Thorpe United v Sherburn White Rose B

6.15pm  30 July 2012
Barkston Ash FA, Prostar Cup, Preliminary Round
Thorpe United 1 Sherburn White Rose B 1, 3-4 on penalties (att 40)

Having spent Sunday at Wimbledon's Centre Court it was back to more familar sporting surroundings this evening, Field Lane in Thorpe Willoughby, North Yorkshire, for the Prostar Cup (known as the Templenewsam Cup pre-sponsorship).

For a team in division two of the York League, Thorpe United's ground is a good one. The main pitch is railed off with dugouts facing each other on the halfway lane. Unfortunately for me tonight's game wasn't on the main pitch, but on a pitch marked on the outfield of the adjacent cricket ground, and closer to the clubhouse. By my rules that means I'll need to revisit before Thorpe United is properly "ticked", although I'll count each pitch as a separate ground.

Anyway, the main point of these trips to watch the football rather than fret about which pitch is used, and this game was a good one. The sides were evenly matched, and both goals were in the first half, Sherburn taking the lead.

Thorpe just shaded the second half, and twice hit the frame of the goal, but I thought Sherburn should have had a late penalty, the referee instead decided the foul was just outside the box.

Having been denied that penalty, shortly afterwards they had five of them, as the tie was decided by a shootout. Sherburn missed their first, but Thorpe soon missed as well, and when the home side's final kick was saved Sherburn were through.

Their reward for winning is a home tie in the ultimate local derby, as Sherburn White Rose B take on Sherburn White Rose A in next week's first round.





UCD v St Patrick's Athletic

3pm Sunday 22 July
League of Ireland, Premier Division
University College Dublin 1 St Patrick's Athletic 1 (att 507)
Admission 15 eu, programme 3eu

There's a pleasing (but admittedly sad) symmetry in completing a league at the same club as starting it. Back in 1993, on my first ever visit to the Republic of Ireland, I saw UCD at home to St James's Gate. The game was an awful goalless draw, and still ranks as one of the worst games I've ever seen.

A few years ago UCD moved from the basic Belfield Park to the rather better equipped UCD Bowl, some distance away but still within the confines of the huge UCD Belfield campus. In fact, so huge is it that having driven in and parked the car, it then took a 15 minute walk, aided by the directions of a couple of locals, before I could find the new venue.

There is a nearer car park, but I guess you have to be in the know to head to straight to that, and once on the campus there's very little in the way of signage to direct first time visitors to the home of what is, let's not forget, a top flight side.

Once I found the Bowl I was impressed. Most of the spectator facilities are on the nearside, with seats built into a steep grass bank, the centre section covered. There's open standing at both ends, while the opposite side is out of bounds, housing a TV gantry and the dugouts. The whole set up is very neat and tidy, and the club officials were all very friendly.

The ground was a step up in quality from my previous visit, and thankfully so was the game. In my experience League of Ireland football, particularly in the top division, is all too often dour and defensive, but this was a lively and entertaining game.

UCD are bottom of the league (thanks to Managhan United's withdrawal) but matched their title-chasing opponents. St Pats went ahead on the stroke of half time. They looked likely to hold on for a win, but, perhaps feeling the effects of a midweek Europa League game in the Balkans, allowed UCD to snatch an equaliser they probably deserved.











Clew Bay United v Snugboro United

7pm Saturday 21 July

Mayo FA, Connacht Gold Cup, Third Round
Clew Bay United 2 Snugboro United 0 (att 35)

With competitive football very thin on the ground closer to home I elected for a weekend in Ireland, where, as well as the national League of Ireland, one or two regional leagues have also switched to a summer season.

This was only the second time I've seen Mayo League football, but it was a decent game and worth the early start, and the lengthy drive to the west coast from Dublin Airport.

Both sides play in the Premier A Division of the Mayo League, the second tier and below the Mayo Super League. The cup tie was evenly matched, but Clew Bay progressed thanks to their superior finishing. Their two goals, in the 33rd and 82nd minutes, were both well taken after defence-splitting passes left forwards with just the keeper to beat.

Clew Bay are based in Louisburgh, a small but attractive village not far from Westport. The pitch is in the grounds of the Sancta Maria College. It's enclosed by wooden "ranch-style" fencing with a pair of dugouts on the far side. The fence is set well back from the pitch, presumably to enclose the wider Gaelic games pitch which the venue doubles as, although the Gaelic goalposts, behind the "soccer" goals, looked as if they hadn't been used for a while.








Whitedale v Scalloway

6.45pm  Monday 16 July
Shetland Premier League
Whitedale 5 Scalloway 0 (att 28)

Final match of my Shetland trip, and as expected an easy win for high flying Whitedale against the league's bottom side. Whitedale were 2-0 ahead by half time, and added the other three in the game's closing quarter.

That they didn't score more was mostly down to Scalloway's goalkeeper, who had a good game to keep the score down. At times Whitedale played some of the best football I've seen while in Shetland.

Their ground, Strom Park, is also the best of those I've seen while here. The pitch, alongside the A971 road north of Lerwick in Whiteness, is railed down part of both touchlines. The changing rooms and clubhouse are near the halfway line on the far side, while on the road side a pair of dugouts flank a purpose-built covered standing area. A car park is behind one goal, fields behind the other, and, predictably for Shetland, nice views all around.

By my reckoning, I now only need four venues that are regularly used for league games, and one of those, at Cunningsburgh, is only used for Ness United's B and C sides. A couple of other grounds may be used purely for Parish Cup football.

The standard of football has varied, but been very acceptable. From what I've seen, Shetland football seems stronger than that on Orkney, but perhaps not as good as in Lewis and Harris.






Wastside Rebels v Wast Linga Ramblers

5pm  Saturday 14 July
Shetland Works League
Wastside Rebels 2 Wast Linga Ramblers 1 (att 15)

The Works League is a separate competition to Shetland's Premier and Reserve Leagues, but in effect serves as the third, and lowest, tier. Only Ness United run teams in all three leagues, with their 'C' side in the Works League.

On the evidence of this game, the gulf between the Works League and the Premier League is a huge one. Wastside were the better team, but having established a two goal lead, two great strikes out of keeping with the rest of the match, they allowed their Whalsay-based opponents back into the match by conceding a penalty. Wastside then had a penalty of their own, it was saved but they held on to win.

While the standard wasn't good, the setting was. Wastside, from mainland Shetland's west side, are the only Works League side to have their own pitch, rather than using one which also stages Premier League football. The narrow pitch is hemmed in between the school and leisure centre at Aith. Grass banking gives a good view of the match, and when they football isn't up to much you can enjoy the view.






Lerwick Spurs v Delting

1pm  Saturday 14 July
Shetland FA, Manson Cup Final
Lerwick Spurs 2 Delting 1 (att 109)  at Gilbertson Park

Spurs dominated the game, but wasteful finishing meant they had to rely on a late goal to avoid extra time against a disappointing Delting.

They went ahead thanks a cool finish in the final minute of the first half. After the break Spurs were even more on top, but their shooting was wayward. They paid the penalty when Delting managed an unlikely equaliser. Then with extra time looming Spurs deservedly found an 85th minute winner.

Venue was Gilbertson Park, Shetland's main football ground but essentially a pitch in a public park. Although officially a neutral venue for this tie, it's one of three Lerwick grounds which stage league games for the island capital's three Premier League sides, Spurs, Thistle and Celtic, as well as clubs in the Works League.

The large pitch was taped off down both touchlines. There's no cover for spectators, but a raised grass bank, set back from the pitch, suggests there may once have been a stand, or it may be a base if temporary stands are ever erected for major events





Scalloway v Lerwick Thistle

6.45pm  Friday 13 July

Shetland Premier League
Scalloway 3 Lerwick Thistle 3 (att 41)

The best game, the best ground, and even the best weather of my Shetland holiday so far.

Thistle were very poor at the start, and it was no surprise when Scalloway went ahead thanks to a 15th minute penalty. They should have scored more though, as Thistle struggled to even get the ball into the Scalloway half.

Eventually the visitors got a foothold in the game, and they were level thanks to a terrific long range strike into the top corner early in the second half.

Thistle went ahead after about an hour, the home keeper making a mess of dealing with a shot that was straight at him, but within a couple of minutes a second penalty put Scalloway level again.

As the game became stretched there were chances at both ends. Thistle took one and looked to have won the game, but in the closing moments yet another penalty gave Scalloway the chance to equalise, which they duly did.

Fraser Park is nice ground. It's close to the centre of the village, and hemmed in by stone walls and houses, some of which have vulnerable windows directly behind the goal. Grass banking gives a good view of the action, the changing rooms are pitchside, and there's a covered standing area towards one corner. There were even a couple of Shetland ponies in small field behind the far goal.






Yell v Delting B

7pm  Wednesday 11 July

Shetland Reserve League
Yell 1 Delting B 0 (att 14)

Having been to Unst on Saturday I took the opportunity to tick off the UK's second most northerly football club. Like Unst, Yell are a first team who play in the islands' "reserve" league.

The standard wasn't too high, which was hardly a surprise, but there was plenty of effort from both teams and they produced an entertaining 90 minutes.

The only goal, after 15 minutes, was an own goal as Delting defenders managed to squeeze a poorly struck corner past their own keeper.

Yell play in the grounds of Mid Yell Junior High School. It's just a pitch, but the setting is very scenic and there's spaces for cars to park pitchside for spectators who'd rather sit in comfort than brave the Shetland summer weather.

The 7pm kick off was 15 minutes later than advertised on the league website, but given the ferry timings was a logical start time. The scattered settlement of Mid Yell is about a 20 minutes drive from the ferry port connecting Yell to Shetland's Mainland.

Catching the evening's final scheduled ferry back, at 9.30 (later ferries can be pre booked), was no problem. In fact, I think all the passengers were players and spectators.