & Blair in control, but the visitors struck again before the end to set up nervy finish for the home side. A good afternoon's entertainment, which made up for the poor showing at Dagenham's youth team game earlier in the day.

Ground no 3,681







Dagenham and Redbridge U18 v Southend United U18

10.30am  10 December 2011
Football League Youth Alliance, South East Conference
Dagenham & Redbridge U18 0 Southend United U18 0 (att 38)

My run of games without seeing a goalless draw came to an end after 87, dating back to May. The final score was easy to predict as the game progressed, with neither side looking likely in front of goal. Southend came closest, twice hitting the crossbar, but a draw was a fair result in a largely uninspiring game.

The Daggers youth team venue was one I'd always been hesitant about visiting. The Sanofi-Aventis Sports Ground is also used by M&B Club in the Essex Olympian League, and generally I prefer to "tick" a ground by seeing the main host club play.

Turns out Dagenham & Redbridge use the annex, separated from the main sports ground by a large car park. I considered staying to watch M&B play on the main ground, but decided it was too much time to kill before their 2pm kick off, despite the inviting clubhouse, so I'll return for an M&B game at a later date.

Ground no 3,680




Brechin Victoria v Coupar Angus

1.45pm 3 December 2011
SJFA East Region, North Division
Brechin Victoria 3 Coupar Angus 2 (att 18)

Plan A for the afternoon was Coupar Angus v Brechin Victoria, but a lunchtime phone call revealed that Coupar's pitch was waterlogged and so the fixture had been reversed to Brechin's playable Victoria Park pitch.

The late change may have contributed to the small crowd, which was a shame as the few that attended witnessed a great game. Coupar Angus have a very young side and are pointless at the foot of the league, but I had to feel sorry for them after losing this.

Brechin took an early lead, thanks to a fine finish, and it was only good goalkeeping that stopped them taking control of the game. Coupar Angus threatened only occasionally, until the last minute of the half when they scored twice to go into the break in front.

The second half was all about Brechin's efforts to get back into the game. They deservedly equalised with a penalty, then immediately lost a player to a red card following a scuffle with the visiting keeper as they tried to retrieve the ball to restart the game as quickly as possible.

Brechin's late winner might have been offside. The visitors thought so, I couldn't tell, but the referee (no assistants at this level, and club linesmen only give throw-ins) allowed it. There was still time for second red card, this time for the visitors. Brechin probably desrbed the win, but I left with a lot of sympathy for Coupar Angus.

I liked Brechin's Victoria Park ground. A lovely old stand, two smaller covered standing areas, and very friendly officials.

Ground no 3,679




Cowboys v Cannon Fodder

10.30am  3 December 2011
Dundee Saturday Morning League, Premier Cup Group A
Cowboys 0 Cannon Fodder 6 (att 7)

My first taste of Dundee's Saturday Morning League, and it was an entertaining if chilly introduction. I was working in Scotland on Friday, and having stayed overnight near Dundee this was a good way of passing time before an afternoon game, while getting an additional match and a new ground.

It was one of five games at the council-owned Riverside Pitches, and as the only one featuring Premier Division teams it was the one I elected to watch.

Cannon Fodder were worthy winners, although the scoreline was harsh on the "home" side (all venues are effectively neutral in this league, with games staged at parks with multiple pitches). Cannon Fodder scored two early goals, then added four more in the second half, with Cowboys defence falling apart towards the end.

Not sure I'll be leaving home before dawn to watch future Saturday morning games in Dundee, but I'll certainly bear them in mind next time I've stayed nearby on a Friday night.

Ground no 3,678