YATE TOWN (Lodge Road)

The plan was to finish the year with a cheeky double, but an early pitch inspection resulted in my 11am game at Tividale being called off due to waterlogging. So bang went the double.

Nonetheless I decided to press ahead with what would have been the second game and head down the M5 to South Gloucestershire for the Southern League Division One South & West clash between Yate Town and Bideford, at Lodge Road, and boy did that turn out to be a good call!

Bideford were top of the table at the start of play and having an excellent season thus far, whilst Yate, despite still being in the lower half of table were in good form, having won four of their last five games. They produced an absolute belter of a game.

Yate were quickest out of the blocks and Jordan Greenwood headed them into the lead after 8 minutes. The homesters had much the better of the play but somehow found themselves down at the break when Kevin Squire equalised after 27 minutes and then Sean Downing headed Bideford in front on 40 minutes.

In a real end-to-end second half, Yate levelled the game at 2-2 when Hector Mackie fired home before a goalkeeping blunder allowed Biddy to restore their lead after 65 minutes, Downing claiming his second goal but he knew nothing about it as Josh Dempsey let a cross slip through his grasp. Yate refused to lie down and with ten minutes remaining Robin Nicholls drove home a second equaliser.

That was the end of the scoring and a draw was a fair result. What a great game on which to end 2011.

May I take this opportunity to wish all my readers a very happy and healthy new year.

Saturday 31st December 2011
Southern League Division One South & West
Yate Town 3-3 Bideford
Attendance: 178



11.30am Tuesday 27th December 2011
Combined Counties Premier League
Banstead Athletic 0-1 Epsom & Ewell
Attendance: 85

This was my first 'proper' dip into the Combined Counties League (my other grounds came about through relegation - Molesey- and reformation -Windsor) and a very enjoyable experience it was too.

Banstead Athletic play at Merland Rise, which is actually in neighbouring Tadworth, and today they were playing former tennants Epsom and Ewell (they ground shared Merland Rise from 1993 to 2010 before moving in with Merstham FC).

Both sides were in the lower reaches of the table at the beginning of play, but produced a game which was low on quality but high on entertainment and effort and, if both teams could have finished the chances they created, the game could've ended 5-5. There were missed sitters, missed open goals and defensive howlers galore!

As it happens, it was a solitary goal which settled this encounter when in the 48th minute Ross White went through one-on-one with the home goalkeeper before neatly slotting past him.

Best quote of the day came from the Referee who, on booking the Banstead number 2 after he chopped down his opponent, told him "look mate you're overweight you were never gonna catch him" It was good to see a ref with a sense of humour!

3pm Tuesday 27th December 2011
Isthmian League Division One North
Thamesmead Town 2-0 Chatham Town
Attendance: 75

The next port of call was Bayliss Avenue, the home of Thamesmead Town and their Kent Derby clash with Chatham Town.

 A dreadful snarl up on the M25 (1hr 15m to do 8 miles) meant kick off was missed, but upon eventual arrival we were reliably informed the we had missed absolutely nothing and the game had been awful.

The players must have been awaiting our arrival as soon afterwards the first goal arrived when David Noel fired home, just before half time. The second half began with the visitors hitting the post and dominating the play. An equaliser looked on the cards for most of the half but, on 74 miutes, The Mead broke away Theo Fairweather-Johnson scored a fine individual effort.

Bayliss Avenue is currently under re-development and looks like a building site (i'm so happy I never wore the brand new trainers I got for Christmas, as they would've been ruined by the mud). They are in the process of building a new stand, which they hope will be open sometime in 2012. As for now there was a small seated stand behind one goal and covered terrace behind the other, but little else to protect you from the elements.

7.45pm Tuesday 27th December 2011
United Counties League Division One
Potton United 1-1 Wootton Blue Cross
Attendance: 114

Last, but by no means least, was a trip to Bedfordshire for another derby, this time between Potton United and Wooton Blue Cross. This was after the planned trip to see Faversham was aborted on the grounds of "lets just get closer to home"

Tonight was Potton's biggest crowd of the season and it was boosted by several of the great and good, in terms of groundhopping, putting in an appearance. As usual this meant the game passing by rather quickly as plenty of fat was chewed and the world was put to rights.

Pre-match was spent in the absolutely fabulous Rising Sun, which had 8 handpulls, which currently included a selection of Christmas ales, Kelham Sleigh Rider and Acorn 9th Noel being two of them.

The visitors just about shaded a decent game, but it ended with honours even. Jason Simons gave Blue Cross the lead after 23 minutes before an Adam Dunville penalty on 65 minutes rescued a point for the homesters.

I found Potton a very friendly club and The Hollow is a tidy set up. The club even provided complimentary tea and coffee to help warm the cockles on a cold evening.  All in all, a fine day's hopping despite the best attempts of the M25 to ruin it and, overall, a great festive period of 5 games in two days, Merry Christmas indeed!

Adam Dunville equalises for Potton, from the penalty spot

Ex-Spurs & West Ham defender Callum Davenport,
now playing for Wootton Blue Cross