Hale Leys United v Kent Athletic

2.45pm  23 February 2013

Spartan South Midlands League, Division Two
Hale Leys United 0 Kent Athletic 4 (att 15)

Reports from previous visitors to Hale Leys meant I had very low expectations of the venue, but with the club apparently moving to a new ground for next season a trip to Fairford Leys in Aylesbury was high on my agenda for this season.

The current ground is basic, just a roped off pitch with temporary "dugouts" some distance from the changing rooms, but the programme, albeit basic and given away free, was an unexpected bonus and the game wasn't bad.

Kent, from Luton despite what their name suggests, are riding high in the league, and were comfortable winners. They opened the scoring in the first half, adding three more in the second. The football was just about entertaining enough to keep my mind off the cold.

Kent Athletic are second in the table, but unlikely to catch leaders Aston Clinton. The problem with this league is the lack of facilities that means promotion to the Spartan South Midlands League Division One (a "step six" league) is a distant prospect for most of the clubs.







Allexton and New Parks v Ratby Sports

8pm  19 February 2013

Leicestershire Senior League, Division One
Allexton and New Parks 3 Ratby Sports 0 (att 33)

New quite the venue I expected to tick off when I headed towards Leicester to see the Senior League Division One pacesetters.

Unfortunately vandals had damaged the floodlights on the main grass pitch at the New College ground, but luckily the lights on the adjacent 3G pitch were unaffected, and so the game went ahead on that instead, albeit starting 30 minutes later than scheduled.

I guess I should see this is an opportunity to tick an extra ground, and one rarely used for first team football, but it's a bit frustrating knowing that (by my self-imposed rules) I'll need to return to see a game on the correct pitch. Still, it was better than having no game to watch.

On tonight's showing Allexton are a decent side and well worth the journey to see them play. The kept their 100% league record intact with a win that was much more comfortable than even the 3-0 margin would suggest.

They scored twice in the first half, adding a third about 15 minutes from the end. If it wasn't for good saves by Ratby's keeper, and many shots that were only just off target, the score could been much higher.




Kirkbymoorside v Annfield Plain

2pm  16 February 2013

Wearside League
Kirkbymoorside 4 Annfield Plain 1 (att 29)

An entertaining enough game, but a scrappy one which showed why both sides are towards the lower end of the Wearside League table.

Annfield Plain looked more dangerous early on, but the game's turning point was probably the injury to their keeper after 30 minutes. After lengthy treatment he played on, but in the 15 minutes between that and half time Kirkbymoorside scored three times.

The keeper's injury didn't directly lead to any of the goals, but his restricted mobility certainly hampered him.

He'd conceded a fourth, early in the second half, before he finally gave up and was substituted. The stand-in keeper, an outfield player, kept a clean sheet, but he had little to do and most of Kirkbymoorside's efforts were off target. The game's final goal, late on, was a consolation for the visitors.

Kirkbymoorside is a nice town in North Yorkshire, and the ground, on the outskirts and adjacent to the main A170 road, is a good one. The cricket pitch side is just roped off, but the remainder is railed off, with dugouts and advertising boards, and a grass bank providing a good vantage point. The whole set up appears well cared for, and with other sports based at the same location it's a great facility.






Dartford v Luton Town

7.45pm  12 February 2013

Football Conference, Premier
Dartford 1 Luton Town 0 (att 1,802)

Luton may have earned the plaudits for their FA Cup run, but these days I struggle to think of any Conference sides as "plucky underdogs", and my long overdue first visit to Dartford's Princes Park stadium had the feel of a professional game.

The quality of the football was certainly professional, even if some of the finishing, especially by the visitors, was wayward. Dartford deserved their win, thanks to a great strike after 72 minutes.

I liked Princes Park, easily accessible from the M25 and with plenty of free parking nearby. Many modern football stadiums lack character, but Dartford's looks just that bit different to most, with its most striking feature a giant wooden statue of a supporter on the terracing opposite the main stand.

I believe the ground also has good green credentials, and although on first impressions it seemed a bit small there was plenty of space to watch the match in comfort event with a decent attendance.

All in all it was a very enjoyable evening, making the effort of the journey there and back worthwhile, and seemed a world away from the regular visits I made to tick off Conference grounds 25 years ago.






Norton Rose v Addleshaw Goddard

8.45pm  11 February 2013

London Legal League, Division Two
Norton Rose 1 Addleshaw Goddard 0 (att 1) at John Orwell Sports Centre, Wapping

The London Legal League isn't for the groundhopping purist. All matches in its three divisions are played midweek, at neutral all-weather pitches around the capital. And with the pitches generally booked for strict 90 minutes slots, matches are usually truncated to allow two even halves in the time available.

But I was in London for the day, and so took the chance to visit a ground that must be among the closest to central London. The John Orwell Sports Centre, in Wapping, is within sight of Tower Bridge, although on a gloomy and snowy night it was difficult to make out the landmark.

The match began 15 minutes later than the scheduled 8.30 kick off, so we had two 35 minutes halves before the 10pm curfew. Seventy minutes was more than enough though. It wouldn't be fair to criticise the standard of this type of football, but it was easy to see why both sides are at the wrong end of the Legal League's middle tier.

Norton Rose scored the only goal in the first half, and the game's only spectator was relieved when the final whistle signalled the start of the drive home.




Holman Sports Club v Perranwell

2.30pm  9 February 2013

Cornwall Combination
Holman Sports Club 1 Perranwell 4 (att 21)

This game wasn't my first choice as I drove towards Cornwall, but was I found out the South West Peninsula League game at St Dennis was off waterlogged I headed deeper into the county to the Camborne and Redruth area, where I had several options to choose from.

I chose Holman's Cornwall Combination game partly because the club's helpful secretary confirmed the match was definitely on, but also as the club are bottom of the league, and so could be relegated out of senior football.

On the evidence of this defeat, it'll be a tall order for them to avoid relegation. Although Holman took a surprise first half lead, Perranwell were level before half time, and two early second half goals put them in a deserved healthy lead. A late fourth goal was a fair reflection on the action, although Holman's effort and endeavour couldn't be faulted.

The ground, Blaythornes in Camborne, is basic. From the changing rooms two pitches run widthways, separated by a cricket square. Holman use the furthest pitch, which was roped off along the near touchline and had a pair of very small dugouts, with the club name painted on, on the far side.

One surprise was that the club produce programmes. A basic four page effort but very welcome and given away free with the £2 admission charge.






Wetherby Athletic v Whitkirk Wanderers

2.30pm  2 February 2013

West Yorkshire League, Premier Division
Wetherby Athletic 5 Whitkirk Wanderers 2 (att 40)

I was expecting a closer game, but Whitkirk were fortunate to leave The Ings, Wetherby's ground, with defeat by a margin of just three goals.

The home side were 3-1 ahead by half time, and added a fourth soon after, but having been clinical in front of goal up to that point they then managed to spurn chances that would have put then out of sight.

A 4-1 lead was still comfortable, but that was reduced to 4-2 when Wetherby's keeper punched a corner into his own net to give Whitkirk hope. It was a shortlived hope though, as Wetherby eventually converted another chance for the game's final goal.

The Ings is home to football and rugby in Wetherby, with plenty of pitches including main railed ones for both sports. The clubhouse, separated from the pitches by a large car park, is well equipped, but as a football venue the ground is rather sparse.

 



Bolton Wanderers U18 v Everton U18

11am 2 February 2013

Under 18 Premier League, Elite Group
Bolton Wanderers U18 1 Everton U18 2 (att 72)

Often, academy games at this level feature plenty of neat and tidy football, but by teams who lack the flair or cutting edge to produce a memorable match.

But this game, at Bolton's Eddie Davies Academy, was more competitive than the norm and provided an entertaining morning's football.

Bolton went ahead, slightly against the run of play after a cagey opening, but Everton levelled before half time. In the second half there were chances at both ends. Bolton came closest, hitting the inside of a post, but Everton had the upper hand, and with a draw looking likely they scored a late winner.

Bolton's academy is fairly new, and within sight of the Reebok Stadium. It's built on what was once British Aerospace's Lostock sports ground, and while the pitch where I once saw British Aerospace Lostock play a Manchester League game now has a track across the middle, the long-redundant dugouts are still in place.

Spectators appear to be welcome to Bolton's under 18 games, although like most academy venues viewing the action is restricted, to about a third of one side and behind one goal.