Monday, 29 February 2016

TLFG: 29 February - 6 March 2016

It's been a hectic old weekend, hence the very late publication of this week's piece - apologies. I hope those of you on Twitter got the link to this week's midweek match map which I put out earlier so you could make plans for tonight as there's a few things on.

This week has been spent in more meetings than usual with discussions ongoing about how to make Non-League Finals Day on 22 May as good as it can be. If you've missed previous mentions of this, it will see the FA Vase and FA Trophy finals being played on the same day at Wembley for the first time ever and we at the Non-League Day team are hoping that as many fans of the game at that level will turn out whether their teams are involved or not. With adult tickets only £25 and kids for a quid, I think that seems like pretty good value. The Vase semi-final line-up got confirmed over the weekend and the Trophy quarter-finals also took place producing one replay so we're almost there too. Tickets are already on sale and you can get yours here.

On Saturday I went to one of the games of the day in the Isthmian League where promotion contenders Dulwich Hamlet and East Thurrock United locked horns.



The visitors looked very solid and absorbed what little Dulwich threw at them with relative ease. Midway through the second half they opened up a commanding 2-0 lead and with the game into injury time, the points seemed destined to be heading to Essex.

However, the hosts kept going and amid somewhat controversial circumstances salvaged a draw with two last-gasp goals. The second came from the penalty spot after the assistant referee spotted a deliberate handball which the man in charge had missed. With Ashley Carew calmly converting with the last kick of the match, the referee had to be escorted off by security as East Thurrock's players and management vented their frustration.

The trip to Champion Hill also provided me with a chance to meet representatives from a couple of companies who are keen to make a positive impact on the non-league game and perhaps become partners of Non-League Day. Before reading the following, I'd like to make clear that no agreements have been made or monies changed hands and these are my honest opinions.

Firstly, I got to see the Goalshouter app in action. 

Hailing from Italy, it's a handy device for clubs at all levels to provide live text commentaries of their games but also be able to include photos and other rich content. It also has the ability to drive revenue back into clubs by linking up parts of the commentary with digital sponsors.

Although it was only a test and there were one or two factual errors, I think it looks and performs pretty impressively - you can see the feed for the game here. There was talk of offering some clubs a free trial so get in touch with me and I'll put things in motion.

I also got to meet a representative of Tifosy - a specialist football club crowdfunding website. They have or are working with several professional clubs including Bradford City, Oldham Athletic and Portsmouth in England and Parma in Italy. So far, they've managed to raise over £500,000 for the various causes. They are also keen to partner with non-league clubs who may have projects that they need to raise funds for be it new goalposts, a pitch, floodlights, changing rooms, a whole new ground or whatever. Take a look at their website and see if they're right for your club.

Lastly, I had the pleasure of helping Peter and his son Pier from the Netherlands attend QPR's match against Birmingham on Saturday.

Aside from advising him on where to sit and when to buy, I also arranged for a welcome message to be put up on the big screen before the match and at half-time. 

All of that went smoothly but apparently things went even better than any of us could have imagined.

Pier meets Tjaronn Chery on his visit to QPR
Before arriving in England, Peter had told me he was a Groningen fan and was therefore keen to see former player Tjaronn Chery in action for QPR. By chance they ran into him outside the ground, had a good chat, got a photo and then watched as he produced a man-of-the-match display to win the game.

Not only that but Rangers goalkeeper Alex Smithies randomly picked out his son in the crowd at the end of the game and gave him his gloves! What an afternoon and one that will live in their memories for a very long time. 

I only played a small part in this but I'm really chuffed with how it went so do get in touch if you think I might be able to help you in some way. Be warned, I'm under increasing pressure from my wife to charge for these services but I'm stubbornly resisting for now.

Have a great week and, as always, enjoy your football.

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 100 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 Arsenal - it wasn't hard to decide which match should fill the number one slot this week. The two north London giants contest what is arguably the derby in the capital with even more resting on it than normal. For a change, Spurs are higher up the table and in with a real shot at the league title. However, the Gunners are just behind and will draw level if they beat Swansea on Wednesday and Spurs slip up at West Ham. Form is very much on Tottenham's side at the moment with six consecutive league wins and they're also undefeated in three league matches against Arsenal. It should be a humdinger! (Premier League, Saturday 5 March, 1245pm. Ticket info)

2. Watford v Leicester City - I make a point of not listing one team twice in the Top 10 hence not including West Ham v Spurs this week (but give it a go if you can get a ticket). The next best game in my opinion is this one between two teams who are relative newcomers to the top flight. The Hornets are enjoying a dream return to the Premier League after several years away and have confounded many, including myself, in comfortably asserting themselves in the division. The Foxes came up the season before, also after an extended break, and managed to stay up after an impressive late run. This season nothing was expected of them but somehow they come into March as the country's top ranked club - a position they have held for several months. The bubble looked to have been burst at Arsenal two weeks ago but they rallied to beat Norwich this weekend and stay two points clear. With nearest rivals Tottenham and Arsenal possibly cancelling each other out this weekend, they have a great chance to extend that lead. (Premier League, Saturday 5 March, 530pm. Ticket info)

3. Brentford v Charlton Athletic - it seems to be derby season in the Championship at the moment with all our local clubs playing each other within a matter of weeks. The latest one pits the Bees against the Addicks. All our local clubs in this division have fired their managers this season. At QPR, my club, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink has taken some real stick since taking over but when you see how Brentford, Fulham and Charlton's bosses have fared you really wonder why. New Brentford boss Dean Smith took over from caretaker Lee Carsley, who was doing a decent job, in November and gone on to lose nine out of 17 games. Whoever has been in charge at Charlton hasn't made a difference as off-field problems have caused havoc and they're bottom of the league. They put up a good fight against Reading on Saturday but still lost 4-3. There could be a few nerves on Saturday as confidence will be low on both sides but Brentford should just about edge it. (Championship, Saturday 5 March, 3pm. Ticket info)

4. Millwall v Wigan Athletic - it's been a traumatic time for both these clubs in recent seasons as relegation has hit. Despite winning the FA Cup in 2012/13, that season was a bitter sweet one for the Latics as it also saw them relegated after many years of punching above their weight in the Premier League. They made the Championship play-offs the following season but lost to QPR and then suffered relegation to League One a year later after an horrific campaign. Thankfully the rot seems to have stopped under manager Gary Caldwell and they're now well on course for automatic promotion back to the Championship. The Lions came down with them but they've also responded well and are in the top five too. It ended 2-2 when they last met in September and it should hopefully produce another entertaining game. (League One, Tuesday 1 March, 745pm. Ticket info)

5. AFC Wimbledon v Accrington Stanley - head down to Kingsmeadow on Saturday if you fancy seeing a game between sides scrapping for a League Two play-off spot. Given the size of some of the clubs in the division, these two have done well to get themselves into the top eight. With their unspectacular midtable performances since returning to the Football League, the Dons have been something of a surprise package in being as well placed as they are. Even more impressive though are Accrington. The Lancashire club are up in fourth and averaging crowds of just 1,500 - the second lowest in the division. Boxed in between Blackburn and Burnley and with several other much bigger clubs in the area, it's no surprise they struggle for support. It's therefore of real credit to manager John Coleman that he's got them into this position. Historically, Accrington have a good record against Wimbledon but they've lost the last two, conceding six in the process. (League Two, Saturday 5 March, 3pm. Ticket info)

6. Bromley v Welling United - there's another derby over in south-east London on Tuesday night in the National League. It's been a time of struggle for these two local rivals over the last few months. Bromley are new to the division, made a great start but then tailed off sharply and recently replaced manager Mark Goldberg with coach Neil Smith. After a shaky start, he's managed to mastermind back-to-back wins over Woking and Kidderminster to shore things up. The Wings narrowly avoided relegation last season and have been even worse this time round. With Loui Fazakerley recently ushered out, replacement Dean Frost has seemingly made little impact as the defeats have continued. Now eight points adrift of safety, things are looking terminal and wins need to start materialising fast. (National League, Tuesday 1 March, 745pm. Ticket info)

7. Hampton & Richmond Borough v Canvey Island - there's no real stand-out game for me in the Isthmian Premier this week but with the title race twisting week after week, you might as well check  out the current leaders Hampton. Despite losing at fellow contenders Tonbridge on Saturday, Hampton retained their two-point lead after Dulwich's dramatic fightback against East Thurrock. Essex club Canvey are on a half decent run at the moment, collecting 10 points from five games so will arrive with a bit of confidence. However, they lost the reverse fixture just last month by 4-0 so there would appear to be a bit of a gulf in class. (Isthmian League Premier Division, Saturday 5 March, 3pm. Club info)

8. AFC Hornchurch v AFC Sudbury - in the division below we have a top-four clash at Bridge Avenue. The Urchins have had a topsy turvy few years with promotions, play-off finals and relegations lifting them as high as the National League South and now down to the Isthmian 1 North. The side from the far east of the District Line have responded well to last season's relegation and have been top or in the play-off spots all season. Currently fourth, a place in the end-of-season shoot-out to which they've become regulars is the best they can hope for as they trail current leaders Sudbury by 17 points. The Suffolk club have had a cracking season and were always desperate to go one better after losing in last year's play-offs. Having only been formed as recently as 1999, the Suds have never played above the eighth tier so this season could be an historic one for them. (Isthmian League Division 1 North, Saturday 5 March, 3pm. Ticket info)

9. Raynes Park Vale v Colliers Wood United we love a derby at TLFG and we've got another one at Prince George's Fields on Saturday. The A3 derby on the south-west side of town features two clubs who play approximately 1.5 miles apart along the major road of the same name. Greatly overshadowed by the likes of Chelsea, Fulham, AFC Wimbledon and Kingstonian, these ninth-tier clubs are often overlooked. RPV have only been in existence for a little over 20 years making them young upstarts compared to CWU who are one of the oldest clubs in the city having been around in some shape or form since 1878. Although the hosts are a few points behind CWU in the table, they've barely played in 2016 and have accrued five games in hand over their opponents which indicate things are closer between them than a first glance at the table might suggest. (Combined Counties League Premier Division, Saturday 5 March, 3pm. Club info)

10. Dulwich Hamlet v FC Assyria - last up this week I'm going with something slightly different. Over the last couple of years, Dulwich have grown massively in prominence on the non-league scene with part of the reason being their major efforts to engage with the local community and charitable causes. Having previously held a match against Stonewall FC to highlight the issues surrounding homophobia in football, on Wednesday they are hosting a 'Syrian Refugee Support Game' against Middlesex County League side FC Assyria who hail from west London and have been in existence since the 1960s. Tickets are only £5 for adults, £2 for concessions and U12s free. All the money raised will go to the Southwark Refugee Communities Forum and the British Red Cross Syria Appeal. (Benefit match, Wednesday 2 March, 745pm. Club info)

UPDATE 01/03/16: Since yesterday's publication I have been made aware, by our friends at the Southern Amateur League, of an extra game on Saturday. Over at Uxbridge FC you can see the semi-final of the FA Inter League Cup between the Southern Amateur League and the Teesside League. The eventual winners of the cup go on to form the England 'D' team which takes part in the Uefa Regions Cup. Tickets are £4 for adults, £2 concessions.

Also, I forgot to mention in the Top 10 that it's also the Croydon derby on Saturday between AFC Croydon Athletic and Croydon in the Southern Counties East League which should be well worth a watch if you're on the south side of town.

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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