Sunday, 16 March 2014

TLFG: 17-23 March 2014

It's just after 2pm on a lovely sunny Sunday afternoon as I begin to write this - aah, everything seems almost right with the world.

It didn't feel quite that way on Tuesday night, stuck in a 30-minute queue for a train at Falmer station surrounded by jolly Brighton fans celebrating a slightly fortunate win over QPR.

At the beginning of the week I decided I'd take my wife and daughter down to the Sussex coast for a bit of seaside fun and take in my first away match of the season in the process.

For overseas readers, Brighton is around 50 miles to the south of London and makes for an excellent day trip or overnighter as getting there takes less than an hour by train from Victoria station. It has a traditional pier, long sea front promenade with beach to match (although it's pebble, no sand), has lots of independent shops and restaurants in The Lanes and the historic Pavilion which is the symbol of the city's council.

The football team no longer play in town but have an impressive purpose-built stadium about four miles to the north east on the way to Lewes. However, getting to it is easy as it's right next to the aforementioned Falmer station and train travel to it from Brighton and the surrounding area is included in the price of your match ticket.

QPR have an effort blocked during a fruitless trip to Sussex
QPR have plans for a new ground and could do a lot worse than build something similar to the American Express Community Stadium. With a capacity of just over 30,000 (28,019 attended this one) and padded seats with plenty of legroom for everyone, this must be the way to go. There is also a real 'one-team town' community feel about this place which I really don't get in Shepherd's Bush. The fans are local and I guess I'm a bit envious of that. Up here in W12 you're probably more likely to see someone in a Chelsea, Arsenal or Man Utd shirt than a QPR one although that has been redressed a little since our brief spell in the Premier League.

The game itself wasn't a classic with plenty of huff, puff and possession for QPR but being bereft of their main strikers, young on-loan Manchester United prospect Will Keane was thrown in but found former Arsenal and England defender Matthew Upson too good for him. A couple of late goals from the hosts ensured the points stayed with the Seagulls who are now well in with a chance of the play-offs so the two sides could meet again.

Overall, as you've probably gathered, I'd heartily recommend a trip to Brighton. If you're visiting London and the football on offer doesn't appeal or nothing fits into your schedule and there is a game on here then do go. On that issue, several clubs play just outside London or within a 90-minute train ride meaning they can be reached easily even for a midweek game. Please ask if you'd like more information.

A few TLFG readers are in town from overseas this week so I hope they enjoy their stay and maybe they'll send a picture or two for me to include on here...

Don't forget the new tab at the top of the page for all the latest ticket info. There are a few deals this week which you might be unaware of.

Lastly in this section I'd like to reflect on the free entry/pay what you want scheme offered by Sutton United for their match against Basingstoke on Saturday.

It seems it was a huge success with a whopping crowd of 2,172 turning up to watch the U's beat their Hampshire rivals 4-0. When you consider they're playing well and going for promotion to the Conference Premier, their average gate is still only 687 so it was quite an increase. Imagine what the turnout would've been if there hadn't been a full programme of Premier and Football League fixtures? Despite what people might think, there is an appetite for non-league football but it's got to be priced and marketed correctly. Just throwing open the doors for free won't work - apparently volunteers had to deliver 20,000 flyers to the local community to make sure they knew it was happening. There were also other events and activities inside the ground before and after the game to really add value. At this level it's all about community identity and clubs really need to tap into that. For details of what Sutton did, read this article.

The next London club to be offering a similar scheme are Wingate & Finchley for their Isthmian League Premier Division match against AFC Hornchurch on Saturday 29 March at 3pm. If you're at a loose end in north London that afternoon (I partly mean you Spurs fans, who don't have a game), then head over to Summers Lane.

Finally, over the next few months I really would like to give this blog a bit of a spruce up and at the very least get a logo designed. If you'd like to help me with this then please get in touch - I will pay although my design fund isn't huge.

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.

Please follow this link or click on the tab at the top of the page for all the information you need about how to get a ticket, what's currently available to non-members at London's biggest clubs and any other special offers or promotions which might be running.

There are over 100 matches in the London area over the next week so there's plenty to choose from whatever your budget.

However, in case of bad weather, 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 17-23 March 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. Chelsea v Arsenal - the big games are coming thick and fast for these two at the moment. At the time of writing, the Gunners are about to go into battle with Spurs while Chelsea will come into this off the back of a midweek Champions League tie against Galatasaray. Despite having less rest, I make the Blues favourites for this - they are in better form and are just a more steely side than the Gunners much as it pains me to say it. The Stamford Bridge club are also unbeaten in five against Arsene Wenger's charges. Being seven points adrift of top club Chelsea, this could well be a make or break match for Arsenal in terms of the title so hopefully they'll approach it like a cup match. (Premier League, Saturday 22 March, 1245pm. Ticket info)

2. West Ham United v Manchester United - the Hammers are winless in 13 against the Red Devils and normally you'd expect the reigning league champions to extend that run here but they are unbelievably average at the moment. Having been humbled by Liverpool on Sunday, they could find a well motivated Sam Allardyce side too much to handle and cave in again. Which West Ham turn up on Saturday is hard to predict. After a shocking winter, the results suddenly improved dramatically in February but their two games in March have ended in defeat. For the first time in many years, both sides will probably be happy to just avoid defeat here. (Premier League, Saturday 22 March, 530pm Ticket info)

3. Charlton Athletic v Burnley - it's been a busy time at Charlton of late with a new owner in, a manager out and a replacement swiftly brought in. Many will see Chris Powell's dismissal as unfortunate given the meagre resources he has had to work with. Although they were bottom at the time, the Addicks did have four games in hand on most of their rivals so could have climbed the table. One win in 10 though suggests otherwise. New boss Jose Riga has already presided over two games and both have ended in 0-0 draws including the derby against Millwall. They have another busy schedule this week with Bournemouth coming on Tuesday and then Burnley at the weekend. The former are a solid midtable side who will test them while the Clarets are looking almost certain of promotion to the Premier League. The smart money will definitely be on the visitors who beat Charlton 3-0 in September. (Championship, Saturday 22 March, 3pm. Ticket info)

4. Brentford v Coventry City - the Bees came out on top in the big game at Leyton Orient on Saturday but still only three points separate the top three after Wolves' draw with lowly Shrewsbury. To keep up with this relentless title pace, Mark Warburton's team need to win another tricky game on Saturday. Coventry are one of the biggest clubs in the division but, as is so often the case at the moment, financial problems and off-field activities have seen the club fall into League One. The former Premier League club and 1987 FA Cup winners don't even have a ground of their own and play in Northampton some 28 miles away. However, they are making a decent fist of things on the pitch and would be play-off contenders if they hadn't been deducted 10 points over their finances prior to the season beginning. A big crowd is expected and consequently the match has been made 'all ticket' which means you must buy yours by 4pm on Friday.   (League One, Saturday 22 March, 3pm. Ticket info)

5. AFC Wimbledon v Cheltenham Town - the Dons' chances of claiming a play-off spot have faded a little but they'll be happy to have got to the end of a tough looking week with two draws against top-four sides including the leaders Chesterfield. Despite only winning one of their last five, a place in the top seven is still within their reach but they are going to have to squeeze everything out of their remaining nine games to have any chance. Cheltenham are one of the sides they'll have to leapfrog to get there but they have looked solid of late so could prove to be challenging. Lose this and the Kingsmeadow club could find themselves 11 points adrift of the promised land which would surely be too much of a gap to bridge.  (League Two, Tuesday 11 March, 745pm. Ticket info)

6. FA Trophy final: Cambridge United v Gosport Borough - in London and fancy a trip to Wembley Stadium? Then this is your chance. This is the final of a national knock-out competition for clubs who play in the top four levels of the non-league game. Cambridge are currently third in the Conference Premier so will start as overwhelming favourites against Gosport who are struggling in the division below. Adult tickets are priced at a flat rate of £30. (Sunday 23 March, 3pm. Ticket info)

7. Staines Town v Eastleigh - Bromley's spectacular collapse continued on Saturday with a 2-1 reverse at Farnborough. As a result their 11-point lead at the top has now completely vanished and they're a point behind Eastleigh who also have two games in hand. Rather than focus on Bromley again, I recommend you pay a visit to Staines-upon-Thames to watch the Swans who need to upset the Spitfires to keep their faint hopes of a play-off place alive. Plenty to play for for both. (Conference South, Saturday 22 March, 3pm. Ticket info)

8. Hendon v Wealdstone - what better way to start the week than a north-west London derby. Earlsmead, the home of Harrow Borough, plays host to two teams who have lost their traditional home grounds over the last couple of decades. Despite this, both have become regular promotion contenders partly helped by management stability which has seen the same men reign for many years at both. Wealdstone are top of the Isthmian League at present and, with games in hand on all their rivals, should win the title. The Greens, nine points adrift of the play-off spots, may have left it too late this season but they're on a half-decent run and could give the Stones a game. (Isthmian League Premier Division, Monday 17 March, 745pm. Ticket info)

9. AFC Hornchurch v Maidstone United - elsewhere in the Isthmian League, two former leaders go head-to-head on Saturday. Although Maidstone are four points and three places above in second, the Urchins have two games in hand so there really is very little between them. It ended 1-1 when they played in November and we could well get a repeat here.  (Isthmian League Premier Division, Saturday 22 March, 3pm. Ticket info)

10. Walton Casuals v Walton & Hersham - last up this week we've got the Walton derby over to the south-west of town. Casuals were top at the start of the season but a poor run looked set to see them finish in midtable obscurity. However, on Saturday they recorded a stunning 4-2 win over leaders Peacehaven & Telscombe who have been almost invincible in recent months. With their play-off hopes no doubt reignited by this result, they should have too much for their neighbours. (Isthmian League Division 1 South, Tuesday 18 March, 745pm. 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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