Monday 29 August 2016

TLFG: 30 August - 4 September 2016

Last week I gave you a Bank Holiday Special, this week it's a Non-League Day Special.

Yes, it's that time of year when we at TLFG do our utmost to celebrate the semi-professional and amateur game and encourage you to check out your local team if you're not a regular already.

To reduce the temptation to go elsewhere, the Non-League Day team (i.e. me and a handful of other dedicated volunteers around the country) schedule the event to coincide with an international break so that there are no Premier League or Championship games to contend with. We also pick a day that England aren't playing on either so we can maximise our publicity.

If you really can't bear the thought of supporting the lower levels of the game with some of your hard-earned cash (fair enough), then there are a couple of League One games, a legends match and some women's football but I'm not going to give you any more details - you'll have to hunt them out on the match maps below.

Wealdstone are among the clubs hoping to welcome you on Non-League Day
Our charity fanfunder for Prostate Cancer UK is hovering around the £2,600 mark. A spectacular star prize of match tickets and accommodation to watch a Barcelona match at the Nou Camp have been added this week - it could be yours in return for a donation of just £10.

If you're a Chelsea fan there are some great signed books by Gianluca Vialli and if you're a 5-a-side footballer, there are places available in a special tournament at England's St George's Park facility (£250 for a squad of eight). 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.

If you do want to take part in Non-League Day but don't know where to go or what to see, here's my list of recommendations:


1. Dagenham & Redbridge v Boreham Wood - in terms of league status this is the game of the day in London as two local clubs meet for this derby in the top division of the non-league pyramid. The Daggers have just returned to non-league football after several years in League One and Two while the visitors are one of the minnows of the division and did brilliantly to survive their first season in the fifth tier last year. A real David and Goliath contest. (National League, 3pm Ticket info)

2. Dartford v Maidenhead United - the Darts welcome leaders Maidenhead who have exploded out of the blocks with six wins out of seven. The hosts have ploughed a lot of time and effort into this year's NLD with events for kids getting underway at 10am. It's also free for U16s to attend the match, family tickets are available for £15 while season-ticket holders from any other club will get in for just £5.  (National League South, 3pm Ticket info)

3. Wealdstone v Poole Town - over in Ruislip the Stones are also throwing their full weight behind NLD in the hope of getting a mammoth crowd for this match between two play-off hopefuls. It's just £5 for adults (normally £13) and you might get to see the legendary Wealdstone Raider too. It's also £3 for U18s and free for U16s. With those prices and the effort they've put into marketing it, they'll be hoping for a four-figure crowd. (National League South, 3pm, Ticket info)

4. St Albans City v Hampton & Richmond Borough - normally I wouldn't include this game as the Saints play just outside TLFG's catchment area to the north of London but they're playing one of our clubs and are also making a real effort to get a big crowd. They are reducing admission prices for everyone and offering further discounts to kids and season-ticket holders of other clubs. They will also be raising funds for Prostate Cancer UK and I'm advised there will be more announcements later in the week about other things they're doing - oh yes and this is the match I'm currently scheduled to be attending so maybe see you there. On paper it also looks like a cracker as it's third versus second - huge! UPDATE - former England striker and current QPR Director of Football Les Ferdinand will be guest of honour (National League South, 3pm, Ticket info)

5. Clapton v FC Romania - although they play several divisions below some of the clubs above, this game could well attract one of the highest attendances of the day in London. I attended Clapton's match against Ilford on NLD last year which pulled in nearly 800 people which is almost unheard of for clubs in the ninth tier. If you've not heard of them, the Tons are one of the oldest clubs in London and play at the city's oldest ground. The Old Spotted Dog is a place all football fans should visit to see it in all its ramshackle glory. The Clapton Ultras (politically left wing) who pack out the ground these days are fairly new on the scene and some people have their reservations but they generate a fantastic atmosphere and are regularly told off for the use of flares (naughty). Given their pro-migrant and pro-refugee views, a match against FC Romania (who are made up almost exclusively of expats) is one of the highlights of their season. There's talk of getting more than 1,000 on Saturday which would surely break some record. UPDATE - some discounts have now been announced so please see the club's website for details (Essex Senior League, 3pm, Club info)

6. Hanwell Town v Enfield Town - there are also several FA Cup ties on Saturday and if I was picking some for Match Of The Day I would go for those where the underdog hosts a bigger club that they could conceivably beat. This game definitely fits that criteria. The Geordies, from the eighth tier, went two rounds further than this last year and played in front of then FA chairman Greg Dyke on last season's NLD. Enfield play a level above, have a significant fanbase and were among the favourites for the Ryman League title at the start of the season. However, they've flattered to deceive so far with one win in six so could be there for the taking. (FA Cup First Qualifying Round, 3pm, Club info)

7. Sun Sports v Hayes & Yeading United - this is one of the biggest games in the Sun's history as it marks the Watford club's first appearance at this stage of the competition. When I started NLD in 2010, Hayes were in what is now the National League but they sold their ground soon after and have been groundsharing at various places until a few weeks ago when they finally came home. They've dropped two divisions since 2010 and are in pretty poor shape on the pitch again this season. The hosts hail from the ninth tier so are massive underdogs on paper but the talk on their website appears bullish and anything could happen. (FA Cup First Qualifying Round, 3pm, Club info)

8. VCD Athletic v Kingstonian - this all-Ryman League tie is also flashing the word 'cupset' at me. Both these sides were in the Ryman Premier a couple of years ago but VCD, who to be fair were punching above their weight, came back down after a brief stint. Neither side have started well this time round but the K's have begun winning again and will be dangerous. (FA Cup First Qualifying Round, 3pm, Club info)

9. Tooting & Mitcham United v Horsham - the Terrors have begun well and are yet to lose. A win on Monday at Corinthian Casuals would actually have put them top but they drew 3-3. The visitors are still finding their way in the division after winning promotion from the Southern Combination so will start as underdogs. TMU charge only £5 to armed forces and emergency service personnel, students, the unemployed and season-ticket holders from any other club other than their opponents on the day. It's also £1 for U16s and free if accompanied by an adult. (Ryman League Division 1 South, 3pm, Ticket info)

10. Cray Valley PM v Croydon @3pm - it's third versus first in this exciting looking clash in the Southern Counties East League and I hope it gets a bumper crowd. CVPM are always happy to help the NLD cause and this year they're offering £5 entry to season-ticket holders or members from any other team and free entry to armed forces and emergency services personnel. (Southern Counties East League Premier Division, 3pm, Club info)

I have heard from some clubs that news of their plans are still to be finalised so further information could be added as the week goes on

UPDATE - 01/09/16 (@1755)
Several clubs have announced their NLD plans since Monday so here's the info:

Aveley - the Ryman League side have announced half-price admission for season-ticket holders from other clubs for the visit of Wroxham (Club info)
Haringey Borough - it's FA Cup time at Coles Park where regular NLD supporters Haringey host Witham Town, they are also slashing admission prices to just £3 for adults and then giving the lot to Prostate Cancer UK. Awesome! (Club info)
Phoenix Sports - it's Pay What You Want for their Ryman League game against Brentwood and all money from programme sales will be given to charity (Club info)
Erith & Belvedere - the Deres welcome partner charity Sands to their match against Whitstable who will be doing some awareness work and fundraising (Club info)
West Essex - the Essex Senior League new boys have made their game against Barkingside 'Pay What You Want' (Club info)
Hillingdon Borough - I've had it confirmed in a tweet that the club will be giving all gate receipts to Prostate Cancer UK for their Spartan South Midlands League game against Langford (Club info)

Despite there being an international break there are still well over 60 matches in the London area over the next week.

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).

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

Blue pin - Saturday fixtures
Orange pin - Sunday 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.

Tuesday 30 August

Checkatrade Trophy - previously known as the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, the competition has received a controversial revamp which allows the top clubs' U23 sides to enter and play against League One and League Two first teams much to the dismay of many of the clubs and fans involved. It begins this week with meagre attendances predicted, as a result most clubs are charging nominal admission prices of around £10 to get in.

AFC Wimbledon v Swansea City U23 @745pm  - the Dons are so against the new format that they are actively encouraging their fans not to attend this match so you might have the place to yourself
Charlton Athletic v Southampton U23 @745pm - the Saints' academy is famous for producing great players (e.g. Gareth Bale) so they should be a good test for the Addicks
Millwall v West Bromwich Albion U23 @745pm - one of the goals of this competition is to toughen up the youngsters and prepare them for first-team football, a night at the Den should leave an impression
Leyton Orient v Stevenage @745pm - the only genuine tie of the night, from the purists' point of view, is this all-League Two encounter at the Matchroom Stadium

Combined Counties League
Raynes Park Vale v Colliers Wood United @745pm - Tuesday night sees our first A3 derby of the season, neither have started their Premier Division campaigns spectacularly so will want to win
Chessington & Hook United v Epsom Athletic @745pm - in the division below we have a groundshare derby to look forward to

Spartan South Midlands League
Wembley v Cockfosters @745pm - locked together with several teams on six points, a win could propel either side into the upper echelons of the table


Wednesday 31 August

Essex Senior League
Sporting Bengal United v Tower Hamlets @745pm - it wasn't hard to pick the Mile End derby between these two groundsharers as game of the day


Thursday 1 September

FA Women's Super League 1
Chelsea v Notts County @730pm - the Blues are second in the league but a whopping 10 points behind Manchester City - however, they have two games in hand so must win here against one of the league's also-rans


Friday 2 September

Southern Counties East League
Erith Town v Fisher @745pm - get your Non-League Day weekend underway with a south-east London derby down at VCD Athletic's ground

The Wembley Cup @730pm - to be honest I've read and re-read the blurb describing what this event is all about and I still don't get it - essentially there will be some legends and some people from YouTube kicking Xboxes around for charity at Wembley Stadium. Well I think football's involved somewhere - you'll have to find out for yourself because I can't fathom it.


Saturday 3 September: Non-League Day - see above


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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