Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale v Kelty Hearts

3pm  26 September 2015

Scottish Cup, First Round
Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale 3 Kelty Hearts 0 (att 220)

It might not capture the attention of the majority of football followers in Scotland, but Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale's comprehensive win over junior side Kelty Hearts was a pretty big cup upset.

Junior teams, particularly in the central belt, are generally among the best non-League sides in Scotland, and Kelty would have been strong favourites to see off senior opposition in the shape of last season's East of Scotland League champions.

Kelty had the backing of more than half the crowd at Saughton Enclosure, but the Fife team never really got going. They were out-fought and out-battled by a home side who seemed to have much more desire to win the tie.

Lothian had already missed one great chance to go in front when a penalty, correctly awarded in my opinion, was converted to put them in front. As a neutral, I expected Kelty to react to that setback, but just before half time the home side slotted home a second.

The junior side were better after the break, but with a decent lead to defend Lothian kept their opponents at bay and looked to hit them on the break. The third goal, after 83 minutes, settled the tie, and with better finishing the final score might have been higher.

Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale - a convoluted name following the merger of two clubs a few years ago - play on a grass pitch enclosed by a running track at the Saughton Sports Complex. There's no stands, and spectators make do with shallow grass banking for an elevated, if distant, view of the action.










Tollcross Thistle v West Edinburgh United

1pm  26 September 2015

Lothian and Edinburgh AFA, Logan Cup, Second Round
Tollcross Thistle 5 West Edinburgh United 0 (att 20)

Chief attraction of this fixture was the 1pm kick off time, coupled with its very close proximity to the 3pm start of a Scottish Cup tie next door.

Being able to see both games, in their entirety, depended on this tie being settled in 90 minutes, without the need for extra time. I thought it'd be a safe bet, as premier division Tollcross play three levels higher than the visitors.

The home side dominated possession throughout, but after going ahead in the 18th minute they proceeded to make the act of goal scoring look painfully difficult. West Edinburgh threatened occasionally, and I had visions of an unlikely equaliser and an extra half-hour to settle things.

It took until the 63rd minute for Tollcross to double their lead, when a speculative shot was spilled by the visiting keeper. Goal number three came two minutes later, and two late goals completed the scoring.

Had Tollcross been able to match the quality of their passing and possession when they got near the West Edinburgh goal the scoreline would have been more emphatic.

I'd previously seen Tollcross play a Friday night match on a 3G pitch elsewhere in Edinburgh, but their regular home is the 3G pitch at the Saughton Sports Complex. Four Lothian and Edinburgh AFA teams play here so, like on this occasion, it often stages two games on a Saturday, at 1pm and 3pm.

I could have stayed for the 3pm kick off on the 3G, but instead went next door for a Scottish Cup tie on Saughton's enclosed grass pitch.







Bedford Modern School v Hampton School

2.30pm  24 September 2015

Independent Schools FA Cup, First Round
Bedford Modern School 1 Hampton School 2 (att 20)

Another Independent Schools Cup match, this time in Bedford, was an ideal stopping off point on my journey from London back home to Manchester.

This was the best game I've seen in this enjoyable competition so far. Hampton were beaten finalists last season, and were given a tough test by Bedford Modern before claiming their place in round two.

The visitors went ahead after about 15 minutes, but Bedford fought back to make it 1-1 by half time. Hampton had the better of the second half, and they deserved their winner.

Bedford Modern School has a large and well-maintained sports field just across the main road from the school itself.

Judging by the layout of pitches, rugby is the main sport, this term at least. The game was played on a pitch that also had rugby markings, as well as a scoreboard, presumably of more use for rugby than football. I liked the venue though, and it was nice to get a programme, the first I've had at an Independent School Cup match.










Academic Club London v Glebe

7.45pm  23 September 2015

Kent Invicta league
Academic Club London 1 Glebe 2 (att 125)

AC London are a strange outfit. They've come from nowhere to claim a place at "step six" in the Kent Invicta League, and have chosen the huge bowl of the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre as their home ground.

Even with a three figure crowd, likely to be a one-off high given the number of groundhoppers in attendance, it's a weird experience watching a low-level game in such surroundings. An eight lane running track, a pair of long jump tracks and the curve of the stand all mean the on-field action is very distant.

Not that there was much action to watch in a dull and goalless first half. Thankfully the game came to life in the second half, AC London took a lead with sparked Glebe into upping their game.

The visitors left their comeback late, levelling with about five minutes to go, then snatching a stoppage time winner.

We were still in stoppage time, with a player receiving treatment for an injury, when the floodlights went out. Only three pylons had been on throughout the match anyway, and after deliberating for a minute or so the referee wisely blew for full time.

An odd end to an odd evening's football, but it was nice to tick off of a major stadium that had always eluded me when it had been used occasionally in the past.







Harrodian School v Brentwood School

3.10pm  23 September 2015

Independent Schools FA Cup, First Round
Harrodian School 0 Brentwood School 2 (att 20)

Harrodian School is based in Barnes, on a site that was previously the Harrods sports ground, hence the school's name.

The pitches once used by Harrods employees are now used Harrodian pupils, and the main pitch, used by the under 18 1st XI, is a great setting for a game.

I don't know much about Independent Schools FA football, but I do know that Brentwood has a good record in this competition, and I'd guess they were strong favourites to win this tie.

Their preparations won't have been helped by their late arrival in south west London. Hampered by traffic problems, Brentwood arrived about 15 minutes after the scheduled 2.30 kick off, and the game finally got underway 40 minutes late.

The visitors played the better football throughout, but Harrodian provided stubborn opposition, defending well and limiting Brentwood to few clear chances. It took until the second half for Brentwood to open the scoring, and a second goal made the game safe.








Loxwood v Littlehampton Town

7.45pm  22 September 2015

Southern Combination League, Premier Division
Loxwood 3 Littlehampton Town 2 (att 65)

What was the Sussex County League, a competition I've always enjoyed, is now the Southern Combination League, and my overdue visit to Loxwood means I've finally ticked off all the grounds in the top two divisions.

Loxwood isn't far from the Surrey border, and as little more than a village they're doing well to maintain a team at this level of football.

The ground is a rural delight, part of a what appears to be a thriving sports and social club, and an enclosed pitch fringed by trees. There's a small seated stand on one side, and a covered standing area behind the near goal towards a corner.

It was a great game too, Loxwood scoring two first half goals against the league's reigning champions, before Littlehampton pulled one back before the break. Loxwood looked to have paid a price for easing off when, early in the second half, Littlehampton scored again to level.

After that the game could have gone either way, but it was Loxwood who scored the game's decisive goal, continuing what's been a very average start for the champions.










Eton College v Truro School

2.30pm  22 September 2015

Independent Schools FA Cup, First Round
Eton College 8 Truro School 0 (att 10)

After last week's visit to Stockport Grammar, my second taste of the Independent Schools Cup was at what is probably the poshest English public school of all.

Eton College, with its many fine buildings and sports fields, dominates the small Berkshire town, which is the only place I've been to have a branch of Coutts, complete with a cash machine, as its High Street bank.

The school has various sports pitches, but 1st XI football is generally played on a pitch known as "Mespots", short for Mesopotamia, and easily accessed via a public footpath from the main road.

The pitch has as immaculate surface and was roped off along both touchlines. Changing rooms are in a small pavilion, behind the goal, a structure that's disappointingly modern and uninteresting compared to the surroundings.

On the pitch Truro were no match for the hosts. It took half-an-hour before Eton edged in front, and a second goal just before half time put them in control. The final score was harsh on Truro, as their heads dropped to allow Eton a flurry of late goals.









Infinity v Headley United

3pm  19 September 2015

Hampshire Premier League, Senior Division
Infinity 2 Headley United 1 (att 20)

After the morning's action at Hanney United I had plenty of time for a leisurely journey down to Hampshire, and the fixture that caught my eye was newly-promoted Infinity's match against Headley United.

Infinity have had a roller coaster start to life in the Hampshire Premier League's top tier. Some early games postponed, at least one due an inability to field a team, yet when they have played their results have been good.

They deserved the three points they earned against Headley, although the visitors put up a stiff fight before succumbing.

Headley scored first, after about 25 minutes, but it took the home side less then five minutes to draw level. The second half winner was a terrific goal, and Infinity held on comfortably, despite the referee adding a mostly-unnecessary 10 minutes of stoppage time.

I know very little about the background of Infinity FC, except that they've had a string of home venues in recent years, mostly nearer Southampton than their current home in the village of Knowle, just north of Fareham.

Knowle is a curious place, a village that seems to consist entirely of newly-built houses and flats. I think it's on the site of what was once a psychiatric hospital. The village hall provides changing rooms for the footballers, and a tea bar for spectators, while the adjacent pitch is roped off. On a warm and sunny afternoon it was a nice place to watch a game.