Sunday, 29 April 2012

TLFG: 30 April-7 May 2012

My Saturday began with a morning trip to Summers Lane, home of Wingate & Finchley, to help my friend Mike run a five-a-side tournament he'd set up.

He'd been fretting about it since Wednesday as the heavens unloaded bucket after bucket of rain onto the capital but fortunately the pitches were deemed playable and the action got under way at 1030am. 

My reward for helping out would be free admission to Wingate's end of season encounter against Carshalton Athletic in the Ryman League on the main pitch later that afternoon.

However, with two and half hours still to go until kick-off and my services no longer required I decided to head elsewhere.

I enjoy watching games at the north London club a lot but there was nothing of great significance riding on this one and I still had time to get myself to a match that did.

From memory I recalled that Wealdstone were hosting Concord Rangers in the same division and that there was a play-off place at stake.

Alex Dyer curls in a free-kick for Wealdstone

What followed were a number of logistical calculations which also included a brief pit-stop back in Shepherd's Bush on my way through.

As the crow flies it's about 11 miles (18km) from Summers Lane to Grosvenor Vale over in the west London suburb of Ruislip. 

To give those who don't know London too well some idea of its scale and public transport network, I got on the tube at West Finchley at 1pm and made it to Wealdstone seven minutes before the 3pm start. 

I hasten to reiterate that this did include a detour which pretty much doubled the overall mileage but two hours does seem like a long time!

Anyway I made it and joined a considerable queue, bigger even than the one I described at Dulwich a couple of weeks ago.

If you haven't read this blog before you may not be aware of what a great season the Stones have had.

They started slowly but have gone on to have a season to remember which has included a sensational run to the FA Trophy semi-finals after beating several Blue Square Bet Premier sides on their way there.

This combined with a run to the Middlesex Senior Cup final had caused a huge backlog of fixtures, one that would end most clubs' promotion ambitions.

In April alone, Gordon Bartlett's side have had to play nine matches in order to finish their season on time.

Ashlee Jones saves from a free-kick as Concord fight back
Sensationally they have won seven of them, drawn one and the only defeat was in the aforementioned cup final against higher league opposition Hampton & Richmond Borough.

All this had seen them creep into the play-off zone just four days before the end of the campaign.

Having accrued a healthy goal difference of plus 35, they only needed to draw against Concord to keep their promotion ambitions alive.

With persistent drizzle still blighting things, the hosts came flying out of the blocks and took the lead after only 30 seconds when Alex Dyer found the net.

Surely getting the point they needed was now a formality with the Essex club obviously not too bothered about what was for them a nothing game.

Nothing could be further from the truth as Concord equalised shortly after and then proceeded to have much the better of the first half. In fact they should've have taken the lead but Harry Elmes contrived to lash the ball over from close range with the goal at his mercy.

With promotion rivals Bury Town and Lewes both winning at half-time there could be no margin for error for the Stones in the second half.

Concord Rangers defend a second-half corner as Wealdstone push for victory
As it turned out they won fairly comfortably in the end with further goals from Richard Jolly (his 48th of the season) and Scott Fitzgerald.

The 3-1 scoreline ensured them a place in Wednesday night's one-legged winner takes all play-off semi-final at Lowestoft Town. If they get through, it'll be either away to AFC Hornchurch or home to Bury Town on 7 May in the final (the team who finished higher in the league gets home advantage).

Here's what is on general sale at some of the bigger matches coming up in London, click on the team or event name for more info:

25 July-11 August, various venues nationwide, on sale Monday 30 April at 1100 BST

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

Nothing currently available

Nothing currently available

6 May - Sunderland 2pm, Premier League

Nothing currently available

Nothing currently available

With most leagues having finished for the season there are a lot less matches this week (which extends to Monday 7 May as it's a Bank Holiday). At the time of writing we've got 28 to choose from but with postponed games yet to be rescheduled, more rain forecast and play-off games to be played, fixtures will be added and moved as the week goes on. 

The games we do have are largely cup finals, play-offs and crucial matches at each end of the various leagues that are in action so there should be plenty to keep you busy.

After being contacted by the Amateur Football Alliance there are also three games from the top division of the Southern Amateur League which might be of interest. I've never seen a game at this level but I'm told the standard is similar to the Ryman League and admission to games is free so check them out if you fancy something a bit different.

Here are this week's match maps:

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

Blue pin - Saturday fixtures
Red pin - Sunday fixtures
Yellow pin - Monday fixtures

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

Here are my pick of the matches that are on this week. Feel free to add your own recommendations in the comments section below.


CHELSEA v LIVERPOOL (Saturday 5 May, 515pm)
Traditionally the FA Cup final was always the last match of the domestic season but somewhere along the line this ended. Now it doesn't even have the day to itself let alone the weekend with Premier League and Football League games also taking place. This year also sees the end of the traditional 3pm kick-off with the match moving back to 515pm. As for the game itself, the Blues must be the overwhelming favourites having just seen off Barcelona in the Champions League and thrashed QPR 6-1 in the derby. Liverpool on the other hand have been far less impressive of late but did manage a solid 3-0 win at Norwich on Saturday. Both sides have to negotiate tricky midweek games before this but with 13 FA Cup crowns between them, they should still put on a good show. TICKET INFO

CHELSEA v NEWCASTLE UNITED (Wednesday 2 May, 745pm)
The big matches just keep coming for Roberto Di Matteo's side with this one being crucial to their hopes of making it into the Premier League top four. With Chelsea seemingly unstoppable at the moment and the Magpies showing great form in the league, this looked like being a cracker. That was until Alan Pardew's men collapsed to a 4-0 humbling at lowly Wigan Athletic on Saturday. Chelsea's aforementioned drubbing of QPR has left them just a point behind Newcastle and with Tottenham Hotspur still very much in the mix, both sides will need to get something out of this. TICKET INFO

Recent victories over the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs had left QPR and their supporters feeling optimistic nay bullish about their chances of picking something up from their trip to Stamford Bridge on Sunday but how wrong they were. Even with players rested, the Blues steamrollered them with ease. With a trip to Manchester City awaiting the Rs on the final day, a home win over Stoke looks absolutely essential if they are to stay up. There are still a few tickets left although they must be bought in advance, none will be available on the day. TICKET INFO

WEST HAM UNITED v CARDIFF CITY (Monday 7 May, 430pm)
It seems almost unthinkable that a side who has spent most of the season in the top two and has only lost one of its last 18 matches hasn't earned automatic promotion but that is the case for West Ham. Sadly for them, half of those games ended in draws meaning that they were ultimately eclipsed by Reading and Southampton. In order to go up with them they are going to have to get the better of the Bluebirds over two legs with the all important second home one on Monday afternoon. The signs look quite good for the Hammers who enter the end of season shoot-out on the back of two wins against Leicester City and Hull City - both decent sides themselves. The Welsh club are also in decent form, however, they are notorious for choking in the play-offs having come unstuck there for the last two years. Third time lucky? TICKET INFO

Saturday is set to be a day of celebration at The Valley as the Addicks bring to an end a season where they have pretty much lead from start to finish. With the League One title already in the bag, the former Premier League club will look to beat Hartlepool to take their points tally to 101. At the time of writing, this match is officially sold out but the club are saying some returns could be available from the box office. TICKET INFO

The hosts have had a fine season with their haul of 88 points being enough to have won them the Blue Square Bet South title in previous years. However, they came up against Woking who have been exceptional meaning they have had to settle for second and a place in the play-offs. The top five in this division seemed to have set up their own mini-league a little while back as they pulled further away from everyone else. It wasn't until Basingstoke crashed the party at Chelmsford City's expense four days before the end of the season that anyone else had broken through for months. The visitors sealed their place yesterday by drawing at Welling United who they could meet again in the play-off final. Basingstoke have marginally the better momentum coming into this so they could cause an upset over the two legs (the first is on 2 May). CLUB INFO

These two meet in the other Blue Square Bet South play-off semi-final second leg just down the road on the same day. Although they ended the season seven points apart, recent form for both the sides is pretty similar with three wins from their last five. The last time they met at Park View Road just over a month ago it ended in a 0-0 draw so there really is little to choose between them. If you can't make it to this game, then try and get to the first leg at Sutton on 2 May, details on the match map above. TICKET INFO

AFC HORNCHURCH v BURY TOWN (Wednesday 2 May, 745pm)
Having been in the fight for the Ryman League Premier Division title until last weekend, the Urchins have had to settle for second and a place in the play-offs. In this league these ties are decided over just one leg with home advantage going to the team who finishes the season higher in the table. Therefore if the Essex club win this game they will be at home to Lowestoft Town or Wealdstone in the final on 7 May. Whether they do is by no means a foregone conclusion having lost three of their last five - their two wins were against teams who ended up getting relegated. Conversely, Bury have won three and drawn one of their last five and crushed Tooting & Mitcham United 7-1 at Imperial Fields on the final day to secure their place. I can see the hosts tripping up. TICKET INFO

After watching Dulwich succumb to eventual champions Whitehawk two weeks ago, a disappointing 1-0 defeat at struggling Burgess Hill Town on the final day ensured they finished third and had to make do with a place in the Ryman League Division One South play-offs. Two defeats in three makes the club from SE22 look vulnerable especially when faced with a Folkestone side who have won their last four. However, Dulwich do have home advantage and start the match in the knowledge that they comfortably did the double over the Kent club this season beating them 5-2 at home and 3-1 away. The hosts to edge it. TICKET INFO

(Monday 7 May, 730pm)
The Bank Holiday weekend comes to a close when these two meet for a bit of late-season silverware at Wealdstone's Grosvenor Vale. These local rivals both compete in the Evostik League Southern Division One Central. Northwood harboured play-off ambitions until the final day but disappointingly lost 5-2 at Leighton Town to finish seventh, three points adrift. Ashford didn't do too badly either ending up just a couple of places behind them in ninth. Although having made it to the Middlesex Charity Cup final three times, Northwood have yet to win while Ashford have triumphed once in their history back in 2000. Tickets for this match are £10 for adults and £5 concessions.

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

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