Lancing United v Westfield

2pm  25 November 2017

Southern Combination League, Division Two
Lancing United 4 Westfield 2 (att 15)

Following a couple of enjoyable days staying further east along the south coast at Rye, I headed west for football. After dropping my other half in Brighton for the afternoon I made made my way to the Croshaw Ground in Lancing.

It's a basic venue, even for step seven of the FA's non-League pyramid. The pitch is enclosed by a wooden fence, but sits in the middle of a public recreation ground. Home team players carry out the goal frames and dugouts before kick off, and put them back into storage after the final whistle.

It may be an unusual addition to players' pre-match warm up routines, but it did struggling Lancing United no harm as they eventually overcame Westfield following a lively and entertaining 90 minutes.

The home side had been in front twice, one in each half, but on both occasions Westfield had equalised. The goal that put Lancing United in front for the third time was against the run of play, but it proved decisive.

The drama continued to the end, with Westfield hitting the post in the final moments before the home team - who played the match with just 11 players, no subs - scored a fourth to confirm their win.










University of Manchester v University of Warwick

3pm  22 November 2017

BUCS Trophy, Last 32
University of Manchester 3 University of Warwick 1 aet (att 15)

I last saw a game at Manchester University's Armitage Centre sports ground in pre-blog 2003. The grass pitch used by Old Mancunians that day is still there, but the university's men's first team use a more recently installed 3G.

It's a typical artificial pitch that's floodlit and enclosed by a high fence, and part of a multi sports venue that's busy with student sport on a Wednesday afternoon. The Fallowfield ground was even busier in 1893, when it (or a site within a few yards of it) staged the 1893 FA Cup Final between Everton and Wolves.

It wasn't exactly a cup final crowd for this tie in the main British Universities and Colleges Sport cup competition, but those of us standing along the touchline saw Manchester eventually progress after throwing away a lead in the 87th minute.

They'd been ahead thanks to an early goal, and in a game between two sides both need of a goalscorer it looked like being decisive. But in the closing moments the home side tried to used a corner as a way of running the clock down, they gave the ball away and Warwick broke forward and equalised.

Extra time was compressed into two 10-minute halves, presumably as Manchester's second team and their opponents MMU were waiting to kick off at 5pm, but it was long enough for Manchester to score twice, and have a penalty saved, as they booked their place in the last 16 of the BUCS Trophy.








Beccles Town v Waveney

7.30pm  21 November 2017

Anglian Combination, Premier Division
Beccles Town 2 Waveney 2 (att 75)

I enjoy my occasional visits to games in the Anglian Combination, which has venues ranging in facilities from roped off pitches to proper grounds with floodlights and stands.

Beccles is in the latter category, and College Meadow can't be far from the requirements for step six football if the club were to pursue promotion from the Anglian Combination. As well as lights, the pitch is mostly railed off and there's a stand with seats along on side of the pitch.

I think the stand is a recent replacement for an aged predecessor, and the club deserve credit for mirroring the design of the old stand, rather than replacing it with an off-the-shelf prefab of the type seen at so many grounds.

Waveney, whose ground I visited towards the end of last season, made the most of a defensive error to earn a point from this game.

They deserved a draw, after starting well and taking a deserved lead before allowing Beccles back into the match. Two goals in quick succession had given the hosts a half time lead they'd looked like holding until the end, but Waveney's late leveller meant it was a point apiece.











Isle of Man League v Liverpool County Premier League at the Douglas Bowl

6pm  18 November 2017

FA Inter League Cup, Second Round at The Bowl Stadium, Douglas
Isle of Man League 7 Liverpool County Premier League 4 aet (att 250)

The Isle of Man has a good record in this competition, having won it twice, but it took 120 minutes of dramatic football before they were able to advance into the quarter-finals this time around.

It looked as if the visitors from Merseyside had done enough when the tie entered the 89th minute and they led 4-3, but to the delight of the home supporters the Isle of Man netted in the final minute to set up extra time.

It was a huge blow for the Liverpool County Premier League, but even though they'd been ahead for most of the match the home side always looked capable of coming out on top.

Two early goals had given the visitors a lead, but the Isle of Man were dangerous going forward and it was no surprise when they pulled a goal back. What was a surprise was that Liverpool soon restored their two goal advantage, from the penalty spot.

The Isle of Man again pulled a goal back before half time, but soon after the break a fantastic free kick made it 4-2 to the visitors.

Predictably - it was that sort of game - it wasn't long before the Isle of Man reduced the deficit for 3-4. Then the game's pivotal moment, as a second spot kick for the visitors, harshly awarded I felt, was well saved.

A fifth goal might have ended Manx hopes, but instead Liverpool defended their single goal lead deeper and deeper, and were eventually undone by the very late Isle of Man leveller.

Having finally got level, the Isle of Man were odds on to win in the extra 30 minutes, and did so by scoring three times. Harsh on Liverpool, and if I see another game as dramatic as this during the rest of the season I'll be surprised.

The venue was the Douglas Bowl, effectively the island's national football stadium. It's got an artificial pitch, and is ringed by around 3,000 seats, covered on one side. When it's not hosting the Isle of Man's representatives sides it's the home ground of St Mary's AFC, who play in the local premier league.










Foxdale v RYCOB

2pm  18 November 2017

Isle of Man League, Division Two
Foxdale 4 Ramsey Youth Centre and Old Boys 0 (att 35)

Is there a better ground address in football than Billy Goat Park, Stoney Mountain Road in Higher Foxdale?

The evocative-sounding venue was just one reason to tempt me to this game. The main one was that it was the day's outstanding fixture in the division, between two promotion contenders.

Foxdale claimed all three points thanks to four goals in the final 20 minutes or so, having been second best for much of what had been a scrappy encounter until then.

The home side's keeper had made some good saves to keep his team in the match, and then capped a fine performance by scoring from a free kick deep inside his own half. Only the second time I can recall seeing a goalkeeper score in such a fashion.

That was Foxdale's third goal, in the closing minutes, and it was quickly followed by their fourth. Youthie, as the visitors are known, collapsed once they went behind.

The current incarnation of Foxdale's football club is a relatively recent one, if Wikipedia is to be believed, and Billy Goat Park dates from the mid 1990s. It's a proper football ground though, with cover for spectators provided by an overhanging roof built onto the front of a pavilion behind the goal.

Pairs of dugouts are on both sides of the pitch, and seem to be used by a combination of coaching staff, substitutes and supporters. Like many Manx football grounds, it serves a campsite during the TT races, which presumably earns the club some valuable extra income.










Tobermore United v Lisburn Distillery

2pm  11 November 2017

Northern Ireland Football League, Premier Intermediate League
Tobermore United 3 Lisburn Distillery 0 (att 75)

The most recent restructuring of Northern Irish football has seen the third tier renamed as the Premier Intermediate League, making it the country-wide top level of 'intermediate' football, below the two divisions of 'senior' teams.

That Lisburn Distillery now find themselves at this level surprised me when I checked the fixtures for this trip. Distillery FC, as they were then called, was the first ground I visited in Northern Ireland, when I saw them surprise Linfield with a 1-0 win in 1992.

Surprisingly I've not seen them since, but 25 years on and this time they were on the wrong end of an unexpected result at Tobermore. The visitors started well enough, dominating the opening exchanges, but they had no answer once Tobermore edged in front.

Two goals in quick succession put the home team 2-0 ahead by half time, and a third goal early in the second half killed off any chance of a Distillery recovery, to the frustration of their fans who must have made up at least half the crowd.

Tobermore United play at Fortwilliam Park, on the outskirts of the County Londonderry village. The ground is dominated by a stand that runs the length of one side and has a single row of seats as well as terracing.

Dugouts are on the opposite side, where there's a few steps of uncovered terracing, but that side was closed for this game, making it effectively a one-sided ground, with some additional space behind the goal near the entrance.

Presumably the far side is opened for occasional visits of clubs with large travelling support, as it has its own set of turnstyles and would allow for easy segregation. There was a time when Distillery would have been considered a 'big' club. Despite this defeat they remain top of the league though, so perhaps they're starting the long climb back.











Cloughmills v Northend and District

10.15am  11 November 2017

Ballymena Saturday Morning League, Division Two
Cloughmills 0 Northend and District 6 (att 20)

One of my occasional day trips to Northern Ireland, and as usual after an early arrival I passed some time before my main game by dipping into the Ballymena Saturday Morning League.

The attraction of Cloughmills, other than being a new ground to visit, was that the club's active Twitter account had confirmed the game, and the venue in Rasharkin looked more interesting than multi-pitch playing fields in Ballymena.

Drumbolcan Park in Rasharkin is  good facility, surprising as far as I can tell the village no longer has a team playing Saturday afternoon football.

The single pitch, which looks quiet small, is enclosed by a wooden fence, and is next to a modern community building which includes the changing rooms. A pair of dugouts are looking a bit battered, but complete the picture of a 'proper' football ground.

Northend and District were very much a 'proper' football team, particularly in a dominant first half. They took the lead with a fantastic long range strike that wouldn't have been out of place at much higher levels of the game.

They scored three more before half time, taking ruthless advantage of some sloppy play by the hosts. Cloughmills tightened up after half time, limiting Northend to just two more goals.