Sunday 21 August 2016

TLFG: 22-29 August 2016

Greetings one and all and welcome to the August Bank Holiday special edition of TLFG.

If you thought last week's football menu was extensive and tasty, then you'll be left drooling by what's on offer this time.

Not only are there over 130 games taking place, many of them are derbies and on the Bank Holiday (29 August) the Combined Counties League are starting most of their games at 1130am meaning you can see at least two games in a day.

And that's not all - for the first time ever we have a guest ground review from reader Nick Willis who took the time and effort to produce a piece on his trip to AFC Wimbledon as they played their first home game in League One against Bolton Wanderers last weekend.

Also, there's only 13 days until this year's Non-League Day which is keeping me incredibly busy alongside this blog.

By the middle of the week we should get final confirmation of all the day's fixtures following the FA Cup replays so keep checking the map on our site to see what's on come the 3rd September.

If you want to see and hear what I've got to say then watch this short film

Our charity fanfunder for Prostate Cancer UK is now up and running and we're getting close to £2,000. As with all such pages, there's an obligatory video which I make an appearance in alongside the likes of far greater football luminaries like Les Ferdinand, Gianluca Vialli, Matt Elliott and Guillem Balague.

All have donated rewards and prizes which you can buy or bid for and there's also some exclusive NLD merchandise too. Please take a look and if this blog has been of use to you, I'd really appreciate it if you could put a pound or two PCUK's way. Just to clarify - all profits will go to the charity, none of it will go to me or NLD in any way.

That's enough from me, enjoy your week and let me know what you've been up to. Now over to Nick and AFC Wimbledon...

by Nick Willis

AFC Wimbledon were promoted via the playoffs in May 2016 to League One (the third tier of English football), their sixth promotion in 14 years. ​The feel­good factor from the League Two play-off win still hangs in the air, and I was keen to see this occasion at Kingsmeadow.

Bolton find themselves in League One after relegation from the Championship, and presumably fixtures like these represent something of a novelty given some of the grounds they are used to seeing their team play at in recent years.
I travel by train to Norbiton station and then walk for 10 minutes through a tidy looking residential area until arriving at the Cambridge Road, passing a cafe and a fish and chip shop, both full of supporters. The ground is situated down a small side road, just past the row of shops. It is not a ground that one sees coming from miles around (though I suppose this could be different on a night fixture, with the floodlights turned on). 

The grand entrance to AFC Wimbledon's Kingsmeadow home

The ground (official name the Cherry Red Records Stadium) was leased by local club Kingstonian until 2003, when AFC Wimbledon took it over. It has undergone quite a few changes since then. The Chemflow end ­ formerly the Tempest end ­ had a roof installed and the John Green stand became seated, while access was improved for away fans as well. 

Away fans are mainly housed in a section of the newly renamed RyGas stand, a partially covered shallow­roofed terrace that runs along the sideline of the pitch opposite the main stand. Some away fans are also seated in a small area of the adjacent John Green stand. There are around 800 tickets available for away fans, and presumably these are likely to be sold out quickly against League One opposition this season. 

Many supporters are proudly wearing the latest iteration of the Dons' replica kit, an attractive, round­collared, electric blue number with canary yellow trim. There is lots of yellow and blue on show in general, with some supporters opting for shirts that date back to the Premiership era, and some inevitably sporting the 1988 FA Cup winning shirt. A few are bravely wearing the Dons’ third kit ­ and it’s not for the faint­hearted ­ of alternating vertical stripes of pea green and swamp green. One supporter wearing this shirt assures me that despite the garish colour combination, the shirt is viewed with affection ­ the team achieved some important results at the end of last season while wearing it. 

There was a turnout of 4,600 for this game, which is nearly a sell­out. Tickets to Wimbledon’s home games are going to be hard to come by this season ­ the programme informs us that 3,100 season tickets have been sold. Once up to 800 away fans have been subtracted, it doesn’t leave many tickets in a ground of 4,800 capacity. 

Pre kick­-off I talk to Dennis, in his late forties, with a Van Halen haircut, who has travelled over from Berne in Switzerland with a group of friends to watch Brighton & Hove Albion and AFC Wimbledon.

He is particularly knowledgeable about English football, and is very interested in the wording of the chants going on around him. He seems upset when he is told that Adebayo Akinfenwa is not at the club anymore. That a middle­aged man from Switzerland would know who was playing upfront for a then fourth­tier English football club is evidence of the broad international appeal of the English game.

The ChemFlow end I am stood in, behind the goal furthest from the Cambridge Road, is by a stretch the noisiest in the ground. The area of this stand directly behind the goal is seemingly responsible for the generation of most of the chanting. The roof that covers the stand does a decent job in amplifying the sound out on to the pitch. 

Nick's friends enjoy some refreshment despite a disappointing result
Wimbledon don’t seem to have any real bitter local rivalry. When asked, people might murmur about ‘Palace’, and there are a couple of chants about Chelsea, but most of the real feeling is reserved for a team that moved to Milton Keynes. There is no need to go into the history of this here as I’m sure most readers will be aware of the story, but safe to say that AFC Wimbledon’s supporters have not forgotten about that decision to move their club to a new town in Buckinghamshire.

The toilets for the Chemflow end are a small outhouse near to the exit. There is one door in and out, and by the time I get there after half­time, there is a sizeable queue. There is an even bigger queue for the ‘Gourmet Burger’ stand positioned at the corner of the Chemflow and main stand. Even though the burgers that people are holding with sheets of kitchen tissue paper look better quality than the average football ground fare, I decide it will take too long to queue and head back to the stand. 

With the game over, a large number of fans meet in one of the three bars positioned under the main stand. The atmosphere is genuinely convivial, which is something of a surprise given that the home team have just lost (Bolton come back from a goal down to beat AFCW 2­1). There are groups of friends catching up with each other over a post­match pint, some watching the late kick­off Premier League fixture, some spilling out on to the outdoor area in front of the bars, enjoying the afternoon sun.  


As well as Nick's fine review, our good friends at 'Two Men In Search...' have also put up their latest piece about a visit to QPR so you're really spoilt this week.

There are well over 100 matches in the London area over the next week thanks in part to all the extra Bank Holiday games.

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 - something which often happens at this time of year. 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).

Yellow pin - Monday fixtures
Green pin - Tuesday fixtures
Magenta pin - Wednesday fixtures
Purple pin - Thursday fixtures
Black pin - Friday fixtures

Blue pin - Saturday fixtures
Orange pin - Sunday fixtures
Grey pin - Bank Holiday Monday fixtures

In the following section I list, by day, what are in my opinion the most notable games of the week and give some brief reasons for my choice. Check the maps above for kick-off times, ticket info and directions.

Monday 22 August

Premier League 2
West Ham United v Newcastle United @7pm - the Hammers' U23 side play the first of their games at Dagenham & Redbridge who they will groundshare with for most of this season's games

Essex Senior League
Tower Hamlets v Ilford @745pm - staying on the east side of town, we've got a derby at the Mile End Stadium between sides looking to bounce back from FA Cup defeats at the weekend


Tuesday 23 August

Chelsea v Bristol Rovers @745pm  - having failed to qualify for Europe, the Blues enter a round earlier than normal and host League One opposition, tickets are available
Crystal Palace v Blackpool @745pm - on paper the Eagles have an even more beatable opponent in the form of the Seasiders from League Two, tickets are also available which is rare for non-members
Watford v Gillingham @745pm - it's Premier League against League One here too, although it might not be the most enticing fixture it is a great way to get on the Hornets' ticket database so you can qualify for bigger games in future

FA Cup Preliminary Round Replays
Thamesmead Town v Guernsey @745pm - the Green Lions travel to the mainland after the sides fought out a 2-2 draw on Saturday in what was the first ever FA Cup tie played in the Channel Islands
Walton & Hersham v Greenwich Borough @745pm - the Swans did well to hold Greenwich, from the division above, on Saturday so will hope to go one better here
Harefield United v Wembley @745pm - as above, Harefield did well to draw at higher ranked opposition in the original game and will want to make the most of their second chance here


Wednesday 24 August

Fulham v Middlesbrough @745pm - the Cottagers take on Premier League new boys Boro and it's only £15 to get in

FA Cup Preliminary Round Replays
Croydon v VCD Athletic @745pm - the Trams have a chance of causing a cupset at the Croydon Arena as they welcome a Ryman League outift
Colliers Wood United v Banstead Athletic @730pm - the hosts should have too much for Banstead but anything's possible at this stage of the competition


Thursday 25 August

Europa League
West Ham United v Astra Giurgiu @745pm - after drawing the first leg in Romania, the Hammers should be favourites to progress but they came unstuck against Astra last year so won't take anything for granted


Friday 26 August

Premier League 2
Arsenal v Liverpool @7pm - it may only be the U23s in action but it's a great way to see a game at the Emirates Stadium and at a fraction of the cost but please bear in mind that tickets must be bought in advance

Combined Counties League
Colliers Wood United v Epsom & Ewell @730pm - the best non-league option of the night sees two sides from south-west London duel at the Wibbandune


Saturday 27 August

Premier League
Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool @1230pm - two of the big boys meet in the televised lunchtime kick-off in a game that doesn't really need any selling
Watford v Arsenal @3pm - the Hornets continue their ridiculously tough run of Premier League games with this derby against the Gunners

Brentford v Sheffield Wednesday @3pm - with two wins and two defeats, the Bees will be happy enough with their form as they prepare to welcome one of the favourites for promotion
Charlton Athletic v Bolton Wanderers @3pm - these sides suffered relegation together last season but have both begun life in League One well, a top-five clash
Leyton Orient v Mansfield Town @3pm - the O's started their League Two campaign well last season but fell away, again they've got off to a good start but will they be able to keep it going...

National League
Dagenham & Redbridge v Wrexham @3pm - the Daggers dropped out of the Football League at the end of last season but have raced out of the blocks and are second only to former second-tier club Tranmere at the time of writing
Wealdstone v Hampton & Richmond Borough @3pm - in the southern section of the league, new boys Hampton seem to have made a pretty seamless transition from Ryman League football and should be confident heading into this derby against the Stones who are also looking good

Ryman League
Staines Town v Kingstonian @3pm - it is very early days but of our local teams, Staines are the pick of the bunch in the Premier Division and they should feel confident of beating the K's who have had a bit of a shocker so far
Phoenix Sports v Heybridge Swifts @3pm - in Division 1 North, Phoenix are the early pacesetters having scored a spectacular nine goals over the course of their two games thus far
Tooting & Mitcham United v Dorking Wanderers @3pm - this top-six clash at the well appointed Imperial Fields looks like the match of the day in Division 1 South

Spartan South Midlands League
Oxhey Jets v London Colney @3pm - the hosts have won two of their three opening games and they'll need to be at their best as they welcome the only team in the Premier Division with a 100% record

Combined Counties League
AC London v Cobham @3pm - not much is floating my boat in the Premier Division but this game between two of the top four in the division below looks decent

Sunday 28 August

FA Women's Super League
London Bees v Aston Villa @2pm - with nothing else on, this is a great chance to catch some women's football at Barnet's ground

Monday 29 August

National League
Sutton United v Dagenham & Redbridge @3pm - it wasn't hard to pick this one as both sides are currently in the top three and it's also a derby
Hampton & Richmond Borough v Dartford @3pm - Boro will look to continue their great start against the Darts who have only lost one of their first five

Ryman League
Hendon v Dulwich Hamlet @3pm - the London contingent, often among the powerhouses of the Premier Division, have made a slow start and both of these will want to start building some momentum
VCD Athletic v Phoenix Sports @3pm - in Division 1 North we have possibly the closest derby in the whole league, you can sometimes hear what's going on at the other ground if they're playing at the same time
Corinthian Casuals v Tooting & Mitcham United @3pm - at the time of writing these sides are in the top six in Division 1 South and it's another derby too

Combined Counties League
Bedfont Sports v Bedfont & Feltham @1130am - it's derby day in the CCL and these clubs are even closer than VCD and Phoenix, they are literally next to each other
Chertsey Town v Abbey Rangers @1pm - the Chertsey/Addlestone derby between two sides who were several divisions apart until recently
Banstead Athletic v AC London @1130am - a groundshare derby between sides in Division 1's top five

Southern Counties East League
Crockenhill v Orpington @3pm - a derby featuring sides in the top six of Division 1
FC Elmstead v Holmesdale @3pm - elsewhere in the division we have a groundshare derby near Bromley

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.

1 comment:

  1. Okay, this is good, team playing own matches is well. I saw on a few games.