Coxhoe Athletic v Sunderland West End

2.30pm  21 October 2017

Wearside League
Coxhoe Athletic 1 Sunderland West End 8 (att 50)

Coxhoe may have been on the wrong end of a thrashing at the hands of Sunderland West End, but a visit to their Beechfield Park home epitomised why I enjoy visiting non-League football grounds so much.

It's a lovely venue, with only the lack of floodlights preventing it staging football at a higher level. The pitch, which looks well cared for, is surrounded by a collection of small stands and bits of cover, as well as one or two benches.

There's a decent snack bar for pre-match and half time refreshments, and the club and its friendly officials seem to get a good level of support from locals.

It's a ground I've wanted to visit for a while, and I was pleased when the Coxhoe Athletic name was restored to the Wearside League after a brief period when, to keep football going in Coxhoe, they took the identity of Spennymoor's reserve side.

They're still a young team though, and after taking an early lead thanks to a penalty they were comprehensively outclassed by a impressive Sunderland West End side. The visitors were soon level, and had a 4-1 advantage by half time.

Goal number five was in the opening minute of the second period, after which West End went half-an-hour without scoring, but as the hosts tired in the closing minutes three more goals were added to the tally.

An off-day for Coxhoe, but at least they've got a team of their own again, and I thoroughly enjoyed my visit despite the lopsided scoreline.

Mowbray Community Church v Relentless FC Bradford

10.30am  21 October 2017

Yorkshire Christian League, Division One
Mowbray Community Church 2 Relentless FC Bradford 1 (att 10)

I had planned to head south, but with weather forecasters warning of the impact of Storm Brian I decided north and east were better directions to avoid the possibility of postponements or, at the very least, unpleasant conditions for watching football.

First up was my first taste of the Yorkshire Christian League, having been tempted by enjoyable games in other Christian leagues which stage matches on Saturday mornings.

Ordinarily I'd have started with a top division game, but second tier Mowbray's North Yorkshire location fitted well with my plans for the afternoon, and I was intrigued by the team being based in a small rural village rather than a playing field in Leeds, Bradford or York.

A 20-year-old plaque in the changing rooms at Darley Playing Fields refers to a Darley AFC, who have presumably since folded. Their erstwhile pitch, in Nidderdale between Skipton and Harrogate, is a lovely place to watch a game.

The changing rooms are in a pitchside building that also houses the Darley village shop and Post Office, from where hot drinks and snacks are also available. In front of the shop is some decking, with picnic tables, overlooking the pitch.

On the pitch the standard of football wasn't great, but the entertainment was. Relentless went into the game bottom of the league without a win, but were desperately unlucky not to get at least point after leading at half time.

They were better side for the first 45 minutes, but surrendered their lead to a Mowbray leveller early in the second half. The visitors had chances to get back in front, but failed to take them and paid the price when Mowbray got a winner just two minutes from time.

Leith Athletic v Tynecastle at Preston Athletic FC

2.30pm  15 October 2017

East of Scotland FA, Alex Jack Cup Final at Preston Athletic FC
Leith Athletic 0 Tynecastle 3 (att 220)

Back in May I watched as these two sides contested the East of Scotland League Cup Final. On that day Tynecastle took a first half lead but were unable to withstand a second half recovery by Leith Athletic.

I thought I might be in for a repeat as Tynecastle once again went into the half time break with a one goal advantage after a lively first half. But this time Leith were unable to stage a comeback.

Whether the memory of May's defeat was a factor I don't know, but Tynecastle's desire and determination to protect their lead was greater than anything Leith could muster to get back into the game.

An own goal doubled the advantage, and a late third goal put the outcome beyond any doubt, meaning Tynecastle were able to lift the Alex Jack Cup, a competition open to the handful of East of Scotland League clubs who aren't eligible for the season's Scottish FA Cup.

As winners, Tynecastle now enter a play for a place in next season's Scottish Cup, although these days there seem to be so many ways of qualifying for the national cup I don't understand why the Scottish FA don't just open it up to anyone who wants to enter.

The venue for this year's final was the impressive Pennypit Park in Prestonpans, home to Preston Athletic FC. The ground's main feature is a good-sized seated stand (identical to the stand at the next door rugby stadium), and grass banking surrounds the rest of the pitch.

Aslockton and Orston v Linby Colliery Welfare

3pm  14 October 2017

Central Midlands League, South Division
Aslockton and Orston 2 Linby Colliery Welfare 3 (att 46)

I had completed the full set of Central Midlands League grounds last season, but Aslockton and Orston were one of three new clubs to join for 2017/18 whose grounds I'd not been to.

The club are based at Orston Recreation Ground, a very rural venue that's just outside the village of Orston. It's been used by clubs with various names in recent years, and Aslockton and Orston is a renamed version of Aslockton Cranmers who played here last season.

The new name apparently recognises the support the club has had from the village in which they're (almost) based, and I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people watching the game. The crowd also included support for Linby, a couple of whose fans who enthusiastically wielded old-fashioned rattles when their team scored.

Their side had to come from behind to win an entertaining game. Linby started the game well enough, but once they went a goal down they looked poor. They were better after the break though, and two second half goals put them ahead.

Aslockton and Orston's young side battled back and managed to level, but it was the visitors who scored a decisive late goal to claim all three points.

A lot of work has gone into turning Orston Recreation Ground into a proper football venue. There's a new clubhouse close to the railed-off pitch, which also has a pair of dugouts and a small covered area with a few chairs inside.

Brushes Rangers Spartak v Old Stretfordians

10am  14 October 2017

Manchester Saturday Morning League, Division One
Brushes Rangers Spartak 3 Old Stretfordians 1 (att 6)

Brushes Rangers Spartak really are the gift that keeps on giving  for a Manchester-based groundhopper, as they seem to find a different home ground almost every season. This time they're using a new 4G pitch at Alder Community High School, on the edge of Hyde.

Like most 3G and 4G pitches it's not an exciting venue, but the fenced-in pitch is set back from the main road, is some distance from the school buildings, and on an October morning was surrounded by trees in autumn colours, making it a nice place to watch a game.

The only annoyance - other than an earlier-than-advertised kick off which meant I missed the opening few minutes - were the overhead wires used to divide the pitch into areas for small-sided games. They seemed unusually low, and were hit by the ball several times. Surely they could be removed when the pitch is being used for 11-a-side fixtures?

That aside it was a decent game. A pair of well-taken goals, one in each half, put the home side in control of a keenly-contested fixture. Old Stretfordians, newcomers to the league but well-established in Saturday afternoon football, pulled a goal back, but a third for the hosts settled matters.

Houghton Main v Stocksbridge Park Steels reserves

3pm  7 October 2017

Sheffield County Senior League, Premier Division
Houghton Main 0 Stocksbridge Park Steels reserves 3 (att 40)

Getting from a 1pm kick off at Grimethorpe Sports to a 3pm start at Houghton Main was always going to be a challenge, and leaving the ground at Athersley, and then extricating myself from the car park, cost me time that meant I arrived a couple of minutes late at Houghton Main.

The linesman I spoke to assured me there'd been no goals before I arrived, and I then watched as Stocksbridge scored three, all before half time, to set up a comfortable win.

The league's Full Time website says the result was 4-0*, so either the site is wrong, the linesman forgot about a very early goal, or I dozed off and missed something.

Whatever the final score it was a very easy win for the visitors, who took their collective feet off the gas in the second half with three points (and either three or four goals) already in the bag.

Houghton Main's Middlecliffe Lane ground is one I've wanted to visit for a while, having seen photos of what is a very nice venue for this level of football. Three sides of the pitch are railed off, the exception being the roped off touchline closest to the cricket square.

The ground's main feature though is the stand. It's typical of the stands found at miners welfare sports grounds in Yorkshire but, while many are now neglected and falling into disrepair, Houghton Main FC have added seats, spelling out HMFC in club colours. A pair of modern dugouts and an excellent playing surface complete an excellent ground.

*Several days later the website was finally corrected to give the result as a 3-0 win for Stocksbridge, so neither the linesman nor me managed to somehow miss a goal being scored.

Grimethorpe Sports v Penistone Church reserves

1pm  7 October 2017

Sheffield County Senior League, Premier Division
Grimethorpe Sports 1 Penistone Church reserves 1 (att 50)

Sadly Grimethorpe Sports are no longer based in Grimethorpe, but having embarked on a nomadic existence they're settling into their new home on the second pitch at Athersley Recreation FC's Sheerien Park ground.

They're going well in the league, and should have won this top of the table battle against Penistone's second team. The home side took a first half lead, and spurned plenty of chances to extend their advantage.

They paid the penalty for wastefulness in the second half, literally, when a spot kick given for a trip in the box was converted to make the score 1-1. Both sides had chances to win the game, Grimethorpe again guilty of missing the best of them, but there were no more goals.

The home side's identity seems to be in a state of flux at the moment. The gateman asked if I'd come to 'see the reserves', Grimethorpe's kit looks similar to Athersley's, and the badge on the shirts calls them Grimethorpe and Athersley Sports FC.

If they're not already, they're well on the way to becoming' Athersley Recreation's de facto second eleven.

Such semi-official backing from the host club at least meant the tea bar was open for the early kick off (ahead of Athersley's game on the main pitch at 3pm) so as well as a pre-match coffee I was able to enjoy pies and peas at half time.

The second pitch at Sheerien Park is a decent football ground in it's own right. The pitch is railed off on all four sides, although there's no access to the end backing onto the main ground, and there's a pair of neat dugouts.