Chester Nomads v Helsby

6.15pm  29 March 2017

West Cheshire League, Division One
Chester Nomads 1 Helsby 0 (att 30)

I returned to Boughton Hall cricket ground for the first time in 10 years to see Chester Nomads play on their new enclosed pitch.

Last time I was here they played on the cricket outfield and, although that pitch is still in place, their new venue gives them a proper home without the prospect of being moved to make way for the cricketers.

The new pitch, which looked excellent, is surrounded on three sides by plastic fencing, while the far side, close to the back gardens of adjacent houses, was roped off.

Grass banking gives a good elevated view along the near side, with the cricket ground behind. There's a pair of dugouts which already look battered - whether by storms or by malevolent locals I've no idea.

The game was lively rather than thrilling. It was always enjoyable, but neither team created many clear chances. Chester Nomads just about deserved their 80th minute winner, which came just as I thought I'd be seeing my first nil nil draw of the season.









Thatto Heath v Vulcan

6.15pm  28 March 2017

Warrington and District League, Premier Division
Thatto Heath 3 Vulcan 2 (att 54)

The clocks going forward heralds the start of a busy few weeks of midweek football, when the state of rush hour roads dictates the success, of otherwise, of my groundhopping.

I should have had plenty of time to get from Manchester to St Helens, but it turned out to be a stressful journey to Thatto Heath. Most frustrating was to finally arrive at Thatto Heath Crusaders rugby ground, where the club are based, only to have to head back onto the road to locate the pitch.

It was well worth the effort though, as a full-bodied contest saw Vulcan beaten in the league for only the second time this season. Thatto Heath's win propelled them to the top of the table.

Vulcan, with games in hand, remain likely champions, but the late winner they conceded should ensure the league stays interesting into the final weeks.

Vulcan opened the scoring from the penalty spot after around 15 minutes, but Thatto Heath were level by half time. The home side missed a spot kick in the second half, but it wasn't long before they edged 2-1 in front.

The game's third penalty levelled it up again but Vulcan were undone with five minutes left, and despite throwing everything at the hosts they couldn't score again.

The venue, known at Platts Fields, is used for both football and rugby. It's a basic ground, just a pitch with roads running around the perimeter, but there was a large and partisan crowd for the match and it was a very enjoyable early evening.







Halls Athletic v Chipstead

2.45pm  25 March 2017

Kent County League, Division One West
Halls Athletic 1 Chipstead 1 (att 22)

This was plan C when I left Sevenoaks. Plans A and B and had been Gravesend-based Kent County League sides Guru Nanak and Punjab United, but an accident approaching Dartford meant the M25 ground to an all-to-familiar halt.

I exited the motorway at the junction for Gravesend, but the London-bound road was the only route moving so I headed that way and entered Dartford from the west.

The problem was that Halls' ground, next door to Dartford FC, was close to the M25 and I could see gridlocked traffic on the approach. In the end I abandoned my car about half-a-miles's walk from the ground and arrived, breathless, moments after kick off.

It can be hard to get into a game in those circumstances, although I pleased not to still be stuck in traffic. A check of the league table on my phone revealed visitors Chipstead were top, but they showed little sign of that on the pitch.

They did score the first half's only goal, but an error by their keeper allowed Halls to get a deserved equaliser after the break. The home side looked the better of the two but there were no more goals.

Halls Athletic (usually known as just Halls AFC but their badge reveals what the A stands for) play on the artificial 'community pitch' at Dartford FC's Princes Park. I'd expected the usual dull 3G set up, but was pleasantly surprised to find a small seated stand on one side, making it one of the better grounds of its type.








Old Sennockians v Kings College School Old Boys II

12 midday  25 March 2017

Arthurian League, Division Two
Old Sennockians 2 Kings College School Old Boys II 1 (att 11)

An early kick off and a weekend in the south east gave me the the opportunity for one of my occasional dips into the world of public schools old boys football, at Sevenoaks School in Kent.

I feared the worst when I parked in the school park and saw no sign of life on the adjacent sports field, but I checked at the school sports centre reception and was directed to a pitch at Park Grange, a few minutes' walk away.

The narrow pitch was a nice place to watch a game, with a grass bank on the near side and an enclosed feel. Spectator facilities are lacking, but then so are spectators at this level, although I was surprised the 'crowd' reached double figures. There is a picnic table with bench seating at the top of the grass bank, giving a good view.

The football was entertaining even if the the quality wasn't the highest. The two sides were the bottom two of the Arthurian League's third tier, and swapped places thanks to Sennockians' narrow victory.

The home side went ahead after around 15 minutes, although the visitors had a justifiable complaint about offside. Kings equalised just before half time, but a second half goal for Sennockians earned them the points.









University of Bradford v York St John University III

6pm  22 March 2017

BUCS Northern 5D
University of Bradford 4 York St John University III 1 (att 60)

I had planned to watch Bradford Park Avenue's visit to Darlington this evening, but that fixture failed an afternoon pitch inspection so I ended up at a game in Bradford instead.

BUCS - British Universities and Colleges Sport - matches are usually on Wednesday afternoons,  but Bradford made use of the floodlights at their Laisteridge Lane ground, kicking off at the useful (to me) time of 6pm.

The crowd was bigger than I'm used to at BUCS games, but that owed much to this being a title decider. The teams went into this, their final fixture, level on points so it was winner takes all, with a draw apparently favouring the visitors.

Bradford were excellent in the first half, combining skill and strength to good effect and fully deserving their 2-0 half time lead. York St John hit back early in the second period, and having reduced the arrears enjoyed their best spell in the match as they looked likely to equalise.

They couldn't capitalise on their pressure though and eventually Bradford clicked back into gear and scored a well-taken third goal. The hosts got a fourth in stoppage time, which was harsh on York St John.

I think the all-weather pitch at the university's sports park is new, I don't recall Bradford University playing games here previously. It's a typical 3G set up with the pitch enclosed by a high fence.

High-rise student accommodation looms over the pitch at the near end, while the nearby Bradford Grand Mosque provides a striking backdrop.

All in all a good evening, despite the miserable weather. I doubt Darlington v Bradford Park Avenue, had it been on, would have been as fun to watch.









Penn and Tylers Green v Didcot Town reserves

3pm  18 March 2017

Hellenic League, Division One East
Penn and Tylers Green 5 Didcot Town reserves 1 (att 57)

Penn and Tylers Green's move to a new pitch at the start of the season is likely to prompt debate among groundhoppers as to whether or not it counts as a 'new' ground.

It's the same address, clubhouse and changing rooms as where they played previously, and the old ground still exists and is still used, just beyond the new arena.

My rule is a different pitch counts as a different ground, and so a return visit to French School Meadows in Penn was my agenda for this season.

The club is on the up. The new pitch has coincided with a team flying high at the top of the division, and this comfortable win against Didcot's second eleven took them a step closer to being crowned champions.

I'm not sure if promotion would follow though, as the ground isn't yet floodlit and there's no seats in the covered enclosure that's been erected on one side. The ground is a work in progress though, and while it's already a nice venue further improvements will surely follow.

Penn and Tylers Green dominated the opening half against Didcot, and deservedly led 3-0 at the break. The visitors were better in the second half and made more of a game of it, but the hosts still added two more goals before Didcot managed a late consolation.










Zion Athletic v Zion City

10.30am  18 March 2017

West Midlands Christian League, Division One
Zion Athletic 6 Zion City 1 (att 8)

Having enjoyed a recent match at Clarendon I returned for another dose of West Midlands Christian League football, this time between similarly-named sides level on points and battling against relegation.

Athletic look in better shape to beat the drop, not just because of the points they got from this easy win but because City could only muster 10 players for the kick off. They did get up to full strength during the second half but by then the game was well beyond them.

They battled well though, and despite an early lead Athletic had to work hard for their goals. They led 3-0 by half time, then doubled their tally in the second half despite the blip of allowing the visitors a goal back.

The venue was the rural setting of Brown Westhead Park in Wolverley, just outside Kidderminster. It was a busy place hosting children's and youth matches on most of the pitches, while the Zions' clash, on pitch five, was the only senior game.








Redcar Town v Guisborough Three Fiddles

7.30pm  15 March 2017

Teesside League
Redcar Town 2 Guisborough Three Fiddles 0 (att 38)

New floodlit grounds I can get to after work after thin on the ground these days, so I'd been keeping an eye on the Teesside League fixture list after discovering that Redcar Town had illuminated their Trunk Road ground earlier this season.

The facilities are impressive for a team at this level, particularly in a league where most grounds are very basic. There's no cover for spectators yet but the venue is enclosed by a sturdy wooden fence, and club buildings pitchside include a canteen serving food and drinks.

The ground is named after former local MP Mo Mowlam, and beyond the enclosed arena a large sports field has several pitches, presumably used by the club's junior sides.

Redcar Town seem ambitious, and while the Teesside League title may be beyond them this season they're certainly a club who could be climbing the leagues before long.

They saw off Guisborough Three Fiddles thanks to two second half goals, after a decent game that was entertaining enough to take my mind off the chilly breeze blowing across the ground.