Sunday, 22 November 2015

TLFG: 23-29 November 2015

Hello there, hope you're well and welcome to the 191st edition of TLFG.

After a few weeks without a game, I enjoyed a nice bit of Friday night football over in Mile End with Dutch football writer Paul Baaijens (author of 'Match Days') who was over for one his regular London football weekends.

Paul, despite living in a great football nation, spends more time watching club football in England and Germany than he does at home because he finds the culture and history of the game in the respective countries a lot more engaging.

In my dealings with him, I've attempted to open his eyes to our non-league culture as well as helping him sate his passion for things at a more professional level.

So far I'd taken him to a cracking game between Dulwich Hamlet and Maidstone United and even got him the chance to take part in a training session with Bedfont & Feltham - he's quite useful with a ball too, being Dutch and all.

The Clapton Ultras were out in force in Mile End on Friday night
So on Friday, having been in town for little more than a couple of hours, I took him to the East End derby between Tower Hamlets and Clapton.

Regular readers may know that I've developed a soft spot for both over the last five years with the former (previously known as Bethnal Green United) being founded by a friend of a friend and the latter being one of the most historic clubs in London playing at the rundown but, in my eyes, magical Old Spotted Dog.

It's been a year or two since I'd watched the hosts but I last saw Clapton about six weeks ago on Non-League Day when they played out a 3-3 draw with local rivals Ilford in front of a huge crowd of nearly 800.

I'd never seen the Tons or their Ultras in action on the road so thought this could be a good chance to do so in a game looked forward to by both sets of fans.

The away supporters didn't disappoint, singing before, during and after. They were also very sporting, congratulating Tower Hamlets on their very lucky 1-0 win despite being battered for most of it. The official attendance of 382 was highly impressive for a ninth-tier game - the average crowd in the Essex Senior League is around 40-50.

Some have questioned how genuine the Ultras' support is or how long it will last but while it does, clubs and fans in this division should make the most of it. Tower Hamlets got their biggest payday for a while and were openly appreciative of the visitors' following who were not only sporting but also helped tidy the ground after the game - not the most joyous task at 10pm on a very chilly Friday night.

If you are interested in sampling the Clapton experience, the Forest Gate club have two home games this week against local rivals Barking on Tuesday and then FC Romania on Saturday - a game which could easily draw a 500+ crowd if the weather holds up.

Lastly from me, did you see that bizarre own goal in the Romford v Thurrock groundshare derby on Tuesday? It's gone viral over the last few days with over one million views. Here it is if you missed it - Thurrock's Kamarl Duncan is the unlucky player.




LATEST TICKET NEWS
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.


THE WEEK AHEAD
There are over 90 matches in the London area over the next seven days so there's plenty to choose from whatever your budget.

However, 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 on the following match maps. If you've never used them 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 drop down menu at the top of the map page to make sure you get all the information. Games are listed from top to bottom in date order so Monday's games (yellow pin) will appear first and Sunday's (white pin) last. Games are also ranked in terms of status so the higher the division, the higher up the list they will appear on each day.

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).

MIDWEEK MATCH MAP
Yellow pin - Monday fixtures
Green pin - Tuesday fixtures
Red pin - Wednesday fixtures




WEEKEND MATCH MAP
Blue pin - Saturday fixtures
White pin - Sunday fixtures



Next up is this week's TLFG match recommendations where I list a few games which I think could be worth a watch. If I miss one that you think should get a mention then add your own in the comments section below.

TLFG TOP 10

1. Arsenal v Dinamo Zagreb - the Gunners could well have been sitting pretty at the top of the Premier League going into this game but suffered an unexpected 2-1 defeat at West Brom on Saturday, handing the honour instead to Leicester who continue to confound the pundits. The north London club would also normally expect a game like this to decide whether they finished top or second in their Champions League group but not this time. Their performance in Europe's top club competition has been very poor this season and they have to win just to keep a remote sniff of second alive. A draw between Bayern Munich and Olympiakos, the leading pair, in the other game will knock them out whatever happens at the Emirates. Let's also not forget that Dinamo are in a similar position to Arsenal too so still have something to play for themselves. (Champions League, Tuesday 24 November, 745pm. Ticket info)

2. Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea - the last month has been a really good one for Spurs with three wins and a draw in the Premier League and a victory over Anderlecht in Europe. Their latest outing on Sunday afternoon saw a comprehensive 4-1 thrashing of London rivals West Ham who had been having a pretty decent season themselves up until that point. If it wasn't for the inconvenience of an almost 5,000 mile round trip to Azerbaijan for a Europa League game on Thursday, Tottenham would probably be brimming with confidence ahead of another derby against this troubled Blues side. Chelsea did manage to finally get a win on Saturday but only by a goal to nil against Norwich but they too have a lengthy journey to Israel to contend with but it's two days earlier and will give them more recovery time. Given they are at home, you've got to fancy Tottenham in this one. (Premier League, Sunday 29 November, 12pm. Ticket info)

3. Queens Park Rangers v Leeds United - none of the games in the Championship are particularly enticing but this one should be worth a watch as a large crowd is expected. Managerless QPR suffered a heartbreaking injury time 1-0 defeat up at Middlesbrough on Friday night as their very underwhelming run continued. This game against fellow also rans Leeds should be competitive and represents a chance to see two clubs who really have fallen on hard times since their former Premier League heydays. Rangers were there as recently as last season but Leeds, probably the biggest club in the Football League, were regular title contenders and even made the Champions League semi-finals during the successful reign of David O'Leary (1998-2002). Large debts contributed greatly to them leaving the top flight in 2004 and plummet all the way down to League One in quick time. Now back in the Championship and with an eccentric Italian owner, things are still far from stable but with the combative Steve Evans recently installed in the manager's hotseat things might improve. (Championship, Saturday 28 November, 3pm. Ticket info)

4. Millwall v Bury - over in Bermondsey the Lions are enjoying a decent run right now and are well in with a shout of a League One play-off place which is the least that was expected of them this year. A 4-1 drubbing of Colchester on Saturday extended their unbeaten run to an impressive nine games in all competitions. As a result they are two points off the top six with a game in hand. Bury are in that leading group but have lost three of their last five and could well be there for the taking. (League One, Saturday 28 November, 3pm. Ticket info)

5. Leyton Orient v AFC Wimbledon only two points and one place separate these London rivals at the time of writing. Midweek games could see them swap places but a position in the top seven could well be up for grabs come kick-off. According to my records, this will be the first time the sides will have met since the Dons reformed so it's a historic moment. In their old guise, Wimbledon never lost against the O's and recorded an 6-2 away win the last time they played back in 1984. That could well change this time but it will be close. (League Two, Saturday 28 November, 3pm. Ticket info)

6. Boreham Wood v Tranmere Rovers - it's David v Goliath time in the National League on Saturday as the Wood, playing at this level for the first time, take on former second-tier side Tranmere who surprisingly fell out of the Football League last season. Probably the high point of Boreham Wood's season so far was winning the reverse fixture at Prenton Park back in August. Generally though it's been a struggle for the Hertfordshire club but they're still above the relegation zone and scrapping for every point. Tranmere have been indifferent at best and, as has been proven, can be beaten. (National League, Saturday 28 November, 3pm. Ticket info)

7. Dartford v Whitehawk - the rounds of the FA Trophy are coming thick and fast now and at this stage we welcome all the clubs from the National League's North and South divisions. Two of them from the South have been drawn against each other in this tie - always disappointing as a fan I think, missing out on playing someone new. The Darts came down from the division above at the start of the season and are simply trying to consolidate. Whitehawk, on the other hand, are a club on the up and are well placed for another promotion having enjoyed two over the last five seasons. Their progress has raised a few eyebrows though as it has been achieved by rich owners bankrolling the Brighton-based club in a way that many see as unsustainable - the fact they average crowds of just 262 would seem to bear that out. Imagine if they get to Wembley? (FA Trophy Third Qualifying Round, Saturday 28 November, 3pm. Ticket info)

8. Dulwich Hamlet v Margate - at Champion Hill we have a tie between two sides who battled for promotion out of the Isthmian Premier last season. Despite their considerable budget, Margate only just made it up via the play-offs, alongside county rivals Maidstone, beating Dulwich at the semi-final stage. You could say that there is some unfinished business for the hosts who are determined not to miss out again and have opened a five-point lead at the top so far this season. Margate have found the going somewhat tougher at the higher level, winning only four of their 18 games thus far. A big and partisan home crowd could make it uncomfortable for them once again. (FA Trophy Third Qualifying Round, Saturday 28 November, 3pm. Ticket info)

9. Hampton & Richmond Borough v Maidstone United - H&R are also among the promotion contenders in the Isthmian Premier this season and they welcome the aforementioned Stones for another mouthwatering contest. The hosts climbed up to second a few weeks ago but draws rather than defeats have seen them slip back a little. Having already taken four points off Dulwich this season and scoring five goals in the process they are good enough to beat anyone in the division on their day. Maidstone, unlike Margate, have enjoyed a much smoother transition to life in the sixth tier climbing to second while attracting the highest attendances in the division. Such support, a state of the art stadium and a fine team mean they're more than capable of going up and competing again so they might well regard this cup as an unwanted distraction. (FA Trophy Third Qualifying Round, Saturday 28 November, 3pm. Club info)

10. Kingstonian v Truro City - after overcoming Dorchester in Monday's replay, the K's have drawn another West Country side. On paper, the Cornish team present a sterner test as they too are promotion contenders in the National League South. Kingstonian are no mugs though and climbed up to fourth in the Isthmian Premier with a 2-1 win at Lewes on Saturday. However, with only one defeat in 13 games in all competitions, the Tinners should prove to be a tough nut to crack. Whatever happens, I should imagine the K's players and fans won't want a draw as a midweek replay and 500-mile round trip would be a bit of pain. (FA Trophy Third Qualifying Round, Saturday 28 November, 3pm. Ticket info)


GET INVOLVED
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.

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