Sunday, 15 January 2012

TLFG: 16-22 January 2012

Minutes after publishing last week's blog, news came through that QPR had dispensed with the services of manager Neil Warnock.

I was disappointed for the Yorkshireman who did great things for the club during his 22-month reign but didn't find myself outraged by the decision. The last couple of months have been poor with silly points being dropped in numerous fixtures and a negative formation seemingly being employed regardless of the opposition or the venue.

I'm also quite positive about the appointment of Mark Hughes who has a solid record with clubs of a similar stature and should keep QPR up, especially with the funds supposedly available.

The new man agreed his deal while I was in the box office buying tickets for Tuesday's FA Cup replay against MK Dons so I hung around to see him make a swift exit, surrounded by news crews and photographers.

Sky Sports News reporter Gary Cotterill lets the world know of Mark Hughes' appointment by QPR
This week my choice of live football was decided by a visit to relatives 40-odd miles north of London, with Saturday afternoon being spent at Newport Pagnell Town. The Swans completed a comfortable 3-0 victory over Irchester United in the United Counties League. It proved to be a good warm-up for the hosts who welcome Northern League Ashington to Willen Road next weekend in the FA Vase, a match billed as 'the biggest in the club's history' in the programme. So if you're in the Milton Keynes area on 21 January, I thoroughly recommend you go.

Oh yes, before I forget, I also went to watch QPR in the FA Youth Cup on Thursday night at Loftus Road. I'd never been to a game in this competition but the club had pushed it quite hard and for £5 and five loyalty points (a point more than watching the first team at Aston Villa in a forthcoming midweek game) tempted me along. A healthy crowd of well over a thousand, including Hughes, saw the Rs youngsters pull off a shock 1-0 win over Everton. I hadn't realised how significant this was until I got home and read that the Toffees where effectively the best Academy side in the country, so hats off to them. There's more FA Youth Cup action in the capital this week but more on that later.

So which games have you been to this week? Share your stories in the comments section below or on our Facebook page. Also feel free to add your photos to our Flickr group.

Ticket news now - along with information about what's on general sale at Premier League clubs, I've also included details about England's friendly against the Netherlands at the end of February.

29 February - Netherlands 8pm, Wembley, international friendly

Nothing currently available 

Nothing currently available

1 February - West Bromwich Albion 8pm, Premier League
11 February - Stoke City 3pm, Premier League

17 January - MK Dons 8pm, FA Cup
21 January - Wigan Athletic 3pm, Premier League
4 February - Wolverhampton Wanderers 3pm, Premier League

31 January - Wigan Athletic 745pm, Premier League
11 February - Newcastle United 530pm, Premier League

For those of you already in town and looking for a game in the next few days, here are this week's match maps:

MIDWEEK MAP
Yellow pin - Monday fixtures
Green pin - Tuesday fixtures
Turquoise pin - Wednesday fixtures

WEEKEND MAP
Blue pin - Saturday fixtures
Red pin - Sunday fixtures

Please let me know if there are any errors or omissions so I can correct them as soon as possible and, as always, make sure you check with the club on the day whether a match is still taking place.

There are 67 matches taking place throughout the London area over the next seven days. Here are a few which I think could be worth your while:

TLFG TOP 10

One of the biggest matches on the Premier League calendar takes place on Sunday at the Emirates Stadium. Although the Gunners aren't quite the force they once were, they're still up there and could potentially move back into the top four if they win this (subject to their result at Swansea). However, their record against United in recent years has been poor. They spectacularly lost 8-2 at Old Trafford back in August and have only won two of their last 10 meetings in all competitions. It's by no means a lost cause for Arsene Wenger though with somewhat of an injury crisis blighting his opponents but I'm sure he'll be quite satisfied with a point.

After scraping a 1-1 draw at stadiummk, QPR bring the League One side back to Loftus Road for this FA Cup replay. This match is notable for being new manager Mark Hughes' first home game in charge. He will be tasked with breaking the club's FA Cup hoodoo which has seen them go a staggering 11 years without a win in the competition - the last one came in a third round replay against Luton Town in 2001. The Buckinghamshire side will be no pushovers and will come into the game well rested after having their match at Carlisle postponed. Rangers meanwhile, who play at Newcastle today, will only have one day to prepare. Great cupset potential.

The Daggers did well to hold Championship Millwall to a draw in the original game but slumped back to losing ways this weekend against fellow League Two strugglers Hereford. They will still fancy their chances though having seen the Lions get demolished 6-0 by Birmingham City at The Den leaving them to teeter just above the relegation zone. The poor form of both sides could see this FA Cup tie go either way.

Two clubs with great histories have been under performing in recent years and find themselves desperate for points at opposite ends of the Championship. The Hammers have been among the frontrunners all season and after a recent wobble seem to be getting back on track, having won their last two league games. Two-time European champions Forest on the other hand are really struggling, having won only one of their last 10 to sit in the bottom three. This could end up being a nervy encounter but the hosts should prevail.

The match of the weekend in League One takes place at The Valley where the top two go head-to-head. Both dropped out of the Premier League together at the end of the 2006/07 season and have been struggling to recover ever since. It looks like this could be the year that the fortunes of both start to turn around. The two sides come into this on the back of fine wins at Sheffield Wednesday and Bury respectively. Although the Addicks are top and beat the Blades earlier in the season, the visitors are on a sensational run that has seen them win 11 of their last 12 games in all competitions so this should be a cracker.

Having held the Imps to a fine 0-0 draw at Sincil Bank, the Robins get another chance to beat the Blue Square Bet Premier side in this FA Trophy replay on Tuesday. Ryman League Premier Division side Carshalton have had an unspectacular season so far and are on a run that has seen them go seven games without a win. Lincoln are hardly setting the world on fire either but the gulf of two divisions should on paper see them go through. Nothing can be taken for granted though as Wealdstone demonstrated by disposing of Barrow in a similar tie on Saturday.

If you're looking for FA Trophy action but Carshalton's not ideal for you, try spending the evening at the Beveree where an upset could be in the offing. Hampton have had a poor season but have managed to pull themselves out of the Blue Square Bet South bottom three. Having beaten higher ranked local rivals Hayes & Yeading in the last round, they only managed to draw with Ryman League East Thurrock on Saturday. Form would suggest that the Essex club could well go one better here having won nine of their last 11 matches.

The Motormen grabbed the headlines earlier this season by making it to the second round of the FA Cup. Their league form in the Ryman League Division One North has been far less impressive though but they have pulled off fine wins over promotion chasing Needham Market and Grays Athletic in their last two games. Local rivals Ilford are on a dreadful run but they'll hope to do better in this derby.

Last up this week I recommend you take in this battle of two of the best teams in the Combined Counties League. The hosts have had a fine season and were in a position to have gone top if they'd won their games in hand. Sadly they've lost three matches in the last month which has seen them fall back to fifth, some 18 points off the pace. The Stags, however, are on a formidable run that has seen them remain unbeaten in the league since October and have climbed to second. To top it all, they've scored 10 or more goals in a game on two occasions - not bad for a club who were formed in the summer.

As previously mentioned, there's another FA Youth Cup match this week with Charlton Athletic playing Leicester City at Welling United's ground on Wednesday.

If you're coming to London or have any questions about watching football here, please get in touch through either the comments section below, our Facebook page, Twitter or email.

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