Monday, 9 November 2020

British Football's Greatest Grounds

With lockdown completely stopping the watching of live football at all levels, TLFG would normally lie dormant until grounds begin opening up again.

However, last week, my friend and former Non-League Day campaign manager Mike Bayly finally published 'British Football's Greatest Grounds: One Hundred Must See Football Venues'.

After initially asking football fans to nominate their favourite ones, Mike has spent the last six years selecting the top 100 and travelling the length and breadth of the country researching each one.

Groundhoppers, club historians, photographers and fans have all been interviewed or contributed to its production - I even helped with the Loftus Road part.


It is a fantastic book with thousands of copies pre-ordered before its publication by Pitch Publishing last Monday.

If you're a fan of football, the game's history or love a bit of groundhopping then this is the book for you.

Clubs at all levels appear throughout its 320 pages and it should keep you amused as we move towards the time when we can all watch the sport we love once again.

How many of the 100 have you been to? Which ones are on your list? In your opinion, are there any missing that should be on there? 

One that seems to be very popular is Cappielow Park, the home of Scottish club Greenock Morton which lies next to the town's docks to the west of Glasgow.



Although I've visited almost 150 grounds worldwide, I've never been to a match in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales - bar a play-off final at the Millennium Stadium.

I did once have tickets for Celtic v Motherwell but it was around New Year and the match got snowed off, I couldn't make it back for the re-arranged game and I've never come close to having the opportunity again.

Mike's book will give you all kinds of ideas about where to go next so treat yourself to an early Christmas present, you won't regret it.

Sunday, 1 November 2020

TLFG: 2-8 November 2020

With Covid Lockdown 2 looming towards the end of the week, it's a strange time at TLFG Towers.

Most of the announced restrictions make the continuation of football at all levels with spectators almost impossible.

However, at the time of writing on Sunday, nothing official has been announced so we're in a state of limbo at the moment. 

What does seem fairly clear is that football with spectators for games in the seventh tier and below should be able to continue up to and including Wednesday.

As a result the 'Daily Digest' towards the foot of the page only goes that far but the match maps have everything until Sunday, including a whole raft of youth fixtures from U18-U23 levels. The list at these levels is probably not exhaustive but there's plenty to be going on with.

So with possibly only three days of action remaining, it's time to fill your boots!

If you read last week's piece you might remember I've got some time off at the moment so I managed to cram two games in this weekend.

Bagshot's goalkeeper had a very tough afternoon

On Saturday I had planned to head south to Sussex to watch Burgess Hill Town against Harrow Borough but torrential rain and some last-minute errands from the Mrs made me re-think my plans and I ended up staying local.

Living in Shepherd's Bush my local non-league team in the top 10 tiers are Kensington & Ealing Borough who hail from very close by but currently groundshare at Hanwell Town which is still my nearest non-league ground.

After a bit of shopping in Westfield and a trip to the library (see 'errands' above), I jumped on the Tube at White City shortly before 230pm and was in the Powerday Stadium close to Perivale station in time for kick-off.

As it was fairly short notice, I hadn't looked into the form guide of K&EB or their visitors Bagshot ahead of this Combined Counties League game.

To say the early stages were open would be an understatement as the hosts seemed to carve the Bagshot defence apart at will and duly went ahead in the fourth minute with a simple enough goal.

The chances kept on coming and so did the goals with the west London club opening up a 3-0 half-time lead. With two others disallowed, their dominance was total.

Three minutes after the re-start, a fourth found the net to end the game as a contest.

Sadly for Bagshot there was to be no respite as the hosts rattled in another four to go 8-0 up with the best part of 15 minutes to go.

It looked almost certain that we'd get into double figures and we duly did, however, it was the embattled visitors who somehow managed two goals in little more than a minute who got us there.

With the match finishing 8-2 I finally had a look at the league table and discovered Kensington & Ealing were now positioned nicely in sixth whilst Bagshot were bottom, having lost all nine of their league games, conceding an average of 4.4 goals per game - a record that was clearly borne out by their performance here.

Aside from the stellar performance, I'd like to also highlight how friendly various players and officials of the club were with several of them saying a polite hello to me as the solitary person on the terrace behind the goal (everyone else preferred to stand along the sides).

I'd also like to note that on arrival at the ground there was no-one manning the turnstile and I just walked in. After the match I tweeted the club to say I'd send them the money online but they said not to worry and looked forward to me coming again so I will, lockdown permitting.

My match on Sunday saw me attend my first women's match.

I say first, I've been to a couple of FA Cup finals and an England game but never a run-of-the-mill club game.

Why now? Good question.

The answer is mainly down to the fact that since I started this blog I've become the proud father of two daughters and the eldest at seven is starting to get into the sport.

With it being half-term, the beginning of the week saw her attend her first two day football camp hosted by local women's club Actonians at their headquarters near Acton Town station.

It seemed to be a great success with IGF providing the coaches, one of whom is the Actonians goalkeeper. A couple of other players, including New Zealand's Ashleigh Ward, dropped in to do Q&As and even one of Chelsea's players chatted via a video link.

My daughter was inspired and more than happy to check out the first team's big Women's FA Cup match against Worthing today.

Coached by Danny Harrigan, a member of the QPR Trust Football Development team, Actonians play in the fourth tier of the women's football system and had been on a fine six-game unbeaten run coming into this. With Worthing playing two levels below, they were expected to win.

Left-back Ashleigh Ward had a fine game for Actonians

Playing games a few miles north-west of Acton at the Middlesex FA's HQ in Northolt, it afforded me the first chance to visit the new facility in Rectory Park.

Tickets were £3 for adults and free for U16s, which had to be bought in advance, so that was a good start.

To be honest, the facilities are great for players but not so great for spectators with everyone restricted to one side of the field, with the two small stands closed for Covid reasons. There is, though, a fine tea bar selling a wide variety of food to satisfy a number of dietary requirements.

The match itself was a little cagey to begin with but bang on the midway point of the first half, Meila D'Santos saw her corner cleared straight back to her and she curled it sweetly into the top corner to give the hosts the lead. 

A second followed 10 minutes later when Justine Buckmire-Monro drove into the box and saw her goalbound effort touched home by Alessandra Barreca.

Worthing had shown moments of skill so were by no means out of it as the second half kicked off but seconds later they were 3-0 down after Minori Ono's calmly converted after being put clean through.

When the fourth came just six minutes later, I thought I could be in for another 10-goal afternoon but it was not to be as Actonians made a number of subs and comfortably consolidated their lead.

Having spotted a fellow campmate in the crowd, seen her coach on the bench and witnessed a good performance, my daughter and I were both impressed.

The amount of recognition we got from the club, manager and a number of players on social media for simply turning up was also a really nice touch.

A Twitter conversation with club's chair Linda Fox earlier in the week had made it clear that there were a number of opportunities for my daughter with Wildcats sessions and an opportunity to join the U9s squad also on offer.

Whether we'll get into U9s football at this stage I'm not so sure but Wildcats sessions are fun and with QPR running a session too, we could mix them up depending on my shifts - and lockdown restrictions!

Anyway, if you want to get into women's football or have a daughter who does and you live in west London, Actonians seem to be a great club to get involved with.

Well I think that's about it from me. I hope to cram one more game in, at Harefield United, before lockdown on Thursday which is coincidentally my birthday - great timing Boris!

Stay safe everyone and hopefully it won't be too long before everything's back to 'normal'.


THE WEEK AHEAD

The highlights of the next few days include games in the Isthmian League, Southern League, FA Vase, FA Youth Cup and Women's National League. There are also games at higher levels but none of them are open to the public.

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 or youth matches. 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. However, capacity restrictions are currently in place at all grounds because of Covid-19 meaning only clubs from the seventh tier and below can currently admit spectators.

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 - blue 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 2 November

ECL Division 1 South
Barkingside v Burnham Ramblers @745pm - the week opens with a 10th-tier fixture in Ilford. These two are only a point apart in midtable. A win for either will send them into the top eight

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Tuesday 3 November

Isthmian League Premier Division
Wingate & Finchley v Cheshunt @745pm - it was hard to pick a game of the night at this level but I've gone for this as it's important at either end of the table. As one of the smallest clubs, staying up is always the priority for a club like Wingate and at the moment they're keeping their heads above water. Cheshunt, who don't play a million miles away, are having one of their best seasons for a while and will go level on points with leaders Worthing if they win. Tickets are available in advance but can be bought on the gate too

FA Trophy Third Round Qualifying
Uxbridge v Hayes & Yeading United @745pm - after seeing this match rained off on Saturday, these two local rivals will try again on Tuesday night. Uxbridge are struggling at the level below H&YU so start as considerable underdogs. Tickets are available on the gate for £10

Isthmian League South East Division
VCD Athletic v East Grinstead Town @745pm - this was supposed to have been played earlier in the season when the sides made up the top two. Not much has changed since with VCD second and East Grinstead third. However, the visitors have games in hand on all those around them and have top spot in their sights. Tickets are available on the gate for £10

FA Vase First Round
Cockfosters v Cogenhoe United @745pm - another game to fall foul of Saturday's bad weather gets another chance to be played on Tuesday. Cockfosters are among the frontrunners in the Essex Senior League so should fancy their chances against a midtable side from the parallel United Counties League. I haven't seen any ticket prices but they are available on the gate and shouldn't be more than £7
Newbury Forest v May & Baker @745pm - next to Barkingside Tube station these two east London clubs meet in an Eastern Counties League derby which should hopefully be thoroughly entertaining. The hosts will start as strong favourites as M&B are bottom of the league

SSML Premier Division
Harefield United v North Greenford United @730pm - the hosts could break into the league's top four if results go their way on Tuesday night. With no game on Saturday, they should come into this game rested and ready to go. NGU have had a tough time in the league but stunned then leaders  Eynesbury last weekend and rattled in six goals on their way to victory at Sandhurst in the FA Vase on Saturday so they arrive in great form. Tickets are available on the gate and are usually around £6 - I'm going to this one

CCL Division 1 Cup First Round
Tooting Bec v Farnham Town @745pm - fifth placed Bec host the leaders for the second time in 10 days after the two fought out an entertaining 2-2 draw in a league match last weekend. Let's hope we'll get some more of the same here. Tickets are £6 and available on the gate

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Wednesday 4 November
At the time of writing on Sunday, it's looking highly likely that Wednesday could be the last time you get to watch any live football before the lockdown kicks in so don't miss your opportunity

Isthmian League Premier Division
Kingstonian v Haringey Borough @745pm - neck-and-neck on 12 points, one of these two could make a giant stride towards the play-off places with a win here. After winning at Faversham in the FA Trophy on Saturday, Haringey arrive in slightly better form as the K's came unstuck at Maldon & Tiptree. Tickets are available online in advance for £10

FA Vase First Round
Raynes Park Vale v Sheerwater - rearranged at relatively short notice, this tie should have happened on Saturday. It features two midtable CCL Premier Division teams so should make for a pretty even contest. Tickets are £6 and available on the gate

CCL Division 1 Cup First Round
Westside v Sandhurst Town @730pm - when Westside thrashed former landlords Chessington & Hook 5-0 on 17 October things were looking very rosy indeed. Since then, back-to-back defeats to Epsom & Ewell and Eversley & California have seen them drop to third. However, they are still only four points off top spot and well in the hunt for promotion. With Sandhurst towards the wrong end of the table and shipping six goals in an FA Vase tie on Saturday, the hosts should make progress here. Tickets are £5 and available on the gate

Emergency Services Football League
London Police v London Fire Brigade Eastern @6pm - for something a little different, head west to North Greenford United's ground to enjoy this early kick-off. Tickets are free but must be secured online in advance
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5 November-2 December
With a national lockdown kicking in on the 5 November and lasting until at least 2 December, no matches are being played with spectators during this period. Hopefully we'll have some positive news soon


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, 25 October 2020

TLFG: 26 October - 1 November 2020

Greetings readers - I'm going to keep this brief as I'm on early morning shifts again and need to be up in a few hours.

Hopefully I haven't missed anything crucial out but if I have please let me know or put something in the comments section below.

I haven't been to any football this week. I was too tired by the time Wednesday evening came round so didn't make the trip to Kingstonian. I was also off on Saturday but it was my daughter's birthday so it was spent at the zoo rather than pitchside somewhere.

The week ahead looks pretty full with the FA Trophy and FA Vase dominating proceedings at the weekend.

The FA Vase and FA Trophy take centre stage this week

After representations and suggestions from a couple of readers, I've brought back the 'A bit further afield' section in the daily digest with a couple of interesting matches to tempt you beyond London's extremities. If you know of any more, once again let me know or put them in the comments. At most, they shouldn't be much more than 90 minutes travel time from the capital.

I start a run of 11 days off work on Wednesday so I hope to at least go to Harrow Borough's FA Trophy tie at Burgess Hill Town on Saturday. Who knows what the following week will bring...

Lastly from me, many thanks to all those who have donated to TLFG's coffee-drinking fund. Cheers one and all.


THE WEEK AHEAD

The highlights of the next few days include games in the Isthmian League, Southern League, FA Trophy, FA Vase, FA Youth Cup and Women's FA Cup. There are also games at higher levels but none of them are open to the public.

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 or youth matches. 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. However, capacity restrictions are currently in place at all grounds because of Covid-19 meaning only clubs from the seventh tier and below can currently admit spectators.

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 - blue 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 26 October

Combined Counties League Challenge Cup Second Round
Sutton Common Rovers v Spelthorne Sports @745pm - the week opens with a very decent looking cup tie as leaders SCR welcome third-placed Spelthorne for what looks like the game of the night

SCEFL Division 1
SC Thamesmead v Forest Hill Park @745pm - Monday evening also gives us the chance to run the rule over the hosts who are currently joint top of the division. FHP have only won two of their opening six league games so face a tough evening

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Tuesday 27 October

Southern League Premier Division South
Hayes & Yeading United v Chesham United @745pm - HYU caused one the upsets of the FA Cup Fourth Round Quailfying on Saturday by winning 2-0 at local rivals Wealdstone. With the First Round draw on Monday night, the west London club will know who they'll be playing and tickets could possibly be on sale at the ground. Aside from that, they're also pushing for a place in the top five in the league and a win here against the club just above them could be very significant
Walton Casuals v Metropolitan Police @745pm - elsewhere in the division, there's a local derby. Met Police are only one point adrift of the play-off places but lost at home to Walton Casuals in the FA Cup three weeks ago

Isthmian League South Central Division
Ashford Town (Middlesex) v Chertsey Town @745pm - talking of derbies, these two don't play a million miles apart either. To top it all, they're both in the top six and looking to push on

Essex Senior League
Redbridge v Cockfosters @745pm - after their superb start to the season, Cockfosters have now gone three without a win to fall five points behind leaders Hashtag United. If they're to stay in the title race, a win at the midtable Motormen looks like a must

SSML Premier Division
Oxhey Jets v Harefield United @730pm - in eighth and fourth place respectively, these are the top two TLFG clubs in this league. With leaders Eynesbury Rovers surprisingly losing at home to North Greenford on Saturday, Harefield missed the chance to go joint top after losing to fellow contenders Biggleswade United in a match that must have been a big blow to their confidence. Oxhey's win at Tring means a place in the top five is now within their grasp

CCL Division 1
Chessington & Hook United v Tooting Bec @745pm - with Tooting Bec earning a valuable point against leaders Farnham on Saturday, Chessington missed the chance to close the gap on the top club by losing at Bedfont & Feltham. Both sides come into this in the top six and only two points apart

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Wednesday 28 October

Isthmian League Premier Division
Cray Wanderers v Merstham @745pm - once again, Cray provide the pick of the action on Wednesday as this is the only seventh-tier match on offer. London's oldest club saw their run in this year's FA Cup come to a disappointing end at Canvey Island in one of the upsets of the round. This means they can now concentrate on winning their games in hand and getting back into the title race. A win against bottom club Merstham looks highly likely and will propel them into the top four

Isthmian League North Division
Grays Athletic v Great Wakering Rovers @745pm - Aveley's well-appointed Parkside ground is the venue for this all-Essex affair between sides who are just a point apart in the table and on the cusp of the play-off places

FA Youth Cup Third Qualifying Round
Wealdstone v Bromley @730pm - one of the ties of the round sees two National League clubs' U18 sides meet as Grosvenor Vale. With both sides' fans locked out of all first-team games, you'd think a good few of them would take the chance to watch this. Tickets are £5 and seem to only be available on the gate but check with the club 
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Thursday 29 October

Isthmian Youth League Central Division
If U18 football floats your boat, there are two matches in south-west London that will hopefully keep you entertained - Kingstonian (at Colliers Wood United) and Metropolitan Police host. As always, check all the details before you travel

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Friday 30 October

FA Vase First Round
With the qualifying rounds out of the way, the competition proper can begin. If you don't know, this national knockout competition is for clubs in the ninth to eleventh tiers with its final at Wembley. At this stage there are 98 ties being played around the country. All matches are decided on the day with penalties deciding things if the scores are level after 90 minutes

Walton & Hersham v Peacehaven & Telscombe @745pm - the first tie of the round takes place on Friday night because Walton Casuals have a game on the same ground on Saturday. The hosts are in the 10th tier CCL Division 1 which is a level below that of SCFL club P&T. However, the visitors aren't in great form and W&H are doing well - great cupset potential

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Saturday 31 October

FA Trophy Third Round Qualifying
Saturday is all about cup football with the next round of the FA Trophy (for clubs in the fifth to eighth tiers) taking place alongside the Vase. There are a number of ties, here are my top three:

Corinthian Casuals v Hendon @3pm - an all-seventh tier tie in Tolworth should hopefully produce a competitive contest. Casuals earned a point after drawing with Leatherhead in a front of a Covid-19 limited sell out crowd of 600. The south-west London club are one of several who are seeing a real surge in support whilst local clubs like Chelsea, Fulham, AFC Wimbledon and Sutton United remain shut to spectators. Hendon's last match saw them routed 6-2 by Brentford B in the London Senior Cup so they'll be looking for a much better result here
Aveley v Beaconsfield Town @3pm - admittedly this isn't the sexiest tie in town but it's interesting because eighth tier Aveley had a fantastic run in this competition last season, upsetting several bigger sides. They made it all the way to the quarter-finals where former top-flight side Notts County finally beat them 5-0 at Meadow Lane. The Essex club have made a decent start to the season unlike Beaconsfield who play a level above them so once again, an upset could be on the cards
Uxbridge v Hayes & Yeading United @3pm - it's derby day in west London where these two very local rivals meet at Honeycroft. The hosts play a level below H&YU and aren't doing all that well with only five points from five games. As has been mentioned above, the visitors are in great cup form and will start as firm favourites

FA Vase First Round
Welling Town v Hanworth Villa @3pm - there are loads of ties in London on Saturday and it's been hard drawing up a shortlist as there are very few obvious humdingers. First up I've gone for this all ninth-tier match between two of our local sides from opposite sides of town. They don't usually get to play each other in league football and given how new The Boots are to senior football, this may well be the first time the clubs have played. On current form, you'd probably have to go with the visitors
Holmesdale v AFC Uckfield Town @3pm - the hosts have made a fine start to the season and are currently third in the SCEFL Division 1. They'll need to be in top form again as Sussex club Uckfield play a level above in the SCFL and are in the top five
Sutton Athletic v Sheppey United @3pm  - two SCEFL clubs meet in this tie with Sheppey one of four clubs starting to breakaway at the top of the league. Sutton play in the division below and will have to do something special to come out on top
Tooting Bec v Guildford City @3pm - after an entertaining penalty shoot-out win over Lydd Town in the last round, TB now face a step up in class as they face a CCL Premier Division side. Guildford are struggling and look vulnerable to a cupset
Newbury Forest v May & Baker @3pm - lastly we've get a derby on the east side of town where two ECL Division 1 sides go head-to-head in Barkingside. The home side should win

A bit further afield
Sandhurst Town v North Greenford United @730pm - it's been pointed out to me by regular TLFG reader Chris H that NGU's match against Sandhurst has been moved to Saturday evening as they groundshare with Bracknell Town who are also playing that day. If you fancy two matches on Saturday then here's your opportunity. Bracknell is a one hour train ride from Waterloo and sits just off the M4 if you're driving

Middlesex County League Premier Division
Clapton CFC v Stonewall FC @230pm - after holding leaders Brentham to a 2-2 draw, the Tons next face Stonewall FC at Wadham Lodge. Last season these two drew a crowd of 909 on Non-League Day as Clapton came from 2-0 down to win 5-2. Sadly stadium capacity is currently Covid-capped at 300 so you'll do well to get in. Check the club's website for how to reserve a spot 

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Sunday 1 November
UPDATE 01/11/20 - given the government's announcements about a second Covid-19 lockdown, this could be the last chance you get to watch football at the weekend for at least a month so don't miss your opportunity. In the capital it's all about women's football but there are also a couple of men's games just outside it

London & SE Women's Regional League
Dulwich Hamlet v Dartford @2pm - there are five women's games to pick from in the capital on Sunday with this league game likely to draw the biggest crowd. The Hamlet's men's team frequently attract attendances in excess of 2,000 but with fans banned from National League South matches, a lot of them are going to watch the women's team instead. Almost 600 turned up for their last home game against Leyton Orient so expect another decent attendance here. I'm not sure if it's mandatory but I strongly advise you to buy tickets in advance if you want to go

Women's FA Cup Third Round Qualifying
Actonians v Worthing @2pm - among the women's games there are two ties in the FA Cup. I'm going to this tie with my daughter who enjoyed her first ever football camp with Actonians earlier in the week and wants to see what the first team are all about. The match is being played at Rectory Park in Northolt which is the Middlesex FA's HQ. Tickets are £3 for adults and free for U16s but must be booked in advance - there were only 30 remaining as of Sunday morning

A bit further afield
Aylesbury United v Margate @3pm - if it has to be men's football for you, then the final FA Trophy tie of the Third Round Qualifying is being played at Chesham United's ground which although it's outside TLFG's catchment area, is still on the Tube so is very easy to get to. The Ducks play a level below Isthmian Premier side Margate but are top and beat a talented Tilbury side in the last round. Tickets are £9 adults and available on the gate.
Coggeshall United v Hashtag United @3pm - there's also an FA Vase game out in the wilds of Essex. Unless you have a car, I wouldn't bother with this one as it's fairly remote. If you do have a car, then give it some consideration. On paper, Essex Senior League leaders Hashtag should win as they play a level above the hosts. Tickets are £6 for adults and are available on the gate


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.

Has this blog been helpful? Donate to TLFG's coffee-drinking fund here 

Sunday, 18 October 2020

TLFG: 19-25 October 2020

Greetings one and all and welcome to the latest edition of TLFG.

As we approach at the end of October, there's a strange feel to what's going as Covid-19 to begins to tighten its grip on the population once again.

With London moving into the Tier 2 level of restrictions and with the odd game getting called off because of positive player tests, it seems only a matter of time before everything's brought to a halt again.

The increased restrictions aren't having a huge impact on non-league games yet, although some of the facilities on offer like seating and food might not be available or scaled back in some way so always check with a club before you travel if that's important to you.

In recent weeks, I've managed to use the threat of another lockdown to persuade my wife I should be allowed out to see a few games and I managed to successfully lead a small group to Coles Park on Tuesday night to see Haringey Borough play Bracknell Town in the FA Cup.

Despite more rain, we enjoyed what was a pretty well-contested match until the 75th minute when the hosts scored a third and took the wind out of their opponents' sails. 

Haringey Borough and Bracknell Town do battle at Coles Park

Two more goals rattled in before the end to give Haringey a slightly flattering 5-1 win.

In the next round, they've been drawn away to Essex club Maldon & Tiptree who memorably knocked out Leyton Orient last season.

The Fourth Round Qualifying should have dominated non-league proceedings this weekend but all the ties in London and many others around the country are being played behind closed doors because of Covid-19 restrictions which is a real shame.

It will be even worse if those non-league teams that make it through to the First Round, for one of the biggest matches in their history, see fans banned too.  

Given so many matches are being played behind closed doors, you might notice on the match maps that I've started to fill things out with a selection of 11th-tier matches and now a load more U23 and U18 games.

There are quite a few FA Youth Cup games this week but lots of local youth matches too. I'm by no means an expert as this level and the list of matches is not exhaustive as details for some are quite hard to get hold of.

The ones I have included should all be being played at non-league grounds and most charge at least a nominal admission fee of anywhere between £2-8 although some might well be free.

With all of these, check the details with the club before you travel.

Hopefully I will get to see another match this week, with Wednesday night's Kingstonian v Potters Bar Town match looking the most likely.

Although this blog is being written late at night again, it's on my own terms with no work to worry about and I've been able to discover The Prodigy's album 'The Day Is My Enemy' while writing it. 

I used to have a small role on Top of the Pops, Later with Jools Holland and even worked on Glastonbury in my BBC days and used to be quite into music. However, my priorities have changed quite a bit of late so it was quite a shock to realise this album has been out for five years and they've had another one since - a bit more personal insight for you.  

Lastly from me, many thanks to Glidden L from Texas, USA and Alex O from Dordrecht in the Netherlands and all those who have donated to TLFG's coffee-drinking fund. Cheers one and all.


THE WEEK AHEAD

The highlights of the next few days include games in the Isthmian League, Southern League, London Senior Cup, Women's Capital Cup and FA Youth Cup. There are also games at higher levels but none of them are open to the public.

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 or youth matches. 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. However, capacity restrictions are currently in place at all grounds because of Covid-19 meaning only clubs from the seventh tier and below can currently admit spectators.

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 - blue 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 19 October

Isthmian League North Division
Aveley v Tilbury @745pm - the week opens with a very decent looking Essex derby. Tilbury are currently top of the division and if Aveley win their two games in hand, they'll be right up with them. Both saw their FA Trophy ties go to penalties on Saturday - the Millers came through theirs but Tilbury bowed out

Friendly
London Fire Brigade Western v Piccadilly FC @745pm - one game that's causing a lot of 'chatter' in the groundhopping community this week is this friendly. It's being played on one of the pitches at Ealing Trailfinders rugby club which is highly unusual and a programme has been produced although there aren't likely to be more than 20. It's also the venue where I had my wedding reception and former Chelsea player and now Trabzonspor manager Eddie Newton acted as a witness - you don't get that kind of thing happen every day! 

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Tuesday 20 October

London Senior Cup Second Round
Hendon v Brentford B @730pm - the Greens begin the defence of their LSC title by playing the team they beat in the final just over a month ago. The last meeting ended in a narrow 1-0 win for Hendon so it's likely to be close again here. You're strongly advised to buy your tickets online in advance and they're only £6.50 for adults

Isthmian League Premier Division
Enfield Town v Margate @745pm - the Towners are one of a number London clubs to have made a decent start to their campaign. With only three points separating the top seven teams, a win can see you make significant progress. Margate were a National League South club not all that long ago but don't look like getting back there any time soon. It's still early days, but Saturday's loss to leaders Worthing left them in the bottom five. This match is all-ticket so you must buy your tickets online in advance

Southern Counties East League Premier Division
Beckenham Town v Tunbridge Wells @745pm - the Becks were top and Tunbridge Wells fifth when Covid-19 brought a premature end to last season. As we come into this one, the roles are reversed and it's the 2013 FA Vase finalists who are now top, having gone unbeaten in their first nine league games. Both of them won on the road on Saturday but it was Beckenham who really grabbed the headlines by thrashing Punjab United 7-0. It looks like being a bit of a cracker and tickets are available on the gate for only £8

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Wednesday 21 October

Isthmian League Premier Division
Cray Wanderers v Bognor Regis Town @745pm - after their disappointing loss at home to Bishop's Stortford last weekend, Cray responded with back-to-back away wins over Bristol Manor Farm in the FA Cup and Haringey Borough in the league. Given they face an important trip to Canvey Island in the FA Cup this weekend, I'm surprised they haven't taken the opportunity to postpone this match as they are allowed to do. Bognor have been very inconsistent this season and are consequently slap bang in the middle of the table. However, they made short work of East Thurrock on Saturday and arrive in a bit of form themselves. Tickets can be bought in advance

Eastern Counties League Division 1 South
Athletic Newham v Frenford @745pm - the hosts were known as Lopes Tavares last season and were one of the best sides in this division before it ended early. They've started well enough this time and a win in their game in hand would put them joint top. However, to get there they've got to beat fellow east Londoners Frenford who are second and equally hungry for the points

FA Youth Cup Third Qualifying Round
Wealdstone v Bromley @730pm - one of the ties of the round sees two National League clubs' U18 sides meet as Grosvenor Vale. With both sides' fans locked out of all first-team games, you'd think a good few of them would take the chance to watch this. Tickets are £5 and seem to only be available on the gate but check with the club 
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Thursday 22 October

Southern Counties Floodlit Youth League
Walthamstow v Hendon @745pm - as you may have seen mentioned above, I'm trying to include more youth football in the blog at the moment. I'm not a huge expert on the level or what the competitions involve or how good they are but this U18 match is taking place at Wadham Lodge and should therefore be worth a watch. As always, check all the details with the club before you travel

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Friday 23 October

FA Youth Cup Third Qualifying Round
Carshalton Athletic v Eastbourne Borough @745pm - the weekend gets underway with a bit more U18 cup football at Colston Avenue. Carshalton games at all levels are all-ticket so you have to buy a ticket in advance. At this point, tickets don't appear to be on sale but check their website for updates

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Saturday 24 October

Isthmian League Premier Division
Saturday should have been all about the FA Cup Fourth Round Qualifying but all the ties in London are behind closed doors because of Covid-19 restrictions. With all our local Southern League sides either in FA Cup action or without fixtures because their opponents are, the Isthmian Premier tops the bill when it comes to live football.

Carshalton Athletic v Enfield Town @3pm - depending on midweek results, these two could well be in the top five meaning there'll be plenty at stake. The Robins have seen very healthy crowds at Colston Avenue and often reach their 600 capacity. As a result, this is all-ticket meaning you have to buy your tickets in advance
Corinthian Casuals v Leatherhead @3pm - with the Tanners playing not a million miles from fellow Surrey club CCs, this has a bit of a derby feel to it. Although both in midtable, they're starting to climb and should produce some decent entertainment. The hosts are also bringing in some decent 400+ crowds but it's not all-ticket and you can buy on the gate or in advance via the website
Hornchurch v Horsham @3pm - over on the far eastern side of town, the Urchins welcome Sussex club Horsham. The Essex side have been a bit iffy in the early stages of this campaign but notched an impressive 4-0 win over Carshalton on Saturday which saw the Robins miss out on top spot. The Hornets also dispatched struggling Brightlingsea 4-0 to move into the top 10 in front of a 600 capacity crowd. Tickets are on sale online but you can also pay on the gate

Isthmian League South Central Division
Staines Town v Tooting & Mitcham United @3pm - the match of the day in the eighth tier takes place on the far west side of town as two clubs who probably should be playing at higher levels meet at Wheatsheaf Park. The Swans have really struggled over the last few years since falling down from the sixth tier, so it's pleasing to see them start so well. Fourth at the time of writing, they should provide very decent opposition for the Terrors who sit a point behind them in sixth. Tickets are available on the gate for £8 

Combined Counties League Premier League
Molesey v Sutton Common Rovers @3pm - it's bottom versus top at Walton Road and with the Moles' defence shipping 36 goals in just nine games, it could be a bloodbath. SCR are unbeaten at the time of writing and beat Molesey 4-0 in the reverse fixture last week. Tickets are available on the gate for £5

Combined Counties League Division 1
Tooting Bec v Farnham Town @3pm - the 10th tier has a number of decent looking games this weekend. First we have a top-five clash at Imperial Fields where the hosts welcome leaders Farnham for what should be an intriguing contest. Tickets are available on the gate for £6

Eastern Counties League Division 1 South
Frenford v White Ensign @3pm - if they beat Athletic Newham in midweek, Frenford will come into this as league leaders. The visitors should at least be a top six side themselves and could be as high as fourth. Tickets are available on the gate for £4

Spartan South Midlands League Division 1
St Panteleimon v Buckingham Athletic @3pm - the Saints were joint top with New Salamis when the season ended in March. Promotion looked pretty much certain so they were one of the biggest losers anywhere in the country when they saw their results declared null and void by the FA. This season hasn't begun quite so strongly, after their move to share with Enfield Town, but with four wins from seven they're up in fifth and should be among the frontrunners for the rest of the season. Buckingham Athletic has a pretty humdrum campaign last time out but have come flying out of the blocks and are top after losing only one of their opening seven games. Tickets are available on the gate for £5

Middlesex County League Premier Division
Clapton CFC v Brentham @230pm - the Tons must be the best supported 11th-tier club anywhere in the country with attendances having topped 1,000 for some big matches. Under current restrictions they are limited to 300 spectators at Wadham Lodge which will almost certainly sell out for this match against the current league leaders. Keep checking the club's website for the latest ticket details

Arthur Dunn Cup First Round
A handful of ties in this historic competition for public school old boys are taking place around London. They kick-off at various times between 1100-1330 and give hardened ground hoppers the chance to perhaps visit a new ground and do a double. Club Des Sports on the borders of Acton and Shepherd's Bush, which has hosted the odd Combined Counties League game, is the venue for Old Wykehamists v Old Brentwoods at 1230pm

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Sunday 25 October

Women's Capital Cup First Round
Hounslow v Charlton Athletic U21 @2pm - with the top two divisions of the women's game on an international break, the highest ranked club in action on Sunday are third tier Hounslow who welcome a development side from the Addicks in what is essentially the London county cup for women. The match is being played at Rayners Lane and tickets are available on the gate for £3


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, 11 October 2020

TLFG: 12-18 October 2020

Greetings one and all, I hope you're well.

I'm currently writing this on a train that's waiting to depart from Addlestone, not a million miles from Abbey Rangers football club down here in Surrey.

As some of you may know, I'm a railway worker and I've done all my work for the day and now just have to get back to my base at Waterloo - hopefully I'll have things finished by then.

Anyway, how was your week?

It was supposed to be Non-League Day on Saturday but Covid-19 put paid to that for many reasons.

I thought that would give me a year off from the preparations and media work.

Although it did for the most part, I was quoted in an Evening Standard article written by TLFG reader James McMahon - cheers James. I then received an invitation to speak on Sky Sports News on Saturday morning about the cancellation of NLD and its impact.

They asked where I'd like to do it so I suggested Harrow Borough - where else?

It was the first time I'd done a piece to camera with just an earpiece and microphone but it wasn't as hard as I thought as David Garrido asked me questions from the studio.

This visit to Earlsmead also gave the chance to finally meet some of the movers and shakers at Harrow Borough too so it was a very productive trip.

Sadly I had to dash straight to work and didn't get to stay for the game but with my 'weekend' on Tuesday and Wednesday, I'm hoping to go to the Haringey Borough v Bracknell Town FA Cup tie with a few friends.

Lastly from me, many thanks to Daniel S from London and all those who have donated to TLFG's coffee-drinking fund. Cheers one and all.

THE WEEK AHEAD

The highlights of the next few days include games in the FA Cup, FA Trophy, Isthmian League, Southern League, Women's National League and Women's FA Cup. There are also games at higher levels but none of them are open to the public.

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. However, capacity restrictions are currently in place at all grounds because of Covid-19 meaning only clubs from the seventh tier and below can currently admit spectators.

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 - blue 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 12 October

Isthmian League Premier Division
Carshalton Athletic v Horsham @745pm - aside from an unexpected exit from the FA Cup against lower division opposition, the Robins have made a solid start to the season and are in the top five. Crowds have been very strong on Colston Avenue with many games reaching their 600 capacity, including Saturday's 1-0 win over Corinthian Casuals. Horsham are having a very mixed season and are in midtable as a result. To avoid disappointment, you're strongly advised to buy your ticket in advance

Combined Counties League Premier Division
Sutton Common Rovers v Molesey @745pm - SCR have made a very fine start to their campaign and are currently top of the league. The chances are that they'll stay there after this one as Molesey are second bottom and have conceded 29 goals in just seven games

Eastern Counties League Division 1 South
Newbury Forest v Barkingside @745pm - there's an Ilford derby at Oakside on Monday. Newbury Forest are one of several clubs to have got off to a good start in this division and are in the top four. Matches at this ground must always be a bit of a sour experience for the 'Side as historically it was theirs. Located next to Barkingside station, Oakside was their home from 1957 when it opened but they sold their lease to Ford United during the 2001/2 season. They stayed on as tenants but in 2014 their rent was put up to unaffordable levels and they had to leave

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Tuesday 13 October

FA Cup Third Round Qualifying
With the season starting late, the FA Cup rounds are coming thick and fast. No new teams enter the draw at this stage and there are 40 ties around the country. It's a really crucial round with the remaining non-league clubs now only 120 minutes away from the First Round 'proper' where League One and League Two clubs enter the draw. The prize money jumps to £5,625 for the winners of each match and £1,875 for the losers

Haringey Borough v Bracknell Town @745pm - north London club Haringey have done well in the league and cup in recent years and things are looking very positive again. Currently joint top of the Isthmian League and making smooth progress in this competition, they should start as favourites here. Bracknell play a level below their hosts but are an ambitious club and are top of their division. They come into this on the back of a 4-0 win over Chalfont St Peter so will be dangerous opponents. Tickets are available in advance or on the door
Hayes & Yeading United v Chipstead @745pm - after demolishing Bognor 5-0 in the last round, H&YU should really fancy their chances of making it into the next round. They play a level above Chipstead who are having a bit of a stinker in the league, accruing only three points from four games. It's quite something that they've made it this far and if they do win it will equal their best ever run in the competition. Tickets will be available on the gate for £10
Bedfont Sports v Canvey Island @745pm - this clash of two midtable eighth-tier teams should be close. The hosts caused a bit of an upset by beating Carshalton in the last round and thrashed Chipstead 5-0 in the league on Saturday, so they certainly seem to have some form. Canvey Island are a shadow of the former Conference club they once were but can't be discounted by any means. Tickets are only £8 and are available in advance but only in person from the clubhouse. Any remaining tickets will be sold on the gate
Cray Valley PM v Aveley @745pm - two of the most fancied clubs in the eighth tier do battle at the Badgers in one of the more intriguing matches of the night. CVPM destroyed higher ranked Harrow Borough 5-1 in the last round and are going well in the league again. Aveley have a 100% record in the league and also picked off seventh tier Lowestoft Town a couple of rounds back. Both sides are clubs on the up and ones to watch. Tickets are available in advance for £10
Whyteleafe v Concord Rangers @745pm - two divisions separate the clubs with the Leafe starting as considerable underdogs against National League South opposition. In the same division as CVPM, they did well to draw 2-2 with the south-east London club in a very entertaining game on Saturday. It's still very early in the season for Concord so it's hard to gauge what level they're at. It would be one of the shocks of the night if the hosts were to win. Under the government's rules, away fans are not permitted to attend but neutrals are. Tickets are £10 and will be available on the gate

Isthmian League South East Division
VCD Athletic v East Grinstead Town @745pm - I was going devote Tuesday night's coverage entirely to the FA Cup but then I noticed this top-two clash at Old Road and had to include it. Like I said, it's a top-two clash - what more do you need to know?

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Wednesday 14 October

Essex Senior League
Ilford v Cockfosters @745pm - the spotlight turns to Cricklefields on Wednesday where we'll have the chance to see whether the visitors can extend their 100% winning start to a seventh game. Both sides made progress in the FA Vase on Saturday but only on penalties

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Friday 15 October

Essex Senior League
West Essex v Enfield @745pm - once again West Essex take centre stage on Friday as theirs is the only game in town that I know of. The east London club, who groundshare with Barking, might be able to break into the top four with a win here against midtable opposition

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Saturday 16 October

Isthmian League Premier Division
Haringey Borough v Cray Wanderers @3pm - Cray suffered a disappointing reverse at home to Bishop's Stortford on Sunday which means this match isn't quite as mouthwatering as it could have been. Nonetheless, these two should still be challenging for at least a play-off spot come the end of the season

Southern League Premier Division South
Hayes & Yeading United v Truro City @3pm - the hosts haven't quite recaptured the form they ended last season with but they're doing ok. Still making progress in the FA Cup, they're a side that can be dangerous to anyone in this division on their day. Truro were heading for the title last season until Covid-19 kicked in and are second at the time of writing. Despite being a talented side, they face a lot of travel and their journey up from Cornwall is the best part of a 600-mile round trip so other teams also hope a bit fatigue might take its toll


FA Trophy Second Round Qualifying
This is a national knockout competition for clubs in the fifth to eighth tiers with its final at Wembley. At this stage the draw is regionalised and only features sides in the eighth tier. The winners of each tie receive £3,000, the losers £775

Ashford Town (Middlesex) v Whitstable Town @3pm - two of the top six clubs in the parallel Isthmian South Central and Isthmian South East meet in this decent looking tie. If travelling by public transport, this ground is a bit tricky to get to but don't forget that buses that skirt around the perimeter of Heathrow Airport are free or they were when I went last season
Chertsey Town v Berkhamsted @3pm - the Curfews are the reigning FA Vase holders so they know a thing or two about getting to Wembley. On Saturday they face a similarly ranked side from the Southern League Division 1 Central
Hanwell Town v Aveley @3pm - another game between two similarly ranked sides from parallel divisions. On paper I'd make Hanwell marginal favourites
Tooting & Mitcham United v Romford @3pm - the Terrors have made a decent start and are in the top three of the Isthmian South Central, although they've played more games than those around them. Romford are former Billericay owner Glenn Tamplin's latest playthings and they've gleaned only five points from six league games
Whyteleafe v Cray Valley PM @3pm - both going well in the FA Cup, at the time of writing, these two divisional rivals meet for the second weekend running. They produced four goals between them last time, let's hope for more of the same

Essex Senior League
Cockfosters v Hashtag United @3pm - one of the standout games of the week comes in the ninth tier where the top two in the ESL meet at Chalk Lane. Midweek results could change that but whatever happens, this will still almost certainly have a big bearing on who goes up this season

Combined Counties League Premier League
Hanworth Villa v Abbey Rangers @3pm - two of the top four in the CCL meet at Rectory Meadow in the game of the weekend in the CCL. Once again, midweek results could change this 

Combined Counties League Division 1
Chessington & Hook United v Westside @3pm - in the 10th tier this game looks well worth watching as it features two of the top three who until the end of last season were groundsharing

Southern Counties East League Division 1
SC Thamesmead v Croydon @3pm - the top two London clubs in this division will be looking to secure the win that will further cement their places in the top five. In fact, the hosts could even go clear at the top

Middlesex County League Premier Division
Hilltop v Clapton CFC @230pm - if you want to try a bit of 11th-tier football, head to the Middlesex Stadium near Ruislip for what will probably be the biggest crowd of the day at this level. The Tons have been known to get 1,000 turn up for home games and can often take a hundred or more away



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Sunday 11 October

Women's FA Cup Second Round Qualifying
Dulwich Hamlet v Leyton Orient @2pm - with Super League and Championship games still behind closed doors, the best women's matches you can watch on Sunday are all in the FA Cup. There are a number of ties but this one stands out for me. Buy your tickets in advance now as it could well reach capacity


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, 5 October 2020

TLFG: 5-11 October 2020

Greetings everyone and apologies for the late publication of this week's guide.

I had a really hectic weekend with a match on Saturday and a day trip to see my Dad in Devon on Sunday. As a result, I didn't start writing this until about 0530 this morning.

For the third week running I got to see a game with the argument that lockdown could return at any time being enough to persuade my wife that I should be let out occasionally while the opportunity is still there.

My choice this week was the FA Cup tie between Harrow Borough and Cray Valley PM at the Rogers Family Stadium.

My daughter was up for the cup, it's a shame Harrow weren't

With Boro in poor form in the league, they looked incredibly vulnerable against an impressive CVPM side from the level below and so it transpired.

The first half was reasonably close and ended 1-1 with a penalty each finding the back of the net but after the interval things changed dramatically.

Within minutes of the restart the visitors won a penalty but saw it blasted over the bar but rather than deflate them, they pushed on and scored four more to win 5-1.

It seemed a little harsh on Harrow. Even political journalist Michael Crick, who was in attendance, felt they had been in contention until the hour mark when I asked him on Twitter afterwards.

Nonetheless, Cray Valley were worthy winners and it will be interesting to see who they get in the draw at 1pm on Monday.

As for Harrow, another long season of struggle could be on the cards. After a midweek mauling at Met Police on Tuesday they've now conceded 10 in two games and sit bottom of the league with 0 points.

This week they have back-to-back home games against Chesham and Weston-super-Mare and will need to take at least three points to stop the gloom really setting in.

The one high point of the afternoon was getting to meet TLFG reader Niels who originally hails from the Netherlands but currently lives here. He's been reading the blog for a while so it was great to finally chat in real life. I'd also like to thank him publicly for humouring my daughter who engaged him in conversation incessantly throughout! 

I probably won't see another game this week but hope to catch a match in the next round of the FA Cup in around nine days time.

On a sad note, this Saturday was supposed to have been this year's Non-League Day but I took the decision around a month ago to cancel it because of Covid-19.

There was a small amount of disagreement with the decision and I do understand the disappointment but with the infection rates rising rapidly and clubs in the National League still forbidden from welcoming spectators, it really didn't seem appropriate.

Besides, with so many supporters locked out of clubs at the moment, the time has never been better for smaller clubs to try and get new fans in so a 'day' doesn't even seem necessary when it looks like there will be months more of the same conditions.

On a completely different subject, I'm pleased to say that the QPR Runners group completed the 'Virtual 92' challenge on Sunday. Myself and a friend ran from AFC Wimbledon's new ground to the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium on Friday with our latest contribution. In just over three weeks, 54 of us clocked up 4,015km as we virtually visited every club in the Premier League and EFL. With many of our members taking part in the virtual London Marathon on Sunday we actually went several hundred kilometres over our target distance and ended up well on our way down to Exeter on a second lap!

Lastly from me, thanks as always to those who have donated to TLFG's coffee-drinking fund. Cheers one and all.

THE WEEK AHEAD

The highlights of the next few days include games in the FA Cup, Isthmian League, Southern League, FA Vase, FA Youth Cup and Women's National League. There are also games at higher levels but none of them are open to the public.

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. However, capacity restrictions are currently in place at all grounds because of Covid-19 meaning only clubs from the seventh tier and below can currently admit spectators.

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 - blue 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 5 October

Isthmian League Premier Division
Haringey Borough v East Thurrock United @745pm - the hosts' decent start to the season continued on Saturday as they overcame Chertsey to make smooth progress in the FA Cup. Next up they face Essex club ETU who were playing in the National League South not that long ago. Sadly for them, things have gone pretty poorly so far with one point from four league games and an early exit from the FA Cup. Tickets are £10 on the door or you can simply download a FREE SEASON TICKET in what is probably the best deal anywhere in London

Isthmian League North Division
Aveley v Brentwood Town @745pm - the Millers will look to extend their 100% start to the season with another win against fellow Essex club Brentwood. The visitors have struggled in recent years and will no doubt be happy with a point here

FA Cup Second Round Qualifying
Burnham v Whyteleafe @745pm - after all the heavy rain of the weekend, it was a surprise to see only one local game getting rescheduled. Burnham's pitch still isn't up to it so the tie has been switched to Whyteleafe's 3G pitch instead. It's still classed as a Burnham home game and as such it's only £5 to get in - tickets available on the gate

FA Youth Cup Second Round Qualifying
I don't usually cover matches in this U18 competition until the big clubs enter the draw but I've received a fair bit of interest from readers and heard reports from friends that some games at this level draw reasonably big crowds. It's still all non-league clubs at this stage but they use their own grounds and charge £2-3 admission so it's good for groundhopping if nothing else. There are seven ties on Monday night. Sutton United are the biggest club to be hosting a game and Barnet are also in action at Uxbridge. Have a look at the map to see what's on and double check all the details with clubs before you travel as some details may have changed

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Tuesday 6 October

Southern League Premier Division South
Hendon v Hayes & Yeading United @745pm - this derby is by far the best seventh-tier option on Tuesday night. Although H&YU are a fairly new club, when Hayes and Yeading were separate entities they used to play Hendon regularly over many years so you can probably still class them as old rivals (I certainly do in my head). The Greens narrowly lost to Maidstone in the FA Cup on Saturday whilst H&YU thrashed Bognor. In the league, they're neck-and-neck in midtable so it should be close. Tickets are marginally cheaper if bought online in advance

Isthmian League South Central Division
Chertsey Town v Bracknell Town @745pm - although it's still very early days, both of these sides are expected to do well this year. Chertsey bowed out of the FA Cup on Saturday whilst Bracknell squeaked past Marlow on penalties. A big crowd is expected for this one and it's been made ALL TICKET so you have to buy tickets in advance

Isthmian League South East Division
VCD Athletic v Chichester City @745pm - the Vickers are the only team in the division to have a 100% record after three games and they should be confident of extending it against their opponents from Sussex who despite their great FA Cup run last season, are struggling 

Essex Senior League
Cockfosters v Takeley @745pm - talking of 100% records, Cockfosters will be hoping to extend theirs to six games on Tuesday night. Takeley are often among the contenders in this league but with only four points from five games so far, things don't seem to be going their way

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Wednesday 7 October

Isthmian League North Division
Romford v Witham Town @745pm - neither side have made a blistering start to the campaign and with Witham rooted to the bottom, you'd expect Romford to prevail 

FA Youth Cup Second Round Qualifying
Dartford v Tooting & Mitcham United @730pm - the pick of the three ties would appear to be this one. With fans of the first team still locked out of games, this is a good opportunity to visit Princes Park. Tickets are only £4 but must be bought in advance

Women's National League Division 1 South East
Actonians v Leyton Orient @745pm - for fans of the women's game, head west to Northolt where Actonians entertain the O's at the Middlesex FA's HQ in Rectory Park

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Thursday 8 October

FA Youth Cup Second Qualifying Round
Cockfosters v Concord Rangers @745pm - the other good thing about the FA Youth Cup is that it often throws up fixtures on otherwise quiet Thursday nights. To my knowledge, this is the only match in London so jump on the Piccadilly Line, head north and give these youngsters your support

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Friday 9 October

FA Vase Second Round Qualifying
Edgware Town v Tring Athletic @730pm - the next round of the Vase begins on Friday night with three ties. Of those on offer, this would be the one I'd go to as it's relatively local and features two sides from the SSML. Both sides have struggled in the early-season games but with Tring losing all their matches, Edgware should start as favourites. Edgware are also offering a FREE SEASON TICKET to any locals living in the NW9 or HA8 postcodes. Email for more info - matchdaysecretary@edgwaretownfc.co.uk

FA Youth Cup Second Round Qualifying
Bromley v Faversham Town @8pm - there are also three ties in this U18 competition too. Three National League grounds are hosting the games with this one arguably topping the bill. Once again, check all the details before you travel as they can change at short notice

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Saturday 10 October

Seventh tier

Isthmian League Premier Division
Carshalton Athletic v Corinthian Casuals @3pm - of the London clubs hosting games on Saturday, the Robins are the most highly ranked in this division. Despite a shock loss to Bedfont Sports in the FA Cup on Saturday, the Robins have made an unbeaten start in the league and are fifth at the time of writing. Corinthian Casuals may well have got relegated last season if Covid-19 hadn't intervened and have managed only one win so far. On paper this looks like a home win but CCs took Dulwich Hamlet to penalties in the cup and could cause Carshalton a few problems if they keep the same levels. Tickets are available online and you are advised to book in advance 

Southern League Premier Division South
Metropolitan Police v Gosport Borough @3pm - a lot could change in midweek but as of Monday morning, the Met are the highest ranked TLFG club in this division. Unbeaten in three, they sit proudly in fifth. Hampshire club Gosport have started even more strongly and are second


Eighth tier

Isthmian League South Central Division
Tooting & Mitcham United v Waltham Abbey @3pm - these two sat just outside the play-off places when the 2019/20 season came to a premature end and both are already up in the top six. With both sides now out of the FA Cup, there'll be no distractions on that front as they look to push on in the league

Isthmian League South East Division
Whyteleafe v Cray Valley PM @3pm - at the time of writing, these sides are both in the top seven, are both still in the FA Cup and have games in hand on those immediately above them. Having witnessed CVPM demolish Harrow on Saturday, these two are definitely clubs to watch this season

FA Vase Second Round Qualifying
There are quite a few league games in the ninth and 10th tiers on Saturday but I've decided to focus on this instead as it's arguably more exciting - with all ties having to be decided on the day, we should get some good games. The winners of each tie receive £725, the losers £225. There are numerous ties around London but the following stand out for me:

Abbey Rangers v Guildford City @3pm - the hosts are still relatively new to this level of football but  made it all the way to the last 16 a couple of years ago. They've also made a good start to their league campaign this year and will start as favourites against their Surrey rivals
Erith & Belvedere v Colliers Wood United @3pm - two TLFG clubs from parallel ninth-tier divisions meet at Park View Road. Both are in the lower reaches of their respective competitions so this should be close. E&B are another side to have a decent recent pedigree in the Vase as they made the quarter-finals in 2015
Hadley v Enfield Borough @3pm - there's a north London derby at Brickfield Lane. Hadley play a level above the visitors so should start as firm favourites
Hanworth Villa v FC Depotivo Galicia @3pm - with FCD groundsharing at nearby Bedfont Sports, we've got a west London derby to enjoy here. Like the tie above, Hanworth play a level above and should win
Oxhey Jets v North Greenford United @3pm - there's an all-SSML Premier Division affair at Boundary Park. The Jets have made a stronger start to the season than NGU and the smart money is definitely on them
Walthamstow v London Lions @3pm - these two produced a five-goal thriller when they met in the FA Cup just over a month ago so hopefully we'll get more of the same
Holmesdale v AFC Varndeanians @3pm - both sides are in the top four of their respective 10th tier divisions. The visitors hail from Sussex and play their games at the Withdean which famously used to host Brighton & Hove Albion in the years before they moved to Falmer
Newbury Forest v Burnham Ramblers @3pm - the hosts have made a very bright start to their Eastern Counties League campaign and will start as strong favourites against a side from the same division. Located right next to Barkingside Tube station, Oakside is one of the easiest grounds to get to
Park View v Cockfosters @3pm - there's another north London derby at the New River Stadium where Park View will look to cause one of the upsets of the round. Playing a level below Essex Senior League leaders Cockfosters, they'll have to do something pretty special to progress. Update - this match is not open to spectators so please don't attend
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Sunday 11 October

Isthmian League Premier Division
Cray Wanderers v Bishop's Stortford @3pm - there's a match to savour at Hayes Lane on Sunday as two of the Isthmian League's top clubs go head-to-head. Cray, London's oldest club, were second when last season ended early and are second now with only goal difference keeping them off the top. They've won all five of their league and cup games and scored 20 goals in the process so they are most definitely one of the sides to keep an eye on this season. Bishop's Stortford are also unbeaten and still in the cup so should provide a stern test

FA Vase Second Round Qualifying
Tooting Bec v Lydd Town @3pm - we're also lucky enough to have a bit of bonus Vase action on Sunday as two 10th-tier sides from the parallel CCL and SCEFL meet at Imperial Fields. The hosts will hope to challenge for promotion this season and I'd expect them to win here

Women's National League Southern Premier Division
Hounslow v Oxford United @2pm - with spectators still locked out of games in the Super League and Championship, this third-tier match at Rayners Lane's ground is the best women's match on offer on Sunday. Hounslow have made a terrible start to the season and are likely to suffer another defeat here against title challenging Oxford


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.

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