Sunday 19 February 2012

TLFG: 20-26 February 2012

On Saturday I stepped firmly outside of my London comfort zone and visited part of the capital I had never been to before. When you grow up in the north west of town it's very rare that you find anyone that ever goes to or even knows anything about the south east part of it.

The 'SE' postal district of the city is unique in that most of it is largely untouched by the London Underground which makes it seem, in the minds of the rest of us, that little bit harder to get to and consequently a lot of us don't make the effort.

Combine this with a reputation for being a tough place with high crime rates and prejudices about the area start to build. The train journey out of Charing Cross on a grey day in February don't do it any favours either.

Once you get clear of London Bridge and the shadow of The Shard, you grind your way through Bermondsey and past Millwall's imposing Den. Next up is Lewisham, one of the flashpoints during last summer's riots, before you briefly pitstop at the middle class haven which is Blackheath with its villagey feel and posh coffee shops. Before long you find yourself in Kidbrooke next to the sinister Ferrier Estate - a huge council housing complex that is largely derelict.

Things seem to improve when a landscaped park appears as you reach Eltham, famous for its historic palace, but then you remember this is the neighbourhood where Stephen Lawrence met his end in 1993. A couple of stops further on and you're in Welling where the far-right BNP had its headquarters until the mid '90s. My first vision on arrival here was a group of youths on the other platform talking about how they should've done this that and the other to some rival to only enforce my stereotype of the area.

When I eventually arrived in Barnehurst, things returned to suburban normality.

Of course nothing untoward happened to me on my journey and this part of town is in reality very much like any other. Goodness knows there are plenty of undesirable spots around this side of London too.

So with the travelogue out of the way, where did I actually end up? The answer - Phoenix Sports of the Kent Invicta League (level 10 of the national system). You may remember that I gave them a special mention a couple of weeks ago as being one of only two non-league teams in the capital to put a match on during the big freeze, so I was interested to see their facilities. The lure of reduced admission of only £2 and a 2pm kick-off cemented my match selection.

Phoenix Sports' frost-impervious pitch hosts another game
The Phoenix Sports Ground is a very straightforward mile walk from the station so despite the 90 minutes it had taken me to get there, it was a relatively hassle free journey.

There is a very strong green colour scheme at the club with the kit, clubhouse and tea bar (inside an old shipping container from what I could tell) all coated with it. The pitch is neatly fenced and was in good condition for the time of year.

The opponents on Saturday were Woodstock Park which meant third were playing sixth. Despite a goalless first half, the hosts were the better team and completed a thoroughly deserved 3-0 win thanks to some pretty impressive forward play for a team at this level.

The game contained a few notable non-league howlers too including a superb air-shot on the edge of the area from a Phoenix player referred to by Woodstock's coach as a 'fat ****' and a dreadful shinned clearance by the visitors' captain into his own box which he 'recovered' by hacking down his opponent to concede a penalty.

The best for me though came when a visiting forward blocked a clearance while defending a corner - in order to stop it going out for another one, he raced to the by-line and swivelled to try and hammer it upfield but slipped and ended up sending a fantastic cross into his own penalty area that only narrowly avoided the head of one of the incoming forwards.

Woodstock Park (blue) defend a first-half corner
My only negative of the afternoon was that it drizzled constantly from the moment I got off the train until I got back on it and there is very little cover at the ground so bear this in mind if you decide to pay a visit.

As always, I'll now give you a round-up of what tickets are on general sale for some of the bigger matches that are coming up in London over the next few weeks:

29 February - Netherlands 8pm, Wembley, international friendly

Nothing currently available

10 March - Stoke City 3pm, Premier League

4 March - Wolverhampton Wanderers 205pm, Premier League
17 March - Swansea City 3pm, Premier League
31 March - Norwich City 3pm, Premier League

3 March - Everton 3pm, Premier League

1 April - Swansea City 4pm, Premier League (on sale 23 Feb)

With the weather for the coming week looking pretty reasonable, I don't foresee a huge amount of postponements unless it gets particularly wet towards the end of it. With this in mind, here are this week's match maps:

Yellow pin - Monday fixtures
Green pin - Tuesday fixtures
Turquoise pin - Wednesday fixtures
Purple pin - Thursday fixtures

View London midweek match map 20-24 February 2012 in a larger map
Blue pin - Saturday fixtures
Red pin - Sunday fixtures

Please let me know if there are any errors or omissions and always make sure you check with a club on the day whether a match is still taking place.

In total, there are 69 games to look forward to in the Greater London area over the next seven days. A glance through the fixtures shows quite a strong week so creating a shortlist of 10 was quite hard - make sure you add your personal recommendations in the comments section below if I've not chosen yours.


ARSENAL v TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (Sunday 26 February, 130pm)
Arguably THE London derby of London derbies takes place this week when north London's big two go head-to-head at the Emirates Stadium. Geographically they're not the closest rivals (about four miles apart - Chelsea and Fulham are just 1.5 miles away from each other) but the bitterness is right up there, matched perhaps only by Millwall and West Ham. This season the significance of this fixture is even greater as the Gunners' long dominance over Spurs seems finally to be over with the latter still in the hunt for a domestic double which their opponents simply are not. If Harry Redknapp's side win this they will go 13 points clear of Arsenal and extend their unbeaten run against them in the Premier League to five matches. Tickets: SOLD OUT.

QUEENS PARK RANGERS v FULHAM (Saturday 25 February, 3pm)
Over on the west side of town, the two clubs who live in the shadow of Chelsea scrap to avoid the area's wooden spoon. As it stands, QPR are very much the more likely to end up with it given their position just above the relegation zone while Fulham are sitting comfortably in midtable. When the sides met in October, Rangers were showing the better form but got taken apart by the Cottagers who routed them 6-0. Since then the hosts have upgraded their squad and have purchased striker Bobby Zamora from the SW6 club which will add a bit more spice to the occasion. One other stat of note - QPR haven't beaten Fulham since 1983 so make of that what you will. Tickets: SOLD OUT

WEST HAM UNITED v CRYSTAL PALACE (Saturday 25 February, 1245pm)
Having both taken part in derbies recently, both these sides are now preparing for another one on Saturday. There isn't huge animosity between these two and the fact they've only played each other once since 2004 has probably reduced any potential rivalry even further. The Hammers should be the hungrier to win this as they continue their pursuit of the Championship title while the Eagles' hopes of a play-off spot are still a bit of a long shot despite their 4-0 win over Watford on Saturday. If the teams produce a repeat of the 2-2 draw they put on earlier in the season then we'll be in for a treat. The club are also offering a 'kids for a quid' ticket deal. Ticket info.

MILLWALL v MIDDLESBROUGH (Tuesday 21 February, 745pm)
It's been a bit of an up and down week for the Lions who bowed out of the FA Cup to Premier League Bolton on Saturday but were given some breathing space in their battle against relegation by the deduction of 10 points from administration-afflicted Portsmouth in midweek. This match sees them welcome Middlesbrough who are still very much in the promotion race and could potentially go fourth if they win this. The other point of interest is that because this is a re-arranged game all the ticket prices have been slashed with adult tickets starting at just £12. Ticket info.

CHARLTON ATHLETIC v STEVENAGE (Saturday 25 February, 3pm)
I've just watched Stevenage give Spurs a good workout in Sunday's televised FA Cup game which makes me think this first versus sixth contest in League One should be a cracker. The Addicks consolidated their spot at the top this week with a win against MK Dons and a draw at Tranmere and are very much the team to beat at the moment. Although Stevenage aren't a huge club they're located just to north of London and many will view this as a derby by the division's standards which makes it even more surprising that the south-east London club are charging only £5 to get in. If you fancy a piece of the action here, click on the following link. Ticket info.

WEALDSTONE v DARTFORD (Tuesday 21 February, 745pm)
After seeing this FA Trophy match postponed several times over the last few weeks, the sides eventually met a few days ago and played out an entertaining 2-2 draw, hence this replay. To recap, Dartford are the favourites on paper, playing in the division above, but the Stones very rarely lose and proved more than a match for their opponents. Having already beaten Blue Square Bet Premier side Barrow at Grosvenor Vale in the last round, you could well be tempted to install the hosts as favourites for this one. Ticket info

HAMPTON & RICHMOND BOROUGH v WOKING (Saturday 25 February, 3pm)
Hampton and the rest of the bottom three in the Blue Square Bet South had a disappointing weekend and are starting to lose touch with the rest of the division. The 4-0 drubbing at home midtable Eastleigh will do nothing for their confidence especially with the visit of Woking on the horizon.  The Cards, who play just outside London, are currently 14 points clear at the top of the table having seen off nearest rivals Dartford on Saturday despite playing for 80 minutes with 10 men. In short, this could either be a massacre or one of the upsets of the season. Woking fans also travel in large numbers so there should be a big crowd. Ticket info.

HENDON v LOWESTOFT TOWN (Saturday 25 February, 3pm)
Two of the best sides in the Ryman League Premier Division will be hoping for your support when they meet on Saturday afternoon. As it stands it's fifth versus third although Lowestoft have games in hand which will put them top if they eventually win them. The Greens won at Leatherhead on Saturday while the Trawler Boys could only draw against struggling Tooting & Mitcham. Expect another close contest here. Don't forget that if you're a season-ticket holder at a Premier/Football/Scottish League club then you'll get in for just £5. Ticket info.

COLLIERS WOOD UTD v RAYNES PARK VALE (Wednesday 22 February, 730pm)
This match has been postponed on too many occasions to remember over the last couple of months and the two south-west London rivals will have another go on Wednesday night. Neither side have been lighting up the Combined Counties League Premier Division this season but their close proximity (a little over 1.5 miles) means there'll be plenty of pride at stake. Club info.

SPORTING BENGAL UNITED v LONDON APSA (Saturday 25 February, 3pm)
Last up this week we have this East End derby at the Mile End Stadium. Unlike most teams in the Essex Senior League both these clubs have their roots in the Asian communities of the area. As you may have guessed, the hosts are largely made up of people with their roots in Bangladesh while the visitors have stronger links to Pakistan. Given the historical rivalry between the two countries, this is arguably the biggest match of the season for the clubs and they often get their biggest crowds. Club info.

If you have any questions or need advice about watching football in London you can contact TLFG via the comments section below, Facebook, Twitter or by email