Sunday, 9 February 2014

TLFG: 10-16 February 2014

Hi, hallo, hola, hej and oi - welcome to this week's TLFG. It's great to have you here.

It's been quite a week in the Premier League. This time last week it seemed as if Manchester City, although still second, would sweep to the title after picking up real momentum and thrashing all before them. 

Arsenal kept hold of top spot with an expected win over Crystal Palace on Sunday but then the form book went out the window. 

On Monday, Jose Mourinho took his third-placed Chelsea side to City and beat them 1-0 and looked good for their win. That result began a fantastic week for the west London club who ended it top after seeing off Newcastle 3-0 on Saturday while Arsenal were humbled 5-1 by Liverpool and City could only draw 0-0 at lowly Norwich, a side they beat 7-0 earlier in the season.

All three have mammoth games again this week, particularly Arsenal who host Manchester United in the league on Wednesday and Liverpool in the FA Cup at the weekend. Chelsea and Manchester City face relegation threatened opponents in midweek before playing each other again at the Etihad in the FA Cup. 

With fourth-placed Liverpool only six points off top spot and facing a midweek trip to struggling Fulham, things could all change round again by the time I next write. At last we seem to have a title race that could go the distance and include more than two clubs. Let's also not forget that at the other end only eight points separate the bottom 10 so we should see quite a scrap to avoid relegation. Exciting times.

Yet again I haven't been able to see any live football this week but I'm pleased to report that moves are afoot to set up Non-League Day sister events in two or three other European countries this year. I don't want to give too much away at the moment just in case they fall through but it's looking likely that we should get at least one.

If you're interested in setting up a Non-League Day where you live, please get in touch and I'll give you a few tips about how we've managed it here.

If you're going to see a game, whether you're a local or a visitor, please let me know what you've been up to. If you're interested in reviewing a ground within the London area for this blog then get in touch. You might also want to have a go at writing a 'Top Ten' one week. I also very much welcome photos of your football travels.

Got any questions about visiting London? Don't hesitate to ask - be they football or more general travel/touristy queries.

You can contact TLFG through the comments section below or via FacebookTwitter or even by good old email.

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 5 March, 8pm - Denmark, international friendly, Wembley

Nothing currently available

Nothing currently available

Tickets are only available to season-ticket holders, members and their guests

Nothing currently available

Thursday 27 February, 805pm - FC Dnipro, Europa League

Tuesday 11 February, 745pm - Norwich City, Premier League
Saturday 22 February, 3pm - Southampton, Premier League
Saturday 8 March, 3pm - Hull City, Premier League
Saturday 5 April, 3pm - Liverpool, Premier League
Saturday 3 May, 3pm - Tottenham Hotspur, Premier League

We've got a bit of a Football League Super Saturday to look forward to on 15 March as Millwall host Charlton Athletic in the Championship and Leyton Orient take on Brentford in League One. Both are derbies, will be close to sell outs and almost certainly have a big bearing on things at either end of their respective divisions. The kick-offs are staggered too so it's possible that you could even go to both. If there are no engineering works on the Tube that weekend the journey from Leyton to South Bermondsey can be done in 37 minutes if you leave on the 1407 Central Line train and make your way to south-east London via Stratford and London Bridge. Tickets for the Millwall game go on general sale on Monday 17 February while the Leyton Orient ones are on sale now.

Millwall v Charlton Athletic - Saturday 15 March, 3pm, Championship (on sale 17 Feb)
Leyton Orient v Brentford - Saturday 15 March, 1215pm, League One

Watching the big clubs' youth and reserve teams often provides pretty good value. On Tuesday night we've got a London derby in the FA Youth Cup as Charlton Athletic host Arsenal at The Valley. Admission is only £5 for adults and £1 for kids.

At the end of February, tickets for Tottenham's Europa League tie against FC Dnipro have been reduced to £20 for adults, a significant saving.

Also way into the future, the annual football Varsity match between the universities of Oxford and Cambridge will be taking place at Craven Cottage on Sunday 6 April. It takes place on the same day as the more famous televised boat race which begins shortly after the match on the Thames which passes the ground. For £15 you'll get to see one of the oldest football fixtures in the world (this will be the 130th meeting) and then be able to watch the opening mile of the boat race from the vantage point of Craven Cottage's Riverside Terrace - your £15 also gets you some free food and drink!

If you know of any other deals I may have missed or your club is running a promotion let me know.

I often receive emails from readers asking how to get tickets for matches which have sold out. The only official way to do this is to go through a ticket re-sale site like StubHub or viagogo which are fully endorsed by the clubs involved. 

These sites work by letting season-ticket holders re-sell their unwanted tickets on a match-by-match basis and it is the ticket holder who sets the price. For a sold out match they will often be able to command a large premium but conversely you'll often be able to pick up tickets for less popular matches at a significant discount. 

I know some football supporters find these sites totally abhorrent and I understand their reasons but I guess it's better to have an official way of performing transactions like this rather than risk buying a counterfeit or even non-existent ticket from a less trustworthy or even criminal source.

Apart from the ticket deals mentioned above, if you're on a tight budget and still want to see some football then check out some non-league football.

The vast majority of the clubs TLFG covers play at this level and provide good entertainment week-in-week-out at great prices. The overwhelming amount of sides charge £10 or less to get in, with many no more than a fiver. 

Several also offer half-price admission for season-ticket holders and members of Premier League and Football League clubs all year round.

Non-league football is also a great way to get kids into watching the sport live with many clubs letting them in for free. 

Check your local club's website to see what they have to offer.

There are almost 90 matches in the London area over the next week so there's plenty to choose from whatever your budget.

However, with bad weather frequent at the moment, please make sure you check with clubs before you travel just in case a game has been called off or venue has been changed. Also, please let me know if anything is wrong or missing.

Details on all of this week's games 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 map page to make sure you get all the information.

Also if you're unfamiliar with the English league structure I indicate the level at which an individual league sits in the national 'pyramid' with the Premier League at the top (Level 1) and various minor leagues at the bottom (Level 10). Typically a top level game will see crowds of anywhere between 20,000-60,000. These figures will gradually decline as you go down the leagues until you get to Levels 8-10 where attendances of 150 or less are most common.

It should also be noted that the top four levels are for fully professional teams. Level 5 has a mixture of professional and semi-professional teams, while Levels 6-10 will see most players paid but it will vary from no more than travel expenses at the bottom, right up to several hundred pounds a week at the top (e.g. clubs in the Conference South).

Yellow pin - Monday fixtures
Green pin - Tuesday fixtures
Turquoise pin - Wednesday fixtures
Purple pin - Thursday fixtures
Magenta pin - Friday fixtures
Blue pin - Saturday fixtures
Red pin - Sunday fixtures

View London match map 10-16 February 2014 in a larger map

Next up is this week's TLFG match recommendations where I list a few games which I think could be worth a watch. There are often many more games that are worthy of a mention but I simply don't have the time or space to squeeze them all in so add your own in the comments section below.

1. Arsenal v Manchester United - last Sunday Arsenal ended the day top of the Premier League after beating Crystal Palace. A week on and they've dropped to second after being totally outplayed by Liverpool in the 5-1 loss at Anfield. With Chelsea having a stunning few days that have seen them beat Man City and Newcastle to go top, the Gunners have to beat an ailing Man Utd side on Wednesday if they want to still be taken seriously as title contenders. A whopping 16 points off title pace and with three defeats in five, United are the poorest they've been for many, many years but their record at the Emirates is good and their results must improve at some point. The Gunners also host Liverpool in the FA Cup at the weekend in another huge game that could go someway to deciding whether or not they remain trophyless for another season. (Premier League, Wednesday 12 February, 745pm. Ticket info)

2. Fulham v Liverpool - the same night over on the west side of town we've got a game that is hugely important at both ends of the table. The Cottagers are bottom at the time of writing and are preparing for a trip to Old Trafford which even the current Man Utd side must be confident of winning. With that game out of the way, the freescoring Reds come to Craven Cottage and will start as overwhelming favourites as they push for a Champions League place. Fact - Liverpool have won their last three games against Fulham, scoring 11 goals in the process. (Premier League, Wednesday 12 February, 8pm. Ticket info)

3. West Ham United v Norwich City - it's relegation 'six-pointer' time at Upton Park on Tuesday. Both sides are locked together on 25 points just two above the relegation zone. Both have looked poor for most of the season but in recent weeks the green shoots of recovery have started to emerge. The Hammers looked pretty hopeless until the end of January but then they held Chelsea to a draw at Stamford Bridge and have since enjoyed back-to-back wins over Swansea and Aston Villa. The Canaries have only lost one of their last four and picked up a very unlikely point against Man City on Saturday. Norwich beat the Hammers 3-1 at Carrow Road in November but haven't won in east London since 1989. (Premier League, Tuesday 11 February, 745pm. Ticket info)

4. Queens Park Rangers v Reading - we've got a top-six clash in the Championship on Sunday. It's also a derby of sorts with Reading located just outside London on its western side. The two clubs' other source of rivalry is that they wear the same blue and white hooped home shirts. Rangers are third at the time of writing but have a big game at Derby on Monday which will see them climb back to second if they get at least a draw. The Royals suffered a disappointing 2-0 home defeat to Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday but are still in the top six, well positioned to claim a play-off place. The last three games between these clubs have ended in a draw. (Championship, Sunday 16 February, 330pm. Ticket info)

5. Leyton Orient v Bristol City - with Brentford and Wolves both having their games called off on Saturday, the O's had a great chance to return to the top of League One. With two minutes to go against Peterborough they were 1-0 up and everything was going to plan. Then it all went wrong as they conceded twice at the death to lose 2-1. A defeat like that must be particularly hard to take but they're fortunate enough to have this game almost immediately. City are having a bad season and are on course for two consecutive relegations having finished bottom of the Championship last season. Steve Cotterill took over as manager two months ago but they're still losing far more than they're winning. They did, however, hold Orient to a 2-2 draw back in November.  (League One, Tuesday 11 February, 745pm. Ticket info)

6. Dartford v Grimsby Town - it's be quite a three weeks for the struggling Darts. Firmly stuck in the relegation quagmire after losing to Salisbury in mid-January, they've strung together a run of two wins and a draw against some decent sides and are now only two points adrift of the all-important 20th place which will keep them up. On Tuesday they welcome another promotion-chasing side in Grimsby. The Mariners made the play-offs and FA Trophy final last season and are well on course to repeat that this season. They're sixth at the moment but have games in hand on everyone above them so will be tough opponents. (Conference Premier, Tuesday 11 February, 745pm. Ticket info)

7. Sutton United v Weston-Super-Mare - with bad weather continuing to blight the south of the country, not many games have been played in this division over the last couple of weeks. As a result, Sutton are still holding on to the final play-off spot just a point ahead of Saturday's opponents. Both sides have to negotiate tricky away games before this one so they could have swapped places by kick-off. The last meeting between the two produced a 1-1 draw. Fact - Sutton's most famous squad member is former Southampton, Celtic and Scotland international Paul Telfer. (Conference South, Saturday 15 February, 3pm. Ticket info)

8. Dulwich Hamlet v Thamesmead Town - Dulwich had their game against Bury Town postponed on Saturday allowing Maidstone to go top of the Isthmian League on goal difference after drawing 1-1 with Canvey Island. On Tuesday they face struggling Thamesmead. The Bayliss Avenue club were marooned at the bottom early in the season but they started to pick up some decent results, culminating in the 4-1 thrashing of Maidstone in late January. Since then they've lost the two games they've played and will have to be at their best to get anything out of this game. (Isthmian League Premier Division, Tuesday 11 February, 745pm. Ticket info)

9. Epsom & Ewell v Windsor - the Combined Counties League Premier Division title race is shaping up nicely with the top four teams only five points apart. Leaders South Park definitely hold all the cards at the moment being three points clear of Camberley Town and with games on hand on all immediately below them. E&E and Windsor are fourth and third respectively and both really need to win this to keep South Park under pressure. Epsom also have games in hand on Camberley and Windsor so are the most credible contenders at this stage. However, Windsor won the reverse fixture 3-1 earlier in the season and are the league's highest scorers after South Park, averaging almost three goals a game. (Combined Counties League Premier Division, Tuesday 11 February, 745pm. Club info)

10. Sutton Athletic v Hollands & Blair - despite their name Sutton are not from the same town or locality as the more famous Sutton United. They play over on the far east side of TLFG's catchment area not far from Dartford. They're having a pretty decent season and are third in the Kent Invicta League. On Saturday they entertain league leaders Hollands & Blair who are four points clear of Lydd Town having won 14 of their 16 games. Last year they finished runners-up to Phoenix Sports so will hope to secure the title this time round.  (Kent Invicta League, Saturday 15 February, 2pm. 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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