Ialoveni v Anina

3pm  22 October 2016

Moldova, Divizia B Seria Sud
Ialoveni 1 Anina 0 (att 38)

Most weekends Moldovan top division games are spread over a Saturday and a Sunday, but I managed to pick a weekend when all the games where on the Friday. Saturday's fixture list was limited to the third level, Divizia B, which is divided in north and south divisions.

Surprisingly there didn't seem to be any Chisinau-based teams at home, so I took a hair-raising taxi ride to the village Milestii Mici, better known for wine-making than for Moldovan third division football.

Ialoveni is actually a larger town a few miles away. If Wikipedia is to be believed, a team called Viisoara Milestii Mici changed its name to Ialoveni in 2013. If they were hoping to widen their support base they still have work to do, as I counted just 38 people watching this match, despite the lack of any admission charge.

It'd be a challenge to take a gate though, as the ground was little more than a pitch by the side of the main road into the village. Grass banking on the road side gives a decent view, but there's no facilities for spectators.

There is the shell of an unfinished building that I think was intended to provide pitchside changing rooms, but I gather the money ran out and so work on it stopped. Instead players and officials change in the village and walk down to the pitch.

A few flag poles, an unused scoreboard bearing the club's former name, an old wagon that serves as storage container, and some roofless and uncomfortable-looking dugouts complete the ground.

On the pitch the standard wasn't great, probably comparable with third tier football in Wales, but it was an entertaining game and I quite enjoyed it. There wasn't much between the sides, but Ialoveni deserved the win thanks to a solitary first half goal.








Zimbru Chisinau v Dacia Chisinau

7pm  21 October 2016

Moldova, Divizia Nationala
Zimbru Chisinau 0 Dacia Chisinau 1 (att 1,650)

It's been a while since I was last able to tick one of the 55 UEFA nations, so I was pleased to reduce the tally still needed to 14 by spending a few days in the former Soviet republic of Moldova.

The capital, Chisinau, tends not to feature in lists of top tourist destinations and in truth there's not a lot to see. Most of the city was rebuilt after World War Two, although judging by much of what we saw they're still not finished.

They have finished the Zimbru Stadium though. It's about three miles out of the city centre (an 8p trolleybus ride) and serves as the national football stadium as well as a home to FC Zimbru Chisinau.

I think the ground holds around 10,000, although the capacity wasn't tested for a local derby against Dacia. The stats website Soccerway gives the crowd as 1,650, which I assume they got from an official source somewhere, but by my estimate of the actual attendance was several hundred fewer.

Zimbru did have two sets of ultras who did their best, with drums, chanting and flares, to create some atmosphere. They were in separate corners of the stadium, as apparently they don't get on and fights aren't unknown.

Dacia's followers, including their own drum-wielding ultras, didn't enter the stadium until the 20th minute. Whether it was police orders, or some sort of protest, I have no idea. They didn't miss much, and where at least inside to see their team score the game's only goal, in the first minute of the second half.

It wasn't the greatest of games, but the better side won. Having gone behind Zimbru never really looked capable of getting back level.











Leicester Celtic v Pegasus St James' Athletic

2.30pm  16 October 2016

Leinster Senior League, Senior Division 1B
Leicester Celtic 2 Pegasus St James' Athletic 3 (att 25)

While I had a reasonable choice of morning games in the Leinster Senior League, the afternoon's fixtures were few and far between. This game, in the league's fourth level, was the highest I could find for a new ground to visit.

Leicester Celtic are based at Loreto Park. The main pitch is one of two used for football, and was fully roped off. Although it is essentially just a public park, the football club has its own clubhouse and a small car park nearby.

The club has no links to the East Midlands, but takes its name from Leicester Avenue in Dublin, a street local to where it was founded.

Neither team has made great starts to the season, but Pegasus started this game well, going ahead in the first minute or so. Leicester Celtic soon levelled but fell behind again, to a great goal, before half time.

There was no more scoring until late in the game, when Pegasus scored a third before another Leicester Celtic goal set up an exciting finish, although the visitors held out to win.








Glenville v Arklow Town

11am  16 October 2016

Leinster Senior League, Senior Division
Glenville 2 Arklow Town 2 (att 30)

Although more and more teams seems to play on Friday nights there's still a reasonable choice of games in and around Dublin on a Sunday, especially in the 11 o'clock slot.

Glenville's fixture caught my eye mainly because it was only short drive from my hotel, and at a reasonable level in the league's second tier, rather than any expectations of a great ground.

The address was given as Palmerstown School, and as you might expect it's little more than a pitch, roped off along one touchline, in the school grounds. A grass bank along the near side gives a slightly elevated view.

It was a decent game though, with two well-matched sides coping well with a strong wind. Arklow led 2-1 at half time and looked like gaining all three points, but they were undone by a very late equaliser by the home side.








Cabinteely v Limerick

7.45pm  15 October 2016

League of Ireland, Division One
Cabinteely 0 Limerick 1 (att 387)

Looking on from across the Irish Sea I was surprised when south Dublin side Cabinteely FC were added to the League of Ireland's second tier. Dublin isn't short of league clubs, and several have disappeared in recent years.

But Cabinteely at least finished their second season one place off the bottom, despite losing their final league game at home to runaway champions Limerick. With better finishing Cabinteely might have won the game, but the visitors netted the only goal of a low-key match after 65 minutes.

Cabinteely's League of Ireland games are played at Blackrock College rugby ground. It's fairly basic for a national league venue, with no cover or seats for spectators (unless you bag one of the window tables in the bar behind the goal).

There's a few steps of open terracing running along one side of the pitch, but other than the clubhouse behind one goal the rest of the ground consists of the flat standing areas.








Dollingstown v Valley Rangers

2.15pm  15 October 2016

Mid Ulster League, Intermediate A Division
Dollingstown 1 Valley Rangers 3 (att 35)

I missed out on visiting Dollingstown during their brief stint as an Irish League club, which ended when they were relegated last season, but made amends as I saw my first game in the Mid Ulster League.

Prior to this fixture Dollingstown looked well on track for an immediate return to the higher level, but they lost their 100% record against a determined Valley Rangers.

The visitors struck twice in the first half, but I felt they might be vulnerable if Dollingstown got a goal back. My theory was tested early in the second half, and was almost immediately debunked when Valley quickly responded with a third goal.

Dollingstown is a small village just outside Lurgan. The football club are based at Planters Park, a rural venue well out of the village and easy to miss if travelling by car.

The ground is neat, tidy and dominated by a seated stand that runs most of the length of one side. The pitch is fully enclosed by fencing adorned with advertising boards, and at one end a series of portable buildings serve as changing rooms, toilets and a clubhouse.









Sporting Ballymoney v St Comgalls

10.15am  15 October 2016

Ballymena Saturday Morning League, Division Two
Sporting Ballymoney 1 St Comgalls 2 (att 6)

An early flight into Belfast International Airport gave me time for decent breakfast in Ballymena before a game in the local Saturday morning league.

Despite its title, the three division competition covers quite a wide area, with teams from Antrim, Larne and, the location for my chosen game, Ballymoney.

Sporting Ballymoney joined the league as Bayern Money FC, before switching to a name a little more professional sounding. They're based at the Joey Dunlop Sports Centre, a venue whose centrepiece is the Riada Stadium, where I've previously seen Irish League football.

Thankfully, as I was banking on a new ground to visit, Sporting Ballymoney play on one of several pitches behind the stadium. They're enclosed by wooden fencing, and each pitch has a pair of dugouts.

For me the Ballymena Saturday Morning League is primarily a way of passing the time before seeing higher levels of football later in the day, but this was a very entertaining game between two decent sides.

There wasn't much between the teams, but St Comgalls just about shaded it and deserved the win, with all three goals scored in the first half. The second period may have lacked goals but it wasn't short on incident, the visitors picking up two red cards against the home side's one.










Leigh Athletic v Hollinwood

2pm  8 October 2016

Manchester League, Division One
Leigh Athletic 1 Hollinwood 3 (att 9)

I needed to find a local game so a visit to Leigh Athletic's new home was ideal, allowing me to recomplete the Manchester League in the process.

I don't know why they've moved from their home town, but they're now based a few miles away at Culcheth High School, a modern facility that seems to double as a sports centre when there's no lessons taking place.

As a football venue it's basic. The main pitch is bordered on one side and behind one goal by fencing, behind the far goal by a wooden rail separating it from a footpath, and one touchline opens out onto the wider playing field.

There's no rope to enclose the pitch, nor anywhere for substitutes and coaches to shelter. Refreshments for spectators are from vending machines inside the school buildings.

The match was mostly scrappy, and didn't really come to life until just before half time. Hollinwood went ahead thanks to 44th minute penalty, scored by their keeper, then moments later slack defending allowed them to double their lead.

Leigh pulled a goal back in the second half and threatened to level, but were caught on the break before the end and conceded a third.