Yoker Athletic v Maybole

2pm  24 November 2012

SJFA West Region, Super League, Division One
Yoker Athletic 3 Maybole 1 (att 68)

A day when the weather forecasts meant it was best to head north. Not just because the rain wasn't due to arrive until later in the day, but also because I had the back up of a couple of games on all-weather 3G pitches.

This was on grass though, and apart from muddy touchlines Yoker's Holm Park pitch, a few miles west of Glasgow city centre, looked in good condition, despite waterlogging and frost accounting for some other local fixtures.

The home side made a great start to the game, scoring twice in the first 10 minutes. Maybole got a goal back before half time though, and from there it could have gone either way with chances at both ends.

A third goal, 10 minutes into the second half, proved decisive. Yoker might have got a fourth, but a penalty was well saved.

A decent game, and a decent ground as well. The entrance to Holm Park is behind the goal, with a two storey clubhouse to the left and terracing behind the near goal and down one and a half sides. The centre section of the left hand terrace is covered, while the touchline beyond that and the far end are open, and out of bounds to spectators.







Reigate Priory v Bookham

2pm  17 November 2012

Surrey Elite Intermediate League
Reigate Priory 3 Bookham 3 (att 12)

I'd long wanted to visit Reigate Priory's ground. The club are among the oldest in the world, and they still play at their original ground, albeit primarily a venue for cricket rather than football.

They were among the entrants for the first ever FA Cup, although withdrew without playing their opening fixture against the Royal Engineers, and competed regularly during the Cup's early years.

Presumably back in the 1870s parking wasn't much of an issue at the Park Lane ground, but it is now. The prime pitchside parking spaces are reserved for Reigate Priory Hockey Club, who guard them with signs sternly warning off anyone connected with the football from using them.

With no parking allowed on the main road, and Reigate Priory Tennis Club's car park clearly marked "private", it took a couple of laps of the sports ground before I was finally able to squeeze my car into a space. Thank goodness the "crowd" was just a dozen.

Despite its long history, the football facilities are basic, although overall I liked the ground. The sloping pitch is roped off on the car park side, with dugouts on the opposite site backing onto tennis courts. A hedge encloses one end, with the cricket pitch beyond the other.

The game was terrific. Going into the game Reigate were bottom but one, while Bookham were second, but you wouldn't have guessed that from the 90 minutes. That Bookham escaped with a point was largely thanks to luck, and the referee's eccentric display.

Reigate had taken a fourth minute lead with a terrific goal. Bookham's equaliser was a controversial penalty, although from where I was standing I couldn't tell if it was a foul or a good tackle. Moments later, Reigate's left back, who'd given away the penalty, sliced a clearance beyond his own keeper to put the visitors in front.

But Reigate came back strongly after the break, scoring two good goals to edge in front. They looked to be heading for an important, and deserved win, but in stoppage time the referee awarded Bookham a very soft free kick on the edge of the area, from which they equalised.








Marsh Rangers v Brentham

11am  17 November 2012

Middlesex County League, Division One (West)
Marsh Rangers 2 Brentham 3 (att 62)

After a gap of a couple of years this was a welcome return to the occasional Saturday morning match in the Middlesex County League, always a useful way of fitting in extra games and grounds.

The quality of the football compared well with more recent Premier Division games I've seen in the league, and there were plenty of chances at both ends, as well as the five goals scored.

Like many Middlesex League clubs, Marsh are nomadic when it comes to home venues. This season they're using a pitch at Harlington Sports Centre. It's typically basic for the league, but the addition of a chained barrier, through metal stakes, around the pitch, gave it more of a "proper" feel.

The crowd, needless to say, consisted almost entirely of groundhoppers, all heading for various venues for their afternoon games.







Cuffley v Sarratt

2pm   10 November 2012

Herts Senior County League, Premier Division
Cuffley 6 Sarratt 2 (att 10)

Second time I've seen Sarratt this season, and the second time I've seen them concede six goals.

Cuffley's win was deserved, and ultimately easy, but the score was harsh on Sarratt. The early indicator of what was to come was Cuffley's fourth minute opener, a fine strike after a good move.

Cuffley's second goal owed more to luck, a clearance striking a Cuffley forward and ricocheting beyond the keeper's reach into the corner of the net. While the goal owed much to fortune, it was just reward for a spell of Cuffley pressure.

But by half time Sarratt had pulled level. Their equalising goal, just before the break, came when a rebound was turned in after a terrific long range strike was touched onto the crossbar by Cuffley's keeper.

Sarratt began the second half on the front foot, immediately pushing forward looking to edge in front, but they soon were undone on the break, within a minute of the restart.

Having gone back in front Cuffley added three more goals at intervals through the half, gradually snuffing our any chance of second Sarratt recovery.

The ground, at King George's Field, is fairly typical for the Hertfordshire's step seven county league. The sloping pitch is railed off, with dugouts, but there's no cover or hard standing beyond a small area in front of the clubhouse, which is towards a corner behind the goal nearest the entrance.

Basic, but welcome, four page programmes were available free from the clubhouse.









Loughborough University v Dunkirk

7.45 pm 6 November 2012

Midland Alliance, League Cup, Second Round
Loughborough University 3 Dunkirk 1 (att 45)

A first visit to the impressive new football stadium built in the campus at Loughborough University, and a commanding performance by the home side who had no trouble moving into the next round of the league cup.

If the students were guilty of anything it was too often over-playing once they reached the edge of the Dunkirk penalty area, when a more direct approach might have been rewarded with more goals.

They took a first half lead and added a second after the break. Late on Dunkirk, who overall were disappointing, pulled a goal back, but a third for the home side removed the threat of extra time.

The ground is much better than most new venues at this level. The dominant feature is a large seated stand, accessed from the comfortable first floor bar and lounge, with an elevated and unhindered view of the pitch.

The remainder of the ground is a few steps of open terracing all round, although on the evidence of this game the club's small home support can easily be accommodated in the seats. A large electronic scoreboard is also something not often seen at "step five" non League football.









Sporting Hackney v Sloane

2pm  3 November 2012

Middlesex County League, Premier Division
Sporting Hackney 1 Sloane 0 (att 6)

I'm not a fan of large multi-pitch sports grounds, but if there's one such location that's an iconic grassroots football venue then it's Hackney Marshes.

This was my first visit, but apparently it's had a makeover in recent years, and I was surprised to find a decent cafe and bar on the first floor of the modern building which also houses the many changing rooms needed for what are, at present, 50 football pitches (plus some for rugby).

Next season there'll be even more pitches, when the East Marshes are returned to use after serving as a coach drop off point during the London 2012 Olympics.

Today's game was on the "show pitch" which runs lengthways immediately in front of the striking pavilion. The pitch was taped off, and a pair of dugouts were erected on the pavilion side.

At right angles behind one goal was another taped off pitch, staging a West Essex FC home game also in the Middlesex League. West Essex won 4-1, and from what I saw out of the corner of my eye it was probably a better game than the one I chose.

Sporting Hackney just about deserved their narrow win, achieved thanks to a penalty awarded for a trip in the 44th minute.

Despite the lack of crowds, Middlesex League rules dictate that clubs should produce programmes. Often clubs produce no more than one or two, which are all but impossible to obtain for any but the most determined spectators, but Sporting Hackney's were available free from a box left on the pavilion reception desk. I suspect I was the only person watching the game who picked one up.







Tottenham Hotspur U21 v Newcastle United U21

11am  3 November 2012

Under 21 Premier League
Tottenham Hotspur U21 6 Newcastle United U21 0 (att 150)

The Under 21 Premier League has replaced reserve team football for Premier League clubs. Apparently it'll help bridge the gap between under 18 academy sides and first teams playing in the Premier League proper.

So to prepare for the rigours of playing front of tens of thousands of fans inside stadiums, and millions more watching on TV, the best thing is to play at the training ground on a Saturday morning in front of a few dozen people.

To be fair, a number of Under 21 league games are played in the clubs' main stadiums, and Spurs, unlike some, are at least allowing spectators in to watch those played at their expansive (and, by the look of it, expensive) training centre in Enfield.

They've certainly got a team worth watching. They beat Newcastle with ease, and might have scored more goals. Most eye-catching for Spurs was Andros Townsend, who has played first team football, and Alex Pritchard also impressed. Newcastle's best player was their keeper, Jak Alnwick, but it might just have been that he was very busy.

Spurs new training ground opened this summer. It's huge, with a vast indoor centre and countless immaculate pitches. At least two are fully fenced off, one staged this game and the other hosted Spurs v Newcastle at under 18 level. Teamsheets were available for both matches.




Bangor City v Newtown

7.30pm  2 November 2012

Welsh Premier League
Bangor City 3 Newtown 0 (att 684)

A first visit to Bangor City's new stadium, to recomplete the Welsh Premier League, although I nearly gave up as horrendous traffic delayed my journey into north Wales. I finally joined a queue for the turnstile at 7.25pm, and was inside the ground in time for the slightly delayed kick off.

Bangor started brightly, and played some good football as they raced into a two goal lead. With barely a quarter of the game gone Newtown's plight became even worse when they lost early substitute Zac Evans, sent off for a dangerous late tackle. The straight red card looked slightly harsh, but only slightly.

That effectively ended the game as a spectacle. Newtown defended and frustrated Bangor, who passed the ball around neatly but created few chances. They finally managed a third, a well taken goal, about 10 minutes from the end.

I liked Bangor's new ground, now known by a sponsored title but previously called Nantporth. The dominant feature is an impressive main stand, with smaller stands opposite and shallow uncovered terracing at both ends.