Dunton & Broughton Rangers v Saffron Dynamo

2pm  28 January 2012
Leicestershire Senior League, Premier Division
Dunton and Broughton Rangers 1 Saffron Dynamo 2 (att 23)

The home side have made rapid progress in recent years, and this season looks to be one of consolidation in the Leicestershire Senior League's top division.

If they are to go any higher, their Station Road ground, in Dunton Bassett, will have to be upgraded. At the moment it's a pleasant village football ground, but there's no floodlights or hard standing, and the nearest to a stand is a redundant former dugout with a few chairs inside it.

There's plenty of parking around the pitch, and changing rooms and a clubhouse are in a building towards one corner. Programmes were available from the clubhouse.

The game was okay, with Saffron coming from behind to get a surprising win. It was 1-1 at half time, and the game's crucial moments were a fine second half save by the visiting keeper, holding onto a fierce close range shot that looked a certain goal, before Saffron went straight to the other end and scored a winner.






Notts County U18 v Chesterfield U18

11am  28 January 2012
Football League Youth Alliance, North East Conference
Notts County U18 1 Chesterfield U18 0 (att 60)

The second time I've seen Notts County's youngsters at the Nottingham University sports ground, but in the eight years since my first visit they've moved to an area known as the "back pitches", hemmed in between a line of trees and a railway line, and far enough from their old pitch for me to revisit and count it as a new ground.

The game started brightly, with Notts County scoring what turned out to be the only goal in the first few minutes. What followed was interesting rather than enthralling, Chesterfield played some neat passing football while County's adopted a more direct approach.

Both sides could and should have scored, but as the game wore it always looked as if the one goal would be enough.

As with most Youth Alliance venues, spectators are restricted to one side of the pitch, which was roped off. Unfortunately it also meant spending 90 minutes with the sun in our eyes.

Wellington Amateurs v Bilston Town

2pm  21 January 2012
West Midlands Regional League, Division One
Wellington Amateurs 4 Bilston Town 2 (att 28)

It's always satisfying to complete an entire league, and this was the final ground I needed to recomplete the West Midlands Regional League, for the first time for a good few years.

With Wellington top of the league I expected a decent game, and I wasn't disappointed. Bilston started the game well, but soon found themselves two goals behind, before reducing the deficit to 2-1 by half time.

Wellington reinforced their grip on the game with a penalty very early in the second half, but Bilston still came back with a second goal before a fourth from Wellington. Add some good football from both sides, a fair bit of needle and a red card (a second booking for a Bilston player who was lucky to stay on after the first one) and you get a good afternoon's entertainment.

I visited Wellington Amateurs for a Shropshire County League game about 15 years ago, but they've moved since then and their current ground, at the end of School Grove, in the Oakengates area of Telford, isn't bad. The only cover is a small small stand built in front of the clubhouse and changing rooms, but it's very enclosed and floodlights, a necessity if they want promotion, seem to be on their way.







Wolverhampton Wanderers U18 v Stoke City U18

11am  21 January 2012
Premier Academy League
Wolverhampton Wanderers U18 2 Stoke City U18 1 (att 50)

Ticked off one of the few remaining Premier Academy League venues I'd not been to, although cutting it fine time wise and struggling to find the way in I nearly didn't make it.

When I finally found my way in (on foot, having parked in a nearby street as I couldn't find the vehicle access to the main entrance) the Sir Jack Hayward Training Ground was a hive of activity. As well as Under 18 and Under 16 games against Stoke, there were various coaching sessions for local youngsters.

The game was better than many Premier Academy games I've been to, probably because both teams adopted a direct approach. All too often at this level it's 90 minutes of neat passing without any creativity or cutting edge in front of goal.

Stoke edged the first half and led 1-0 at the break. Wolves levelled within a minute of the start of the second half, before going to win the game. A draw would have been a fairer result, and indeed it would have finished 3-3 if disallowed goals ruled out for offside, correctly as far as I could tell, had counted.


Northside Atlantic v Ilfracombe Town thirds

15 January 2012
Hansen Cup, Quarter Final
Northside Atlantic 2 Ilfracombe Town III 3 (att 23)

One of those days when it pays to have a plan B. Having stayed overnight in Falmouth I headed to Barnstaple, hoping to see Pilton Academicals against Park United. I'd been unable to contact either club to check the fixture, and sure enough when I got to Rock Park there was no sign of a game.

I had been able to confirm Northside's game, a few miles away at Victoria Park in Bideford, and players were warming up on the pitch when I arrived a few minutes before the 2pm kick off.

The game, between two teams in the North Devon League's third tier - Intermediate Division One - was surprisingly good. Both sides are challenging for promotion, and managed some good football despite the poor quality of the park pitch.





Helston Athletic v Wadebridge Town

14 January 2012
South West Peninsula League, Division One West
Helston Athletic 2 Wadebridge Town 2 (att 66)

It's Helston's first season at this level, but they're second in the league and in the running for a second successive promotion.

Not that you've have guessed it for most of this game, although their ability to score twice in the final eight minutes, the second in stoppage time, snatched a fortunate draw and showed they might have the resilience needed to maintain their challenge behind leaders Newquay.

Until Helston's late fightback I'd been very impressed by Wadebridge's football. They went ahead after 15 minutes, and might have made the game safe had they taken any of the many other chances created during the first half.

The second period was more even, but Wadebridge doubled their lead after an hour and looked to have won the game, before Helston's late comeback.

Helston's Kellaway Park is well equipped, but lacks the charm of some of Cornwall's more interesting venues. It's fully enclosed, with a covered standing area in front of the clubhouse.

A decent game, and worth the effort of the long drive down. Thankfully, the drive back after the game was a much shorter one, to a hotel in Falmouth.






Belper United v Harworth Colliery Institute

2pm  7 January 2012
Central Midlands League Cup, Second Round
Belper United 2 Harworth Colliery Institute 2 (att 30)

Belper United's Alton Manor ground was high on "to do" my list for this season. Not only was it the only Central Midlands League ground I'd not visited (thanks to Whatton United's demise), but the creep of the approaching housing estate, already bordering two sides of the ground, will eventually cover the pitch, with the club moving elsewhere.

The current ground is fully railed, with a modern changing room building at one end and a small covered standing area in the far corner. It's not enclosed as such, but rather than pay for admission spectators are encouraged to by a programme, a bargain at £1 and also including entry into a raffle (not that I saw the raffle result, if number 16 won I may go back to claim my prize).

The game was a hard fought cup tie. Belper had the edge, and came back from a goal down to lead 2-1 going into stoppage time. Then what had always been a niggly game boiled over into a fracas. I'm not entirely sure what happened, there were claims a Belper player elbowed an opponent, and the result was a red card for the offender, and a penalty for the visitors. They scored the penalty and so the sides will have to meet again in a reply.







Ashton Rovers v Redvales & Warthfold Metro

10.40am  7 January 2012
Manchester Saturday Morning League, Division Two
Ashton Rovers 3 Redvales & Warthfold Metro 2 (att 2)

Another of my occasional dips into the local Saturday morning league. The standard isn't great, especially in division two, but it's a chance to visit some extra grounds and an entertaining game can be seen at any level.

This morning's game was okay, although it started 25 minutes late and a cold wind across Dukinfield's Blocksages Playing Fields meant watching it wasn't the most pleasant way of spending 90 minutes.

Ashton just about deserved their late winner, which came thanks to static defending against a long throw into the penalty area. They'd led twice before, but each time Redvales had levelled, a goal for each team in each half. In fact, the game's four earlier goals were all great finishes, rather out of keeping with the general standard.


Sutton Athletic v Seven Acre and Sidcup

2pm  2 January 2012
Kent Invicta League
Sutton Athletic 5 Seven Acre and Sidcup 0 (att 84)

Second game of the day, and my second 5-0 scoreline. The score was harsh on Seven Acre, although Sutton deserved the win. They scored the only goal of a scrappy first half after just five minutes, and then not much happened until three goals in quick succession during the second half, with a fifth following.

Sutton's ground is probably among the most basic in the new Kent Invicta League. The entrance is via a long track from Parsonage Lane, in Sutton-at-Hone. It leads to a building which houses changing rooms and a bar. The main pitch, one of two, is railed off, with dugouts, on the near side, while the far side is roped off and both ends are open.

Apparently the club have plans to move to a new ground, possibly as early as next season.






Oxted and District v Crescent Rovers

11.30am  2 January 2012
Surrey Elite Intermediate League
Oxted and District 0 Crescent Rovers 5 (att 25)

It's not just the Premier League which throws up surprise scorelines at this time of year. Struggling Crescent were second bottom of the league, but didn't look it as they thrashed a very poor Oxted side.

The visitors took a grip on the game by scoring twice in the first half. Oxted responded with a double substitution before the break, which produced a brief rally, but a third Crescent goal early in the second half put the result beyond doubt. The two final goals were no surprise, as Crescent continued to create chances.

Oxted play at Master Park, a pleasant public park in the centre of the village. The pitch is just roped off, and a fair walk from the changing rooms in the pavilion, but it's a scenic spot to watch football, especially on a bright and sunny, if chilly, morning.