Sunday, 16 January 2022

TLFG: 17-23 January 2022

My week off has come to an end but I put it to fairly good use.

I did some Non-League Day prep, which included speaking to an MP about what we're getting up to, began house hunting and went to two games - yes, two!

The first, on Tuesday, saw me travel down to Tolworth in south-west London to watch Corinthian Casuals take on Harrow Borough in a much delayed London Senior Cup First Round tie.

I go past the ground regularly on the train and have been to a pre-season match there before featuring two other teams but I'd never seen CCs in action themselves.

The clubs both play in the seventh tier in the parallel Isthmian and Southern Leagues and I can't remember many games between them so this was a bit of a novelty.

With light rain falling all day, the pitch was soggy to say the least and I'm sure some refs might have called it off but our one didn't and everything went ahead as planned.

Harrow Borough push for an equaliser at Yate Town

Unsurprisingly, the conditions led to a game of little quality but lots of honest effort and endeavour as both sides did their best on the heavy surface.

It ended 0-0 and thankfully went straight to penalties.

CCs saw their first one saved when Harrow keeper Josh Strizovic went possibly a little early, and then watched as the visitors unerringly converted all five of theirs to win 5-3.

The mouthwatering prize of a home tie against Brentford B at the end of the month now awaits the Boro. 

In my second game, I went even further - all the way to Yate Town in Gloucestershire.

This match had been on my schedule for a while as my brother lives in north Bristol about five miles from the ground.

I took the train down and on arrival at Paddington, I discovered it had lost several coaches and was packed to the rafters.

Consequently, I had to stand for the duration of the two-hour journey to Bristol alongside a small group who had occupied the universal toilet as there was no other space!

My brother met me on arrival and we spent a couple of hours walking around the city's docks before having lunch and driving to the game.

Despite being a talented sportsman, my brother is not a watcher of others and declined my offer of treating him to the match and bade me farewell.

Like Harrow, Yate had a good run in the FA Cup this season and the sides were pretty evenly matched throughout.

The Boro started very poorly, went a goal down, survived a couple more scares and then started to have the better of things.

Their play earned a late equaliser but with a Yate defender requiring lengthy treatment for a head injury, a whopping 10 minutes of injury time got added on.

It's FREE ENTRY at Hampton & Richmond on Tuesday

And it was in that 10th minute that the hosts grabbed a scrappy winner from a corner as it finished 2-1.

Agonising stuff for all involved with Harrow.

Thankfully, I'd ducked out just before to catch a train as there aren't that many in this part of the world and didn't experience that moment of utter deflation.

Undeterred, I plan to be back on the road with them on Saturday as they return again to the Portsmouth area for another tough fixture against Gosport Borough.

One of the highlights of this away day will be the need to catch a ferry as part of the journey to Privett Park.

Before I go, a quick shout out to the Actonians U9s who pulled off their most memorable win so far.

When the team played their first-ever match against Ruislip Rangers back in April, they lost 19-2.

On Saturday they turned things around and recorded a 4-2 triumph.

Sadly neither I nor my daughter were involved because of my trip to Yate but we'll be back for the next one against Acton & Ealing Whistlers in a couple of weeks.

Lastly from me, many thanks this week to Lawrence L from Virginia, USA for donating to TLFG's coffee-drinking fund. I really really appreciate it.


                                                             THE WEEK AHEAD

The highlights of the next few days include games in the Premier League, EFL, EFL Cup, most of our local non-league competitions and Women's Super League too. 

As always, please make sure you check with clubs before you travel just in case a game has been called off or the venue or kick-off time has changed - this is highly possible for some of the lower non-league clubs. Also, please let me know if anything is wrong or missing.

Details on all of this week's games can be found on the following match maps. If you've never used them before, please note that when there is more than one match at a specific ground you'll only be able to see individual match pins if you zoom right in. If you don't, the pins obscure each other and you might miss them. To avoid this, you can also scroll down the list of games on the drop down menu at the top of the map page to make sure you get all the information. Games are listed from top to bottom in date order so Monday's games (yellow pin) will appear first and Sunday's (orange pin) last. Games are also ranked in terms of status so the higher the division, the higher up the list they will appear on each day.
Also if you're unfamiliar with the English league structure I indicate the level at which an individual league sits in the national 'pyramid' with the Premier League at the top (Level 1) and various minor leagues at the bottom (Level 10). Typically a top level game will see crowds of anywhere between 20,000-60,000. These figures will gradually decline as you go down the leagues until you get to Levels 8-10 where attendances of 150 or less are most common.

It should also be noted that the top four levels are for fully professional teams. Level 5 has a mixture of professional and semi-professional teams, while Levels 6-10 will see most players paid but it will vary from no more than travel expenses at the bottom, right up to several hundred pounds a week at the top.

MIDWEEK MATCH MAP
Monday fixtures - yellow pin
Tuesday fixtures - green pin
Wednesday fixtures - turquoise pin
Thursday fixtures - purple pin
Friday fixtures - black pin



WEEKEND MATCH MAP
Saturday fixtures - blue pin
Sunday fixtures - orange pin





TLFG DAILY DIGEST
In the following section, I list, by day, what are in my opinion the most notable games of the week and give some brief reasons for my choice. Check the maps above for kick-off times, ticket info and directions.

Monday 17 January

Premier League 2
Tottenham Hotspur v Blackburn Rovers @7pm - begin the week with the rare opportunity of watching the Spurs U23 side at the THS. Seats are available in the West Stand for just £5 but make sure you book your ticket online in advance

Essex Senior Cup Third Round
Aveley v Barking @745pm - two Isthmian North clubs do battle in the county cup at Parkside, the winners will host Grays Athletic in the next round
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Tuesday 18 January

Championship
Fulham v Birmingham City @745pm - having scored 13 goals in the process of winning their last two games, the Cottagers may well have got through their wobbly patch. Now two points clear of AFC Bournemouth at the top, the west London club should have too much for a struggling Birmingham side who are winless in six. Tickets are available

League One
AFC Wimbledon v Portsmouth @745pm - given Pompey's relative closeness to London, any match in the capital will tend to draw a big crowd - especially ones on the south side of town. The Dons could only manage a 0-0 draw with Morecambe on Saturday, to slide perilously close to the relegation zone whilst Portsmouth suffered a 2-1 defeat in their important match against fellow play-off contenders MK Dons. The atmosphere should be great inside the new and very compact Plough Lane but only a few tickets remain so don't hang about

League Two
Sutton United v Colchester United @745pm - the U's needed a 98th-minute equaliser to salvage a point at struggling Stevenage on Saturday, so a match against another one of the clubs at the wrong end of the table might not be the foregone conclusion it should be. Despite the result, Sutton are still fifth and having a great debut season at this level. Tickets are available

Premier League Cup
Arsenal v AFC Bournemouth @7pm - the Gunners' U23 side entertain their counterparts from Dorset at Boreham Wood's ground. Regular Premier League 2 games are often free entry but there might be a small charge for a game in this competition - check all the details on the day

National League South
Dulwich Hamlet v Dorking Wanderers @745pm - the biggest crowd for any non-league game on Tuesday will almost certainly come at Champion Hill. Matches at the Hamlet frequently sell out although there is usually a bit of a dip for midweek games. Here they welcome the leaders who are in great form and should bring a few supporters of their own. Dulwich are currently seventh and have games in hand on all of those above them so a win would be very useful indeed. Book your tickets in advance to avoid disappointment
Hampton & Richmond Borough v Braintree Town @745pm - the hosts could get right back into the play-off race if they beat the bottom club. The most notable thing about this game, though, is that it's free entry to all as long as you claim a place online in advance

Isthmian South Central
Chertsey Town v Uxbridge @745pm - despite the best efforts of the chasing pack, Bracknell seem pretty untouchable at the moment and are currently 14 points clear at the top. On Saturday they won 1-0 at former leaders Uxbridge who stay in the top four not far behind Chertsey who are second. The Curfews drew a crowd of almost 500 for the visit of Ashford Town on Saturday to show they are definitely a club on the up

Middlesex Senior Cup Quarter-Final
Brentford B v Hanwell Town @745pm - it's always great to see pro clubs fielding sides in the county cups and the Bees have been leading the charge, certainly among local Premier League clubs, for several years. Although drawn at home, they tend to switch all their ties to the opposition's ground so this is being played at the Powerday Stadium. The links between these two local clubs are significant not least the fact that Brentford B's manager Sam Saunders is also a player for Hanwell so there's quite a conflict of interest there!

Surrey Senior Cup Second Round
Tooting & Mitcham United v Balham @745pm - it's derby day at Imperial Fields where teams from two areas right next to each other on the Northern Line go in search of county cup glory. The hosts play a level above Balham so will start as favourites

SCEFL Premier
Glebe v Sheppey United @745pm - third place Glebe host the side just above them in a huge game at Foxbury Avenue. With leaders Chatham starting to pull away, Sheppey badly need a win to keep in touch whilst the hosts can pretty much forget about any title ambitions if they lose

CCL Premier South
Molesey v Jersey Bulls @745pm - Walton & Hersham are 10 points clear at the top and cruising. However, second-place Jersey have four games in hand the first of which is against the Moles who currently prop up the league

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Wednesday 19 January

Premier League
Brentford v Manchester United @745pm - postponed from shortly before Christmas, these two will have another go on Wednesday. The Bees come into this on the back of a 3-0 defeat to Liverpool which left them in 14th. Prior to that, they lost 4-1 at Southampton which was probably their worst performance of the season. United are rarely easy to play against but are way off their best and blew a 2-0 lead to draw at Aston Villa on Saturday. Tickets are only available to members 

Isthmian League Premier Division
Cray Wanderers v Leatherhead @745pm - there's a big relegation 'six-pointer' at Hayes Lane on Wednesday where two of the bottom three will scrap for three vital points in the battle to avoid the drop. It's looking a bit grim for both sides at the moment but Cray are still in touching distance of safety and have some games in hand

FA Women's Super League Cup Quarter-Finals
Arsenal v Manchester United @715pm - it's a big night in women's football with three of the four quarter-finals being played on our patch. WSL leaders Arsenal host Manchester United in the match of the night at Meadow Park. Tickets are available from £8 
Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool @730pm - if Spurs beat West Ham on Sunday then they will come into this game in third place and should start as strong favourites against the Reds who are currently top of the Championship. Tickets for this match at The Hive are £8
West Ham United v Chelsea @730pm - the other tie gives us a London derby to enjoy. The Blues have won this competition for the last two years and should see off the midtable Hammers at Dagenham & Redbridge's ground. Tickets are available from £5

FA Women's National League Division 1 South East
QPR v Actonians @745pm - given my own interest in both clubs, I couldn't let this derby go by without a mention. Hailing from the neighbouring areas of Shepherd's Bush and Acton, there's a decent rivalry starting to build between these two. QPR won a thrilling Capital Cup Final on penalties in May and Actonians won the reverse league fixture at Rectory Park at the start of this season. The visitors inflicted a first defeat of the season on league leaders Hashtag United last weekend so will probably start as marginal favourites here. The match is being played at Hanwell Town. Tickets are £3

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Thursday 20 January

EFL Cup Semi-Final Second Leg
Arsenal v Liverpool @745pm - the Gunners confounded many people by managing a 0-0 draw in the first leg at Anfield despite playing over an hour with 10 men. Now back on home soil, they've got every chance of making it to Wembley for their first EFL Cup Final since 2018. The most successful side in FA Cup history, Arsenal have only won this competition twice with the last time being way back in 1993. Tickets are only available to members

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Friday 21 January

Premier League
Watford v Norwich City @8pm - the Canaries' win over Everton on Saturday lifted them off the bottom and left them just one point behind Watford who sit just above the relegation zone. Before this weekend, Norwich were in shocking form but things are so tight at the bottom that this one win made a huge difference. Therefore this game is massive for both clubs. For the neutral, this should provide an entertaining start to the weekend and there are a few tickets still available

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Saturday 22 January

Premier League
Brentford v Wolverhampton Wanderers @3pm - the Bees' tough run of games continues with the visit of an in-form Wolves side. The Black Country club kept themselves in eighth on Saturday with a solid 3-1 win over Southampton. Earlier in the campaign, Brentford won 2-0 at Molineux so will fancy their chances here. Strikingly, the head-to-head between these sides over history is exactly equal with 12 wins apiece and three draws. Tickets are only available to members

League One
Charlton Athletic v Fleetwood Town @3pm - after a great start under Johnnie Jackson, the Addicks climbed right up into the top half of the table. However, the honeymoon seems to be over and they're now winless in four league games. They picked up a point at Cheltenham on Saturday and face a very winnable game here against a side just above the relegation zone so they really should take three points, for a morale boost if nothing else. Tickets are available

League Two
Leyton Orient v Port Vale @3pm - the O's were up among the frontrunners but have lost their way a bit of late. Three defeats from five have seen them slip to 12th, seven points adrift of the play-off places. It's a similar story for the visitors who have also lost three of their last five to drop out of the top seven. In other words, it should be close. Tickets are available
Sutton United v Northampton Town @3pm - if midweek results go Sutton's way then this could be a clash of third versus fourth. Whatever happens, these two are among the contenders for promotion so it should be well worth a watch. Tickets are available

National League
Dagenham & Redbridge v Stockport County @520pm - the non-league match of the day takes place at the Chigwell Construction Stadium where the Daggers host Stockport. At the time of writing, both sides are in the top eight and it's been picked for live broadcast by BT Sport. The Hatters are one of the biggest clubs in the division and were playing at Championship level just over 20 years ago so will almost certainly sell out their allocation. Tickets are available and you're probably wise to buy in advance

National League South
Dartford v Hampton & Richmond Borough @3pm - despite some iffy form of late, the Darts are still the highest-ranked TLFG team in this division (subject to midweek results). They were top for many weeks but are now down in fifth after only one win from five games. Hampton were in play-off contention and although down in 15th, they're still only five points off the pace such is the tightness of the table

Isthmian League Premier
Kingstonian v Enfield Town @3pm - in the seventh tier, I really like the look of this one as two of the top five meet in Tolworth. The reverse fixture in October saw a 2-0 win for the Towners so the K's will be hoping for some revenge here

Isthmian League North
Aveley v Brentwood Town @3pm - the Millers stayed top of the division with a 1-0 win at Heybridge Swifts on Saturday. However, with only one point separating the top three, the title race is tight. Brentwood, in fifth, are also very much in contention as they have games in hand on all of those above them so this all-Essex affair should be a well worth a couple of hours of your time

CCL Premier Division North
Abbey Rangers v Egham Town @3pm - with Abbey playing in the Chertsey/Addlestone area, this match is very much a derby. Only two points currently separate the sides in third and fifth and with both having games in hand on the leading pair, they need to go all out for victory here

London Senior Trophy Quarter-Final
Tooting Bec v Bridon Ropes @3pm - the pick of the action featuring 10th-tier clubs is probably this cup match at Imperial Fields. Both sides are currently in the top five of the SCEFL Division 1 so should provide a competitive contest

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Sunday 23 January

Premier League
Arsenal v Burnley @2pm - after a fairly quiet day on Saturday, London is heaving with top-flight action on Sunday. The Gunners have struggled against the Clarets in recent seasons, winning only one of their last four games. This season could see that trend end as Sean Dyche's side are really struggling. Arsenal won 1-0 at Turf Moor in September and will expect to at least match that result here. Tickets are only available to members
Crystal Palace v Liverpool @2pm - at the same time on the other side of town, the Eagles welcome the Reds to Selhurst Park. If Palace get anything out of this, it will be a minor miracle as they've lost nine in a row against Liverpool since 2017, scoring five and conceding 27 goals in the process! Patrick Vieira's side are quite tough to beat but they don't win enough so you feel a draw will be the best they can hope for here. Tickets are only available to members
Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur @430pm - with two legs of EFL Cup semi-final action only just behind them, these two meet again for a league game. Although they've only won one of their last five, the Blues look pretty certain to claim a top-four place whilst Spurs still have a bit to do. A home win looks almost nailed on when you also consider Tottenham have only won once at Stamford Bridge since 1990. Tickets are only available to members

FA Women's Super League
West Ham United v Everton @3pm - the pick of the women's action is to be found at Dagenham & Redbridge's ground. After a bright start, the Hammers have slid down to eighth but they have some games in hand which could take them back into the top half. With only one defeat from their last five, at the time of writing, they're not doing too badly and I think they should win here. Tickets are available

FA Women's Championship
Crystal Palace v Liverpool @2pm - with the men's teams playing each other at the same time, the scheduling of this big second-tier game between third and first, seems very unfortunate. On the plus side, getting a ticket for this will be a lot cheaper and easier than the closed shop of the match at Selhurst Park. Please note, that tickets for this game at Bromley's ground are cheaper if bought in advance


GET INVOLVED
If you're going to see a game, whether you're a local or a visitor, please let me know what you've been up to. If you're interested in reviewing a ground in the London area for this blog then get in touch. I also very much welcome photos of your football travels.

NEED HELP?
Got any questions about visiting London? Don't hesitate to ask - be they football or more general travel/touristy queries. I do not charge for this advice like some other sites so don't hold back!

You can contact TLFG through the comments section below or via FacebookTwitter or even by good old email.

Monday, 10 January 2022

TLFG: 10-16 January 2022

Apologies for another late publication this week - omicron has seen things get very stretched at work so I've been doing overtime and going in on my days off so time has been short.

My only live match action was my daughter's latest game for Actonians U9s in the Capital Girls League - the rematch against Hillingdon Abbots.

The last encounter ended in a 3-1 win and this time things improved to 4-0.

Sadly, the people on the sidelines were a challenge again with the coach and some of the parents needing to take a look at themselves - no other club in the league has anyone even vaguely like that.

Ideally I would have gone to watch the women's first team in their National League match against leaders Hashtag United on Sunday afternoon but circumstances prevented me.

I wish I had as Actonians pulled off a 1-0 win to inflict Hashtag's first defeat of the season - some achievement.

Away from that, I found myself a relatively hot topic of social media on Sunday as I correctly predicted QPR would be drawn away to Peterborough in the FA Cup.

I simulated the draw shortly before and it came out that way - all the other ties were totally wrong.

As for a prediction for the result, the same system said 2-2 with Posh winning 3-2 on penalties - watch this space...

I've got the week off now so I hope to try and get to at least two games.

As always, enjoy whatever you go to see and make sure you check all the details before you travel as a lot of games are being called off or moved at short notice.

THE WEEK AHEAD

The highlights of the next few days include games in the Premier League, EFL, EFL Cup, FA Trophy, FA Vase, most of our local non-league competitions and Women's Super League too. 

As always, please make sure you check with clubs before you travel just in case a game has been called off or the venue or kick-off time has changed - this is highly possible for some of the lower non-league clubs. Also, please let me know if anything is wrong or missing.

Details on all of this week's games can be found on the following match maps. If you've never used them before, please note that when there is more than one match at a specific ground you'll only be able to see individual match pins if you zoom right in. If you don't, the pins obscure each other and you might miss them. To avoid this, you can also scroll down the list of games on the drop down menu at the top of the map page to make sure you get all the information. Games are listed from top to bottom in date order so Monday's games (yellow pin) will appear first and Sunday's (orange pin) last. Games are also ranked in terms of status so the higher the division, the higher up the list they will appear on each day.
Also if you're unfamiliar with the English league structure I indicate the level at which an individual league sits in the national 'pyramid' with the Premier League at the top (Level 1) and various minor leagues at the bottom (Level 10). Typically a top level game will see crowds of anywhere between 20,000-60,000. These figures will gradually decline as you go down the leagues until you get to Levels 8-10 where attendances of 150 or less are most common.

It should also be noted that the top four levels are for fully professional teams. Level 5 has a mixture of professional and semi-professional teams, while Levels 6-10 will see most players paid but it will vary from no more than travel expenses at the bottom, right up to several hundred pounds a week at the top.

MIDWEEK MATCH MAP
Monday fixtures - yellow pin
Tuesday fixtures - green pin
Wednesday fixtures - turquoise pin
Thursday fixtures - purple pin
Friday fixtures - black pin



WEEKEND MATCH MAP
Saturday fixtures - blue pin
Sunday fixtures - orange pin





TLFG DAILY DIGEST
In the following section, I list, by day, what are in my opinion the most notable games of the week and give some brief reasons for my choice. Check the maps above for kick-off times, ticket info and directions.

Monday 10 January

Professional Development League
Millwall v Charlton Athletic @1pm - the Lions' U23 side get the chance to play local rivals Charlton at The Den on Monday lunchtime. Adult tickets are £5

Isthmian League Premier Division
Carshalton Athletic v Kingstonian @745pm - the best non-league option of the day is this seventh-tier match in south London. The K's will go second if they win

CCL Premier South
Walton & Hersham v Sheerwater @745pm - the Swans will extend their lead at the top of this division to eight points if they win here
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Tuesday 11 January

EFL Trophy Third Round
Arsenal v Chelsea @7pm - the biggest match of the night is this U21 game at the Emirates Stadium. Since the top clubs' youth sides were parachuted into this competition, I don't think we've ever seen two of the biggest get this far and play each other. How many fans turn out for this remains to be seen but only a limited amount of the ground will be open. If you've never been to the Emirates, tickets are only £4 but must be bought in advance

National League
Boreham Wood v Wealdstone @745pm - if you want something less controversial and much more meaningful then head to Meadow Park to watch The Wood - one of the non-league sides making headlines in the FA Cup. After seeing off AFC Wimbledon on Saturday, they get straight back to league action with this derby against the Stones. The Hertfordshire club have games in hand on the leaders and will move back into the top three if they win against a side looking to avoid the drop

Southern League Premier Division South
Metropolitan Police v Farnborough @745pm - there's a game of huge significance on the south-west side of town as the top two in this division do battle. The visitors are currently five points clear with a game in hand so a win here would be massive for them

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Wednesday 12 January

EFL Cup Semi-Final First Leg
Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea @745pm - after an insipid performance in the first leg, which they lost 2-0, Spurs will be hoping for more here. Both sides successfully came through FA Cup ties against lower-league opposition over the weekend and should ready and raring for this one. Tickets are only available to members

Premier League
West Ham United v Norwich City @745pm - if you can't get in at the THS then there are a few tickets left for this top-flight game at London Stadium. After a dreadful run of results, the Canaries sit bottom of the table and should struggle again against a Hammers side who are having one of their best seasons in a while

Isthmian League Premier Division
Cray Wanderers v Bognor Regis Town @745pm - the hosts are London's oldest club and they're currently engaged in a battle to get out of the bottom three. They have games in hand on the clubs around them so beating midtable Bognor could see them escape the relegation zone

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Thursday 13 January

FA Youth Cup Fourth Round
Watford v Chelsea @7pm - the Hornets' youngsters will play their counterparts from Chelsea at Vicarage Road in the country's most prestigious U18 competition. Adult tickets are £5
Reading v Manchester United @7pm - if you're prepared to travel a little beyond London's western boundary then you might fancy this other tie at the club's main stadium. Tickets are £3 but must be bought in advance

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Friday 14 January

Premier League 2
Arsenal v West Ham United @7pm - a big week of youth football continues at Boreham Wood's ground where the Gunners' U23 side welcome PL2 leaders West Ham. These games are often free to get into but check on the day to make sure

Isthmian North
Barking v Maldon & Tiptree @745pm - in a bit of a change to the schedule, the Blues have decided they want to play at home on Friday so have moved tenants Sporting Hackney to Saturday instead. The east London club are struggling this season so could really do with a win

MCFL Premier Division
Sporting Hackney v Clapton CFC @745pm - although way down in the 11th tier, I'd like to think a healthy crowd of at least 200 will turn up for this local derby. Neither club have their own ground so this is being played at Barking's stadium MATCH OFF - Now on Saturday at 130pm

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Saturday 15 January

FA Youth Cup Fourth Round
Crystal Palace v Wolverhampton Wanderers @2pm - with no Premier League teams playing in London on Saturday, the closest you'll get to seeing one of them will be this U18 cup tie at Selhurst Park. Tickets are £5

Championship
Fulham v Bristol City @3pm - if the match above isn't for you then there's a full selection of second-tier games to choose from. A few weeks ago it looked as if the Cottagers were going to become the division's breakaway club but they've run out of steam and are winless in five league games. However, on Saturday they beat Bristol City at Ashton Gate in the FA Cup so you'd have to fancy their chances here. Tickets are available 
Millwall v Nottingham Forest @3pm - only a point apart in the table and looking to push into the play-off places, both sides have plenty to play for. Forest grabbed all the headlines on Sunday by beating Arsenal in the FA Cup and current form would suggest they'd be marginal favourites here. Tickets are available
QPR v West Bromwich Albion @3pm - arguably the game of the day sees two of the top five do battle at Loftus Road. The R's are fifth, a point and a place behind the Baggies but with a game in hand. The hosts have won three on the bounce, including their dramatic win over Rotherham on penalties in the FA Cup, but have lost three of their last four home league games against the West Midlands club - it's going to be tight. Tickets are available

League One
AFC Wimbledon v Morecambe @3pm - both sides bowed out of the FA Cup over the weekend but in very different circumstances. The Dons suffered the embarrassment of defeat to non-league opposition while the Shrimps led Spurs for a large portion of their tie at the THS before falling away near the end. With their minds now firmly back on the league, neither can really afford to lose this hugely important relegation 'six-pointer'. Tickets are available

FA Trophy Fourth Round
The FA Trophy is a knockout competition for clubs in the fifth to eighth tiers. We're now down to the last 32 and Wembley is starting to appear on the horizon
Boreham Wood v Maidstone United @3pm - the Wood may well have made it to the Fourth Round of the FA Cup but they're into the last 32 of the FA Trophy too. Given how well they're doing in the league, they're having a season to remember. The Stones play a level below but are challenging for the title and should bring a sizeable number of travelling supporters
Dagenham & Redbridge v Southend United @3pm - one of the ties of the round is this Essex derby between two former EFL clubs. The pair drew a big crowd for the league match at the end of October which the hosts won 3-0
Dartford v Weymouth @3pm - there's a chance of a cupset at Princes Park where one of the best sides in the National League South host one of the strugglers from the division above

FA Vase Fourth Round
The FA Vase is a knockout competition for clubs in the ninth and tenth tiers. Its final is also at Wembley and we're down to the last 32 too
Atheltic Newham v Littlehampton Town @3pm - the hosts are a very new club and only made their debut in the Vase last season. Therefore, getting to this stage of the competition is quite an achievement. In Littlehampton, they face one of the toughest teams they could have drawn as they're going for the Southern Combination title
Raynes Park Vale v Stansfeld @2pm - with clubs travelling considerable distances in some of the other ties, these two London clubs have done well to get drawn against each other. Hailing from parallel leagues on different sides of the capital, they won't get to play too often. RPV play a level above the visitors so should be favourites on paper
Southall v Clevedon Town @3pm - 1986 Vase finalists Southall are in the top three of the CCL North and enjoying a fine season. In contrast to Western League club Clevedon who aren't pulling up any trees and should be beaten

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Sunday 16 January

Premier League
Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal @430pm - the week ends with its biggest match. The North London Derby is one of the highlights of the English football calendar. Historically, the Gunners have dominated this relationship but things have become much closer in recent seasons. The fortunes of the two clubs in the five months since the season began have fluctuated wildly - Arsenal began badly while Spurs started well. Then Arsenal won the first derby of the season with ease and Tottenham became the crisis club. Antonio Conte's arrival has improved things greatly for the club from N17 but they were unconvincing in their most recent cup matches against Chelsea and Morecambe, but Arsenal lost to Nottingham Forest. At this stage, things are now about even. One other fact to note - Arsenal haven't won a league game at Spurs since 2014. Tickets are not available
West Ham United v Leeds United @2pm - for the second Sunday in a row, West Ham play host to Leeds. Over the weekend just gone, the Hammers beat Leeds 2-0 in the FA Cup in what was a pretty entertaining game. The Yorkshire club weren't at full strength so will hopefully put in a better showing here as they look to climb further away from the relegation zone. Tickets are available

FA Women's Super League
Arsenal v Reading @230pm - with Chelsea suffering a surprise defeat to Reading before Christmas, the league looked like it was going to be Arsenal's to lose. However, on Sunday the Gunners experienced an even bigger upset as they lost to bottom club Birmingham City. The Royals are the division's form team so it's not likely to get any easier here. Tickets are available
Tottenham Hotspur v West Ham United @645pm - in the late game we've got this derby to enjoy at The Hive. Spurs could  potentially go second if they win here which would be some achievement. Tickets are available


GET INVOLVED
If you're going to see a game, whether you're a local or a visitor, please let me know what you've been up to. If you're interested in reviewing a ground in the London area for this blog then get in touch. I also very much welcome photos of your football travels.

NEED HELP?
Got any questions about visiting London? Don't hesitate to ask - be they football or more general travel/touristy queries. I do not charge for this advice like some other sites so don't hold back!

You can contact TLFG through the comments section below or via FacebookTwitter or even by good old email.

Monday, 3 January 2022

TLFG: 3-9 January 2022

Happy New Year everyone and welcome to the first TLFG of 2022.

How were the festivities for you? Did you get to many games?

Just prior to Christmas, I was invited by a couple of friends to appear on their QPR podcast where we were joined by R's manager Mark Warburton.

He's very generous with his time and seems to come on three or four times a season - very approachable, he's always keen to field fans' questions and give his point of view.

I asked a couple of questions about U23 and youth players who might be coming through and was told by a friend to ask him what was on his Christmas list, so I obliged and he simply wanted 'a day off'.

Tickets are on sale now

On the eve of the R's match against title challengers Bournemouth on 27 December, a friend of mine went down with Covid and very generously donated his tickets to me.

I took my daughter and another young relative who lives near the stadium but had never been to a game.

There was a big crowd, lots of atmosphere, plenty of action and despite the Cherries winning 1-0, I think he enjoyed it.

Depending on whether I'm needed to do some Omicron-busting overtime, I hope to go to QPR's U23 match against Middlesbrough on Wednesday but I get the feeling I could be required if I don't go down with the virus myself before then.

For me, this week is all about the FA Cup Third Round with a few decent ties taking place in London.

Of the six on offer, there's only one all-Premier League contest and two others featuring non-league sides.

The beauty of seeing games at this stage at the big clubs is that tickets are cheap and in most cases, readily available.

For example, you'll get a ticket with ease for Tottenham v Morecambe, get to visit the magnificent THS and pay a fraction of the normal price.

You'll also have little trouble getting some for West Ham v Leeds but a little surprisingly, Chelsea v Chesterfield is sold out - fair play to Blues fans.

Right, it's rapidly approaching 3am and I need to get to bed!

Have a great week everyone - happy football watching.


THE WEEK AHEAD

The highlights of the next few days include games in the FA Cup, EFL Cup, National League, most of our local non-league competitions and Women's Super League too. 

As always, please make sure you check with clubs before you travel just in case a game has been called off or the venue or kick-off time has changed - this is highly possible for some of the lower non-league clubs. Also, please let me know if anything is wrong or missing.

Details on all of this week's games can be found on the following match maps. If you've never used them before, please note that when there is more than one match at a specific ground you'll only be able to see individual match pins if you zoom right in. If you don't, the pins obscure each other and you might miss them. To avoid this, you can also scroll down the list of games on the drop down menu at the top of the map page to make sure you get all the information. Games are listed from top to bottom in date order so Monday's games (yellow pin) will appear first and Sunday's (orange pin) last. Games are also ranked in terms of status so the higher the division, the higher up the list they will appear on each day.
Also if you're unfamiliar with the English league structure I indicate the level at which an individual league sits in the national 'pyramid' with the Premier League at the top (Level 1) and various minor leagues at the bottom (Level 10). Typically a top level game will see crowds of anywhere between 20,000-60,000. These figures will gradually decline as you go down the leagues until you get to Levels 8-10 where attendances of 150 or less are most common.

It should also be noted that the top four levels are for fully professional teams. Level 5 has a mixture of professional and semi-professional teams, while Levels 6-10 will see most players paid but it will vary from no more than travel expenses at the bottom, right up to several hundred pounds a week at the top.

MIDWEEK MATCH MAP
Monday fixtures - yellow pin
Tuesday fixtures - green pin
Wednesday fixtures - turquoise pin
Thursday fixtures - purple pin
Friday fixtures - black pin



WEEKEND MATCH MAP
Saturday fixtures - blue pin
Sunday fixtures - orange pin





TLFG DAILY DIGEST
In the following section, I list, by day, what are in my opinion the most notable games of the week and give some brief reasons for my choice. Check the maps above for kick-off times, ticket info and directions.

Monday 3 January

Isthmian League Premier Division
Carshalton Athletic v Worthing @3pm - the seventh tier Isthmian Premier tops the bill on Monday with the midtable Robins welcoming the increasingly impressive looking league leaders. Worthing are now nine points clear, although that gap could be cut by some of the chasing pack who have games in hand
Cray Wanderers v Enfield Town @3pm - fifth placed Enfield are currently London's main challengers in this division and wins in their two games in hand will put them second. Cray, London's oldest club, are having a disappointing season and are currently in the bottom three
Kingstonian v Lewes @3pm - the K's were top for a while and, although seventh, are still in touch with the leaders thanks to their three games in hand. Former fifth-tier club Lewes are having one of their best seasons of recent years and are third meaning this could be a bit of a cracker
Wingate & Finchley v East Thurrock United @3pm - at the less glamorous end of the table, two of the bottom five will fight it out for three valuable points as they look to make some progress in the right direction

Isthmian League North
Aveley v Romford @3pm - in third, the Millers are currently the main title challengers from TLFG's catchment area. Coming into this match, the Essex side are just three points behind leaders Stowmarket Town but have played more games and therefore simply must beat bottom club Romford to stay in the hunt

Isthmian League South Central
Chertsey Town v Sutton Common Rovers @3pm - boss Kevin McClaren appeared to be leading the Curfews towards a promotion challenge until an unfortunate incident during a game saw him relieved of his duties. Rather than fall apart, the Surrey club have continued to prosper and are now second under former Arsenal player Ian Selley. SCR are in the bottom five and should be beaten

Isthmian League South East
VCD Athletic v Hastings United @3pm - the Vickers recorded an impressive 3-0 win at title-chasing Cray Valley PM on Saturday to move back into the top eight. The result helped top club Hastings extend their lead to four points as they beat Lancing 1-0 in front of over 2,000 fans - not bad for an eighth-tier match!

CCL Premier South
Walton & Hersham v Redhill @3pm - the standout fixture in the ninth tier is the top-two clash in this division. The Swans are currently two points clear with a game in hand on Redhill but third place Jersey and Beckenham back in fifth have the games in hand to make this title race one of the most exciting around

SCEFL Division 1
Stansfeld v Sutton Athletic @3pm - over in Chiselhurst, the top two in this 10th-tier division meet for another mouthwatering contest. The hosts, who groundshare with Glebe, were top for a while and have only slipped to second through a lack of action - they haven't played since the 12 December. Sutton last played on Monday and took top spot after beating FC Elmstead 3-2 in their landlords v tenants groundshare derby

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Tuesday 4 January

EFL Trophy Third Round
Charlton Athletic v MK Dons @7pm - having seen a couple of games fall to Covid, the Addicks returned to league action on Saturday with a 1-0 loss at home to promotion contenders Wycombe. On Tuesday they get back into cup mode against another one of League One's better sides. The bookies have both clubs among the favourites to win this competition so it should be one of the best ties of the round. Most adult tickets for this game are just £5
Sutton United v Colchester United @745pm - the U's are new to this level, taking part in this competition for the first time and taking it pretty seriously. Currently third in League Two, they should see off Colchester who are battling to avoid the drop. Tickets are available

CCL Division 1
Rayners Lane v Hilltop @745pm - a mention should also go to this 10th-tier match between two Middlesex clubs. Hilltop, who are new to this level, have been one of the breakout success stories of the season so far. A side with their roots in the Somali community, they're currently top but only a point ahead of London Lions and third-placed Rayners Lane. With 138 goals from 39 games between them this season, two of the division's highest scorers should hopefully provide an entertaining contest

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Wednesday 5 January

EFL Cup Semi-Final First Leg
Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur @745pm - the latter stages of this cup always seem to creep up on me unawares, presumably because they happen so early in the season. The organisers are guaranteed a big box-office final as four of the biggest teams in the country have made the semi-finals. With perennial winners Manchester City having long gone, we'll also get a new champion too. The first semi-final is this exciting looking derby between two of the capital's top clubs. With Chelsea, relatively speaking, in a bit of a funk at the moment, I fancy a rejuvenated Spurs to prevail over two legs as Antonio Conte looks to get the better of his former employers. Tickets are still available to members, season-ticket holders and their friends so work your contacts if you want to go

Premier League Cup
QPR v Middlesbrough @1pm - if you're at a loose end on Wednesday lunchtime, then get yourself over to Wealdstone's ground in Ruislip for this re-arranged U23 match. We're still at the group stage of this competition with these sides the top two in Group B. Tickets are usually £5 on the gate. 

CCL Division 1
London Lions v Enfield Borough @745pm - depending how things go on Tuesday at Tithe Farm, the hosts might have the chance to go top if they win this 10th tier north London derby 

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Thursday 6 January

EFL Cup Semi-Final First Leg
Arsenal v Liverpool @745pm - a few weeks ago, you'd probably think there could be only one winner here but with the Gunners improving greatly and almost taking a point off Manchester City on Saturday, it's much closer now. Liverpool are the most successful club in the history of the competition with eight wins and four runners-up spots. However, they haven't made the final since 2016 and their last win was 10 years ago. With this season's league title effectively claimed by City already, less fashionable cups like this suddenly become far more interesting so it really is anyone's. Tickets are only available to members and season-ticket holders MATCH OFF

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Friday 7 January

FA Women's Super League
Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur @7pm - the WSL returns from its short winter break with this intriguing game at Kingsmeadow. As a result of a Covid outbreak, the Blues haven't played a league game since their surprise loss at Reading on 11 December which left them four points behind leaders Arsenal. Tottenham have made huge strides this season and are only a point behind in third. This match should give some indication of how much Spurs have closed the gap on the top two - whether they are genuine contenders or simply the best of the rest. Adult tickets are £9 MATCH OFF

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Saturday 8 January

FA Cup Third Round
If you're new to the game in England, Third Round weekend is one of the highlights of the season as all the surviving smaller clubs are given the opportunity to play the some of the giants of the land who enter the draw at this stage
Chelsea v Chesterfield @530pm - if any tie sums up what the FA Cup is all about, it's this one as the non-league Spireites travel to Stamford Bridge to play the reigning European champions. The Blues should win comfortably but they've been humbled in this competition before, losing 4-2 at home to League One side Bradford City in 2015. Chesterfield are currently top of the National League with only one defeat this season so they arrive in good form but surely they can't win here, can they? Unlike many games at this stage, tickets have sold out 
Millwall v Crystal Palace @1245pm - one of the ties of the round, this derby at The Den should be well worth a watch. With the clubs bobbing around the divisions in recent years, the two haven't played since 2013 which should add a bit to the occasion. Games between the two are often tight with six of the last 10 ending in a draw. Playing a division below Palace, the Lions will start as underdogs but in a cup scenario like this anything is possible. At the time of writing, some tickets were available to non-members but they could've gone by now
QPR v Rotherham United @3pm - probably the least interesting tie on paper but when you look a bit closer, the opportunity for a cupset is very good indeed. The R's are fifth in the Championship and playing some good football but their record in the FA Cup this century is pretty woeful with only one appearance in Fifth Round in 2019. The Millers play a level below them but are top of League One with only four defeats this season. Several lower league clubs have won at Loftus Road in recent years so there's no reason Rotherham can't either. Adult tickets are £15
Boreham Wood v AFC Wimbledon @3pm - the Wood have had a fine season, briefly topping the National League and they're still very much in contention. Next up they welcome the Dons to Meadow Park for a really interesting looking tie against the 1988 FA Cup winners. The Hertfordshire club have never made it beyond this round but their form and home advantage against a very average League One side could see them make history. Tickets are available for £15

National League
Bromley v Solihull Moors @3pm - away from the glamour and thrills of the FA Cup, the title race is also pretty exciting in the fifth tier where just five points separate the top seven clubs. All the teams have played a different amount of games so it could be even tighter when it all levels out. Bromley are currently seventh and playing a team just a couple of points behind. With only seven points from their last five games, the south London club could do with a win to keep up with the searing pace

National League South
Dartford v Dulwich Hamlet @3pm - a sizeable attendance should be expected at Princes Park as two of the top six go after the win that will revive their ailing fortunes. Dartford were top for a long time but their slump in form has finally caught up with them and they've sunk to fifth after going winless in three. The Hamlet were thriving, in front of sell-out crowds, and got into the play-off places but now only one win from five sees them just behind the Darts in sixth - it's too close to call

Isthmian League Premier Division
Enfield Town v Lewes @3pm - the standout game in the seventh tier pits two of the top five in the Isthmian Premier against each other. Both have a match before this so if results go their way, it could be third versus second. Lewes won the reverse fixture 4-1 so the Towners will be looking for revenge

Isthmian League North
Grays Athletic v Dereham Town @3pm - in the eighth tier, head east to Aveley's fine Parkside ground which Grays share with their Essex neighbours. At the time of writing these two are both in the top five and looking to make up ground on the top three before they get too far in front

Essex Senior League
Walthamstow v Cockfosters @3pm - there aren't any really big games in the ninth tier on Saturday so I'd recommend you go and check out the 'Stow in E17. With 60 points from 24 games, they're already 12 points clear and arguably the best side in London at this level. Head along to Wadham Lodge with the rest of the Rabble and make up your own mind

CCL Division 1
London Lions v Hilltop @3pm - it's the one we've all been waiting for in the 10th tier where the current top two in this division duel for the lead. Rayners Lane could mess this up if they beat Hilltop in midweek but whatever happens, it should be a good contest. We mentioned above how the visitors have roots in the Somali community, well the hosts are one of the capital's Jewish clubs - it should be a fascinating afternoon

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Sunday 9 January

FA Cup Third Round
West Ham United v Leeds United @2pm - the only all-Premier League tie of the round in London this weekend takes place at London Stadium. The Hammers enjoyed a fine away win at Crystal Palace on Saturday to stay in the top five. Leeds also picked up a priceless win over fellow strugglers Burnley to move eight points clear of the relegation zone. On paper, therefore, this should suggest a home win but much will come down to who wants it more and plays the strongest team. Both have bigger priorities in the league so could drop a few first-teamers. West Ham won at Elland Road earlier in the season and are unbeaten in five against the Yorkshire club. Tickets are available for between £10-30
Tottenham Hotspur v Morecambe @2pm - another tie for cup romantics sees a club from a small Lancashire seaside town head to the big smoke for what could be the match of some of these players' careers. The Shrimps won promotion to League One last season but are finding it tough going in the third tier. They found themselves in the relegation zone on Sunday morning but by teatime had pulled off one of the comebacks of the season in the huge 'six-pointer' against Doncaster, coming back from 3-0 down at half-time to win 4-3. With that huge boost to morale, they head to the hugely impressive THS to try and pull off another shock. Tickets are available at a much-reduced rate
Charlton Athletic v Norwich City @2pm - if you're looking for a more realistic chance of a cupset then it might come at The Valley where a very poor Norwich side could come unstuck against the Addicks. Although two divisions separate the sides, the Canaries are shipping loads of goals at the moment and prop up the Premier League. However, they're only three points adrift of safety so you'd think a cup run could prove to be a distraction and they might rest players. Tickets are available

FA Women's Super League
West Ham United v Manchester United @645pm - there's also a large selection of women's games on Sunday with this WSL game topping the bill. The Hammers started the season brightly but have faded a little recently and are back in seventh. The visitors are currently fourth and could break into the top three if they win and Spurs fail to take three points at Chelsea on Friday. The match is being played at Dagenham & Redbridge and the late kick-off means you can easily combine it with the men's game earlier in the afternoon. Tickets are available MATCH OFF


GET INVOLVED
If you're going to see a game, whether you're a local or a visitor, please let me know what you've been up to. If you're interested in reviewing a ground in the London area for this blog then get in touch. I also very much welcome photos of your football travels.

NEED HELP?
Got any questions about visiting London? Don't hesitate to ask - be they football or more general travel/touristy queries. I do not charge for this advice like some other sites so don't hold back!

You can contact TLFG through the comments section below or via FacebookTwitter or even by good old email.

Sunday, 19 December 2021

TLFG: 20 December 2021 - 2 January 2022

Season's greetings one and all and welcome to the Christmas and New Year edition of The London Football Guide.

As usual, this piece covers the next two weeks and is jam-packed with game info.

However, with Covid causing numerous postponements this week and no doubt leading to many more between now and the end of the year, I've taken the decision not to invest hours of my time doing a 'TLFG Daily Digest' as much of it could go by the wayside.

If it doesn't, all you really need to know is that there's lots of great games to choose from - at non-league level, many games are local derbies.

Traditionally, Boxing Day has been the big day for festive football and there are some pretty big games but this year a large chunk of the action has been carried over to Monday 27 December as it's been made a bank holiday.

Games in the ECL Division 1 South and Combined Counties League start as early as 11am and 1130am respectively, there are 3pm matches in most other leagues and then QPR finish everything off with their 530pm kick-off against AFC Bournemouth - so you can easily see two or possibly even three matches at a push.

The only plan I have is to be at the derby between Harrow Borough and Hendon on the 27th but it could fall through so who knows where I'll end up.

Earlier this week I got a call from BBC journalist Helen Price who was researching a piece on the effect of Covid on non-league clubs.

She put together the following short feature for BBC London which included a very positive visit to Walthamstow.

As it's the end of the year, I'll leave you with my three personal highlights of 2021.

They are:

1) Being crowned QPR Supporter of the Year - something I could only possibly have achieved during a pandemic shutdown of football!

2) Seeing my daughter take up football, win her first match and score her first goal

3) Going to Fratton Park to watch Harrow Borough take on and only narrowly lose 1-0 to Portsmouth in the FA Cup 

I'd be interested to hear what yours are.

Lastly, thanks as always to you all dear readers for sticking with me - your kind words, contributions and donations keep me going. 

It's also been great to meet an increasing number of you at games.

Anyway, have a great couple of weeks and see you all in 2022.


THE WEEK AHEAD

The highlights of the next couple of weeks include games in the Premier League, EFL, National League, most of our local non-league competitions too. 

As always, please make sure you check with clubs before you travel just in case a game has been called off or the venue or kick-off time has changed - this is highly possible for some of the lower non-league clubs. Also, please let me know if anything is wrong or missing.

Details on all of this week's games can be found on the following match maps. If you've never used them before, please note that when there is more than one match at a specific ground you'll only be able to see individual match pins if you zoom right in. If you don't, the pins obscure each other and you might miss them. To avoid this, you can also scroll down the list of games on the drop down menu at the top of the map page to make sure you get all the information. Games are listed from top to bottom in date order so Monday's games (yellow pin) will appear first and Sunday's (orange pin) last. Games are also ranked in terms of status so the higher the division, the higher up the list they will appear on each day.
Also if you're unfamiliar with the English league structure I indicate the level at which an individual league sits in the national 'pyramid' with the Premier League at the top (Level 1) and various minor leagues at the bottom (Level 10). Typically a top level game will see crowds of anywhere between 20,000-60,000. These figures will gradually decline as you go down the leagues until you get to Levels 8-10 where attendances of 150 or less are most common.

It should also be noted that the top four levels are for fully professional teams. Level 5 has a mixture of professional and semi-professional teams, while Levels 6-10 will see most players paid but it will vary from no more than travel expenses at the bottom, right up to several hundred pounds a week at the top.

20-25 DECEMBER MATCH MAP
Monday fixtures - yellow pin
Tuesday fixtures - green pin
Wednesday fixtures - turquoise pin
Thursday fixtures - purple pin




BOXING DAY MATCH MAP
Sunday fixtures - orange pin




27-31 DECEMBER MATCH MAP
Monday fixtures - yellow pin
Tuesday fixtures - green pin
Wednesday fixtures - turquoise pin



1-2 JANUARY MATCH MAP
Saturday fixtures - blue pin
Sunday fixtures - orange pin



GET INVOLVED
If you're going to see a game, whether you're a local or a visitor, please let me know what you've been up to. If you're interested in reviewing a ground in the London area for this blog then get in touch. I also very much welcome photos of your football travels.

NEED HELP?
Got any questions about visiting London? Don't hesitate to ask - be they football or more general travel/touristy queries. I do not charge for this advice like some other sites so don't hold back!

You can contact TLFG through the comments section below or via FacebookTwitter or even by good old email.

Sunday, 12 December 2021

TLFG: 13-19 December 2021

Wow it's Sunday again and another week has raced by and in just over two weeks another year will have gone by too.

The last few days have been all about youth football for me.

On Wednesday I went to Loftus Road to watch QPR U18s enjoy a 2-1 win over Oldham Athletic in the Third Round of the FA Youth Cup.

The game was close, the goals of a very high standard and the young crowd lively - all for the princely sum of £3 which you really can't complain about.

They now travel to AFC Bournemouth in the next round.

On Saturday morning my daughter returned to action with Actonians U9s and scored only the second goal of her fledgling career during a 6-0 derby win over Acton & Ealing Whistlers in the Capital Girls League.

My eldest daughter celebrates after netting her second of the season

I managed to capture the moment of celebration in a photo which was a great bonus.

After her final training session of the year on Monday, she's booked in for a futsal taster session on Tuesday so we'll see whether she likes it and whether it's something else that might be worth pursuing.

Her coach at Actonians hails from Italy, is a big fan of that form of the game and recommended that she give it a go to improve her technique so we'll see.

Next up we're lucky to have another piece from American groundhopper Marc Derks who gave us his thoughts on Craven Cottage a few weeks ago.

This week he's done a composite piece reflecting on his visits to the Emirates Stadium, London Stadium, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and Wembley:

Even casual followers of football in the US are aware of the backlash here in London to the age of the mega-ground, or the NFL-style football stadium.  Having grown up around mega-stadiums in the US–ten are larger than Wembley and a whopping 70 are larger than Tottenham Hotspur–the controversy was a bit confusing.  What was the big deal?  Actual fans and closer observers worried about the loss of history, of tradition, and of atmosphere that simply oozes from the old grounds around London, including those being abandoned in Wembley, White Hart Lane, and Upton Park.  Would the new grounds provide the proper home for a great football experience?

Not surprisingly, of the ten largest stadiums in the UK, four are in London.  Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, England and the FA’s Wembley, West Ham’s London Stadium, and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium all fit comfortably in the mega-ground category with capacities north of 60,000.  Elsewhere in the UK, Old Trafford and Celtic Park are among the largest predominantly football stadiums and three rugby union stadiums barge into the top ten in attendance.  

With my Thursday night trip to the Emirates, the current fourth largest in England and largest in London when it opened with a capacity of 60,260, I’ve managed to visit all of the stadiums that exactly no one else calls “London’s Big Four.”  The mega-stadium movement in London almost didn’t start, as Emirates was nearly a victim of the global financial crisis.  Arsenal began their ill-timed relocation in 2002. With some timely intervention by Emirates Airlines, the entire stadium project was completed in 2006 at a cost of £390 million.  

My impression of the Emirates is that it does little to assuage the fears of those longing for a traditional experience.  The stadium is cut off from the surrounding neighborhood by a surrounding fence and isolated by railroad tracks.  The concourse seems to be a cross between the worst of both worlds, combining the low ceilings and fluorescent lights of an old soccer ground and the unremarkable (if not downright bad) food and indifferent branding of an NFL stadium. While the curves of the stands are architecturally beautiful, the distance between the pitch and the low rise of the seats in the lower bowl make for some challenging sight lines.  It probably didn’t help my impression that Tobin Heath didn’t make the 18 and that Barcelona ran rampant over the Arsenal Women.  At least they had Camden Brewery on tap and there were plenty of restrooms.

A couple months back, my first visit to a mega-stadium in London was a literal bucket list stop.  Opened in 2007 on the site of the original Wembley Stadium, new Wembley’s 90,000 capacity stands quickly surpassed the Emirates as not only the largest in London, but the largest stadium in the UK and the second-largest stadium in Europe. From central London, Wembley is kind of a haul to get to, requiring a regional train ride, but the walk from the train station up to the stadium makes the trip worthwhile.  As you exit the train station, you are greeted with the view of a wide boulevard, closed off to traffic, with thousands of England supporters making their way to cheer on the Three Lions.  It is an epic sight in the truest sense of the word.  

Wembley provides great sight lines notwithstanding its size and the England supporters make for a good atmosphere for a national team game.  It did not escape me that the crowd continued to make noise (inexplicably singing “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”?!?) in a 4-0 rout of mostly hapless Andorra.  The decor is minimal and the feeling of the interior is pretty industrial.  There’s not much attention to the rich history of the FA or reference to Old Wembley, which is a missed opportunity.  And sadly, the food and beer choices were disappointing especially given the size of the crowd and the stadium.  

European nights are a UK phenomenon unequalled in the US.  And especially for teams in the Europa Cup vice the full Champions League, they can be a good opportunity to snag a seat at a normally sold-out stadium.  That’s how I first got to visit West Ham’s London Stadium as the Hammers took on a team from Belgium in the Europa League group stage.  The stadium began life as Olympic Stadium with construction officially starting in 2008. Holding 80,000 for the Olympics and the Paralympics, it re-opened in July 2016 with 66,000 seats, but with capacity for football limited to 60,000 (soon to be 62,500).

Having followed the weird dance with the UK Olympic Committee, Tottenham Hotspur, and Leyton Orient, West Ham’s move to London Stadium was met with some criticism from hardcore fans and casual observers for leaving Upton Park and its neighborhood location and history.  Like Wembley, London Stadium is unusual for a soccer stadium (but unremarkable for an American) in that it is set well away from any residential development sitting as it does in the former Olympic Park.  Approaching at night, it is an impressive sight, but reminds one of a US-style American football stadium much more than a typical English ground.  It’s not close to much of anything and like Wembley, a regional train is the best option from central London.

Inside, however, West Ham has done with London Stadium what the FA has failed to do with Wembley.  Sensitive to the criticism, the club has packed the stadium with images, pictures, and slogans from the Hammers’ 125-year history.  Needless to say, the tiny bubbles made the move to the new home as well, greeting the team and each goal as the crowd serenades with the traditional tune. There’s a strong variety of food and drink well placed around the concourse and the goal line seating has been moved and pushed up against the pitch with no sign of the Olympic track that once ringed the field.  There is a significant distance between the supporters and the touch line, but the steep rake of the stands helps a great deal.  The supporters have done their part in response and the crowd is lively and vocal.

It may be, though, that the newest one has done it the best.  Taking the best lessons of West Ham’s work one step further, Tottenham Hotspur‎ built its shiny new 2016 home on the residential site of White Hart Lane.  Consequently, the 61,104 seater rises up suddenly from the area’s high street and is flanked by residences all around.  It’s a pleasant walk from the Tube or you can switch to a regional train for a one-stop ride and a much shorter walk.  Remnants of the White Hart Lane ground provide a link to the past, with some gates preserved outside the stadium and an entire building of offices from the original carefully built around inside.  Tottenham imagery is everywhere and while I couldn’t find Clint Dempsey, I did glimpse a picture of a young man who would go on to manage the US Men’s National Team, Juergen Klinsmann.

Tottenham sought to make the stadium a destination as well, with Europe’s longest bar, the Touch Line, at one end of the concourse with interesting food choices all around.  Thoughtfully, the pristine grass pitch can be rolled away to reveal astroturf underneath, meaning that American football games won’t do American football damage to the carefully maintained Premier League grass.  Moreover, the stadium stays open after the matches and friends can gather to share a pint and a pie and discuss the game.  I did just that after an entertaining win over Vitesse in Antonio Conte’s first game at the helm of Spurs.

Having been to both Allianz Arena in Munich and Old Trafford in Manchester, I had observed first hand the “corporate fan experience” that is dominant in global clubs.  The supporter experience suffers with fewer attendees who know the songs and the history of the rivalries and clubs.  This worry undoubtedly added to the typical Londoner’s skepticism for these huge stadiums.  The newer mega-stadiums in London have done an admirable job of avoiding that, with great success at West Ham and Tottenham linking the clubs and the grounds to the past and providing an old-style atmosphere in a new-style stadium.

Thanks a lot to Marc for making the effort to write up and share his thoughts.

Of the four, do you have a favourite?

I have been to events at all of them but have only seen athletics at London Stadium and it's hard to disagree with most of what Marc says.

The THS is an impressive sight

The THS is the newest and most impressive in my opinion and I haven't yet met anyone who disagrees - its big let down is its location, in terms of proximity to public transport.

Yes, there are Overground stations nearby but the service is infrequent and the queues can be long.

The Tube from Seven Sisters is much more efficient but is a long walk, especially when compared to other London grounds like Arsenal or Chelsea which pretty much have their own Tube stops.

I also quite like Wembley but food and drink prices are bad and the service slow vis-a-vis Tottenham which wins hands down on that count.

I guess I'd have the Emirates and London Stadium somewhere in between.

Lastly from me, many thanks this week to regular reader William B from London for donating to TLFG's coffee-drinking fund. I really really appreciate it.

Have a great week everyone.

THE WEEK AHEAD

The highlights of the next few days include games in the Premier League, EFL, FA Trophy, National League, most of our local non-league competitions and the Women's Super League too. 

As always, please make sure you check with clubs before you travel just in case a game has been called off or the venue or kick-off time has changed - this is highly possible for some of the lower non-league clubs. Also, please let me know if anything is wrong or missing.

Details on all of this week's games can be found on the following match maps. If you've never used them before, please note that when there is more than one match at a specific ground you'll only be able to see individual match pins if you zoom right in. If you don't, the pins obscure each other and you might miss them. To avoid this, you can also scroll down the list of games on the drop down menu at the top of the map page to make sure you get all the information. Games are listed from top to bottom in date order so Monday's games (yellow pin) will appear first and Sunday's (orange pin) last. Games are also ranked in terms of status so the higher the division, the higher up the list they will appear on each day.
Also if you're unfamiliar with the English league structure I indicate the level at which an individual league sits in the national 'pyramid' with the Premier League at the top (Level 1) and various minor leagues at the bottom (Level 10). Typically a top level game will see crowds of anywhere between 20,000-60,000. These figures will gradually decline as you go down the leagues until you get to Levels 8-10 where attendances of 150 or less are most common.

It should also be noted that the top four levels are for fully professional teams. Level 5 has a mixture of professional and semi-professional teams, while Levels 6-10 will see most players paid but it will vary from no more than travel expenses at the bottom, right up to several hundred pounds a week at the top.

MIDWEEK MATCH MAP
Monday fixtures - yellow pin
Tuesday fixtures - green pin
Wednesday fixtures - turquoise pin
Thursday fixtures - purple pin
Friday fixtures - black pin



WEEKEND MATCH MAP
Saturday fixtures - blue pin
Sunday fixtures - orange pin





TLFG DAILY DIGEST
In the following section, I list, by day, what are in my opinion the most notable games of the week and give some brief reasons for my choice. Check the maps above for kick-off times, ticket info and directions.

Monday 13 December

Essex Senior Cup Third Round
Aveley v Barking @745pm - the week's action begins at Parkside where we're down to the last 32 in this county cup. Both sides play in the eighth tier Isthmian North but with the hosts fourth from top and the visitors fourth from bottom, the smart money would appear to be on the Millers

Development and Youth matches
After receiving quite a bit of interest in recent weeks, I've had the time to hunt around and find a load of fixtures at this level for the whole week. However, it's been hard to verify all the details so double-check absolutely everything before you travel

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Tuesday 14 December

Premier League
Brentford v Manchester United @730pm - games like this are what being in the Premier League is all about and they don't come around too often for Bees fans - the last time they hosted the Red Devils at Griffin Park was in 1947 and it ended in a goalless draw. Their win over Watford on Friday lifted them back into the top half and will give them renewed confidence of getting something from this one. Tickets are not available to non-members MATCH OFF

Southern League Premier South
Hayes & Yeading United v Truro City @745pm - after a blistering start, H&YU made it look like the title was theirs to lose. However, recent defeats against Kings Langley, Metropolitan Police and Walton Casuals have reduced them to being simply strong contenders. They still have games in hand, like this one, which if won would put them top but that now looks like more of a challenge than it did a few weeks ago. Cornish side Truro have a ridiculously long journey to undertake for a Tuesday and aren't the side they were a couple of years ago. It should be a home win, but I'm not quite so sure any more

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Wednesday 15 December

Premier League
Arsenal v West Ham United @8pm - the Gunners enjoyed a solid 3-0 win over Southampton on Saturday to move back into the top six. Next up they face what should hopefully be a very entertaining derby against the Hammers who sit just above them in fourth. Arsenal are unbeaten in four against West Ham and haven't lost to them at home since 2015.  Tickets are not available to non-members
Crystal Palace v Southampton @730pm - there's an important game at Selhurst Park featuring teams towards the other end of the table. The sides have managed only two wins between them over the course of their last five games so three points here would be big for either of them. The Saints have won on three of their last four visits so it's a happy hunting ground for them. Tickets are not available to non-members

Premier League Cup
QPR v Middlesbrough @1pm - if you're at a loose end on Wednesday lunchtime, then get yourself over to Wealdstone's ground in Ruislip for this U23 match. We're still at the group stage of this competition with these sides the top two in Group B. Tickets are usually £5 on the gate. MATCH OFF

Isthmian League Premier
Kingstonian v East Thurrock United @745pm - the K's were top of the league a couple of months ago but have lost their way a bit since then. Worthing are now clear in first but things are tight among the chasing pack. The south-west London club have games in hand on all of those above them which if won would put them back in second. ETU are struggling this season so you'd expect the points to stay in Tolworth

FA Women's League Cup
West Ham United v Brighton & Hove Albion @730pm - Hope Powell's Seagulls team, alongside Spurs, have been one of the Super League's breakthrough sides so far this season, as the injury-ravaged Manchester City have struggled. A much-improved Hammers side are seventh so this could be a good one. They're also the top two in Group E and should view themselves as potential winners of this competition. Hopefully they'll field strong sides for a match which will be played at Dagenham & Redbridge

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Thursday 16 December

Premier League
Chelsea v Everton @745pm - after leading the Premier League for a good chunk of the season, the Blues are having their 'wobble', only winning three of their last five. Their 3-2 win over Leeds on Saturday was, by all accounts, unconvincing. Much has been made of Everton's poor recent form but beating Arsenal last week must have been a great boost for them. However, Stamford Bridge is not a lucky ground for them - their last win was in 1994, 32 games ago. Only hospitality packages are available

FA Youth Cup Third Round
Tottenham Hotspur v Ipswich Town @7pm - the final Third Round tie of the country's top U18 cup competition takes place a little to the north of London at Stevenage's ground. The winners will host West Brom or Rotherham in the next round
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Friday 17 December

Premier League 2
Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur @7pm - begin your weekend with a North London Derby at Boreham Wood's ground. Currently third and second in the PL2 table, this U23 fixture looks pretty mouthwatering. To top it all, admission to U23 games at Meadow Park is usually free but check all the details in advance just in case anything special is in place for a match like this MATCH OFF

Essex Senior League
Woodford Town v Enfield @745pm - your non-league option of the night takes place on the north-eastern side of town. Both sides are bobbing around in midtable but when it comes to average attendance, they're both in the title race. With average crowds of 431 and 261 respectively, you should be able to expect a sizeable crowd for this ninth-tier match
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Saturday 18 December

Premier League
Watford v Crystal Palace @3pm - it's a big week for both of these clubs as they play sides in the lower reaches of the table. If they both win in midweek and one of them wins here, things will look a lot rosier. The last-minute defeat to Brentford on Friday was a big blow to the Hornets and by the end of this weekend, they were left teetering just above the bottom three. One of the best things about Watford being in the Premier League is that non-members can usually get tickets MATCH OFF
West Ham United v Norwich City @3pm - if the Hammers beat Arsenal on Wednesday then the odds on them finishing in the top four will surely shorten that little bit more. David Moyes has done a fantastic job since returning to the club and in their kind of form, a home win against struggling Norwich should be almost certain. However, the Canaries have improved markedly under new boss Dean Smith and were unlucky to lose to Manchester United on Saturday. If they beat his old club Villa on Tuesday, then they could move out of the bottom three with a point here - something that seemed unthinkable a few weeks ago. Tickets are available MATCH OFF

Championship
Millwall v Preston North End @3pm - with only one win from five games, the Lions have lost ground in the race for the play-offs and are now five points behind sixth-placed Stoke. PNE are a couple of points further back and coasting in midtable. With seven points from their last five, the Lancashire club are in better form and will be keen to avoid a fifth consecutive defeat against the London club. Tickets are available MATCH OFF
QPR v Swansea City @3pm - having seen their televised match at Sheffield United postponed because of a Covid outbreak, the R's will still come into this as a top-six club. Despite having a highly-rated young manager in Russell Martin, Swansea are down in 16th after losing heavily at home to Nottingham Forest on Saturday. With the club offering a 'Kids for a Quid' promotion and a festive family fun zone on South Africa Road near the stadium, this could be a good option if you've got children in tow. Tickets are available MATCH OFF

League One
AFC Wimbledon v Portsmouth @3pm - two former FA Cup winners clash at Plough Lane in this enticing third-tier fixture. The Dons are unbeaten in four and could do with a win to increase the gap between themselves and the relegation zone which is currently a reasonable six points. Pompey have improved a lot in recent weeks, since beating Harrow Borough, and are now only a point off the play-off places. Tickets are scarce but check with the club for the latest availability MATCH OFF

League Two
Sutton United v Harrogate Town @3pm - the U's disappointingly drew 2-2 at Bradford on Saturday after conceding a late equaliser against a side who had played most of the match with 10 men. The result means they're still in the top six, a position I'm sure most fans would've snapped your hand off for ahead of the season's start. Former non-league opponents Harrogate are the next to visit Gander Green Lane and, although 10th, could break into the play-off places with a win such is the tightness of the table. Tickets are available

FA Trophy Third Round
The knockout competition for clubs in the fifth to eighth tiers, with its final at Wembley, is down to 64 clubs. At this stage, all the biggest clubs from the National League enter the draw. There are only two ties in London but they look good
 
Barnet v Boreham Wood @3pm - these two local rivals from north London are going to be pretty sick of seeing each other soon. They recently played each other in the FA Cup, they have this game and then play home and away league fixtures against each other over the festive period. That most recent meeting in the FA Cup ended in a 1-0 win for The Wood at The Hive and given their current form, they should be favourites to take the honours again
Cray Wanderers v Dartford @3pm - seventh tier Cray, London's oldest club, are having an underwhelming campaign in the Isthmian League but pulled off a big shock in the last round by beating Dartford's National League South title rivals Ebbsfleet on penalties. The Darts finally slipped off their perch at the top of the NLS after being hammered 4-0 by county rivals Maidstone on Saturday. It would be another big shock if Wanderers do win but they're clearly quite capable

Southern League Premier South
Hayes & Yeading United v Harrow Borough @3pm - the game of the day in the seventh tier is this local derby on the west side of town. Both sides have a hit a bit of an unpredictable patch so this could go either way. The clubs didn't get a chance to play last season because of Covid but the previous year, Harrow won both games 3-2 so hopefully we'll get a few more goals here MATCH OFF

Isthmian League South East
Cray Valley PM v Lancing @3pm - there aren't any obvious humdingers in the eighth tier so go and give CVPM your support if you're in south-east London. There aren't too many clubs from the capital in this division but they're top and need a win to keep the likes of Ashford United, Ramsgate and Hastings United from catching them. Lancing are in the bottom three and should be beaten

CCL Premier South
Beckenham Town v Badshot Lea @3pm - the visitors took part in our featured ninth-tier game last week as they travelled to leaders Walton & Hersham and fought out a thrilling 3-3 draw. It saw them end the weekend in third just a point and place ahead of the Becks. Badshot have another game before this which if won would put them up to second in the table MATCH OFF

SCEFL Division 1
Bridon Ropes v Sutton Athletic @3pm - two of the top four lock horns for what should be an exciting clash at Meridian Sports & Social Club in Charlton. Both sides had disappointing weekends with Bridon Ropes surprisingly losing 3-2 to Westside whilst Sutton came unstuck at promotion rivals Tooting Bec. Only two points separate the top four so a win for either could see them go top

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Sunday 19 December

Premier League
Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool @430pm - Spurs have seen their last two matches postponed because of a Covid outbreak among their squad. Hopefully it will clear up in time for this one. Two of the biggest clubs in England, matches between them are usually a great occasion. Saying that, Liverpool have totally dominated over the years. The Reds have won seven in a row against Tottenham and have lost only one of the last 19. Although new boss Antonio Conte has made them much tougher to beat, Spurs will do well to get much more than a point. Tickets are not available to non-members

FA Women's Super League
Arsenal v Brighton & Hove Albion @645pm - the match of the weekend sees first play fourth in a televised game at Boreham Wood's ground. The Gunners took a significant four-point lead at the top after seeing challengers Chelsea surprisingly lose 1-0 at Reading on Saturday before beating Leicester 4-0 themselves. Brighton suffered a disappointing 2-0 loss at home to Manchester United on Sunday to slip to fourth but should pose Arsenal a tougher challenge than the Foxes. Tickets are available
Chelsea v West Ham United @1215pm - earlier in the day, the Blues have this derby at Kingsmeadow. After their dominant FA Cup Final performance against Arsenal last weekend, few would have predicted them losing at Reading who were ninth coming into the game. In such a tight title race, every point counts so this was a real blow to Emma Hayes's side. The Hammers drew at Everton to end the weekend in seventh. Normally I would confidently predict a home win but that Reading match has given me doubts. Tickets are available MATCH OFF
Tottenham Hotspur v Everton @2pm - Spurs brought their winless run to an end with a very useful 2-1 victory at Aston Villa on Sunday evening. The result sees them climb above Brighton back into third which, realistically, is probably as high as they will go. The rest of the season will probably be spent battling the Seagulls, Manchester United and a resurgent Manchester City in trying to keep third spot, in a mini-league of their own. The Toffees are unbeaten in three but still look unlikely to make much of an impression on the top half by the end of the season. Tickets are available


GET INVOLVED
If you're going to see a game, whether you're a local or a visitor, please let me know what you've been up to. If you're interested in reviewing a ground in the London area for this blog then get in touch. I also very much welcome photos of your football travels.

NEED HELP?
Got any questions about visiting London? Don't hesitate to ask - be they football or more general travel/touristy queries. I do not charge for this advice like some other sites so don't hold back!

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