FC L'Escala v FC Vilamalla

5pm  29 September 2013

Spain, Segona Catalana, Group 1
FC L'Escala 3 FC Vilamalla 0 (att 164)

We were staying in L'Escala, and with the ground being less than 10 minutes walk from our base this Sunday afternoon kick off was perfectly timed ahead of our evening flight home from Girona.

This was another game in the same league as the previous day's encounter at Calonge, but while entertaining enough it never hit the heights of that match.

The first half didn't hit any heights at all. Vilamalla had the better of it but they looked like two poor sides, with barely a shot on target for the 45 minutes.

I had a feeling the visitors might sneak a win, but L'Escala started the second half like a different team. They scored all three goals in the first 10 minutes of the half, all from corners and scored by three different players.

After that bright spot the game returned to the mundane, but the experience of watching football in a foreign country is rarely boring and this was no exception.

L'Escala's ground, a mile or south of the town centre, featured two full-size pitches. The main one, used for this game and presumably all first team matches, is grass and has a large seated stand on side and some shallow terracing opposite. The second pitch has a new looking artificial surface, and is enclosed with dugouts.

Thankfully a torrential downpour shortly before kick off had eased considerably by the time the game kicked off. Less fortunately, the rain returned just in time for my walk back towards L'Escala town centre.






UE Calonge v UE Quart

4pm  28 September 2013

Spain, Segona Catalana, Group 1
UE Calonge 3 UE Quart 2 (att 163)

A very entertaining game in Calonge, the first of two matches I was to see during a short break in Catalonia.

The second level of Catalan football is also the sixth level of Spanish football, but having a more sensible pyramid structure than in England ensures teams at this level have plenty of local derbies in front of enthusiastic supporters.

There was plenty to enthuse over at the Camp Municipal d'Esports in Calonge. The sides shared four goals in the first half, with the home side twice going ahead before each time swiftly conceding equalisers.

Calonge went back in front for a third time in the opening minute of the second half. If the game had followed form it would soon have been level again, but instead the pattern of the game was altered just two minutes later when Calonge had a player red carded for a dangerous challenge.

The home side concentrated on defending their lead while Quart tried to break down the defence, with the game played almost entirely inside Calonge's half.

Quart should have scored when they were awarded a penalty for handball. Had they done so they would surely have gone onto the win the game, but instead it was saved, and the keeper's efforts seemed to spur his side to even greater effort and they held out to win.

The referee had a busy afternoon. As well as the dismissal, he produced 12 yellow cards, seven for the home side and five for the visitors.

All in all it was great entertainment for a ridiculously cheap admission price of just 2eu.

Calonge's ground has a 3G pitch surrounded by a wooden fence. The main feature for spectators is a large terrace on one side. The central section has plastic seats, most of which are covered by a high roof.







Clydebank v Pollok at Maryhill FC

2pm  22 September 2013

SJFA West Region, Sectional League Cup Final at Maryhill FC
Clydebank 2 Pollok 0 (att 881)

A memorable afternoon for Clydebank fans, but not an especially memorable game for the neutral, although I was glad of a chance to visit Maryhill's Lochburn Park ground for a game on a Sunday.

Although convenient geographically, and with a decent social club, it's not the best venue for a cup final expected to attract a large crowd. The ground is quirky and interesting, but accommodating more than a few hundreds fans is a bit of a squeeze, and supporters in search of a decent view occupied some terracing, and open seating behind one goal, that looked neglected and are usually out of bounds.

The official attendance as apparently 881, although several hundred more looked to be inside Lochburn Park, with very few gaps in either the main stand, or along the uncovered standing areas around the rest of the stadium.

On the pitch it wasn't a great spectacle. The first half was scrappy, with neither side creating more than the occasional half chance. Pollok had shaded the first half, but the second half belonged to Clydebank.

They took the lead with a well worked goal after about 70 minutes, and made sure of the trophy with a second in stoppage time.






Long Wittenham Athletic Club v Crowmarsh Gifford

5pm  21 September 2013

North Berkshire League, Division One
Long Wittenham Athletic Club 4 Crowmarsh Gifford 0 (att 193)

The third of three matches in one day can often feel like a bit of a struggle, but the combination of a lively game, nice weather and a decent village ground, and some good company, meant the 90 minutes flew by.

It probably didn't feel like that for Crowmarsh Gifford though. Although they were second best, the 4-0 scoreline was harsh, and they played their part in a good match. Long Wittenham scored twice in each half to earn the points.

Once again it was a roped off pitch, and one that's unlikely to be roped off for a normal game. As well as the obligatory hot and cold food on offer at the ground, the Long Wittenham clubhouse was well worth a visit; I'm no real ale aficionado, but my pre-match pint of IPA left me wishing I wasn't driving home, so I could have enjoyed another.






Berinsfield v Faringdon Town

2pm  21 September 2013

North Berkshire League, Division One
Berinsfield 4 Faringdon Town 0 (att 251)

From RAF Benson it was a short drive to Lay Avenue, where there's a public park which doubles as Berinsfield's home ground.

Once again the club were very well organised to cope well with a crowd far larger than they'd normally get on a Saturday afternoon. The pitch was roped off, and grass banking along one side gave a good vantage point.

The step up in standard from the morning's third division game was clear, and Berinsfield played some good football, scoring twice in each half on their way to a comfortable win.






Benson Lions v Westminster

11am  21 September 2013

North Berkshire League, Division Three
Benson Lions 1 Westminster 4 (att 153)

The first game of this year's North Berkshire League "hop" was a third division game at one of the league's more unusual venues ... a Royal Air Force Base.

Benson Lions' players are servicemen, and getting into their home ground involved a visit to the RAF Benson guardhouse with photo ID to collect the required pass. The pitch is in the residential area of the base, and was taped off on three sides.

The tape, along with the marquee providing shelter from the elements (thankfully not required on a cloudy but dry morning), and tents from where refreshments and souvenirs were offered, wouldn't be in place for a normal league game, but showed how well the club catered for the influx of groundhoppers.

The ground's one feature which did look permanent was a pavilion, housing the changing rooms, near the entrance.

On the pitch it was a very comfortable win for Oxford-based Westminster. They scored twice in each half before Benson pulled a late goal back. The goal spurred Benson Lions to a good finish, but despite creating chances they couldn't score a second.








Manchester United U21 v Bolton Wanderers U21

7pm  16 September 2013

Under 21 Premier League
Manchester United U21 4 Bolton Wanderers U21 1 (att 1,000)

Ultimately a convincing win for Manchester United, although they had to come from a goal down after a sluggish start.

The game was fairly dull for the first 30 minutes or so, but it livened up when Bolton scored the night's opening goal, having earlier had a rather poorly taken penalty saved.

United levelled in first half stoppage time, but they were much the better side after the break and dominated the second half, scoring three goals in the process.

The Under 21 Premier League is the nearest thing to a reserve league at this level these days, and clubs are permitted to field a number of over age players. As preparation for first team football it must leave a lot to be desired, played at a pedestrian pace and with next to no atmosphere Even the goals were barely celebrated.

The main motivation for me was the venue, as Manchester United are playing most of this season's under 21 games at Salford City Stadium, the city's relatively new rugby ground. It's a predictably bland arena, close to the M60 motorway and built on land which once housed a couple of Manchester League venues (Mitchell Shackleton and Willows, the rugby ground overlaps neither).

Only the main West Stand was open tonight, and the crowd, difficult to estimate but no more than 1,000, was less than I'd expected, especially as admission was a bargain at just £3, and free for season ticket holders.





Caister v Norwich CEYMS

2.30pm  14 September 2013

Anglian Combination
Caister 1 Norwich CEYMS 3 (att 43)

Final game of my mini Norfolk "hop", and a trip to the coast to see two sides who were promoted to the Anglian Combination's top division last season.

Caister are already finding the higher level a struggle, although they played well for long periods of this game and were a bit unlucky to lose.

The first half was dominated by the visitors, whose name is an acronym for Church of England Young Men's Society. They scored the half's only goal, which looked offside to me, but in truth Caister were a little fortunate to be just one goal behind.

In the second half Caister were much better, and put CEYMS under a lot of pressure before conceding a second against the run of play. An own goal gave Caister a deserved lifeline, but as they pushed forward looking likely to equalise they were caught on the break and let in a third.

Caister's ground is a basic recreation ground, with two pitches separated by a cricket square and next to a modern pavilion, which housed a snack bar. The main pitch was roped off, except the far side where, officially at least, spectators aren't permitted. Dugouts and a few advertising boards turn it into a football ground. The club's third team were at home on the adjacent pitch.