South Ronaldsay v St Andrews

7pm  19 July 2016

Orkney League, B League
South Ronaldsay 0 St Andrews 2 (att 15)

South Ronaldsay is the most southerly of the main islands in the Orkney archipelago, although a series of causeways mean there's no need for ferries to get to and from Kirkwall, the islands' 'capital'.

The main town in South Ronaldsay, more of a village really, is St Margaret's Hope. A playing field next to the local primary school is the picturesque home of the football club, who went into this match battling for promotion to the A League.

Their defeat, at the hands of fellow challengers St Andrews, will be a serious blow to those hopes. The visitors deserved the win, scoring a goal in each half and looking the better side throughout.

It may have been a top of the table clash, but it was a low-key evening. At kick off I was one of just two spectators, although more arrived once the game was underway, many choosing to watch from inside their vehicles.

Most football grounds in Orkney are fairly basic, and South Ronaldsay has no facilities other than some grass banking around part of the pitch. It does give a good view, both of the action and the surrounding scenery, and is also a handy pitchside car park for those watching through a windscreen,

After this game I managed one more match while in Orkney, but as that was a revisit to ground I'd been to previously I didn't bother taking photos or preparing a blog post. For the record, I watched an Orkney AFA team, warming up for their annual showdown with Shetland, lose 2-0 to a Wick Academy team preparing for the Highland League, in a friendly at the Pickaquoy Centre in Kirkwall.










West Mainland v East Mainland at Stromness Athletic FC

7pm  18 July 2016

Orkney, Brown Cup at Stromness Athletic FC
West Mainland 1 East Mainland 2 (att 150)

A holiday in Orkney gave me the chance to watch some football, as the islands' league and cup competitions are played during the summer months.

I'd ticked off around half of Orkney's football venues during a previous trip, and some frustrating fixture late changes meant options this time were limited. The Brown Cup was a bonus, I only found out about it when I read the local newspaper, The Orcadian, on the ferry from Caithness.

It's an annual match played between players from the two halves of Orkney, and is part of the yearly Stromness Shopping Week gala. The game is staged at Market Green, home of Orkney League side Stromness Athletic.

As Stromness is in the west of the island, East Mainland must be the only football team to play every match away from home (West only play at home, a distinction they share with some prison-based teams).

Ahead of kick off I wasn't sure how competitive the game would be, but I needn't have worried. Once the Stromness Shopping Week Queen, and her assistants, had been introduced to the players, the game kicked off and was good to watch.

West looked the better side early on, but could only convert one of their chances by half time. East were better after the break, and two goals early in the second half proved decisive.

East won the cup, presented by the Shopping Week Queen, whose glamorous outfit wasn't well-suited to the went and windy evening. I'd braved the Orkney summer weather - in a waterproof jacket and armed with a sturdy umbrella - but many of the spectators, sensibly, watched the action from the comfort of their cars parked around the pitch.











Deans Sports v Egerton Arms

11am  10 July 2016

Eccles Sunday League, Division Three
Deans Sports 1 Egerton Arms 4 (att 7)

More Sunday morning entertainment courtesy of the Eccles Sunday League, this time my first dip into the competition's lowest division.

The standard of play was a noticeable step down from what I'd seen previously, but it was still an enjoyable 90 minutes as Egerton Arms recorded a comprehensive victory.

It was a curious game, as Deans had more of the play and created plenty of chances. But, while the home side failed to take their opportunities, Egerton were efficient in front of goal.

They scored twice in each half to set up a commanding lead, although Deans briefly threatened a comeback when they netted a 72nd minute penalty to reduce the margin.

Deans Sports are part of the long-established Deans Youth and Ladies Football Club, which runs lots of teams a junior level. Their home is Ellesmere Park Playing Fields in Eccles, a large playing field which doubles as a school sports ground, although the club has its own changing rooms and car park.









Maltby Main v Wickersley at Sheffield Hallam University

3pm  9 July 2016

Pre-season Friendly at Sheffield Hallam University
Maltby Main 2 Wickersley 1 (att 32)

After the morning's match in West Yorkshire I headed to South Yorkshire where Northern Counties East League Maltby Main where hosting county league Wickersley at the Sheffield Hallam University Sports Park.

I'd seen the university's own team here back in 2007, when they played Glasgow University on a Wednesday afternoon. Back then it was a basic sports ground rather than a 'sports park'. The transformation since then is impressive, and the football pitch used that day is now Sheffield Eagles Rugby League ground.

There's a floodlit grass football pitch, that I thought this game might be played on, but instead it was on 'synthetic pitch one', which is dedicated to football and alongside 'synthentic pitch two' which is used for rugby.

Two 45-minutes halves in this game, and the surprise was that it took Maltby until the final minute of the first half to go in front, as they looked much the stronger team.

With an hour gone Maltby made eight changes, the new players wearing a different kit to the starting eleven (the three who stayed on changed their shirts to match). Two minutes later the new-look Maltby doubled their lead, although a Wickersley penalty reduced the deficit and set up a close finish.

Maltby held on to win, although Wickersley might have deserved a draw for their efforts, especially in the second half.








Sheffield Hallam University Sports Park isn't on Google Maps yet, but here's a link to the pitch location

Ilkley Town v Knaresborough Town at University Academy Keighley

11am  9 July 2016

Pre-season Friendly at University Academy Keighley
Ilkley Town 2 Knaresborough Town 3 (att 18)

I rarely make a huge effort just to watch pre-season friendlies, generally sticking to local games that give me chance to visit one-off venues.

Ilkley and Knaresborough's warm-up caught my eye partly due to its morning kick-off, giving an opportunity for a second game, and also as it was being held at Keighley's University Academy, which sounds very grand but is essentially just a secondary school.

It's a well-equipped secondary school though, certainly when it comes to sport. I'd expected the all-weather football pitch to be in a typical high-fenced 'cage', but instead it was inside an athletics track, and bordered by a chest-high fence.

The match was played over three 30-minute thirds, rather than the usual 45-minute halves. Not ideal from my point of view, but either way it adds up to 90 minutes of football, and it was just a training match.

Knaresborough, who play at a higher level than Ilkley, took a second minute lead. Ilkley hit back to level well before the end of the first 'third'. Then the goals dried up until the final 10 minutes, Ilkley took the lead but Knaresborough netted twice in the last five minutes to scrape a win.








Springfields v Ribchester Rovers reserves

7.15pm  5 July 2016

Catforth and District Summer League, Division Two
Springfields 2 Ribchester Rovers reserves 4 (att 10)

A groundhopping quirk meant this was my second visit to Ashton Community Science College in a month. Last time I saw a Catforth League game on grass, this time it was on the enclosed and floodlit artificial pitch.

In truth it wasn't the greatest of games, on a surprisingly chilly evening in Preston. Ribchester were the better side, and won thanks to two goals in each half. Both second half goals were penalties, the foul which led to the latter one resulting in a red card for the home keeper.

For their part Springfields scored early in the second half, reducing the deficit to 2-1, and again with a well-taken free kick in the last minute, by which time they were well beaten.

Caged 3G pitches are rarely interesting to visit, even less so just a few weeks after watching a game on the adjacent grass surface, but it's good to see some competitive football at this time of year, and it recompleted the Catforth League for another summer.







FCC Stars v Del La Salle Reds

10.30am  3 July 2016

Eccles Sunday League, Margaret Piggott Memorial Cup, Second Round
FCC Stars 4 De La Salle Reds 3 (att 25)

It's been two weeks since my last game, and in that time the calendar has moved from June into July and my football season has passed from 2015/16 to 2016/17.

Not that any of that matters to the Eccles Sunday League, a three division competition that began its summer season in April. The first match of my new season was in the same round of the same cup as my final game of 2015/16.

The cup tie was between a pair of top division sides, and it was a decent game that came to life during the second half.

The first half was tight, before FCC Stars edged ahead two minutes before the break. They conceded an own goal to allow De La Salle to level just into the second half, but then took control, racing into a 4-1 with half-an-hour left.

They couldn't score a fifth though, and two goals in the final 10 minutes left the home side hanging on at the end, in a cup tie they'd looked to have won comfortably.

FCC play home games on an enclosed artificial pitch in Ordsall Park, close to Salford Quays and not far from Old Trafford. It's one of the better 3G venues, with a barriered area for spectators along the near touchline.

The crowd was higher than for other Eccles Sunday League games I've been to, but was boosted by players arriving early for a second cup tie, featuring ground sharers Ordsall Park and another De La Salle side, that was due to begin straight after the final whistle.