Fife Rangers v Cronton Villa

6.30pm  30 April 2013

Warrington and District League, Premier Division
Fife Rangers 4 Cronton Villa 2 (att 11)

Last year Fife Rangers won promotion to the Warrington League's top division, but it's been a tough debut season at the higher level.

Even with this win they're destined to remain bottom, but having drawn at the weekend half of their season's haul of eight points have been earned in the last four days.

In this game they established a two goal lead in the first 30 minutes, but when Cronton pulled one back before half time, and equalised soon into the second half, another defeat for Fife looked likely.

But, just as it seemed a matter of time before Cronton went ahead, Fife stepped up a gear and edged back in front. A fourth goal, 10 minutes from time, gave the home side an unassailable lead, despite Cronton's best efforts.

According to their website, Fife Rangers take their name from the street in Warrington - Fife Road - where they were founded, rather than any link to Scotland. They play in the Fearnhead area of Warrington, where a portable building provides changing rooms adjacent to the roped off pitch.





Connah's Quay Tigers v Caerwys

6.30pm  29 April 2013

Clwyd East League
Connah's Quay Tigers 2 Caerwys 3 (att 6)

My second Clwyd East League in recent days and, like last week's visit to Shotton Steel, it was an entertaining evening despite a very basic venue and little at stake on the pitch.

Some end of season matches can be very dull affairs, but both these teams were going all out to finish their seasons on a high. The visitors superiority in front of goal gave them a 2-0 first half lead. In the second period Connah's Quay Tigers pulled a goal back, but within a minute they'd let in a third.

The hosts missed a penalty before they eventually scored a second goal, but they were unable to get what would have been a deserved equaliser.

Venues in the Clwyd East League tend to be basic, and Tigers' home is no exception, being an unroped pitch on playing fields at the rear of Connah's Quay High School.




New Quay v Llanboidy

2.30pm  27 April 2013

Ceredigion League, Division One
New Quay 4 Llanboidy 0 (att 40)

Looking for a nice day out in our new car, a scenic drive through Wales towards the coast fitted the bill perfectly, with the added bonus of an important match for Ceredigion League title challengers New Quay.

The club are in a three way battle at the top of the league with St Dogmaels and Lampeter Town, and so while a win against strugglers Llanboidy was expected, it was also vital.

The 4-0 scoreline looks comfortable enough, but it doesn't tell the full story of New Quay's rather laboured win. Although they dominated possession they made hard work of beating a spirited Llanboidy side.

The first goal was a great strike in the 30th minute, just when I'd been thinking that New Quay really didn't look likely to make the breakthrough.

Any thoughts that the opening goal would herald an easy home win were mistaken, at least until late in the game. At just 1-0 down Llanboidy wasted several excellent second half chances to equalise.

The visitors eventually ran out of steam though, and New Quay's flattering winning margin was thanks to three goals in the final 10 minutes, two of them scored direct from corners.

New Quay's Parc Arthur ground is a gem, much like the town itself. The pitch, which looks on the smallish side, is fully enclosed, with some steep grass banking for those wanting an elevated view, and some cover in front of the attractive changing rooms and clubhouse buildings.







Shotton Steel v Sychdyn

6.30pm  25 April 2013

Clwyd East League
Shotton Steel 5 Sychdyn 0 (att 4)

A visit to Shotton Steel is about as basic as football gets. It may be the fifth level of Welsh football, but in this part of Wales at least there's no lower league for Saturday teams, and it would be difficult to find a more basic ground that Dee Park.

The players change at the Corus Sports Club off Rowleys Lane, which is where I parked my car. From the car park the hike to the pitch took several minutes, and even included a short stroll along part of the eastbound platform of Shotton railway station.

After the effort of finding the unroped pitch (it'd be easier to park in Bridge Street and cross the footbridge over the railway line to the pitch) the game wasn't bad. Shotton Steel scored early, but didn't increase their lead until the second half when Sychdyn wilted under the pressure.

It may have been one sided, and played in front of a tiny "crowd", but it was entertaining enough, and some of Shotton's football was pretty good.





Hunslet Club v Old Headingley

6.15pm  24 April 2013

West Yorkshire League, Division One
Hunslet Club 1 Old Headingley 1 (att 66)

The result was a blow, but not a fatal one, to Hunslet's hopes of overhauling Shelley at the top of the West Yorkshire League's second tier. The leaders have completed their fixtures, while Hunslet have five more matches to bridge a 10 point gap.

Shelley will have had no cause to complain about Old Headingley's commitment in this game. They matched their hosts throughout and fully deserved their point after an entertaining 90 minutes.

The first half was goalless, with Hunslet missing the game's best chances. They went ahead thanks to a penalty early in the second half, but if they thought that was job done they were mistaken. A fine piece of skill by an Old Headingley sub brought a save by Hunslet's keeper, but in the ensuing scramble the visitors scored.

Hunslet Club share a sports field with Hunslet Warriors Amateur Rugby League Club, although each has their own entrance, clubhouse and car park. The football pitch is mostly railed off, with the far end being open.





Widnes Parklands v Burtonwood Albion

6.15pm  23 April 2013

Warrington & District League, Division One
Widnes Parklands 1 Burtonwood Albion 0 (att 84)

Not my intended destination, but for the second time in three weeks Connahs Quay Town's inability to muster 11 players for a Welsh Alliance away game left me heading instead for "plan B".

Tonight's alternative was probably a better game than Greenfield v Connahs Quay anyway, being in effect a title decider in the Warrington and District League's second tier.

Parklands headed the table going into the match and knew that victory, in what was their final league game, would given them an unassailable lead. But any other result would allow second place Burtonwood to overtake them in their final matches.

Not surprisingly the game was tight. Both teams defended well, but chances were created at both ends thanks to some good quality football. Burtonwood created most of the opportunities, but when clear chances came they failed to take them.

At the other end the visitors' keeper made some good saves, and one brilliant save, to deny Parklands when they threatened.

The game's only goal, after 65 minutes, was surprisingly simple. A long ball caught out the Burtonwood defence, and a fine finish sent the ball over the advancing keeper, and across the line despite a chasing defender's effort to keep it out.

The result was harsh on Burtonwood, who on the balance of play deserved a least a draw which would have kept their title hopes alive. The one bright sport for their evening was that third place Halebank were held to a draw, and so Burtonwood are guaranteed runners-up spot.

Parklands is, on tonight's evidence, a busy sports and social club. The football pitch was roped off along the clubhouse side touchline, while the centre section of the far touchline, where Burtonwood's fans gathered, was also roped.






New Longton Rovers v Southport Trinity reserves

6.30pm  22 April 2013

Mid Lancashire League, Division One
New Longton Rovers 2 Southport Trinity reserves 1 (att 13)


What was the Preston and District League has been rebranded as the Mid Lancashire League, to more accurately reflect the wider geographical area it now covers, and this was my first game in the newly-named league.

I've previously watched Premier Division matches in the Preston and District League, and had been impressed by the standard of football, but there was little to enthuse about in this second tier, Division One, game at New Longton Recreation Ground.

To be fair to the players, both sides are struggling in the league and they weren't helped by a hard, bumpy pitch and a stiff and cold breeze, but even for this level of football the ball spent far too much time high in the air, and control was poor.

The visitors scored the only goal of a scrappy first half. The game improved a bit in the second period, and the home side scored twice in two minutes, with about 20 minutes left, to win the game.

Cricket appears to be the main sport at New Longton Recreation Ground. From the changing rooms the players walk across a well-maintained cricket ground before reaching the football pitch. The pitch is neither roped nor railed, but there is one dugout, or perhaps it's a tiny stand for spectators.





Gainsborough Town v Skegness United

3pm  20 April 2013

Lincolnshire League
Gainsborough Town 1 Skegness United 2 (att 35)

Skegness United went into this game needing just a point to win the league, and although they got the result they needed they were made to work hard by Gainsborough Town, who ensured it wasn't an easy afternoon.

Given the importance of the match, it was a curiously dull first half. Neither side looked like scoring until a soft penalty award, in stoppage time, resulted in the visitors going ahead. But it took just two minutes of the second half for Gainsbrough to level, before an own goal gave Skegness an advantage they hung on to.

Skegness were the better side, and deserved to win, but it was a good performance from a Gainsborough Town side coming to the end of their debut season at this level.

They play at the Marshalls Sports Ground, which has a clubhouse, cricket square and several football pitches. The main pitch, some distance from the clubhouse, was enclosed by a combination of rope and tape, and has a pair of dugouts.






Bransholme Athletic v Hessle Rangers

12 noon  20 April 2013

Humber Premier League, Premier Division
Bransholme Athletic 1 Hessle Rangers 10 (att 10)

A stroll in the park for Hessle Rangers, or to be more accurate a stroll on the caged 3G pitch at Kelvin Hall School in Hull.

They scored four times in the first half, and reached double figures before Bransholme scored a goal that could scarcely be called a consolation. To be fair to the home side they kept battling throughout, and came very close to adding a second goal when they hit the frame of the goal in the closing moments.

Bransholme's ground is a typical 3G venue, with the pitch surrounded by a high fence. Spectators can stand inside the fence, although in theory they should apparently stand on just one side, where the temporary dugouts are also positioned. This was pointed out to me by a friendly referee assessor, while I was standing the "wrong" side.





Benarty v Blairhall

6.30pm  18 April 2013

Kingdom Caledonian League
Benarty 2 Blairhall 1 (att 52)

Having spent the afternoon in Scotland for work, it was handy that the Kingdom Caledonian League had a full programme of evening fixtures to choose from.

This was my first game in the Fife-based league, although a few years ago I did visit then-members Burntisland Shipyard for a Scottish FA Cup tie.

The standard was good, and although both teams struggled to maintain possession I thought it compared well with many of Scotland's junior clubs. Indeed, Benarty, based in Ballingry, had a season in the Juniors in the late 1990s, which was one of the reasons why I chose their match to watch.

The ground appears well maintained, and still wouldn't be out of place as a Junior venue. It's fully enclosed by a wooden fence, while the sloping pitch is railed off. Behind the goal is a building that houses changing rooms and a well stocked tea bar.

There was little at stake in the game itself, although Benarty have enough league games remaining to climb the table. They lead thanks to a goal in each half, although Blairhall pulled one back to ensure a tight finish.