Sunday, 18 March 2012

TLFG: 19-25 March 2012

It's not often that Bolton Wanderers lead the headlines in Sunday's sports pages but it's happened for the second week in a row and again for the wrong reasons.

Last week it was all about QPR defender Clint Hill's 'goal' that never was against them at the Reebok Stadium while this time it is sadly about the collapse of Fabrice Muamba during their game at Tottenham on Saturday.

I was at Loftus Road on the opening day of the season when the Kinshasa-born midfielder scored a rare goal during a second-half masterclass that saw the Trotters to a 4-0 win. Of the players on display, I was particularly impressed with Muamba's performance and thought that maybe he could have a future in the England team. Hopefully he still will. All the best to him and his family.

On a more mundane note, my football-watching week was supposed to have taken in two games but circumstances dictated that I only made it to one - Wingate & Finchley v Lewes in the Ryman League Premier Division on Tuesday night.

Prior to this season I hadn't been to Summers Lane for 19 years since Harrow Borough played there in a pre-season friendly. This was my fourth trip there this season thanks to the connections I have made at the club through Non-League Day. Not only was Mike on hand to greet me as usual but I also met up with legendary football blogger Stuart Fuller of 'The Ball Is Round' fame, a man who has been very supportive of NLD and this blog as well.

With Mike behind one goal and Stuart, a Rooks fan, behind the other an entertaining game ensued. It turned out to be the proverbial game of two halves with Wingate the better side in the first half, taking a 1-0 lead, and Lewes the superior team after the break coming back to win 2-1. You can see their equaliser courtesy of TLFG's YouTube debut - it's a classic bit of video craftsmanship (not really):

Aside from the result, probably the most worrying thing for Wingate at the moment is their dwindling crowds with the last two home midweek games drawing less than 100. They are very much a community club with a number of youth teams and really deserve a bit more support. If you're in north London and have the time, pay them a visit. They also offer half-price admission (£5) to season-ticket holders from Premier and Football League clubs to their Ryman League matches while all under-16s get in for free.

On Saturday I was also supposed to go to Wealdstone's FA Trophy semi-final second leg against Newport County but had to go elsewhere at the last minute. Unfortunately for them they were held to a 0-0 draw so lost 3-1 on aggregate but it still marked a superb achievement by the Ryman League club. Having reached the final of the Middlesex Senior Cup and with games in hand to still challenge for a play-off place, they still have plenty to play for.

Next up it's ticket news time - here's what's currently on general sale for some of the bigger matches that are coming up in London in the near future:

2 June - Belgium 515pm, Wembley Stadium, international friendly

16 April - Wigan Athletic 8pm, Premier League

7 April - Wigan Athletic 3pm, Premier League

21 April - Wigan Athletic 3pm, Premier League

11 April - Swansea City 8pm, Premier League

27 March - Bolton Wanderers 730pm, FA Cup
29 April - Blackburn Rovers 4pm, Premier League

There are 77 matches taking place in London over the next seven days and as well as all the normal league action we have a semi-final and the final of the NextGen Series while Wembley hosts the final of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy. For those of you wanting an instant football fix at the beginning of the week there are an unusually high number of six games on Monday night - use the following maps to find out what's on and where:

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

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.

If you can't decide where to watch this week, here are a few games which I think could be worth your while:


CHELSEA v TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (Saturday 24 March, 1245pm)
This Premier League match at Stamford Bridge is quite simply absolutely huge. Only four points separate the two who at the time of writing sit either side of Arsenal in fifth and third respectively. Not long ago Spurs were title contenders, now they'll be happy to finish in the top four. Their impressive form has fallen away of late having lost their last three league games while Chelsea, under new boss Roberto Di Matteo, have started to grind out wins and are gradually improving. If the Blues win here, I fear for Tottenham's Champions League qualification chances. Tickets: SOLD OUT

QUEENS PARK RANGERS v LIVERPOOL (Wednesday 21 March, 8pm)
Struggling QPR's stinker of a run-in, which sees them play six of the top seven teams, begins here when the Reds visit Loftus Road. In what is now the fairly distant past, these games used to provide a decent spectacle. The Anfield club would usually win but occasionally Rangers would pull off a spectacular triumph that would make the headlines. Hopefully for Rs fans this will be the night that kick-starts their Premier League campaign as Liverpool aren't the side they were back then but then neither are QPR. By the time of this match it will be two months since the hosts last won a game and that was against bottom club Wigan. Liverpool should come out on top but if Rangers pull something out of the bag, it could be the pivotal moment of their season. Ticket info.

WEST HAM UNITED v MIDDLESBROUGH (Tuesday 20 March, 745pm)
Another big midweek match takes place at Upton Park where two teams chasing promotion from the Championship go head-to-head. It must be a very nervy time for Hammers fans who after seeing their team in the top two for most of the season have finally seen them caught by the almost invincible Reading, meaning they have now dropped into the dreaded play-off places after a third consecutive draw. Boro arrive in the East End as a top six club themselves so should provide another stern test for Sam Allardyce's side. However, they have lost their last two and haven't won at the Boleyn Ground in their last seven attempts. Ticket info.

A win in Saturday's derby against Brentford saw Orient go seven-points clear of the bottom four, giving them a vital bit of breathing space in their fight against relegation. It's just as well as the next two matches see the east London club take on two of the top five - firstly MK Dons away and then this match at Brisbane Road on Saturday. Sadly for the O's, the South Yorkshire club are on a bit of a hot streak having won four of their last five. The hosts have also only managed one victory over the Owls in the last 30 years but significantly it came last season when Orient thrashed Wednesday 4-0 so they'll be hoping for a repeat performance. Ticket info.

BARNET v DAGENHAM & REDBRIDGE (Tuesday 20 March, 745pm)
It hasn't been a vintage season for London's three League Two sides and these two have been particularly letting the side down. The battle to avoid finishing in the bottom two and getting relegated from the Football League looks like becoming a thriller with the bottom six all within three points of each other. The fortunes of clubs at this end of the table have been fluctuating wildly, climbing a few places off the bottom one Saturday only to be back there seven days later after playing three games in a week. The Bees had showed signs of pulling away from the strugglers but only two wins in 10 have seen them slide back down while the Daggers looked doomed only for a win over Macclesfield on Saturday to put them back in touch. The last time Dagenham and Redbridge won at Underhill both clubs were non-league sides, hopefully that won't be the case the next time they play. Ticket info.

DARTFORD v SUTTON UNITED (Tuesday 20 March, 745pm)
Woking have been the pacesetters in the Blue Square Bet South for months but they've dropped a few points of late meaning that they could finally and almost unthinkably be caught. Dartford are really the only team that look like being able to do it and if they win this game in hand they'll only be five points behind. Their form is also impressive having won five of their last six. However, Sutton are no fools and arrive at Princes Park five points behind in fourth place and are on an even better run having not lost in eight. With the hosts needing the win, hopefully we'll see an open game. Club info.

WELLING UNITED v SUTTON UNITED (Saturday 24 March, 3pm)
If you want to see more of the U's then set up camp on the south-east side of town as their big week continues with a trip to Park View Road to play the Wings. Normally I wouldn't list the same club twice but neither of their fixtures are at home and this is another big game against one of the division's heavyweights. By the time this match takes place, the sides could've swapped places or they could still be in third and fourth. The form guide would suggest a win for the visitors as Welling have lost three of their last 10 but it's so tight at this end of the table that it's hard to predict which way this one will go. Ticket info.

These sides lie either side of the M25 on the western edge of London so this Evostik League Southern Division One Central match must qualify as a derby. The visitors used to be one of the best non-league sides in the country but have struggled over the last few years and fallen down the divisions. Recently their fortunes on the pitch have improved, getting to the play-offs two years running. This time they're looking to go up automatically and are currently locked on level points with St Neots Town at the top of the table. Three points will therefore be crucial for them at Ashford but they are on a great run of their own having won their last six in all competitions. When these sides met earlier in the season, Slough won 4-3 so ideally we'll get some more of the same. Ticket info.

WHYTELEAFE v HYTHE TOWN (Tuesday 20 March, 745pm)
On paper this Ryman League Division One South match doesn't look particularly significant so why have I gone for it? The answer dear readers is that the Surrey club have decided to let everyone in for FREE. Yes you read that right - FREE. Recently Sutton offered a 'pay what you want' scheme for their match against Boreham Wood but the Leafe aren't even asking you to do that. To top it all, their Church Road ground is also very straightforward to get to lying just a short walk from Whyteleafe South station which is direct from both Victoria and Clapham Junction. Although there's not currently a great amount of info about the deal on the club's website, I've had it confirmed that it is being offered so don't be put off. Contact them yourself if you're not sure. Club info.

SEMI-FINAL & FINAL (Wednesday 21 March, 7pm & Sunday 25 March, 130pm)
The NextGen Series is a tournament contested by the academy sides of some of Europe's top clubs and it reaches its climax in London this week. On Wednesday night you'll be able to see Inter Milan play Marseille at Brentford's Griffin Park in the second semi-final (the other one has already been played). The winner will then face Ajax in the final at Leyton Orient's Brisbane Road on Sunday. Tickets for both matches are just £3 for adults if bought in advance or £5 on the day. Ticket info.

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

1 comment:

  1. Recently back from Loftus Road and what a match it proved to be. How Liverpool didn't win, let alone lose, I just don't know! I said tonight could prove pivotal for QPR and there's no doubt morale will be massively boosted.

    Anyone else go to this or any other game tonight?