Sunday, 23 October 2016

TLFG: 24-30 October 2016

Generally, for me, it's been a pretty good week on the footballing front.

As I mentioned last week I was hoping to head down to Margate to see Harrow Borough contest an FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round replay.

Given I had Tuesday and Wednesday off and with the last train leaving too soon if extra-time were required, I decided to splash out and book a hotel and take my family with me.

Arriving around 230pm on Tuesday afternoon, we checked in and then headed straight out on to the seafront. Despite a pretty stiff breeze, it was sunny so exploring the sandy beach wasn't too much of an ordeal.

Margate viewed from the entrance of the Turner Contemporary
After a quick spin around the Turner Contemporary gallery, we grabbed an early dinner before I headed off to the game.

With 'Dulwich Hamlet-like' queues to get in, as one regular described it, there was obviously quite a bit of interest in the game and with a trip to League One club Northampton Town on offer to the winners it was no surprise.

Margate play a division above Harrow so it was a bit unexpected to see the visitors have much the better of the first half and even take the lead with a fine goal from Francis Babalola shortly before the interval - with the highly rated Ibrahim Meite heavily involved in the build up.

When the hosts equalised around the hour mark, you felt they would take control and get the win but the opposite happened.

Boro raised their game, retook the lead through Lewis Driver and then wrapped it up with a third from Meite with 10 minutes to go. If they'd scored five or six it wouldn't have been undeserved as the gilt-edged chances were there.

The club now face a tough trip to Sixfields on 5 November as they make only their fourth appearance in the First Round. If you want to join the merry band of Harrow hopefuls heading up to the game, here are the details. Alternatively, just turn up on the day and pay at the turnstile although you might have to go in with the home fans.

Harrow's players celebrate with their travelling supporters after the final whistle
Elsewhere that night, QPR also picked up an impressive win over play-off contenders Bristol City although their week ended on a low note after a narrow defeat at Sheffield Wednesday. On the brightside, however, Harrow won again crushing Folkestone 4-1 to move a little further away from the relegation zone.

Apparently the Community Day at Fisher went well on Saturday and with another international break less than three weeks away, I'd like to remind clubs once again that they've got another great opportunity to try and get more people through the turnstiles. If you do come up with something at your club, let me know and I'll put it in here.

There are well almost 100 matches in the London area over the next week with the Premier League and EFL taking centre stage. The FA Trophy is back and there are games in several county and minor league cups too.

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).

Yellow pin - Monday fixtures
Green pin - Tuesday fixtures
Magenta pin - Wednesday 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.

Monday 24 October

Premier League 2

Fulham v Newcastle United @7pm - there's a good selection of U23 football on Monday with this PL2 game at Motspur Park the best on offer.

Ryman League Premier Division
Kingstonian v Worthing @745pm - the K's regular Monday night slot returns with this match against recently promoted Worthing. The Sussex club had a good start but both are now firmly in midtable.

Essex Senior League
Tower Hamlets v Clapton @745pm - despite being only a ninth-tier game, this could be the place for the best atmosphere on Monday night. Last season's match, albeit on a Friday night, attracted around 350-400 people most of them members of the lively Clapton Ultras who sang from beginning to end.


Tuesday 25 October

EFL Cup Fourth Round

Arsenal v Reading @745pm - we're down to the last 16 now and seven of the Premier League's top eight are still in, giving it one of its strongest line-ups in years. The Gunners have only won the cup twice but are currently joint favourites and should progress with ease against Championship side Reading if they take it seriously and don't field youngsters as they have done in the past.

National League
Dagenham & Redbridge v Aldershot Town @745pm - there are some big games in this division on Tuesday but this is the pick of what you can see in the London area as second plays seventh. Both are former EFL clubs (although Aldershot are a new incarnation after financial collapse) and are desperate to get back among the pro ranks. 

Ryman League Cup Second Round
Greenwich Borough v Dulwich Hamlet @745pm - this is a really intriguing tie as it pits the leaders of the Ryman 1 South against one of the biggest clubs in the division above. Greenwich won the SCEFL last season after significant investment from a new owner. However, it was noticeable that this success was achieved in front of tiny crowds. Although attendance is now up to an average of nearly 200, it's still only a fraction of what Dulwich attract every week (c. 1,000). This match could give us some indication of how good Greenwich really are and whether we'll be seeing them in the Ryman Premier next year.

Essex Senior League
Redbridge v Barking @745pm - the visitors have now opened a seven-point lead at the top and next travel to Redbridge who, despite being in midtable, have hit a decent run of form with seven points from their last three games.


Wednesday 19 October

EFL Cup Fourth Round

West Ham United v Chelsea @745pm - this derby is one of the ties of the round. The Hammers' renaissance continued on Saturday with a vital 1-0 win over fellow strugglers Sunderland. Although still far from the form they showed last season, a solid three game unbeaten run will give them some confidence against a Blues side who are still a shadow of some of the teams which have come out of Stamford Bridge over recent years.

Ryman League Premier Division
Grays Athletic v Leiston @745pm - with Grays having a very sorry time of things down at the bottom, this match is more about taking a look at the current leaders. Leiston hail from a small town of the same name in Suffolk. With just over 5,500 inhabitants, they're having a fantastic season and are unbeaten in the league after 13 games. With 38 goals, they are also the most free-scoring so it could be a very tough night for the hosts.

FA Trophy Preliminary Round
Cray Wanderers v Carshalton Athletic @745pm - this tie is being re-played after Carshalton fielded in ineligible player in the original game. These two well matched Ryman 1 South play-off contenders produced a six-goal thriller last time so hopefully we'll have some more of the same.


Friday 28 October

Queens Park Rangers v Brentford @745pm - one of the games of the week at any level is this west London derby at Loftus Road. Games between these near neighbours have been surprisingly rare with only eight competitive matches between them over the last 50 years. Back in the same division from last season, these games are among the highlights of the campaign for both sets of fans. This match is beautifully poised with the clubs locked together on 19 points and neither in any kind of form. The good news is that you can be there too as tickets are on general sale and still available.


Saturday 29 October

Premier League

Tottenham Hotspur v Leicester City @3pm - these two went head-to-head for the Premier League title last season and, as we all know, the Foxes came out on top. Unsurprisingly, Leicester have found their title defence hard and it is Spurs who are among the frontrunners again. The smart money would seem to be on Tottenham extending their unbeaten record.
Crystal Palace v Liverpool @530pm - the Eagles will be desperate to avoid a repeat of last season where they started very strongly and then died spectacularly. They made a solid start again this time but now a three-game winless run has suddenly developed. Liverpool are looking good under Jurgen Klopp and, at the time of writing, are joint top with one league defeat all season. They've also won on their last two visits to Selhurst Park and should fancy their chances this time too.
Watford v Hull City @3pm - nothing much was expected of the Hornets when they came up last season but they held their own and are in the top half again thanks to a run of one loss in six. Hull returned to the top flight this season but were in some disarray after their manager resigned and no new players were brought in. They stunned many by winning their first two but now six defeats from the following seven has left them in the bottom three. Home win.

Fulham v Huddersfield Town @3pm - if you're struggling to get a ticket for a Premier League game on Saturday, this is your next best option. Fulham, like their two west London rivals Brentford and QPR, have been the model of inconsistency this season. One week they can give a top team like Newcastle or Norwich a run for their money, the next they can lose at a crisis hit one like Aston Villa. This weekend they welcome former leaders Huddersfield who, after a mini wobble, got back into the top three with a win over Derby. Given what I've just written about the Cottagers' capabilities, they should be worried!

League One
AFC Wimbledon v Bradford City @3pm - after spending several years concentrating on simply surviving in League Two, the Dons got themselves promoted last season. Rather than struggle in the third tier, they've acquitted themselves rather well, are in the top six and going along nicely. This weekend they welcome second placed Bradford who with crowds of nearly 18,000 are way too big a club to really be in this division. Tickets are selling fast with only a few standing places on one of the terraces still available.

National League
Boreham Wood v Woking @3pm - the fact Boreham Wood are still in the National League, let alone pushing for a play-off place is quite amazing. With average crowds of 555 they are one of the minnows of the division but this doesn't seem to bother them. With three wins in a row, another triumph here will probably push them into the top eight. Woking, on the other hand, are teetering just above the relegation zone and should be there for the taking.

FA Trophy First Qualifying Round - this competition features sides playing in the fifth to eighth tiers. It is a national competition with the final at Wembley. Although this is the 'First' qualifying round, there has been a preliminary round prior to this one. The winning club in each tie receives  prize money of £2,700. At this stage, teams from the seventh tier join the draw alongside all the eighth tier teams who got through the opening round.

Enfield Town v Canvey Island @3pm - the Towners have pushed hard for promotion from the Ryman League over the last couple of years but have fallen just short. After a poor start, they're starting to get amongst things again and should be favourites against divisional rivals Canvey who are struggling.
Metropolitan Police v Brightlingsea Regent @3pm - the Met have got off to a worrying start this season and are down in the Ryman Premier relegation zone. Although playing at home, a game against one of the top sides from the Ryman 1 North will be tricky and we could well see a cupset.
Staines Town v Basingstoke Town @3pm - these sides were both in what was the Conference South until not that long ago but both have suffered relegation and are now midtable sides in the Ryman Premier and Southern Premier respectively hopefully leading to an even contest.
Hanwell Town v Bury Town @3pm - it was a bit of surprise when Bury ended up getting relegated to the Ryman 1 North but after a season of consolidation it seems they're back with nine wins from 16 propelling them to the top of their division. Hanwell, over in the parallel Southern Division 1 Central, will find this tough.
Tooting & Mitcham United v Dunstable Town @3pm - the Terrors got back to winning ways on Saturday at Sittingbourne as they moved back into the Ryman 1 South's top four. On Saturday they welcome a very useful Dunstable side who find themselves in the top five of the Southern League - which equates to 23 places above Tooting in the pyramid.


Sunday 23 October

FA Trophy First Qualifying Round
Grays Athletic v Wingate & Finchley @3pm - in terms of attendance, these two are the most poorly supported in the Ryman Premier. This is because Grays don't have their own ground and are doing badly whilst Wingate... I'm not so sure. They have a decent stadium and a great pitch, they also play good football and are in no immediate danger of relegation. They do have to contend with Arsenal, Spurs and Barnet being in their locale and they do face competition from Hendon and Enfield Town but that still shouldn't mean average crowds of only 142. Anyway, I digress. This is an all Ryman Premier tie and should provide the best quality of football on Sunday if not the atmosphere.
Kingstonian v Lewes @3pm - until last season this game would've received top billing as they were both Ryman Premier sides. However, Lewes had a shocker and got relegated to the Ryman 1 South. Despite this, I'd expect to see at least 300 at Kingsmeadow for this.

FA Women's Super League 1
Chelsea v Reading @6pm - with Manchester City having already won the title, the battle is now on to secure second place. With two games to go, if Chelsea win here then it will be theirs. In fact, with nearest rivals Arsenal having to beat Doncaster in a 2pm kick off just to keep things alive, it could all be decided before the Blues' game even begins.

FA Women's Super League 2
London Bees v Yeovil Town @2pm - although in the division below, this game is of greater significance as it will play a huge part in who wins the title. Yeovil are currently top on goal difference, just ahead of Bristol City. Third place Everton are also only two points behind and there are two games to go. A win would seem to be a must for the Glovers.

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. 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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