Hedon Rangers v Sculcoates Amateurs

7pm  26 September 2017

Humber Premier League, Premier Division
Hedon Rangers 3 Sculcoates Amateurs 1 (att 45)

Midweek games under floodlights are rare in the Humber Premier League, so I was keen to make the most of an opportunity for a Tuesday night game at the South Holderness Technology College, just east of Hull in Preston.

Having done well to negotiate the rush hour M62 heading east from Manchester, arriving about 15 minutes before kick off, I was little worried my efforts might have been in vain, as mist, verging on fog, descended for the final few miles of the journey.

Thankfully it lifted as the game got underway, and Hedon and Sculcoates produced a very enjoyable 90 minutes that was a good advert for the league.

Sculcoates were unfortunate to leave without a point. They went ahead early on, but Hedon equalised before a fantastic strike put the home side in front before half time.

Hedon's third came in the 90th minute, when they hit Sculcoates on the break after withstanding sustained pressure that had made an equaliser look likely.

Hedon Rangers are one of two Humber Premier League clubs, Crown FC are the other, to play their home games on the 3G pitch at South Holderness Technology College. It's not an interesting venue, just a fenced-in pitch next to the college sports centre with dugouts on one side.

Plus points were that there were no restrictions on spectators standing inside the 'cage', and with the fog banished it was decent game on a ground that's rarely used midweek.







Grange v Millhead

2pm  23 September 2017

North Lancashire & District League, Division One
Grange 4 Millhead 3 (att 23)

This was real grassroots amateur football at its best, and most entertaining. Two sides whose effort and commitment made up for any lack of skill, plenty of goals, and lovely views from a pitch close to the shore of Morecambe Bay.

To be fair to the players there were some well taken goals, and the quality of the surface at the Memorial Playing Fields, in Grange-over-Sands, would have tested the most skillful of professionals.

Three times Grange went ahead, and each time Millhead hit back to level. The visitors lost their keeper to injury with about half-an-hour left, although the stand-in who took over could do nothing about the home side's decisive fourth goal.

For a league that's mostly based around Lancaster and Morecambe, Grange AFC are a little out on a limb. It's a nice town though, and the football pitch is a good place to enjoy views across the bay.

There's no facilities for spectators, not that you'd expect any at this level. The changing rooms are in a pavilion a fair walk from the pitch, although the playing area feels enclosed, with houses backing on to a grass bank than runs along one side.

One nice, and unusual, touch was a a sign near the park entrance advertising the fixture. A good way of encouraging locals to watch, and to promote the club's sponsors. Whether the mistaken description of the day's visitors as Millhead Reserves (it was actually their first team) was an error, or some sort of mind games designed to put them off, I'm not sure.












Preston North End U18 v Bury U18

10.30am  23 September 2017

EFL Youth Alliance, North West
Preston North End U18 1 Bury U18 2 (att 58)

North End's academy is based at the UCLan Sports Arena, a large and very impressive facility run by the University of Central Lancashire. This was fourth visit for football, each time on a different pitch in a different part of the site.

Preston's Youth Alliance side play on what I think is 'pitch three', adjacent to a changing room pavilion that serves a large playing field housing pitches three to seven.

Like most professional youth team venues, there are roped off areas for spectators on one side, while coaching staff line the opposite touchline. The pavilion provides some pitchside cover, but was out of bounds.

The game wasn't a thriller. Bury's youngsters always sharper than the hosts, and a two goal lead by half time put them in control. Preston North End gave themselves a chance by pulling a goal back with about 10 minutes left, but despite creating chances they couldn't level the score.







Ravenshead v Ashland Rovers

7.30pm  19 September 2017

Nottinghamshire Senior League, Division One
Ravenshead 2 Ashland Rovers 2 (att 42)

Midweek games under floodlights are a rarity at this level so full credit to Ravenshead and Ashland for staging their local derby on a Tuesday evening, and by doing so giving me a welcome opportunity to tick off the ground.

Ravenshead Leisure Centre is a curious football venue, as apart from the floodlights there's little in the way of facilities. Part of one side of the grass pitch was roped off, and with trees bordering three sides and and grass bank behind one goal, beyond which is a larger playing field, it at least feels like an enclosed ground.

It's perfectly acceptable for the second tier of the Nottinghamshire Senior League though, and Ravenshead and Ashland produced an entertainingly competitive game that was a good advert for the division.

Ravenshead, newly promoted from division two, started well and took an early lead. Ashland, from nearby Kirkby-in-Ashfield, were level before half time, and it was no surprise when they went ahead with 30 minutes left.

The home side refused to give up though, and were rewarded for a long spell of pressure late in the game when an excellent direct free kick, in stoppage time, levelled the score at 2-2 and earned them a point.








Upton St Leonards v Berkeley Town

2pm  17 September 2017

Stroud and District Charity Cup (Section A), Quarter-Final
Upton St Leonards 1 Berkeley Town 5 (att 25)

The south west of England still has a few local cups, like this, that provide chances to visit Saturday teams for ties on Sundays. Upton St Leonards is a village just outside Gloucester, and so in good range for a day out including a game on a new ground.

The home club are newly-promoted to the Gloucestershire Northern Senior League this season, but as a division two side they proved no match for their first division visitors, who came from a goal behind to win convincingly.

It could have been different though, as Upton St Leonards started well and deserved the early lead they got thanks to a penalty. The spot kick was well saved, but the Berkeley keeper couldn't keep out a follow up shot.

An own goal levelled the score, and Berkeley gradually took control, leading 3-1 by half time. In the second period Upton pushed forward trying to get back into the game, and with more luck might have done, but Berkeley exploited gaps at the back to add two more goals.

Upton St Leonards Recreation Ground is a pleasant spot. A two tier pavilion looks out over  a large sports field, and the football pitch is on the far side of a cricket square. The ground is right next to the M5 motorway, but while traffic noise was audible it didn't detract from what was an enjoyable game.








AFC Macclesfield v Daten

3pm  16 September 2017

Cheshire League, League One
AFC Macclesfield 2 Daten 1 (att 15)

I needed to stay local today, and Macclesfield fitted the bill after I'd failed earlier when there was no sign of the Manchester Saturday Morning League game that should have been played in Ashton-under-Lyne (a result has appeared online so it must have been played somewhere).

No such problems at AFC Macclesfield's new ground at All Hallows Catholic College, where players were warming up on the artificial pitch when I arrived. It's very much a move 'home' for the club, who had been playing miles away in Stockport.

Unfortunately the ground isn't among the the more interesting to visit, it's a typical caged and floodlit 3G pitch, although one good thing is that the entire near touchline is barriered off to provide an area for spectators.

It wasn't the greatest of games, but AFC Macclesfield were just about worth their win. They came from behind, recovering after a long-range punt gave Daten a 27th minute lead. The home team were level 10 minutes later, and won it with a second half goal.

Both sides created plenty of chances, but their finishing was poor, and Daten's constant moaning at the referee became tiresome. He may not have had a perfect game, but neither did Daten, and he wasn't the reason they lost.









Coventry United v Tipton Town

3pm  10 September 2017

FA Vase, First Qualifying Round
Coventry United 3 Tipton Town 1 (att 282)

Coventry United are one of a growing number of clubs created by supporters dissatisfied by the professional game, in this case by frustration at the goings on at Coventry City.

It takes a lot of effort and commitment to get a club like this off the ground, and United have done well to grow a decent fan base and to secure a stadium, which they moved into this season, to match.

Butts Park Arena is primarily a rugby ground, but with a large seated stand running the length of one side it's certainly one of the best venues in the Midland Football League, even if only the stand and one uncovered end are open for football spectators.

There was plenty of room for the 282 crowd, boosted by a large number of groundhoppers, like me, making the most of a chance to visit a new ground on a Sunday, the FA Vase tie having been switched after clashing with a rugby fixture.

It was little surprise that United progressed to the next round, and as they're going well in a step five league they might have their sights on the Wembley final (clubs at step four and above compete instead in the FA Trophy).

Tipton Town, who play two levels lower, gave them a tough test. They led 1-0 at half time, although it was a howler by the home keeper that presented with the simplest of goals. Coventry United equalised early in the second half, before a second goal put them ahead.

Near the end Tipton threatened to take the tie into extra time but were unable to take the half chances that came their way, then a late third goal sealed the home side's win.









Llanllyfni v Bontnewydd

2.30pm  9 September 2017

Gwynedd League
Llanllyfni 0 Bontnewydd 12 (att 18)

I missed visiting Llanllyfni when they were a Welsh Alliance side, so after they resigned from that league just before the end of last season I was pleased to see them reappear in the Gwynedd League.

It's been a struggle for them so far though, and they remain pointless at the foot of the fledgling table after a defeat that was every bit as comprehensive as the scoreline suggests.

At times it was little more than shooting practice for Botnewydd, and had their shooting been more accurate they'd have scored plenty more. Llanllyfni weren't helped when injury reduced them to 10 men with 30 minutes left, but they'd already conceded half the dozen by then.

Hopefully Llanllyfni will come through this difficult patch, and they'll have easier opponents to play as the season progresses.

Their ground, just off Rhedyw Road, is a railed off pitch with a dugout on each side. From the entrance the village community hall is behind the near goal, and houses a snack bar as well as changing rooms.

When not used by footballers I assume the building is home to a children's playgroup, as it's adorned by colourful pictures designed to help local youngsters learn to spell ... and gave me a chance to learn a few words in Welsh.