Guilsfield v Penycae

28 February 2012
Cymru Alliance
Guilsfield 0 Penycae 2 (att 45)

Guilsfield have made great strides, both on and off the pitch, since I last visited in 1994. They were in the Montgomeryshire League when I saw them lose to Berriew's reserve side, and played on the other side of the hedge from their current home.

The old ground, complete with small stand and dugouts, is still there, and I assume may be used by Guilsfield's second team, who now play in the same league that I saw the first team in 18 years ago.

The new(ish) ground is smart but functional. Like the old one it's connected to the village community centre, but unlike the old one it's fully enclosed, has a seated stand and, newly installed in the last few months, floodlights.

I can't remember much about the game against Berriew, but I do know Guilsfield lost 4-3, which suggests it was a more entertaining spectacle than tonight's clash. Penycae won it with scrappy goals late in each half, but in truth these looked two poor sides.

Guilsfield might have deserved a point. They looked likely to equalise during the second half, coming closest when a great cross was met by a header that hit the underside of the crossbar but didn't cross the line.

East to see why both sides are towards the bottom of the league, but it's still impressive to see to the progress Guilsfield have made in recent years.






Cleethorpes Town v Hykeham Town

25 February 2012
Lincolnshire League
Cleethorpes Town 0 Hykeham Town 1 (att 52)

A second attempt to visit Cleethorpes Town before their planned end of season move to groundshare with neighbours Grimsby Borough.

Last time the away team failed to turn up, and Cleethorpes were awarded the points, but they had no such luck today. After wasting chance after chance, particularly in the first half, Cleethorpes' 42-game unbeaten run in the league was surprisingly ended by a late Hyekham goal.

After a slow start the home side went on to dominate the first half, but wayward shooting kept the game goalless. The turning point, other than the Cleethorpes strikers' poor finishing, came well into the second half, when frustration set in and a home player earned a straight red card.

Even with 10 men the home side looked most likely to score, but they were undone by a Hykeham break about seven minutes from the end.

Having won convincingly at fellow title challengers Skegness United last week, this defeat just might open up the league's title race again.

Whatever the outcome, Cleethorpes are likely to be promoted to the Northern Counties East League for next season, and will move to play at the same ground as Grimsby Borough. Apparently the club does have plans to improve facilities for an eventual return to their current home, the Stamford Club in Clee Road. It features a decent clubhouse, and the pitch is fenced off on three sides, with dugouts and advertising boards.







Highmoor Ibis v Frilsham & Yattendon

20 February 2012
Reading Senior Cup, Second Round
Highmoor Ibis 6 Frilsham and Yattendon 3 (att 22)

Hellenic League Highmoor Ibis easily overcame their Reading League visitors, in a low key but high scoring game at Reading's Palmer Park Stadium.

Highmoor are based at the athletics venue as their own ground, lacking floodlights and presumably much else, doesn't meet Hellenic League ground grading criteria. Given the rumoured cost of hiring the venue, twenty or so spectators each paying £3 admission won't come close to covering costs, so it remains to be seen how long they'll stay at the ground.

As athletics stadiums go, Palmer Park isn't bad, with the large stand giving a good view of the action. And there was plenty of action to see; the first half saw two great early goals, the first for the home side soon followed by an equaliser for Frilsham. After the break the home side took control, racing into a 4-1 lead, aided by two penalties, and maintained their advantage as the sides traded goals towards the end.

Highmoor Ibis was the last remaining Hellenic League ground I'd not visited, by my reckoning the first time I've completed the entire league since the late 1990s.




Bronllys v Brecon Town

19 February 2012
Radnor Valley Cup, Quarter Final
Bronllys 2 Brecon Town 4 (att 13)

There are countless local cup competitions in this part of Wales, and with most of the matches played on Sundays they're a great way of getting some extra games, and grounds, in a beautiful part of the country. The tricky bit is finding out about them, and I only discovered this fixture by chance when I contacted Brecon Town about another game.

Both these sides play in the Mid Wales South League, effectively the 5th tier of Welsh football and, in mid Wales, as low as you can go with Saturday football. Despite the lowly level this was a great game, with some good football played by both sides.

It was 1-1 at half time, but the visitors took control during the second half before Bronllys fought back and pushed for an equaliser. A late Brecon goal sealed the win, and saved up from extra time before the journey home.

This is only the second season for Bronllys, at least in adult Saturday football. Last season they were based a few miles up the road in Hay-on-Wye, but are now a bit nearer their own village, playing at Gwernyfed School in the tiny village of Three Cocks. Apparently there are plans for a pitch in Bronllys itself.





Bridgend Street v AFC Llwydcoed

18 February 2012
Welsh League, Division Three
Bridgend Street 3 AFC Llwydcoed 0 (att 60)

Having stayed in South Wales after being at Bridgend Town the previous night, a visit to Bridgend Street might have seemed logical for the Saturday. But I only ended up at this game after getting a call to say my intended game, at Cwmbran Celtic, was off having fallen victim to the morning's wet weather.

No problems with the pitch at Bridgend Street though. They play in Cardiff, and have created a neat and tidy venue in the grounds of Willows High School, in the Tremorfa area.

Seats have just been installed inside the stand, and the club have plans for more ground improvements including, I was told, a second stand on the far side. They're certainly progressing well on the pitch. They won this at a canter, two second half goals following one in the first, and look a good bet for a second successive promotion.

Their biggest headache could be keeping the place secure. The cash box at the gate has had to be chained up, following a recent attempt to steal it, and a couple of drivers returned to the vehicles after the game to find windows has been smashed. A sad state of affairs in a neighbourhood which could benefit from a thriving local football club at its heart.








Bridgend Town v Ton Pentre

17 February 2012
Welsh League, Division One
Bridgend Town 0 Ton Pentre 2 (att 90)

The third home ground I've seen Bridgend Town play on, but Brewery Field is far and away the most impressive. Of course it's better know as the home of rugby in Bridgend, and despite the football club's presence it still has the feel of a rugby venue rather than a football one.

The entire ground was open, and standing on the sparsely populated terracing opposite the main stand reminded me of visits to some of the old London non League grounds, now mostly, if not all, bulldozed.

I've not seen an official attendance figure for the game, but I counted 90 people, and in such a large ground the small crowd was rather lost. The evening had the atmosphere of a reserve game, rather than the home match of a side challenging for promotion to the top league in Wales.

The result was a blow to Bridgend's promotion hopes, and secured with two late goals for the visitors. Before Ton Pentre's opener I'd resigned myself to the game finishing goalless, albeit one of the more entertaining nil nil draws I'd have seen. Bridgend were unfortunate not to get a draw, but paid for not taking their chances, while a healthy turnout of Ton Pentre fans went home happy.






AFC Portchester v Pewsey Vale

14 February 2012
Wessex League, Division One
AFC Portchester 5 Pewsey Vale 2 (att 34)

A better game and a better ground than I was expecting. Portchester have an eye on promotion, but will need to win games in hand. Three unanswered goals in a commanding first half performance put the result of this one beyond doubt.

Portchester seemed to lose their way during the second half though. They allowed Pewsey Vale a goal back, and against better opposition might have conceded more after some defensive lapses. But two more goals re-established the home side's dominance before a very late consolation for the visitors.

Portchester's Wicor Recreation Ground venue has been developed in recent years, and has a good-sized seated stand and a pleasant clubhouse.




TEK United v Drogheda Town

2pm  12 February 2012
Leinster Senior League, Senior Division One
TEK United 3 Drogheda Town 3 (att 28)

Part two of my groundhopping day trip to the Irish capital, and another fine game that made the early start and the long day worthwhile.

TEK - rather oddly named after the battle of Tel el-Kebir, part of a 19th century British war in Egypt - are based in south Dublin. Their ground is well worth a visit (assuming you're the sort of person who thinks football grounds are worth visiting in the first place).

A wall fully encloses the pitch, which is at a lower level than the surrounds so wherever you stand you get a good view of the action. There's a very small covered standing area, although in effect I think this is more for smokers who can no longer enjoy a cigarette in the cosy clubhouse. Any smoke in the club bar these days comes from its real log fire.

The game, as the scoreline suggests, was great. Drogheda are struggling in the league, and while a point at TEK isn't a bad result, they'll surely see it as two points dropped, as they led 2-0 and 3-1 before the home side's late fightback.








Rathcoole Boys v Pegasus

11am  12 February 2012
Leinster Senior League, Senior Division 1A
Rathcoole Boys 2 Pegasus 3 (att 17)

A very entertaining start to a hectic Dublin day trip, in the first of two Leinster Senior League games. This was in the league's third tier, with Rathcoole battling to avoid relegation to Division 1B.

They were unlucky not to get a point against a Pegasus, a side connected to University College Dublin. The visitors took a grip of the game in the first half, establishing a two goal lead, but Rathcoole never looked out of it, and pulled a goal back before half time.

In a great second half Rathcoole equalised. Both sides then had chances but it was Pegasus who scored a winner, although Rathcoole came close to getting back level when a header hit the crossbar in the game's last meaningful action.

Rathcoole is a small town a few miles from Dublin. The main feature of the club's modern ground, Frank Cox Park, is a pitch that is mostly railed off, with advertising boards and floodlights. Home games are usually staged under the lights on Friday nights, but they're currently out of action so this game was switched to a Sunday morning.