Sunday, 20 September 2020

TLFG: 21-27 September 2020

So here we are again, another week has flown by and we're on to the next one.

Despite rapidly rising Covid-19 infections, football continues to take place with EFL clubs, including Charlton Athletic, hosting test games and the National League following suit with some matches over next few days.

A couple of those are taking place locally at Dagenham & Redbridge and Dartford. Tickets are on sale for the former but there was no news at the time of writing about availability at the Darts - see the Daily Digest below for more details.

My football week was pretty good with a rare midweek trip to North Greenford United v Edgware Town being the highlight.

The next round of the FA Cup gets underway on Monday

I took a friend who hadn't been to a non-league game for years and he was treated to a very entertaining spectacle as the hosts won 3-1 courtesy of three fantastic goals.

Equally impressive was the warm welcome we were given by all the club staff we came into contact with and it was also heart warming to see several tables weighed down with tins and other produce after a very successful foodbank appeal.

My friend thoroughly enjoyed himself and I also got to meet long term TLFG reader and fellow QPR fan Chris H who was also in attendance.

If I play my cards right, I will hopefully get out for another midweek trip. On Wednesday, Wingate & Finchley take on Folkestone Invicta in the FA Cup which I'm hoping will be well worth a watch.

I used to go fairly regularly to W&F when this blog started but it's been a few years so I'm looking forward to it.

I also continued my participation in a virtual run around 'the 92' with the QPR Runners group on Saturday. As a group we're trying to run the 3,000+km as quickly as we can. Three of us did a QPR-Fulham-Chelsea-QPR loop last weekend, whilst on Saturday we did another loop from QPR to Brentford and back. Overall, members of our small Facebook group have covered over 1,400km in eight days which is pretty amazing - well done all.

Thanks this week to Chris H, mentioned above, and Simon K who donated to TLFG's coffee-drinking fund. Cheers gents.

THE WEEK AHEAD

The highlights of the next few days include games in the FA Cup, FA Trophy, Isthmian League, Southern League 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
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 21 September

FA Cup First Round Qualifying
The bulk of the midweek action is in the FA Cup with 16 ties between Monday and Wednesday involving our local sides. At this stage of the draw, all the seventh tier clubs join the action alongside the remaining ones from the lower tiers. The winners of each tie receive £2,250 and the losers £750.

Carshalton Athletic v Faversham Town @745pm - the Robins are among the contenders for the Isthmian League title so should start as strong favourites against Faversham Town, from a level below, after soundly beating Potters Bar in their opening league game. Tickets are available and you're strongly advised to buy online in advance as their matches are selling out

New Salamis v Brentwood Town @745pm - Cypriot side New Salamis are making their debut in the FA Cup this season and have notched a couple of tidy wins to get this far. The 10th tier side, who play their games at Haringey Borough, face a step up in class in Isthmian League Brentwood and it would be one of the results of the round if they were to win. The chances of you getting in are slim - I understand from the club that there have been a few returns but you can only get them from team's clubhouse on Myddleton Road in Bowes Park

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Tuesday 22 September

Friendlies
The National League announced some test games a few days ago and two of them are taking place in TLFG's catchment area on Tuesday. Dagenham & Redbridge host FA Trophy finalists Concord Rangers whilst Dartford entertain Dover Athletic. Both games are limited to 1,000 spectators so buying in advance is strongly advised if not obligatory. At the time of writing, there are some still available at Dagenham (click here) whilst Dartford still haven't put any on sale which suggests they were caught on the hop by the selection of their game. Check their site regularly for updates

FA Cup First Round Qualifying
Bedfont Sports v Lewes @745pm - the hosts began their league campaign with a narrow 1-0 defeat at title contenders Hanwell on Saturday which although disappointing should give them some heart that it was that close. On Tuesday they welcome former fifth tier club Lewes for what would appear to be a winnable tie. The Rooks aren't the side they once were and lost 4-1 at Enfield Town on Saturday. At the time of writing, very little ticketing info is available so check the club's website for updates
Chertsey Town v Leatherhead @745pm - when I saw this tie, it immediately stood out for me. Similar to the match above, it's an eighth tier versus seventh tier fixture. Both clubs have great cup pedigree - Chertsey are the reigning FA Vase holders whilst Leatherhead have had numerous runs into the so-called 'proper' rounds of the FA Cup. The Curfews sold out their Preliminary Round match and should get a decent crowd here so buy in advance to avoid disappointment
Walthamstow v St Margaretsbury @745pm - I've highlighted this all-ESL tie simply to give you the chance to run the rule over the Stow who seem like a club on the up. Among the pre-season favourites for the ESL title, the club from E17 are starting to grow their fanbase. They drew nearly 300 for their Extra Preliminary Round tie against London Lions which is a significant attendance for a club in the ninth tier. Walthamstow got through the last round against Cockfosters on penalties and also required spot-kicks in their FA Vase win on Saturday. Tickets are on sale here

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Wednesday 23 September

FA Cup First Round Qualifying
Wingate & Finchley v Folkestone Invicta @745pm - the tie of the night is this clash between two Isthmian League Premier Division teams. Despite playing at the same level, it's a bit of a David v Goliath match-up. Wingate have been a seventh-tier side since 2011 but have really struggled to attract crowds with an average of only 123 last season as they fought relegation. Somehow, they always manage to stay up and on Wednesday they welcome Folkestone who pull in crowds five times the size of theirs. The Kent club were in the top five when the 2019/20 season ended early so it will take quite an effort to beat them. Tickets are on sale and if you buy in advance you get a free e-programme  
Cray Wanderers v Fisher @745pm - London's oldest football club begin their FA Cup campaign with a home tie against Rotherhithe outfit Fisher. On paper, this looks like a home banker. Cray play two levels above the Fish and are among the title contenders, something they underlined by thrashing Kingstonian 5-1 on opening day. However, the visitors have only lost one of the six games they've played this season and caused a cupset by beating Tooting & Mitcham in the last round. Tickets are available in advance
Cray Valley PM v Burgess Hill Town @745pm - CVPM seem to be another club to keep an eye on this season. They've made good progress in the last couple of years, made the FA Vase final at Wembley in 2019 and were on course for another promotion last season before Covid-19 intervened. They've made a number of decent signings over the summer and got a decent 0-0 draw at title rivals Hastings United on Saturday. BHT are no more than a midtable side in the same division as them and should be beaten. Tickets should be available on the door
Sutton Common Rovers v Metropolitan Police @745pm - there's potential for a cupset here as ninth tier SCR welcome a side from two levels above them. The hosts are unbeaten so far this season and have rattled in a decent number of goals in the process. The Met won their opening league fixture against Yate but will have to avoid complacency at all costs. The capacity of this match at Gander Green Lane has been limited to 300 so you're again advised to buy online in advance 

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Friday 25 September

Essex Senior League
West Essex v Walthamstow @745pm - the pick of the night's action is this ninth-tier match at Mayesbrook Park. Given that landlords Barking are now groundsharing with two clubs, we can expect West Essex to become a regular of the Friday night schedule throughout the season. Despite a humbling by New Salamis in the FA Cup, West Essex have made a solid start to this campaign and are up in fourth after going three games unbeaten. The Stow are underperforming slightly with one win from three league games and are well down the table 

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Saturday 26 September

Seventh tier

Isthmian League Premier Division
Haringey Borough v Bognor Regis Town @3pm - north London club Haringey began their league campaign with a useful 2-1 win at Corinthian Casuals on opening day. The White Hart Lane club have challenged for promotion in recent seasons but fell away into midtable last season so it will be interesting to see how they fare this time. Bognor are usually around the play-off places and had a recent but unsuccessful spell in the National League South - they started off with a draw at Bishop's Stortford
Kingstonian v Worthing @3pm - as mentioned above, the K's got thrashed at Cray on Saturday and it won't get any easier here as they welcome the side who were top when the 2019/20 season came to an end. The Sussex side won 2-1 at promotion rivals Folkestone on Saturday to emphasise their title credentials. Tickets can be bought here

Southern League Premier Division South
Harrow Borough v Salisbury @3pm - the Boro started their season with a close to 600-mile round trip to Cornwall to play the highly fancied Truro City. Despite an excellent fight, they lost 1-0 to a controversial goal in the latter stages of the game which must have been sickening. On Saturday they welcome another one of the biggest clubs in the division for another tough game. Managed by Steve Claridge, Salisbury only managed a draw with Hendon on Saturday. Tickets are available in advance
Hendon v Truro City @3pm - a short journey to the north-west, it's the Greens' turn to take on Truro. Buoyed by their solid point on the road at Salisbury, they should fancy their chances of taking another point here. Tickets are available in advance

Eighth tier

FA Trophy First Round Qualifying
Northwood v Basildon United @3pm - the FA Trophy, for clubs in the fifth to eighth tiers, starts on Saturday. Due to an uneven number of clubs, this 34-team mini round kicks things off and only one London club are hosting a tie. Both sides play in the Isthmian League and lost their opening league games so I doubt there will be much to choose between them. 

Isthmian League North Division
Romford v Aveley @3pm - playing their first league game of their new groundshare at Barking, Romford will hope for a much better season than the last one. Following the investment of Glenn Tamplin, who famously spent loads on Billericay Town, a lot more is expected of the east London club. Aveley were among the frontrunners last season and started with a win on Saturday. There's also a bit of derby feel to this one too. 

Isthmian League South Central Division
Uxbridge v Bracknell Town @3pm - both sides finished in the top six last season so we should get a competitive game here. Bracknell started with a tidy 2-0 win over Chipstead whilst Uxbridge narrowly lost at Chertsey who should also be among the promotion contenders

Isthmian League South East Division
Whyteleafe v Chichester City @3pm - the Leafe had a decent season and were pushing for a play-off spot when the season ended. They enjoyed an emphatic 4-1 win at Herne Bay on Saturday to give them great confidence going into this one. Chichester were also well placed for a shot at the play-offs last year and famously made it to the second round of the FA Cup

Ninth tier

Combined Counties League Premier Division
Hanworth Villa v Ascot United @3pm - the Villains are unbeaten in three and have become the top-ranked London club in the CCL, a drastic improvement on their struggles of last season. Ascot were top when the league ended early and have picked up where they left off and are already two points clear

Tenth tier

Combined Counties League Division 1
Walton & Hersham v Farnham Town @3pm - based on last season's standings, this match between the sides who finished in third and second should be a good one. Both sides have started well again, with the hosts top at the time of writing

Eleventh tier

Middlesex County Football League Premier Division
Clapton CFC v Indian Gymkhana Club @3pm - the Tons' league campaign finally gets underway on Saturday with this match. Wadham Lodge regularly saw crowds of 400+ for their matches last season which made them, to my knowledge, the best supported club in the 11th tier anywhere in the country. Covid-19 restrictions will probably see admission capped at a lower level with only 250 allowed to their friendly against NW London. Ticket details haven't been released yet so check their website for updates - it could well sell out

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Sunday 27 September

Women's National League Southern Premier Division
Hounslow v Gillingham @2pm - with matches involving clubs in the top two tiers still shut to the public, this third-tier match tops the bill. Now playing at Rayners Lane's impressive new facilities, Hounslow charge £3 to get in

Women's National League Division 1 South East
Enfield Town v Leyton Orient @2pm - in the fourth tier this London derby at the Queen Elizabeth II Stadium looks well worth a watch

London & South East Women's Regional League
QPR v Dulwich Hamlet @2pm - these two were fighting for the title in the fifth tier when the season got abandoned so it should be good. However, at the time of writing, all QPR home games have so far been behind closed doors so check nearer the time to see if this has changed



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, 13 September 2020

TLFG: 14-20 September 2020

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

The last week has seen the season continue to get going with the Premier League and EFL getting underway over the weekend.

Saturday also saw the lion's share of the next round of FA Cup ties get played.

It was a happy time for me as QPR and Harrow Borough both enjoyed victories with Rangers getting a slightly surprising 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest and Boro squeaking past Langney Wanderers in the cup on penalties.

The FA Vase gets underway this week

Over the next few days we see the start of the Isthmian League and Southern League, the opening round of the FA Vase and the next round in the women's FA Cup.

In other words there's no reason to miss out as there's plenty on offer.

On Saturday it's even possible to do a 'double' thanks to the FA Vase tie at Walton & Hersham kicking off at 745pm.

I'm all set to go to the SSML match between North Greenford United and Edgware Town on Tuesday and hopefully a game somewhere on Sunday but we'll see.

I also began a virtual run around 'the 92' with some of the QPR Runners on Saturday. As a group we're trying to run the 3,000+km as quickly as we can. Three of us did a QPR-Fulham-Chelsea-QPR loop yesterday morning which was a around 15km. I believe there are plans to run to Brentford on Saturday.

THE WEEK AHEAD

The highlights of the next few days include games in the Isthmian League, Southern League, FA Vase, 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 14 September

London Senior Cup Final
Brentford B v Hendon @730pm - there's only one game on Monday night and it's a good one. With last season's competition delayed by Covid-19, the final is only now being played. Hanwell Town's Powerday Stadium plays host and with a limited capacity, only a few tickets are left. The Brentford allocation has sold out but Hendon still have some on sale for £10

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Tuesday 15 September

Combined Counties League Premier Division
Southall v Hanworth Villa @745pm - the hosts have made a superb start to the season, winning all four of their matches. The last of those was Saturday's impressive FA Cup win over Ashford Town who play a level above them and whose ground they share. Hanworth have made a reasonable start and are also in the top five

Essex Senior League
Fisher v Tower Hamlets @745pm - hailing from either side of the Thames, this is a local derby of sorts. Sadly, the sides have only accrued one point between them from the five games they've played so this could be an important game even at this early stage. Tower Hamlets could find things tougher than normal this season as they've taken up a groundshare with Phoenix Sports way down in south-east London and their already small fanbase will no doubt shrink

Combined Counties League Division 1
Chessington & Hook United v Farnham Town @745pm - the visitors were all set to finish as runners-up to Jersey Bulls last season but saw Covid-19 rob them of promotion. This season has begun well again with three wins out of three. Chessington had a poor campaign but have made a much better start this time round

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Wednesday 16 September

Southern Counties East League Premier Division
Balham v Welling Town @745pm - the hosts have moved to groundshare with AFC Croydon Athletic this season and they've made a reasonable start with two wins out of three propelling them into the top five. The Boots have only played two league games and won them both to sit fourth

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Friday 18 September

FA Vase First Qualifying Round
With the FA Cup already underway, the Vase starts on Friday. This national knockout competition is for clubs in the ninth to eleventh tiers and usually has its final at Wembley so it's hugely prestgious for the clubs involved. On Friday there are two ties to sink your teeth into. There's an all-SSML tie at Rayners  Lane's ground between Broadfields United and Aylesbury Vale Dynamos whilst in east London Barkingside entertain Coggeshall United 

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Saturday 19 September

Seventh tier

Isthmian League Premier Division
With pre-season out of the way, the Isthmian League kick-offs on Saturday. Cray Wanderers, London's oldest club, were second at the time Covid-19 intervened last season so they'll hope to have another good campaign. They start with an interesting home game against Kingstonian. Only a point behind Cray in third were Carshalton Athletic. The Robins have had a great couple of years and have made impressive progress off the pitch too. They are definitely ones to watch and will fancy their chances against Potters Bar Town. For me, the pick of the action in north London should come at the Queen Elizabeth II Stadium where Enfield Town host former National League/Conference club Lewes

Southern League Premier Division South
It's also opening day in the parallel Southern League. Hayes & Yeading United were flying when things came to an abrupt end in March. Third and the highest ranked TLFG side in the league, the west London club must have been gutted to see things end early. They begin their campaign with a tricky game against Taunton Town who should be in with a shout of the play-offs

Eighth tier

Isthmian League North Division
Like Hayes, Aveley also got stuck in third but had the games in hand to comfortably finish second. With one of the best grounds of any non-league club in TLFG's catchment area, they'll be hoping for at least play-off place this season. On Saturday they welcome Norfolk club Dereham Town who should also be competitive in 2020/21

Isthmian League South Central Division
On and off the pitch, Hanwell Town have made great strides in the last couple of years. The west London club were title challengers in 2019/20 and little has changed for them to be considered as anything less this time. They have an opening day game against Bedfont Sports who finished in midtable. There's a mouthwatering game at Alwyns Lane where Chertsey Town welcome Uxbridge. These sides finished third and fourth so we could be in for a cracker!

Ninth and tenth tiers

FA Vase First Qualifying Round
The main action at these levels on Saturday is in the opening round of this competition. There are numerous ties taking place all over London. 

It's quite hard to pick which ones will be the best at this early stage in the season but here's a few that standout for me.

First up we have some derbies. In Ilford, Frenford welcome near neighbours Newbury Forest to their recently revamped ground. Next to Heathrow, British Airways entertain CB Hounslow United whilst up in north London there's a 'name' derby (for want of a better description) between Hadley and Hadleigh United.

Lewisham Borough CFC are the only London club to be making their debut in the competition this season and they have a tough home draw against Balham (update - this has now been switched to Balham).

Of big interest to grondhoppers will be the evening kick-off between Walton & Hersham and Meridian VP which starts at 745pm. This allows you to combine it with a huge selection of the 3pm games and do a 'double'.

Combined Counties League Premier Division
If you don't fancy a Vase game, the impressive Southall side I mentioned above play Ascot United. The visitors were pretty much champions elect last season and are right up among the frontrunners again. If the 'All can beat them too then they'll have to be taken very seriously indeed.

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Sunday 20 September

Isthmian League Premier Division
Wingate & Finchley v Bowers & Pitsea @3pm - the hosts have their roots in the local Jewish community and often see their games moved at this time of the year for religious festivals - this time it's Rosh Hashanah. Wingate were one of the biggest beneficiaries of the season ending early as relegation was looking increasingly likely. Essex club B&P were in no danger of the drop but weren't pulling up any trees either

FA Vase First Qualifying Round
There are three more ties to savour on Sunday as West Essex, Croydon (at Glebe) and Westside all host matches to liven up your Sunday afternoon


Women's Football
There are several games open to spectators on Sunday with the Women's National League match between Hounslow and Crawley Wasps at Rayners Lane topping the bill. There are also several FA Cup ties with AFC Wimbledon, Brentford, Fulham, Millwall  and QPR among those in action



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, 6 September 2020

TLFG: 7-13 September 2020

It's generally been a pretty decent week at TLFG Towers - mainly thanks to you, dear readers, who have sent me some really gratifying comments.

Over lockdown it was quite tempting to draw a line under this blog and move on. It made a pleasant change not having to sit up late on a Sunday night/Monday morning typing away when I knew a 4am work alarm was looming, something which was was often the case.

When I set this up in 2011 as a way to keep my hand in after taking redundancy from BBC Sport, I'd never written a blog, had no idea where it would take me or how much time it would consume.

I originally created TLFG as something I would write for myself - it held all the information I would be looking for as a neutral looking for a game. What's on, where, how to get there, ticket info and some match recommendations to give it a more personal or blog feel.

Early page views were hard to come by, with 50 in one day being a great achievement. It's now well into the hundreds and into seven figures for all-time views. As someone who used to work on a website with millions of views a day, I know that's not a great achievement but I'm happy enough given what a small-time operation this is.

TLFG has given me some great opportunities and I've met some top people and my knowledge of the 100+ clubs around the capital has become almost encyclopedic - certainly when compared to the average man on the street.

 

One of my main regrets, rather ironically, is that despite spending hours writing about football every year, I hardly get to watch any.

My new career on the railway affords me only one Saturday off a month and one completely clear Tuesday night so my chances of seeing anything are few and far between. The Sundays I do get off are usually spent writing this - one of the sacrifices I make for you dear readers!

That's why it's great to hear from you - where you've been, where you're going and the tips about matches I may have missed, are coming up or have been changed in some way. Given how big a task it is to keep across everything, there's no way I can do it without your contributions so thank you.

Despite my whining about not going to any games, I did make it to my first post-lockdown match on Saturday.

I actually headed beyond London's boundaries about 30 miles south of Shepherd's Bush to the Sussex town of Horsham where my favourite non-league side Harrow Borough were playing a friendly.

The hosts moved to a new stadium last season and it has since won awards so I was keen to visit.

However, the first and only problem is its location.

As someone who doesn't drive, the fact it's some two miles from the station isn't great. However, taxis are available right outside and cost us £7. 

With the capacity capped to a Covid-19 reduced 280, I bought an e-ticket in advance - the first time I've ever done this for a non-league game. 

We joined an orderly socially distanced queue on arrival, had our temperatures checked, gave our track and trace details and went in.

The facilities were really good - a top of the range 4G pitch and brand new everything else.

Serving hatches selling food and drink were open in the side of the impressive clubhouse with no queues, low prices and friendly staff all of which really impressed my friend Mike who joined me for his first ever non-league match. As a Crystal Palace season-ticket holder he was struck by so many of the positives us regulars take for granted.

The match itself produced five goals and some really memorable moments.

Harrow went behind early on when keeper Purdue rushed out to head clear, only for it to go straight to Horsham full-back Sparks to lob perfectly back over his head from range.

Boro barely threatened in the opening half hour and then something utterly bizarre happened.

The hosts had started the game with a trialist in goal. He'd looked competent enough in the early stages but was never really tested until the 32nd minute when he pulled off a decent diving save to his right. However, on getting up he attempted to throw the ball out to his full-back only to hold on to it a smidgen too long and throw it into his own net! What a gift.

Sadly, Horsham retook the lead shortly after and the score remarkably stayed at 2-1 until the 85th minute despite a load of chances at either end.

With five minutes to go, young substitute Zidan Akers lashed one into the top corner from 25 yards with the best strike of the day. If he's not already been signed for this season, he should be - I was impressed every time he had the ball.

Despite the euphoria of the goal and the short time remaining, I felt Harrow would concede another and it was that man Sparks who popped up at the far post again to nick the win in injury time.


August was about helping restaurants, could September be football fans' chance to support non-league clubs?

Although the result was disappointing, it was great to get back to watching live football.

I was impressed with the set-up and the people at Horsham and was also very pleasantly surprised by the town centre which I was not expecting.

As I said above, my friend Mike had never been to a non-league game and was struck by the facilities, the prices, customer service and the level of entertainment.

With Non-League Day all but cancelled for 2020 because of Covid-19, this month and maybe the early stages of October are an ideal time for non-league clubs to try and attract to new people through their gates.

With no Premier League or EFL fans being allowed into their own grounds, I'm hearing stories of other friends who are exploring what's on in their area often via the medium of an FA Cup tie and having a great time in the process.

Many readers of this blog know how good the non-league experience is so keep spreading the word.

There was a month of action to save the ailing hospitality trade (#EatOutToHelpOut), maybe there should be something similar to help/save some of this country's smaller football clubs - #GoNonLeagueToHelpOut??? 

It's not nearly as catchy but you get my drift. 

Well I think that's about enough from me. Before I go, a big thank you to Kevin O from Hertfordshire who donated to TLFG's coffee drinking fund on Saturday - cheers.

THE WEEK AHEAD

The highlights of the next few days include games in the Preliminary Round of the FA Cup, the opening batch of fixtures in the Spartan South Midlands League, games in the Combined Counties League, Essex Senior League and Southern Counties East League plus a few pre-season matches.

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 7 September

Eastern Counties League Division 1 South
Barkingside v Hackney Wick - there's only one game on Monday night and it takes place in Ilford. Both sides began their league seasons on Saturday with the 'Side losing 2-1 at highly fancied Little Oakley and the Wickers drawing 2-2 with Benfleet. On paper this is a bit of a derby but neither club have their own ground and have found it hard to build a fanbase as a result. However, the hosts are always very keen to welcome visitors so don't be put off

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Tuesday 8 September

Friendlies
The bigger non-league clubs in London are still playing friendlies at this stage and there are several on Tuesday. The most eye-catching would appear to be the match at Bridge Avenue where Hornchurch welcome National League South side Maidstone United. The Kent club are one of the best supported sides at this level and averaged over 1,800 for home games last season. Elsewhere in east London there's a groundshare derby between Barking and big-spending Romford - former Billericay owner Glenn Tamplin's new club. There's also a local derby between North Greenford United and Hanwell Town which is pay what you want - bargain! 

Combined Counties League Premier Division
With three of our local ninth-tier leagues getting underway on Saturday, we've been given a very early look at how sharp some of the teams are. Banstead Athletic were pretty poor in 2019/20 and were among the beneficiaries of the season being declared null and void. On Saturday they started with a tidy 2-0 win over Badshot Lea to make a decent start. On Tuesday they host Sutton Common Rovers who would've probably finished in the top five if they'd been allowed to complete their fixtures

Essex Senior League
A couple of games look decent here. Firstly the north London derby between Cockfosters and Enfield. The hosts enjoyed a good FA Cup win in midweek and began their league campaign with a victory too. Sadly Enfield don't play in their home town so building a strong fanbase has again been hard and as such, it might not be as lively as some derbies in this part of the world. Over at Wadham Lodge Walthamstow entertain Stansted - both sides finished in the top five last season so should hopefully produce a decent contest

Combined Counties League Division 1
Walton & Hersham were the top TLFG team in this division last season and flew out of the traps with a 6-0 demolition of Ash United to go straight to the top of the table. On Tuesday they welcome the exotically titled FC Deportivo Galicia who look likely to achieve another midtable finish

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Wednesday 9 September

Friendlies
National League club Bromley travel to Chipstead on Wednesday night. With three divisions separating the clubs, you wonder how strong the visitors' line-up will be but they haven't played too many games yet and will want to give most of their players a chance. In the other pre-season game, Grays Athletic host Kingstonian in what should be a decent all-Isthmian League clash (this has now been cancelled)

Essex Senior League
If you want a competitive game, the east London derby between Ilford and Redbridge should be well worth a watch. Neither managed a win on the opening day so should both be hungry for points

Combined Counties League Premier Division
One team to keep your eye on in the ninth tier could well be Southall. They were well in with a shout of a top-three finish before Covid-19 intervened and have got off to a cracking start, thrashing Molesey 7-0 in the FA Cup and Cobham 4-0 in the league - both games were away from home too. On Wednesday they make the short trip to Bedfont to play CB Hounslow United who were bottom before the season was abandoned. They look better this time round but could still be on a hiding to nothing

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Thursday 10 September

London FA U18 Cup Final

I don't normally cover matches at U18 level but given there's nothing else on and I know that some of you are partial to a bit of youth football then you might be interested in this. This year's final features Welling United and Phoenix Sports and takes place at Park View Road. I have no idea how good either side is but Welling are the bigger club by some way

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Friday 11 September

FA Cup Preliminary Round
The next round of the country's top cup competition begins on Friday night in north London where first-time entrants New Salamis welcome West Essex to Coles Park for what should be a very entertaining tie. On paper, the hosts should start as underdogs as they play a level below the visitors but I can see them causing a cupset here 

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Saturday 12 September

FA Cup Preliminary Round
There are a sprinkling of pre-season and lower league games on Saturday but why bother with one of them when the majority of games in the area are in this grand competition. At this stage, a few seventh tier clubs enter the draw and prize money for a win goes up to the rather random amount of £1,444. 

Carshalton Athletic defied their seventh-tier status to make it to the First Round proper last year where they were disappointingly beaten by fellow non-leaguers Boston United. They'll hope to get this year's campaign off to a solid start as they entertain Whitstable Town from the division below. 

Hailing from the same division as Carshalton, Kingstonian went one better and made the Second Round in 2019/20 before also losing to non-league opposition in the form of AFC Fylde. The K's should also make progress on Saturday as they welcome Horley Town from two divisions below.

If I was to pick a game to go to as a neutral it would probably have to be the derby between Chertsey Town and Abbey Rangers. The Curfews are the reigning FA Vase holders so know a thing or two about getting to Wembley. They now play a level above Abbey, who come from neighbouring Addlestone, and should have too much for them. By reading the club's Twitter feed, the game will probably sell out so contact them as soon as possible if you want to go. 

Although not quite as close together as the teams above, there's a south-east London derby feel to Cray Valley PM v VCD Athletic. Both play in the Isthmian League South East and CVPM also made it to the FA Vase final in 2019 where they lost to Chertsey. This looks like a tough one to call.

If the Chertsey game is convenient for you but you can't get a ticket, then the groundshare derby between Southall and Ashford Town (Middlesex) looks like another humdinger. As already mentioned above, the 'All are in cracking form and could well give their landlords a very uncomfortable afternoon.

The all-Essex Senior League clash between Walthamstow and Cockfosters also looks pretty mouthwatering. Both have made good starts to the season and Wadham Lodge should see a good size crowd turn out for this one.

Last but by no means least, you could try heading to Colliers Wood United's ground to watch FA Cup first timers Westside. The south London club are pretty new to senior football but have started this season really well, winning 2-0 at Billingshurst in the last round and thrashing Sandhurst 5-1 in their opening league game. On Saturday they face a big step up in class as Isthmian League club Chatham Town roll into town for quite possibly the biggest game in Westside's history.

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Sunday 13 September

London & SE Women's Regional League
There are three fixtures scheduled at Dartford, Denham United and Dulwich Hamlet but at the time of writing none of the clubs have confirmed whether or not their matches will be open to the public. Dartford and Dulwich's men's teams play in the National League South so aren't allowed to host games - this has therefore complicated things a bit. Denham aren't affected in this way but I haven't been able to get hold of them. UPDATE - these matches are all open to the public but, particularly with Dulwich, you are advised to buy a ticket 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.

Sunday, 30 August 2020

TLFG: 31 August - 6 September 2020

Welcome to the latest edition of TLFG as we move into September - I can't believe it's that time of year already.

How has your week been? Did you get to a game or two?

I've been doing early shifts at work again so going out in the evening has been a non-starter but plenty has been happening at London clubs.

Chelsea saw off Manchester City in the women's FA Community Shield at Wembley prior to Arsenal beating Liverpool to take the honours in the men's game.

The biggest transfer news, certainly from my point of view, saw the move of QPR midfielder Eberechi Eze across town to Crystal Palace, for a package totalling around £20m, where he made a solid start in the Eagles' pre-season win over Charlton Athletic at Selhurst Park.

Chelsea hoovered up Thiago Silva (PSG), Ben Chilwell (Leicester) and Malang Sarr (Nice) whilst Tottenham Hotspur ended the week by signing Matt Doherty from Wolves.

On the non-league front, probably the biggest event of the last seven days was former Manchester United and Juventus star Patrice Evra's decision to play for 11th tier London club Brentham in a friendly against North Greenford United.

It created great publicity for both clubs and brought in some well needed funds for the hosts as a decent crowd descended on Berkeley Fields.

Personally I'd love to see more recently retired pros do the same thing - Peter Crouch hails from the area these two clubs come from and noted on Twitter that Evra had played. Maybe he will be next?

Who would you like to see do a turn in non-league?


THE WEEK AHEAD

The highlights of the next few days include games in the opening round of the FA Cup and the first batch of fixtures in the Combined Counties League, Essex Senior League and Southern Counties East League whilst there are still a few pre-season matches.

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
Tuesday fixtures - green pin
Wednesday fixtures - blue pin
Friday fixtures - black pin



WEEKEND MATCH MAP
Saturday 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.

Tuesday 1 September

Friendlies
In terms of league standing, the best match of the night should be the one at Imber Court between Metropolitan Police and National League side Aldershot Town. Given the Met have successfully hosted a match already, I think that means they should be able to open their ground to 600 people but given they rarely get past 200 then you shouldn't struggle to get in. 

There's further National League representation in north-west London where newly promoted Wealdstone travel to Northwood for a derby. The hosts play three levels below the Stones so will be considerable underdogs. With Wealdstone having sold out their recent friendlies at Bedford Town and Southall, a capacity crowd is not unthinkable here either so you are strongly advised to book in advance online.

FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round
The first competitive matches of the 2020/21 season in London get underway on Tuesday as the country's most illustrious cup competition begins. In more normal times, FA Cup fixtures usually take place on Saturdays with replays in midweek. This year because of Covid-19, the competition is starting on a midweek evening and there will be no replays at all which could make for better games. A total of 368 teams from all over the country begin their FA Cup journey at this point, with bigger clubs joining as the rounds progress. Another effect of the pandemic is the cutting of prize money so the winners of these early matches will only bank £1,125 and the losers £375.

There are 15 ties in the London area on Tuesday so where should you go? For me the most notable include the match at Tithe Farm where Broadfields United begin their groundshare with Rayners Lane by hosting Loxwood. The stadium has been recently redeveloped and boasts some of the best facilities of any non-league club at that level. One of the few eighth-tier clubs to enter the draw at this early stage, Whyteleafe travel to Chislehurst to face SCEFL club Glebe. Whilst up in north London, SSML side New Salamis make their FA Cup debut by playing Colney Heath at Haringey Borough's ground which will be their new home for this campaign.

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Wednesday 2 September

Friendly
The only pre-season game of any note on Wednesday sees Essex clubs Grays Athletic and Billericay Town meet at Parkside, which is another one of non-league's finest new grounds.

FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round
There are a further six matches on Wednesday with a number of clubs playing their first ever ties. Park View, who play at the New River Stadium on White Hart Lane, host Hashtag United who used to play next door at Coles Park but have since left the capital. The visitors have created all kinds of headlines in recent years as they were formed and have grown on social media. They were among the frontrunners in the Essex Senior League last season and will start as favourites as Park View play a level below them. SCEFL club Stansfeld, who groundshare with Glebe, are also making their bow in the competition this season. They face a tricky tie against Kent club Punjab United from the division above. If you want a third tie, there's not too much to choose between the others but Balham are another club to be beginning a new groundshare so their match against Hassocks at AFC Croydon Athletic could be of interest in that respect.

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Friday 4 September

Essex Senior League
With the cup football out of the way, league action begins on Friday night in Barking where West Essex welcome Takeley to a revamped Mayesbrook Park which boasts a brand new 4G pitch.

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Saturday 5 September

Friendlies
With many non-league clubs beginning their league campaigns on Saturday, the amount of pre-season games has reduced a lot but some bigger teams are in action. There's an Essex derby at Bridge Avenue where Hornchurch take on near neighbours and former EFL club Dagenham & Redbridge for what should be a decent game. 

After falling short in the National League play-offs, Boreham Wood will hope for another good season and get their preparations underway by making the short trip to Summers Lane to play Isthmian League club Wingate & Finchley.

There's a groundshare derby at Hayes Lane where Isthmian League club Cray Wanderers host their landlords Bromley at 230pm - tickets are available online.

Also hailing from the National League, Aldershot Town make a trip to the Powerday Stadium to take on Hanwell Town.

In south London there's a decent looking derby between Isthmian League sides Carshalton Athletic and Tooting & Mitcham United - tickets are available online in advance. For previous games at Colston Avenue you had to buy before you arrived because of the limited capacity and for track and trace reasons so it will probably be the same for this one.

DOUBLEHEADERS

Over at Parkside, there's a doubleheader where Aveley play Hythe Town at 1pm before Grays Athletic take on local rivals Tilbury in the annual Stan Veness Cup. As far as I know, you'll have to buy separate tickets for both.  

There's a similar situation in west London where Bedfont Sports entertain Hayes & Yeading United in a friendly at 1215pm before CB Hounslow United get their Combined Counties League campaign underway against Guildford City.

Probably the best value doubleheader is at Mayesbrook Park where Barking play back-to-back friendlies against Enfield Town and Witham Town starting at 3pm. It's £6 a ticket and it will get you access to both games.

Ninth-tier leagues
All of our local ninth and 10th-tier leagues, bar the SSML, get fully underway on Saturday. As a result of Covid-19, all leagues from the seventh tier downwards saw the 2019/20 season declared null and void with many clubs having played over 70% of their fixtures. Consequently, several clubs avoided relegation whilst others missed out on promotion or recording their highest ever finish.

Among those to have a case in feeling hard done by were Spelthorne Sports who were second in the Combined Counties League when the abandonment came. The Sunbury-based club have only been playing at this level for six years so it was disappointing to see things end when they did. On Saturday they welcome Frimley Green who were also in the top four when things came to an abrupt halt.

London's main title challengers in the Essex Senior League were Walthamstow who were third, only three points behind leaders Saffron Walden Town but with three games in hand. Their chances of promotion to the Isthmian League looked very good indeed but they'll have to start all over again with a trip to Mile End to play Sporting Bengal United who ended up in the bottom five.

Among those to enjoy a reprieve from relegation, Erith & Belvedere amassed only 20 points from 28 games in the SCEFL Premier Division but face a very tough opener against Chatham Town who were among the title contenders.

Tenth-tier leagues
Probably the most aggrieved club in the country were and still are Jersey Bulls. The Channel Islands club were playing their first ever season in the English football league system and took the Combined Counties League Division One by storm winning all 27 of their league games before Covid-19 struck. They were 20 points clear, had games in hand on all those in the top five and had already secured promotion with 11 games to go. Sadly it all counted for nothing and they have to begin from scratch with a trip to Bedfont & Feltham who were pushing for promotion themselves. 

Of our local sides, the pick of the clubs in the CCL Division 1 were Walton & Hersham who had a very good chance of joining Jersey Bulls in going up. They begin with a match against Ash United who struggled last season.

Elsewhere in the 10th tier, Frenford return from a year in exile in Basildon to play the first competitive match on their new 4G pitch at their ground in Ilford. Holland are the visitors for an ECL Division 1 South match.

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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, 23 August 2020

TLFG: 24-30 August 2020

The great return to football finally happened on Saturday with games taking place at non-league grounds all over the capital.

So how was it for you?

With many kick-offs staggered it would have been easy to see two matches, some people even saw three.

Personally I saw nothing thanks to a mammoth shift at work but I did get a bit of time to work on this during my break.

The week ahead has another good selection of games with lots of clubs from the seventh through to the 10th tiers hosting fixtures around the city.

Once again FA rules mean a maximum attendance of between 150-300 depending on the level the club plays at, so you'll need to buy in advance or turn up early to guarantee admission.

You'll also be expected to give your details on arrival for track and trace purposes.

After very successfully hosting a sold-out doubleheader on Saturday, Carshalton Athletic are straight back into action on Monday when Cray Valley PM pay them a visit. A total of 300 tickets are available for this and must be bought online in advance.

This is one of the biggest games of the week as the Robins are the only seventh-tier side who are hosting and actively encouraging supporters to attend. There are matches at several other clubs at this level too but they're being used as test events and more casual spectators won't be allowed in.

One seventh-tier side you can watch on their travels are Cray Wanderers - London's oldest club. They start the week at Whyteleafe (now cancelled) before visiting local rivals VCD Athletic on Wednesday.

Oh yes, I almost forgot, one of our local sixth-tier teams is also in action on Tuesday. National League South side Hampton & Richmond Borough make the short trip to Ashford Town as they get their pre-season underway.

Getting hold of accurate information has been a challenge and games will almost certainly change, move or get cancelled over the course of the week so please check all details before you travel with the clubs themselves, including whether spectators will be admitted.

UPDATE FRIDAY 28/08/20: - as suggested above, there have been a few matches added and cancelled over the course of the week. Most notably tonight where AFC Cubo take on Peckham Town in the London Senior Trophy Final at Cray Valley PM's ground in south-east London. There is a very limited capacity but some tickets are still available online so buy now if you want to go.

On Saturday, Carshalton Athletic are hosting National League South side Tonbridge Angels in another friendly at Colston Avenue. There is a limit of 300 so you'll also need to buy online in advance to get in.

There have been a handful of other games added on Saturday so please give the maps another look just in case.

I have tried hard to get information about any women's friendlies that might be happening but the only ones I can find are being played behind closed doors.

Finally, in case you were in any doubt, there is a huge day of football at Wembley on Saturday with the men's and women's Community Shield matches taking place but sadly no spectators will be admitted. 


MIDWEEK MATCH MAP

Monday match - yellow pin

Tuesday match - green pin

Wednesday match - turquoise pin

Thursday match - purple pin

Friday match - black pin

    


WEEKEND MATCH MAP

Saturday match - blue pin

 

I think I've got to grips with the changes in Blogger and Google Maps so the map should work but if doesn't, paste the following links into your browser:

Midweek map: http://tiny.cc/fytosz

Weekend map: http://tiny.cc/jytosz

Once again, I feel this entry is a bit below normal standards but there's a lot less football on and info has been hard to come by but I hope it suffices.

Enjoy your week and get in touch if you have any questions or know of any games I might have missed.