Sunday, 17 February 2013

TLFG: 18-24 February 2013

Welcome to TLFG, it's great to have you here.

After some weeks or maybe even months I managed to get myself to a non-league game on Saturday after securing day release from my baby/wife care duties.

I had intended to go to one of the day's early kick-offs but after enjoying a 'quick nap' a little too much I had to settle for a 3pm start.

Given I was on a fairly short tether I had to keep it local and headed out to the west London football hotbed that is Greenford.

Sandwiched between Northolt and Perivale on the Tube's Central Line, it's probably most notable for being a centre of industry with GlaxoSmithKline and IBM having complexes here.

Long-time readers of this blog will know I spent my teenage years living in this general area (Northolt/South Harrow to be precise) but had only recently been to visit the likes of North Greenford United over the last year or so.

With NGU ticked off the list, it was the turn of Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division side London Tigers to receive a visit from TLFG.

They're a fairly new multi-sports club having originally come into existence in 1986 and actually have their HQ in Maida Vale.

Unlike other clubs they have charitable status and, like a handful of other teams this blog covers, have their roots in the Asian community (although the team is open to anyone).

The other striking thing you notice on their website is that London Mayor Boris Johnson is their honorary patron so with all this in mind I headed, a little behind schedule, westwards.

Heading south out of Greenford station you soon find yourself having to walk down the A40 towards the oncoming traffic. If you don't know, this is one of the busiest roads in London and is effectively a six-lane motorway meaning this isn't a particularly pleasant experience.

Avenue Park is located down a small track just off the eastbound carriageway - you could well have passed it thousands of times and not noticed it.

London Tigers (in orange) defend a Harefield corner during the first half
When I lived in the area it used to be the home of Viking Sports but they seem to have moved on or gone by the wayside - if you know what happened to them please let us all know.

London Tigers play in the ninth tier of English football and even for this level I was immediately hit by how rudimentary their facilities were.

On many levels, even Clapton's ramshackle but well loved Old Spotted Dog ground was superior in that it at least has a clearly defined entrance with a turnstile and programme seller.

Neither was in evidence here and consequently I just walked in and went pitchside but only after having to negotiate a small marsh which separated the car park from the action.

Being about five minutes late, said action had already begun. The pitch was very heavy in parts and it was a credit to the club that they'd managed to get a game on, especially when you consider far more senior clubs (cough - Hampton & Richmond Borough) can't seem to manage it at the moment.

Saturday's opponents were Harefield United who play off the A40 corridor a few miles to the west and are also covered by this blog.

In fact there are quite a few sides in SSMFL who are dotted around this part of town meaning there are a number of derbies every season - London Tigers' big derby being against Hanwell Town who play a mile down the A40 on the way into London.

At the start of play the hosts were joint bottom of the division while the visitors were sat snugly in midtable.

The first half went to form with Harefield having the better of things but a couple of decent saves by the Tigers keeper meant it was goalless at the interval.

The change of ends saw a complete reversal of fortunes as the strugglers began to assert themselves.

A speculative 20-yard effort which beat the keeper at his near post broke the deadlock with 20 minutes to go and with Harefield pushing for an equaliser, a second killer goal on the counter arrived shortly before the end to hand three precious points to Armand Kavaja's team.

I hate to say negative things about non-league clubs but overall this was a pretty underwhelming experience and it's no surprise there were only around 30 people in attendance (mostly Harefield supporters).

Although the ground is easy to get to, the facilities are poor. The car park was small and muddy, there was no proper turnstile or tea bar, no PA system and the clubhouse was stuck away in the corner and far from inviting. On the brightside the floodlights were decent (pardon the pun) but that's not what I go to games for.

I genuinely wish London Tigers all the best and they clearly do a lot of good community work but I've had far better match experiences at Step 7/Level 11 clubs.

With that rant out of the way and me feeling incredibly guilty, let me know where you've been or where you're going either in the comments section below or via Facebook or Twitter.


LATEST TICKET NEWS
Each week at TLFG we attempt to compile a list of what's on general sale to non-members at London's Premier League clubs and for other notable matches (click on the team name for details).

Wednesday 29 May - Republic of Ireland, international friendly, Wembley

INTERNATIONAL FRIENDLY
Monday 25 March, 730pm - Brazil v Russia, Stamford Bridge

UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL
Saturday 25 May - tbc v tbc, Wembley Stadium
Ticket ballot open until 15 March

UEFA WOMEN'S CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL
Thursday 23 May, 730pm - tbc v tbc, Stamford Bridge

ARSENAL
Nothing currently available

CHELSEA
Thursday 21 February, 805pm - Sparta Prague, Europa League
Saturday 16 March, 3pm - West Ham United, Premier League (on sale 18 Feb) 

Saturday 23 February, 1245pm - Stoke City, Premier League
Friday 1 March, 705pm - Chelsea, U21 Premier League

QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Saturday 9 March, 3pm - Sunderland, Premier League 

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
Saturday 16 March, 3pm - Fulham, Premier League
Sunday 7 April, 205pm - Everton, Premier League (on sale 21 Feb)

Monday 25 February, 8pm - Tottenham Hotspur, Premier League

Over the next week there are more than 80 matches taking place in the London area so there's plenty to choose from. We've got a cup final, London derbies, top of the table clashes and some FA Trophy and FA Youth Cup action too.

Details on all of them can be found in the following match map. If you've never used it before, please note that when there is more than one match at a specific ground you'll only be able to see individual match pins if you zoom right in. If you don't, the pins obscure each other and you might miss them. To avoid this, you can also scroll down the list of games on the left side of the page to make sure you get all the information.

MATCH MAP
Yellow pin - Monday fixtures
Green pin - Tuesday fixtures
Turquoise pin - Wednesday fixtures
Purple pin - Thursday fixtures
Blue pin - Saturday fixtures
Red pin - Sunday fixtures


View London match map 18-24 February 2013 in a larger map

Bad weather may cause a few postponements as the week progresses so, as always, check with clubs before you travel. Please also let me know if any of the details are wrong or missing.

Next up is this week's TLFG Top 10 match recommendations where I list a few games which I think could be worth a watch.

TLFG TOP 10

1. Arsenal v Bayern Munich - after the disappointing loss to Championship side Blackburn in the FA Cup on Saturday, the Gunners have an immediate chance to bounce back in this Champions League match. We've reached the knockout stages now with this being the first leg of a last 16 tie. This competition now represents Arsenal's only 'realistic' chance of silverware this season and that's a long shot. Last season's beaten finalists head to north London in good form having won their last five matches and are unbeaten since October. I wouldn't say Arsene Wenger's career is on the line but a strong showing by his charges is imperative if they are to try and save their season. (Champions League, 19 Feb, 745pm. Ticket info)

2. Queens Park Rangers v Manchester United - it's bottom versus top at Loftus Road on Saturday. A five-game unbeaten run with points taken off the likes of Chelsea, Man City and Spurs had made things look promising for struggling Rangers but then they lost 4-1 at Swansea and found themselves seven points adrift of safety. United arrive in Shepherd's Bush 12 points clear at the top (at the time of writing), having not lost a league game since November. Earlier in the season QPR had the audacity to take the lead at Old Trafford but ended up losing 3-1. The W12-based club's last win over the Red Devils came in 1992 when they sensationally won 4-1 at the Theatre of Dreams on live TV - an afternoon I will never forget. Away win 99.9% certain. (Premier League, 23 Feb, 3pm. Ticket info)

3. Watford v Derby County - after an iffy start to the season, Gianfranco Zola's Hornets have really got going. A month or two ago, Crystal Palace and Millwall were leading the charge for London in the Championship but now Watford have usurped them both to move into third, three points off an automatic promotion spot. After drawing 2-2 with Palace last week, they thumped Birmingham City 4-0 at St Andrew's on Saturday. Derby have an outside chance of making the play-offs but are winless in three and could be there for the taking. (Championship, 23 Feb, 3pm. Ticket info)

4. Dagenham & Redbridge v AFC Wimbledon - it's derby time in League Two when these sides meet on Saturday. With both clubs relatively new in their current guises (1992 and 2002 respectively) there have only ever been three games between them and they were all in the last 18 months. The Dons have won two while the other was drawn. The clubs' current circumstances suggest the Daggers aren't going to get a much better time to beat their south London opponents who are rooted to the bottom of the table having lost two of their last three. AFC fans will argue that although they are bottom it's mainly because they've been drawing games and their win against League Cup finalists Bradford City on Saturday showed signs of renewed improvement. Another draw looks quite likely here. (League Two, 23 Feb, 3pm. Ticket info)

5. Dartford v Grimsby Town - the FA Trophy has reached the semi-final stage and Princes Park plays host to this second leg at the weekend. I would really be pushing this match hard if it wasn't for the fact that Dartford lost the first leg 3-0 on Saturday to leave themselves with a mountain to climb. Grimsby, who were playing in what is now the Championship until 2003, are currently top of the Conference and are in effect the number one seeds in this competition so the challenge doesn't come much tougher. If the Darts do somehow pull off the almost unthinkable then the prize will be a trip to Wembley at the end of March for a final against either Gainsborough Trinity or Wrexham. (FA Trophy, 23 Feb, 3pm. Ticket info)

6. Boreham Wood v Dover Athletic - the big games are coming thick and fast for The Wood right now. Although they've gone three games without a win, one of the division's smallest clubs have managed to cling on to fifth place (the last play-off spot) ahead of some much bigger rivals. This weekend they welcome Kent club Dover who are currently one place above them having managed to win their last three games, the last two of which were against promotion rivals Weston-Super-Mare and Welling United. A win here could see them move seven points clear of their London rivals and see the top four start to break away (the top two already seem to have gone). The hosts must avoid defeat or teams like Eastleigh who are emerging from the chasing pack could reel them in. (Conference South, 23 Feb, 3pm. Club info)

7. Hendon v Wealdstone - our second derby of the week takes place at Vale Farm as these two old adversaries from north-west London go head-to-head. I think it's fair to say that both of them have enjoyed far better times with both currently playing in grounds some distance from their spiritual homes. Hendon currently groundshare with Wembley while Wealdstone have their own facilities but in Ruislip. Ironically Vale Farm is closer to the Wealdstone area than Ruislip so the away team will almost certainly bring more supporters. On the pitch, the Greens had a really poor start to the season and looked like certs for relegation but an amazing run of form over the last couple of months has seen them win eight games taking them into the top half. Wealdstone, as regular readers will know, have been pretty brilliant for about 18 months and were unlucky not to get promoted last season. At the moment they're second and have won their last two. It should be a cracker. (Isthmian League Premier Division, 23 Feb, 3pm. Club info)

8. Dulwich Hamlet v Thamesmead Town - another couple of clubs I've been writing a lot about recently meet in this Isthmian League Cup semi-final in midweek. The two are among the frontrunners in the parallel Isthmian League Divisions 1 South and North respectively so it could provide a good indicator of which is the stronger competition. The hosts have now won seven on the trot in all competitions while Thamesmead have won their last 10 (including one on penalties in the last round). Dulwich are the bigger and much better supported club so should start as favourites but those 10 wins make Thamesmead hard to rule out. (Isthmian League Cup, 19 Feb, 745pm. Club info)

9. Aveley v Grays Athletic - not far behind Thamesmead in the Isthmian League Division 1 North table are these two Essex clubs. This qualifies as derby number three of the week and it should be competitive with the sides standing fourth and fifth just a point apart in the table. Both are in good form too with Aveley having won their last six and Grays five of their last six (the other being a draw). With it being a Monday night match, it could be a fine way to start your week. (Isthmian League Division 1 North, 18 Feb, 745pm. Club info)

10. Oxhey Jets v Dunstable Town - the match of the week in the Spartan South Midlands League takes place at the Boundary Stadium where the top two meet for the second time this season (the last time it ended 1-1). It seems that these clubs have been top of the tree for months which isn't surprising when you consider the Jets are unbeaten in 17 league games, 15 of which ended in victory. The visitors' results have been even more impressive and they are duly five points ahead. If all this hasn't whetted your appetite enough, it's also a good chance to take a look at Oxhey striker Lewis Putman who has found the net on a staggering 54 occasions so far this season and must surely be good enough to play at a higher level. (Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division, 23 Feb, 3pm. Club info)

If you have any questions or want advice about watching football in London, you can contact TLFG using the comments section below or via FacebookTwitter or email.

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