Treharris Athletic Western v Caerau at Fochriw AFC

2pm  28 January 2017

Welsh League, Division Three
Treharris Athletic Western 1 Caerau 0 (att 43) at Fochriw AFC

I saw Fochriw lose comprehensively at Aberfan back in August, and since then the club has folded after pulling out of the South Wales Alliance League.

Rather than lying empty though, the Welfare Ground is now providing a temporary home for some Treharris games. The club have a new home in the pipeline, but the sudden closure of their historic Athletic Ground earlier this season, for health and safety reasons, left them needing to find alternative venues, and one of them is Fochriw.

Once Treharris move on I hope football is revived in Fochriw, as it'd be a real shame if such a fine football ground was left to be become derelict.

It's not just that it's enclosed, with a large covered standing area and grass banking on one side and some extra cover in front of the changing rooms in the corner, but it's built into the hillside in a village that's at the head of the valleys, and on a clear afternoon the views all round are great.

On the pitch a scrappy game was won thanks to an early goal for the hosts, while Caerau were disappointing for a team challenging at the top of the division.











Newport County U18 v Bristol Rovers U18

10.30am  28 January 2017

EFL Youth Alliance, South West
Newport County U18 2 Bristol Rovers U18 2 (att 61)

Once again the ever-shifting world of Youth Alliance venues gave me a new ground to visit, this time at Newport who have swapped one local school for another.

The last time I saw a Newport home game at this level they played at Llanwern High School, but they've recently moved to the nearby Lliswerry High School.

It's just a pitch on a large school playing field, taped off along the one touchline where spectators can stand, but enthusiastic school staff and helpers make visitors feel welcome and provide refreshments for those watching.

It was a great game. Newport went ahead early but Bristol Rovers soon equalised. The home side regained the lead before half time, but it wasn't long into the second half when Rovers levelled again.

Both teams had chances to win the game, but with no more goals it ended in a draw that was a fair result.

Some professional youth games can be sterile affairs, with performances and passing patterns more important than results, but this was a proper competitive match on an old-fashioned muddy football pitch.






Trethomas Bluebirds v Bridgend Street

7.30pm  27 January 2017

Welsh League, Division Three
Trethomas Bluebirds 0 Bridgend Street 3 (att 70)

Trethomas are new to the Welsh League this season, and after a good start went into this game as one of a number of clubs with sights on promotion.

But it was promotion rivals Bridgend Street who strengthened their hopes thanks to three second half goals to win an entertaining encounter.

I'm not sure how the first half ended goalless. A mix of bad luck and bad finishing meant both sides spurned plenty of opportunities to score. Two quick goals mid way through the second period swung the game in the Cardiff-based visitors' favour, and they added a third before the end.

Trethomas have one of the more interesting grounds in the Welsh League. They share the well-equipped home of Bedwas Rugby Union club, and this fixture was on a Friday night as the rugby club had a home game the following day.

The down side of this sort of arrangement is a grass surface that's more suited to rugby than football, and extra pitch markings which, to be fair, were less confusing than I thought they might be.

The positives are a decent ground, with seats and covered accommodation behind the goal at the clubhouse end, and more seats and cover along the touchline. Unfortunately the ground's main feature, a larger seated stand, was closed to spectators.










AFC Fylde v Alfreton Town

7.45pm  24 January 2017

National League, North Division
AFC Fylde 2 Alfreton Town 0 (att 1,503)

It's a strange time for football on the Fylde coast. After a brief spell close to the summit of English football Blackpool FC are in free-fall, and have lost their tag at the area's top side to upwardly-mobile Fleetwood Town.

But Blackpool could soon be pushed down to third place, if AFC Fylde continue a rapid rise that is arguably even more remarkable then that of Fleetwood.

AFC Fylde were still called Kirkham and Wesham when I saw them play at home, in front of 65 spectators on a roped-off park pitch, in the West Lancashire League in 1999. They'd just moved to a new ground in 2006, when I was one of 55 people watching a game against Dalton United.

Ten seasons and five promotions later and another new ground later, the now-renamed AFC Fylde are attracting four figures crowds to a plush Mill Farm stadium. The transformation is astonishing, and this win keeps them top of the league and on course to be just one further step from joining the Football League.

The win against Alfreton won't go down as one of Fylde's more memorable 90 minutes this season, but I guess it's just the sort of hard-won three points that teams with title aspirations need to be capable of getting.

The visitors set out to defend and try to hit their hosts on the break. They came close once or twice, and it took until three-quarters of the game had gone before Fylde broke the deadlock. A well-taken second goal sealed a satisfactory evening for them.

I liked the new ground. The main stand is the only seated area, but is built with offices, bar, restaurant and club shop all incorporated. A covered terrace runs the length of the far side and and the 'away' end, while the other end is, for now at least, just open flat standing. It's a million miles from the roped-off pitch they played on when I first visited.










Milton v Salford Victoria

2pm  21 January 2017

Lancashire and Cheshire Amateur League, Division One
Milton 4 Salford Victoria 2 (att 12)

Not for the first time this season I stayed close to home and was rewarded with an entertaining game in the Lancashire and Cheshire Amateur League.

The 4G pitch at Heywood Sports Village is the third home ground I've seen Milton play on, and while it's not an interesting venue the excellent surface at least helped the quality of the football.

The game was about 15 minutes old when Milton went in front, the first of three goals in as many minutes as they added a second goal then conceded a penalty to put Salford Victoria back in the game.

Milton extended their lead in the second half, but within a minute or so they again conceded to keep things in the balance. Salford couldn't get level though, and in stoppage time a fourth goal for the hosts rounded things off.

The last time I was at Heywood Sports Village, in 2000, it had the more humble title of Heywood Sports Centre. That day I saw the short-lived Heywood FC on a grass pitch that still exists (I think it's now used by Hooley Bridge Celtic). The new 4G pitch is adjacent to that, at right angles, and is floodlit and surrounded by the usual high fence.









Team Dudley v St Martins

7.45pm  18 January 2017

West Midlands Regional League, Division One
Team Dudley 2 St Martins 2 (att 117)

Team Dudley only played the first game at their new home ground on Saturday, so did remarkably well to cope with the inevitable influx of groundhoppers when staging a midweek fixture just a few days later.

Plenty of programmes, hot drinks on a cold night and easily-available team lineups for those take note of such things. Not only that, but they and visitors St Martins provided a decent game to watch as well.

The home side went ahead early, but two second half goals turned things around and put Shropshire-based St Martins in front. They looked like winning, until a fine strike in stoppage time salvaged a point for the hosts.

Team Dudley have close connections to Dudley College, and their new Priory Road ground is adjacent to the college buildings. It's a functional facility with a floodlit artificial pitch and a fenced off area, along the centre of the near side, for spectators.

Notes in the match programme suggest the club has long-term ambitions to add a stand and build a venue capable of hosting a higher level of football, which would be good to see.







Independent Schools FA U18 v Australia Schools at Clifton College

2pm  15 January 2017

Representative Game
Independent Schools FA U18 1 Australia Schools 4 (att 100) at Clifton College, Bristol

I keep an eye on the usually-excellent Independent Schools FA website as occasionally it throws up interesting fixtures at unusual venues, such as this.

I'm not sure how many games the Australian schools sides are playing while they're in the UK, but I'm they'll have enjoyed this comprehensive win again best the English public schools could field against them.

To be fair the scoreline was a little flattering to the visitors. They scored the only goal of an even first half, but it was no fluke when the ISFA team levelled early in the second.

Midway through the second half though the young Aussies upped their game, scoring twice in three minutes for a commanding lead. ISFA battled to get back into the game but to no avail, and conceded a fourth in stoppage time.

The venue was the well-equipped sports ground of Bristol's Clifton College, which is a few miles from the city, and from the college itself, in Abbots Leigh.

The main grass football pitch is fenced off on the two sides where there's room for spectators, and there's a grass bank and a small seated stand, uncovered, along the side. Adjacent is an artificial pitch, on which Australia Schools girls team were also beating their English opponents.











Hanham Athletic v Southmead CS Athletic

2pm  14 January 2017

Gloucestershire County League
Hanham Athletic 1 Southmead CS Athletic 1 (att 57)

For a game between the bottom two sides in the league this was much better than I had any right to expect, which shows that the Gloucestershire County League is one of the better 'step seven' leagues.

Southmead were seeking their first league win of the season, while Hanham were without a win since their visit to Southmead back in September. Both clubs can be grateful for the recent demise of Cheltenham Civil Service, whose withdrawal should mean one fewer relegation spot.

After a thoroughly enjoyable 90 minutes, for the neutral at least, both sides' winless runs continued. A long range strike that went in off the post, after 15 minutes, put Southmead in front. They held the lead into well the second half, when Hanham's pressure finally paid off with a deserved equaliser.

The home side were well on top as the game drew to a close, but despite twice hitting the crossbar they couldn't find a winner.

Hanham's ground is a typical county league venue. The pitch is railed off on the three sides with spectator access - just dugouts and the playing fields boundary on the far side - and there's a two-tier building in the corner with changing rooms on the lower floor and a clubhouse, with a handy viewing area, above.