Sunday, 3 January 2016

TLFG: 4-10 January 2016

Happy New Year and welcome back to TLFG as we move into 2016 - this blog's fifth year.

I hope you had a good festive break and got to see a game or two.

My hopes of seeing a game came to nothing as I was either working or out in the country miles from any matches.

The nearest I came to anything football related was Fulham Palace parkrun on Christmas Day. This  free to enter 5km run takes place in Bishops Park and passes alongside Craven Cottage at one point during the course. It was the second time I'd run it (it happens every Saturday) and got an unexpected personal best so I was pretty happy with that.

On Boxing Day I had planned to go to Harrow Borough v Hendon but foolishly decided to commit to family instead and missed out a remarkable 5-5 draw with Borough coming from 1-4 and 3-5 down. 

It seems Hendon are the team to watch at the moment as they edged a seven-goal thriller with Wingate & Finchley in another derby on Saturday.

QPR have started to lurch worryingly towards the wrong end of the Championship table, taking only one point from their three festive fixtures against Ipswich, Huddersfield and Hull. Although still nine points clear of the bottom three, they are winless since new boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink took over six games ago.

Elsewhere in London, things are looking bright for Arsenal who are now two points clear at the top of the Premier League after Leicester started to show signs of fallibility.

Tottenham have gone some way towards making a top-four finish look more likely with some decent performances whilst West Ham are now unbeaten in seven and also in with a great chance of Europe.

In terms of promotion, it's also looking good for Leyton Orient and AFC Wimbledon who are both well positioned for a crack at the League Two play-offs and it's by no means over for Millwall in the division above.

In non-league, London's main chances of honours look likely to come from Sutton United in the National League South and in the Isthmian League, Dulwich Hamlet and Hampton & Richmond look like going toe-to-toe for the title.

This weekend sees the legendary FA Cup Third Round take place. This is when the Premier League and Championship sides join the draw.

As far as I can tell, only one non-league side has made it this far - Hampshire club Eastleigh. Located just outside Southampton, I'm sure the National League side would've been hoping to draw the Saints but they got Championship strugglers Bolton instead. At home, this is a winnable tie and it's easy to get to from London if you fancy a break from the capital. There are only a few tickets left so don't delay.

The other good thing about the FA Cup is that most clubs drop their ticket prices and there are a few deals available - more info in the Top 10 below.

Right, I think that's it. Have a great week and enjoy your football.

UPDATE (04/01/15): Thanks to our good friends at The Chicken Balti Chronicles, we've been made aware of an extra FA Youth Cup tie taking place this Saturday. Crystal Palace U18s entertain Aston Villa at Selhurst Park at 12pm - tickets are just £5. The early kick-off then allows you to double up and see another game at a nearby club like AFC Croydon Athletic, Bromley, Dulwich Hamlet or Tooting & Mitcham United.

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 70 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. Tottenham Hotspur v Leicester City - it's early January and that means it's time for the legendary FA Cup Third Round when teams from the Premier League and Championship join all those who are still standing after the previous eight rounds of competition. Not many would have thought a few months ago that this would be the tie of the round but as it features two of the top four in the country, it most definitely is. Spurs aren't such a surprise but Leicester were in the relegation zone this time last year and are confounding everyone. Coming into this game, the hosts are in better form whilst Leicester are experiencing their first wobble of the season being winless in three. Tottenham are also FA Cup royalty, having won it eight times - the third most successful team of all time in the competition but they haven't made the final since 1991. The Foxes have made the final four times but have yet to win. Both should see this cup as an excellent chance of silverware but may still be distracted by achieving the highest league finish possible and could make a few changes. (FA Cup Third Round, Sunday 10 January, 4pm. Ticket info)

2. Arsenal v Sunderland - talking of FA Cup royalty, the Gunners are the veritable emperors of the competition with more wins than anyone else. With 12 successes, they are one ahead of Manchester United - a feat they achieved by winning it for the last two years. The north London club are also top of the Premier League and still in the Champions League so it could be a glittering season. Things couldn't be more different for the Mackems who are marooned in the bottom three and despite comfortably beating bottom club Aston Villa on Saturday, probably won't threaten here. However, Arsene Wenger does have a proclivity for shuffling his starting XI around for games like this and it has come back to haunt him before. Tickets for Arsenal home games are hard to get but some were still available in the away end when I looked this morning. (FA Cup Third Round, Saturday 9 January, 3pm. Ticket info)

3. Watford v Newcastle United - with tickets pretty tight for both of the above, then this makes for a very attractive alternative in my book. Another side to be upsetting the odds this season, Watford have made a superb return to the Premier League sitting snugly in ninth after 20 games. Personally, I thought they would be cannon fodder this season but I'm happy to have been proved wrong. Newcastle have been in a state of flux for a while now and are, like neighbours Sunderland, down in the bottom three with only four wins and could do with a morale-boosting victory here. Somehow I doubt they'll get it - the Hornets will fancy themselves at home and beat the Toon at St James' Park back in September. (FA Cup Third Round, Saturday 9 January, 3pm. Ticket info)

4. West Ham United v Wolverhampton Wanderers the Hammers are still very much in the hunt for a place in the top four and should be considered a decent shot for winning the FA Cup, something they've done three times before. It would be great for the club to end their final season at the Boleyn Ground with a major trophy and they've been given a very decent draw here. Wolves have actually won it more times than their hosts but their most glorious years were decades ago and should start as second favourites here, given their current midtable position in the Championship. A good pricing structure means this game is officially sold out in all areas so you'll have to enquire about returns or watch somewhere else. (FA Cup Third Round, Saturday 9 January, 3pm. Ticket info)

5. Chelsea v Scunthorpe United despite their recent problems, a home game against League One opposition should be a foregone conclusion for the Blues. Saying that, they famously came unstuck against Bradford City in last year's fourth round so it does happen. Realistically though, with Guus Hiddink now in charge, I can't see a repeat performance especially given their comfortable win over Crystal Palace on Sunday. Although, well down the third tier at the time of writing, the Iron actually have quite a decent record against Chelsea - W2 L2 D1 but those positive results were nearly 30 years ago. Their last meeting came in 2005 in another third round tie which Chelsea won 3-1. I expect at least the same again. (FA Cup Third Round, Sunday 10 January, 2pm. Ticket info)

6. Brentford v Walsall - at first glance, this Championship v League One tie doesn't look all that exciting. However, there is a decent little backstory in that Brentford recently lured Dean Smith away from Walsall to become their manager. It's a move that's gone pretty well with the Bees now within striking distance of the play-off places. Before leaving the Midlands, Smith had turned the Saddlers into title contenders in their division and are still churning out decent results so should be quite a handful for the west Londoners. (FA Cup Third Round, Saturday 9 January, 3pm. Ticket info)

7. Boreham Wood v Cheltenham Town - with the FA Cup ties taken care of, we drop into the National League for my next recommendation where minnows Boreham Wood welcome the Robins who currently top the division. The Gloucestershire club got relegated from League Two at the end of last season after 16 seasons in the Football League where they made it as high as League One at one stage. The drop doesn't seem to have affected them too badly though as they are poised to make an instant return to the division above, sitting four points clear of local rivals Forest Green Rovers at the present time. The Wood are still somehow just keeping their heads above water, losing only one of their last five matches. They are more than a match for anyone at home so a draw shouldn't be beyond them. (National League, Saturday 9 January, 3pm. Ticket info)

8. Sutton United v Lowestoft Town - get your football-watching week under way with a trip to Gander Green Lane for this FA Trophy tie. Both these sides are playing catch up in the competition after Sutton's earlier tie against Concord had to be replayed because of an ineligible player. A few seasons ago these two were rivals in the Isthmian League but both have now made it up to the sixth tier but because of the geographical split of teams at this level, the Suffolk side have been rather unfortunately placed in the National League North where they're finding things a little tough going. Sutton, however, are having a fine campaign and look all set to claim their third play-off place in five seasons. Home win for me. (FA Trophy First Round, Monday 4 January, 745pm. Ticket info)

9. Hampton & Richmond Borough v Kingstonian - if I was off work this weekend then I'd seriously consider heading to this one. Not only is this a local derby (the grounds are a little over three miles apart either side of the Thames), not only do Hampton have the K's last and very successful manager (Alan Dowson) but they are also both well in with a chance of promotion from the Isthmian League. Dowson has done a superb job since taking over, turning them from a struggling side into one that is now well positioned to win the title. K's boss Tommy Williams has done well to keep his side among the division's elite and although humbled by Dulwich on Boxing Day, they should be well up for this. I'd like to think a crowd pushing 1,000 will be on hand to witness this - it certainly deserves a good turnout. (Isthmian League Premier Division, Saturday 9 January, 3pm. Club info)

10. Glebe v Sutton Athletic - the hosts are most famous for being a youth football club and only moved into the semi-pro adult ranks two seasons ago when they joined the Kent Invicta League. This season they've moved into their own ground in Chislehurst and are bang on course for winning the title. Third placed Sutton are one of the few teams that look capable of challenging them and with a game in hand could soon go top if they win here. Plenty to play for. (Kent Invicta League, Saturday 9 January, 3pm. Club 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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