Monday 28 March 2016

TLFG: 29 March - 3 April 2016

With two games attended over the Easter weekend, it's been a busy few days by my standards.

Firstly I can't remember when I last had the whole four days off and to get to see two matches as well was a real bonus.

The main catalyst for this was a visit by my Dutch friend Paul who regular readers will have heard many mentions of.

He's researching his latest book on London football and had/has a really packed schedule of games between Good Friday and Tuesday (tomorrow). 

Originally planning to watch Luton v Dagenham & Redbridge, he saw this postponed but having booked a flight to the Bedfordshire town still paid a visit to an empty Kenilworth Road on his arrival. He then jumped on a train and went, via central London, to Maidenhead United for his first game of the trip where I joined him.

A bumper York Road crowd enjoy an historic win over Bath City
Having raced past York Road countless times on express trains bound for the West Country and Wales, I'd seen the ground but never been.

Although not a London club, it's only just outside TLFG's catchment area and really easy to get to being less than half an hour from Paddington and then only a 200-300m walk from the station.

Loads of clubs also fit this description but York Road's USP is that it is the oldest ground in the world to be in continual use by the same club - Maidenhead have played here since 1871, some achievement. 

On Friday they faced Bath City, another non-league club with great history, in a National League South fixture.

Paul had arrived earlier and been given a full tour by club programme editor Steve. He joined us for the game and provided excellent company, filling us in on club history. Being of a similar vintage to myself, it was also fun reminiscing about more general non-league experiences and sharing how we had both initially got into the game and how we'd seen it develop over the years.

He also informed us that Maidenhead had never beaten Bath in the 50-odd years they had been playing each other so it came as something of a shock when the hosts ran out comfortable 3-1 winners.

As a promoter of the non-league game, it was striking that a large crowd of 899, double their normal average turned out. Encouraged by the great weather and the international break, it was great to see. The atmosphere was also buoyant and very family friendly.

I also lucky enough to meet Maidenhead's chairman after the match. Being a big supporter of Non-League Day it was nice to finally meet him after a few exchanges on Twitter. 

The following day, Paul and I headed out to Ruislip where we met my former colleague Rich. He has recently moved to the area and was keen to make his non-league debut with a visit to his new local club Wealdstone.

Playing in the same division as Maidenhead, they welcomed Kent club Margate who were new to the division.

Unlike the previous day, the weather was poor as Storm Katie began to hit town. Nevertheless, the crowd was good. With free chocolate eggs for the first 200 kids through the turnstiles, the crowd was 100 up on the average. 

The Stones made the most of the conditions and eventually coasted to a 4-1 win to leapfrog their troubled opponents who announced earlier in the week that backer Bob Laslett was standing down as chairman. His investment, rumoured to be around £2.5m over the last two years, powered them to promotion but without this things could now begin to fall apart.

With Paul achieving his goal of meeting the Wealdstone Raider, Rich also enjoyed his afternoon at Grosvenor Vale.

In contrast to Maidenhead, the Wealdstone experience is a much more 'gritty' one with several members of the crowd merciless in their treatment of certain players and officials. Although hardly unique in this respect, it was noticeably different from 24 hours before and could be right up your street if you love a bit of 'banter'.

Looking ahead, there's a special match taking place on Tuesday afternoon at Welling United. The Cumbrian Flood Friendship Trophy will be contested by the England Fans team and a side from the London branch of the Carlisle United Supporters Club. It's £4 adults, £2 concessions and £1 kids with monies raised going to the Cumbria Flood Appeal.

Also don't forget tickets are on sale for Non-League Finals Day at Wembley on Sunday 22 May. FC Halifax Town will play Grimsby Town in the FA Trophy final while Hereford face Morpeth Town in the FA Vase. Apparently Hereford have sold over 10,000 tickets already so a bumper crowd looks possible. #LetsFillWembley


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 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).

Green pin - Tuesday fixtures
Red pin - Wednesday fixtures
Purple pin - Thursday fixtures
Black pin - Friday fixtures

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.


1. England v Netherlands - the Three Lions' recent record against the Dutch is poor with their last win being that famous 4-1 win at Wembley during the group stages of Euro 96. In the intervening 20 years England have managed four draws and two defeats against the Oranje and have achieved nothing of note on the international stage. Contrast this to the Netherlands who have made two European Championship semi-finals, two World Cup semi-finals and even a World Cup final in 2010. So England start as underdogs right? Wrong. Roy Hodgson's side are one Europe's most in-form teams and shocked many by coming from two goals down to beat Germany 3-2 in Berlin on Saturday. Danny Blind's side, however, are one of the weakest the Dutch have fielded for many years and sensationally failed to qualify for Euro 2016 trailing home in fourth behind the Czech Republic, Iceland and Turkey. In international terms this is a derby and despite the current Dutch malaise the match has unsurprisingly sold out. (International friendly, Tuesday 29 March, 8pm. Ticket info)

2. Arsenal v Watford - after being humiliated by the Hornets in their recent FA Cup quarter-final at the Emirates, the Gunners get an almost immediate chance to avenge that defeat with this league match. Since that humbling, Arsenal then exited the Champions League to Barcelona but responded well by recording a 2-0 win at Everton to leave them third in the Premier League. Aside from that cup success, Watford's league form has become decidedly iffy with three consecutive defeats reminding them that they aren't quite safe from relegation just yet. However, a repeat victory here will almost certainly secure them another season in the top flight. They know they can do it so why not? (Premier League, Saturday 2 April, 3pm. Ticket info)

3. West Ham United v Crystal Palace - we've got another derby to look forward to at the Boleyn Ground. A huge match for both teams who are scrapping for points at either end of the table. In this season of upsets, a place in next season's Champions League is very much within the Hammers' grasp with a win here potentially putting them in the top four. Unbeaten in five and very unlucky to only draw at Chelsea last time out, Slaven Bilic's side will start as favourites as Palace are struggling. Despite making it to the FA Cup semi-finals, the Eagles are in woeful league form, not winning since before Christmas. Thankfully they had a strong start to their campaign which means they have a seven-point buffer between themselves and the bottom three but they are far from safe and in desperate need of a win. (Premier League, Saturday 2 April, 3pm. Ticket info)

4. Queens Park Rangers v Middlesbrough - thanks to the TV gods we've got a bit of Friday night football to kick off a weekend of football watching. QPR's mini-revival over recent weeks had got a few supporters giddily thinking a play-off spot could somehow be back on the cards. However, a last-minute goal saw two points dropped at Preston in their last match and the gap to the top six became 11 points again. Although Rangers realistically have little to play for, they are in the best form they've been in for some time with several players looking to impress new boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink as he looks to build his squad for next season. Boro, on the other hand, are very much in the title race and consequently have it all to play for. After some recent infighting which saw manager Aitor Karanka on the verge of resigning, the Teesside club recorded a crucial win over promotion rivals Hull to stay third. Aside from one aberration in 2009, QPR's recent home record against Middlesbrough is good. One of the most sensational wins I ever saw as a Rangers fan was the 5-0 drubbing in 1998 of a Boro side packed with stars who ended up getting promoted to the Premier League. QPR were pretty hopeless at the time and eventually avoided relegation to the third tier by just one point - Manchester City went down instead! (Championship, Friday 1 April, 745pm. Ticket info)

5. Fulham v MK Dons - a couple of miles south the following day, we have a proper relegation 'six-pointer'. Relegated from the Premier League, the Cottagers found life tough on their return to the second tier but they stayed up fairly comfortably in the end. This season nothing has changed, in fact things seem to be getting worse. With eight games to go they are only one point above the bottom three and are six without a win. MK Dons are the team immediately below them so they really must win. Newly promoted, I personally expected a lot more of the Buckinghamshire club but things haven't worked out and they've only managed nine wins from 38 games so far. With Bristol City and Rotherham United now resurgent it looks like it could come down to a fight between these two for the last relegation place. The stakes are high. (Championship, Saturday 2 April, 3pm. Ticket info)

6. Dartford v Maidenhead United - all our League One and Two clubs are away this week and nothing is stirring me in the National League so next we head to Princes Park. Way out on the south-eastern edge of TLFG's catchment area, Dartford are mounting a promotion challenge a year after suffering relegation. Having moved up and down quite a bit this season, they're still in touching distance of the play-off places and held leaders Ebbsfleet to a 1-1 draw in Monday's derby in front of nearly 2,500 fans. On Saturday they welcome Maidenhead who followed up Saturday's win over Bath with a 5-2 victory over Hayes & Yeading in their groundshare derby on Monday. The result moved the Magpies into the top five making them the target team that Dartford have to catch. As above, there's plenty to play for. (National League South, Saturday 2 April, 3pm. Ticket info)

7. Dulwich Hamlet v Bognor Regis Town - the match of the week in the Isthmian League sees two promotion rivals go head-to-head at Champion Hill. Dulwich were title contenders but form began to desert them in February and now the play-offs are the best they can realistically hope for. An important win over third-placed Tonbridge Angels on Monday will have restored some confidence which they will need against a strong Bognor side. Having made it to the FA Trophy semi-finals, the Sussex club are fourth with five games in hand on all those above them. Win them all and they'll be six points clear at the top. The reverse fixture in November saw Dulwich edge to a 3-2 win. (Isthmian League Premier Division, Saturday 2 April, 3pm. Ticket info)

8. AFC Hornchurch v Brightlingsea Regent - with only five games to go, the one automatic promotion place in Isthmian League Division 1 North is pretty much AFC Sudbury's. The race for the play-offs, however, is very much alive. Only a spectacular collapse in form will see Thurrock and Harlow Town fail to make end-of-season shoot-out, while fourth-placed Cray Wanderers will probably secure a place too. Which means the final place will be the most hotly contested. The Urchins are the current incumbents but are ahead of Cheshunt and Brightlingsea by virtue of goal difference only. The hosts were up in the sixth tier three years ago so are well used to bigger and better things. Fellow Essex outfit Brightlingsea have only been in existence for 11 years and only joined the Isthmian League last season so another promotion would take them to the highest level in their history. (Isthmian League Division 1 North, Saturday 2 April, 3pm. Ticket info)

9. Clapton v Tower Hamlets - while West Ham and Palace will be fighting out a derby at the Boleyn Ground, a stone's throw away there'll be an all East End affair taking place at The Old Spotted Dog - the oldest ground in London. The very antithesis of all things Premier League, a visit to Clapton is an experience most football fans never forget. Despite its history, the ground is a shabby and neglected place but it drips with character and is, in my opinion, a must visit for all lovers of the sport. I would've said this regardless of the recent rise of the politically left-wing Clapton Ultras who have added a huge amount to match day proceedings in Forest Gate. Aside from local bragging rights, there is little to play for in this match and the relationship between the clubs is cordial meaning there'll be a fun air surrounding this game. I went to the reverse fixture on a chilly Friday night in November - Clapton took well over 300 fans who sang their hearts out for the 90 minutes and beyond. They watched their side dominate but lose 1-0 and then gave their opponents a rousing reception as they clapped them off the field. Some find the whole thing contrived or simply not to their liking and can't handle it at all but I can't recommend a visit enough. (Essex Senior League, Saturday 2 April, 3pm. Club info)

10. Arsenal v Notts County - with the FA Women's Super League now in full swing, I end this week by recommending a trip to Boreham Wood for this Women's FA Cup Quarter-Final. With 13 wins to their name, the Gunners are by far the most successful club in this competition. Last year, however, they went out at this stage to eventual champions Chelsea so they will be looking for an improvement on that showing. Notts County made it to the final where they lost to the Blues but it was a tight affair with only one goal in it. It's all about women's football on Sunday in London so if this game is tricky to get to, Chelsea are playing Aston Villa in another tie at Staines Town. (Women's FA Cup Quarter-Final, Sunday 3 April, 2pm. Ticket info)

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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