Sunday, 27 May 2012

TLFG: 28 May - 3 June 2012

The end of TLFG's first season has finally arrived and my how it's flown by.

Admittedly it hasn't been a whole year, starting as it did in October, but my first venture into blogging has been rewarding and challenging in equal measure.

I've visited new grounds and parts of London as a direct result of putting this together and have also taken a trip down memory lane and re-visited places I hadn't been since I was teenager.

Some of the matches have been superb, others less so. The first was Harrow Borough's entertaining 2-2 draw at Wingate & Finchley in a Ryman League game. While the last was an exciting seven-goal thriller on Saturday played at a level I'd never previously thought of watching, but more on that later.

Aside from the non-league matches, this was also the year QPR made their long-awaited return to the Premier League and what a season it was. The two stand-out matches for me were the home league wins over Chelsea and Liverpool which were packed with drama. The former continues to make headlines even now courtesy of the Blues' captain and what he did or didn't say to Anton Ferdinand.

I'm still pinching myself that Rangers stayed up and almost feel guilty like a survivor of a terrible tragedy - why us and not Bolton? Anyway, onwards and upwards, hopefully.

I'd love to know what the highlights of your season were - best match, favourite new ground visited etc. I'd also like to find out if there are any features or info you'd like me to include next season.

Back to yesterday now. With it being the last recognisable Saturday of domestic football in London, I made a bit of extra effort to encourage people to visit Coles Park (Haringey Borough's ground) to watch the final match of the Middlesex County Football League season between FC Romania and Willesden Constantine.

With there being only two other games on in the capital (another MCFL game out in the far west and the League One play-off at Wembley), I thought this would prove quite appealing to hardcore football addicts, groundhoppers and people who just wanted to get out and about on a beautiful sunny afternoon.

After meeting Non-League Day colleague Mike in Finsbury Park and enjoying lunch at a superb Turkish place, we headed up to Wood Green before walking a mile to the ground.

Our home for the afternoon

Tottenham Hotspur play nearby at 'White Hart Lane', however they're not actually located on the road itself. One football ground is though and that's Coles Park.

Flanked on one side by allotments, it is a bit shabby but in blazing sunshine anywhere looks good and the main stand is actually pretty decent.

After strolling through the main gate, a couple of FC Romania fans were selling some club scarves and programmes from a box on the bonnet of their car. Like their website, general support and actual play it was impressive for a club at Level 11 of the national system.

Once past them, Mike and I finally met up with the legendary blogger putajumperon.

Having recently completed his very own 'Road to Wembley' seeing 26 FA Cup matches from extra preliminary round to the final (including replays), it was great to finally meet him.

His next hop will see him visit every club in Europe founded in or who did something of note in 1881, the same year as his beloved Watford were formed. This odyssey starts shortly with a trip to Germany to visit SW Essen. Make sure you follow his blog to see how he gets on.

Having loaded up with cold drinks from the clubhouse we took our places in the stand and speculated about how the players before us would get on in the sweltering conditions.

It was the hosts, made up entirely of Romanian and Bulgarian ex-pats, who started the better and progressed into a very comfortable 2-0 half-time lead with some classy football.

Willesden had a couple of chances but they were always going to struggle to beat the giant their opponents employed between the sticks - he was huge, the biggest keeper I've probably ever seen. Peter Crouch might actually find himself looking up at this gentleman.

With the referee's whistle sounding for the interval, the teams went their separate ways - the Romanians to the dressing rooms and Willesden to the shade of a large tree in the car park!

This unorthodox activity didn't help them though as they went 3-0 down 10 minutes after the re-start.

At this point it seemed over as a contest - FC Romania had played the better football from the beginning and would have been much further ahead if they hadn't tried to walk it in on numerous occasions so what happened next came completely out of the blue.

Willesden Constantine (red) defend a free-kick
Maybe it was the substitution of their giant keeper at half-time but with the game into its 67th minute, the visitors pulled one back and then just took total control. Ten minutes later it was 3-3 and there looked like being only one winner.

Confidence was suddenly oozing out of every pore of the Constantine team but with the game deep into added time, Ion Vintila's players managed to counter attack and steal a fourth to swing the game back in their favour at the crucial moment.

Although the 4-3 win for FC Romania didn't alter either side's final league position (second and fourth respectively) it must have been very satisfying/disappointing for all involved. As a spectator it was a joy.

If my words are not enough, check out putajumperon's photos of the afternoon.

Since the season finished for the bigger non-league clubs three or four weeks ago, a lot of neutrals have found themselves at MCFL games instead and none have disappointed.

The two I've seen produced 13 goals whilst others had all reported seeing four or more in the games they'd been to. In fact Saturday's other game saw champions Interwood win 7-4 at Broadfields United! So give MCFL football a try next season, particularly if the games are being played at a more senior club's ground.

So to the week ahead. There are only two games scheduled and they couldn't be much more different.

On Thursday night M&B Club play Runwell Hospital in the Denny King Memorial Cup final at AFC Hornchurch's ground. I'm not too sure of the significance of this competition but both clubs play in the Essex Olympian League which is a similar level to the MCFL.

Then on Saturday, England host Belgium in a Euro 2012 warm-up match at Wembley. It's officially sold out, so you're probably best watching it on TV (if you've got nothing else to do). Here's the match map anyway:

MATCH MAP
Purple pin - Thursday fixtures
Blue pin - Saturday fixtures



Looking ahead a couple of months or so there are still tickets on sale for the Olympic football tournament with games taking place at Wembley and at various other venues around the UK. 

Tickets for England's World Cup qualifier against Ukraine at Wembley in September also go on general sale later this week.

So that's it for now, I hope you've enjoyed it. I've decided to take June off and intend to start putting stuff up again in early July once the pre-season friendlies get under way.

In the meantime I'm heading out to Ukraine for the France v Sweden game in Kiev/Kyiv (I always apply before the draw) and will spend my Saturday's back in Blighty trying to keep fit by taking part in my local parkrun which is something I can't recommend highly enough to runners of any age or ability, it's free too.

Have a great one!

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