I think the last time I made my way to SE22 to watch the Pink and Blues was in the early '90s shortly after the famous ground had been re-opened following its renovation.
It was at the time one of the best non-league grounds around and I can remember some excitement in going to visit it with Harrow Borough for a game which I think they won.
With this in mind I headed off from W12 and enjoyed a smooth journey through parts of London that are largely untouched by the Tube network. As I've mentioned before, people from my side of town rarely venture to these parts so it is interesting to see how green and hilly these areas are compared to my own.
Champion Hill is historic but so too is Herne Hill Velodrome which the train passes on its way to and from Tulse Hill. Luckily there was a race meet in progress so I caught a glimpse of the venue in use as I passed it.
From East Dulwich station, Hamlet's ground is only a short walk away which makes it one of the easiest grounds to get to by public transport in London.
With the best part of 20 years having elapsed since my last visit, I wondered how much the stadium would've changed/deteriorated.
On arrival I joined a queue of about 30 people at the turnstile, something I hadn't seen at a non-league ground all season - the visit of Whitehawk for the Ryman League Division One South table-topping clash obviously proving to be quite a draw.
|A sizeable crowd enjoys the action at Champion Hill|
The buzz within the ground was evident as soon as I entered but I opted to head to the south side of the pitch where it was quieter and afforded the best view of the ground.
As I took it all in, I realised that nothing had really changed. The impressive grandstand/clubhouse still dominated things and the pitch was still a bit ropey in parts. However, the support had swelled massively (there were over 600 on Saturday) and there was a real feeling that the club was part of the local community.
Although technically a neutral I began the game wanting league leaders Dulwich to win, mainly because of an acquaintance I hold with captain Francis Duku who I've had the pleasure of meeting through Non-League Day.
|Dulwich unsuccessfully try to get back in the game|
The already close top three (also including Bognor) now only have one point between them with two games to go. If Dulwich are your local club and you haven't been to see them, their last home game of the season is on Saturday (21 April) against Faversham Town. Get down there and cheer them on to promotion.
LATEST TICKET NEWS
If you're coming to London soon and want to see a match at one of London's bigger grounds here's what's currently on general sale (click on team name for info):
2 June - Belgium 515pm, Wembley Stadium, international friendly
Nothing currently available
20 April - Blackburn Rovers 7pm, FA Youth Cup final 1st leg
2 May - Newcastle United 745pm, Premier League
21 April - Wigan Athletic 3pm, Premier League
6 May - Sunderland 2pm, Premier League
6 May - Stoke City 2pm, Premier League
29 April - Blackburn Rovers 4pm, Premier League
Overall there's a slight increase in games this week with 63 to keep you amused over the next seven days. The midweek period is mainly dominated by cup football be it Champions League or a county cup final, while the weekend is all about those crucial title/promotion/relegation deciding matches. Here are this week's match maps:
Yellow pin - Monday fixtures
Green pin - Tuesday fixtures
Turquoise pin - Wednesday fixtures
Magenta pin - Friday fixtures
View London midweek match map 16-20 April 2012 in a larger map
Blue pin - Saturday fixtures
View London weekend match map 21-22 April 2012 in a larger map
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.
With so many to choose from, here is a shortlist of a few games which I think are worth a special mention. Feel free to add your recommendations in the comments section below.
TLFG TOP 10
CHELSEA v BARCELONA (Wednesday 18 April, 745pm)
Chelsea are currently in the early stages of a run of six games which will see them play four London derbies and two legs of a Champions League semi-final against arguably the best team in the world - it really doesn't get much tougher. The Catalan club are the overwhelming favourites coming into this match having won their last 11 league games (they haven't lost in any competition since 2 November) and they hold the balance of power in the head-to-head between the two sides too - Chelsea's last win was in 2006. If Roberto Di Matteo pulls off a win over two legs, the Blues manager's job must be his for next season. TICKETS: SOLD OUT
ARSENAL v CHELSEA (Saturday 21 April, 1245pm)
With Barcelona out of the way, Chelsea then have to take on the Gunners at the Emirates. Despite a recent slip up at QPR, Arsene Wenger's side are still joint top of the Premier League form table having won nine of their last 11 games. The run has left them sitting comfortably in third with a match on Monday against Wigan still to play before this. The Blues' recent record against Arsenal is pretty decent though having won three of their last five encounters. From the neutral's perspective there are usually quite a few goals (eight back in October) and draws are rare (the last one was in 2007). The west London club probably need the points that little bit more than the Gunners but fatigue might be an issue for them. TICKETS: SOLD OUT
QPR v TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (Saturday 21 April, 530pm)
Another crucial London derby takes place in Shepherd's Bush later the same day when Queens Park Rangers continue their scrap against relegation against Spurs who need the points to try and get back into the Champions League. Many, including myself, had written off QPR's chances of staying up because of their horrendous run-in but three straight home wins over Liverpool, Arsenal and Swansea have given them cause for hope. A couple of months ago, the thought of beating Tottenham would've been unthinkable but their results, by their previously very high standards, have started to dip. QPR v Spurs games back in the '90s always used to be well contested so I'm expecting another great London derby here. TICKET INFO
CHARLTON ATHLETIC v WYCOMBE WANDERERS (Saturday 21 April, 3pm)
On Saturday a win at Carlisle saw the Addicks clinch promotion from League One back to the Championship to complete the first part of the former Premier League side's revival. This weekend you can be there as they attempt to seal the league title. A win over Wycombe will be enough if second placed Sheffield United draw or lose at MK Dons. However, the Buckinghamshire club will be fully intending to ruin the party as they badly need to win themselves to avoid the drop, sitting as they do just three points adrift of safety. TICKET INFO
HAMPTON & RICHMOND BORO v WELLING UNITED (Saturday 21 April, 3pm)
The Beavers have improved a lot recently which has left them in a good position to avoid relegation from the Blue Square Bet South. However, a defeat on Saturday at Eastbourne has seen them stay in the bottom three. Fortunately they have games in hand on their nearest rivals and one of those comes against Salisbury on Tuesday. If they win that then they will be well placed to take on the challenge posed by promotion-chasing Welling on Saturday. The Wings have already confirmed their place in play-offs and are unbeaten against Hampton in six. Mark Harper will have to hope his side are the more motivated to win as Welling will almost certainly finish third whatever they do in their final two regular season games. All Premier and Football League season-ticket holders get in for half price. TICKET INFO
LONDON SENIOR CUP FINAL (WEDNESDAY 18 April, 730pm)
KINGSTONIAN v HENDON (at Metropolitan Police FC)
If Chelsea v Barcelona isn't for you, there's surely only one place to be on Wednesday night and that's at Imber Court for the London Senior Cup final. With holders Wingate & Finchley dumped out back in November, there will be a different winner this year. Both sides have a decent pedigree in this competition having won it three times each. However, Hendon have the better recent history in the event having reached four of the last five finals. They also warmed up for this by beating the K's 2-1 at Vale Farm on Saturday and are generally in better form so the smart money looks to be on them. TICKET INFO
HARROW BOROUGH v AFC HORNCHURCH (Saturday 21 April, 3pm)
Both sides came into this weekend's fixtures off the back of draws in huge local derbies as they attempted to beat the drop/go for the title. Both then proceeded to lose to teams below them in the table to make their tasks a lot harder. Hornchurch's 2-1 loss at Wealdstone, themselves going for a play-off spot, was understandable but Harrow's 3-1 reverse at Hastings who were on a dreadful run was very disappointing. The results, with two games to go, have left the Urchins five points behind the leaders Billericay while Harrow are just three points above the relegation zone. Essentially both teams need to win. Hornchurch look the more likely but Harrow are very unpredictable and do pull off unexpected results every so often. All Premier and Football League season-ticket holders get in for half price. CLUB INFO
ENFIELD TOWN v LEISTON (Saturday 21 April, 3pm)
The top two in the Ryman League Division One North go head-to-head at the Queen Elizabeth II Stadium on Saturday in a match that could decide the title. Leaders Leiston could have wrapped up the title on Saturday but surprisingly lost 3-1 at midtable Maldon & Tiptree while Enfield hammered Cheshunt 5-0. The gap is now four points with two games to go, meaning the hosts will need to win if they are to stay in contention. The last time the clubs met in December, the Suffolk side edged to a 2-1 victory so there's little to choose between them. TICKET INFO
DULWICH HAMLET v FAVERSHAM TOWN (Saturday 21 April, 3pm)
After blowing their chance to take a giant stride towards the Ryman League Division One South title on Saturday, Dulwich Hamlet have another go when they face Faversham in their last home match of the regular season. The Kent club are in lower midtable, have absolutely nothing to play for and their form isn't great either having gone five without a win. Surely only nerves can stop the Londoners winning this one. TICKET INFO
NORTHWOOD v BURNHAM (Saturday 21 April, 3pm)
Like other local side Uxbridge, the Woods are making a late charge for a place in the Evostik League Southern Division One Central play-offs. On Saturday the Reds consolidated their place in fourth with a 1-1 draw against Leighton Town while Northwood moved to within three points of the play-off places with a stunning 3-1 win at Beaconsfield SYCOB, one of the teams they have to catch. Burnham meanwhile are another team with little to play for at this point and have only won one of their last six so the hosts should have a great chance to further their promotion claims. TICKET INFO