Sunday 2 October 2016

TLFG: 3-9 October 2016

"Saturday, what a day" - as the theme tune to Happy Days used to tell us.

For me, it was one of the best Saturdays for a long time despite having to get up at 3.45am for work!

However, the good thing about that was that it got me out in time to actually watch a live game but more on that later.

As a QPR fan, one of the main events of the season is the derby with west London rivals Fulham. Yesterday we came up against them in a lunchtime game (meaning I couldn't go), with many Rangers fans expecting the worst.

Not only have the Cottagers completely dominated us in recent years with several wins by four goals or more, we were heading into the game on the back of yet another unwelcome scandal, still to be proven, this time surrounding our manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. 

The Dutchman's name has been dragged through the mud this week after corruption allegations were made about him in the Daily Telegraph (all vigorously denied by JFH). With recent results having also been iffy, many QPR fans had their knives sharpened and were ready and happy to give him the boot, especially if Fulham got one over on us again.

Harrow Borough (red) go close during their FA Cup match against Winchester
What transpired was quite remarkable. The hosts were awarded but then missed an early penalty. QPR took the lead through a striker who hasn't been able to score for toffee since signing in January. Fulham equalised through an even more ineffectual frontman before Rangers weathered some heavy pressure and then nicked a late goal to lead 2-1. But the drama didn't end there as the Cottagers won and then missed another penalty with the final kick of the game. Cue scenes of wild celebration in the away end!

While all this was going on, I was making my way out to the suburbs of north-west London where I grew up to go and watch Harrow Borough, my other football love, host Winchester City in the third qualifying round of the FA Cup.

Things start to get serious at this stage of the competition with clubs well aware that only 180 minutes of football separate them from the First Round Proper and ties against the likes of former Premier League clubs like Bolton Wanderers, Charlton Athletic and Sheffield United. 

With £7,500 up for grabs just for winning Saturday's tie, the money on offer in the FA Cup is huge to sides who play further down the pyramid.

On paper Harrow were the stronger team, playing a level above their opponents who had made a not inconsiderable journey up from Hampshire.

However, it was the visitors who took an early lead from the penalty spot and then went on to have much the better of the first half to lead 1-0 at the interval.

Whether the conditions or the slope on Harrow's pitch played a part I don't know but the second half was almost one-way traffic with Boro pushing for an equaliser.

Member of a trade union? You'll get in for £4 at Dulwich on Saturday
Despite seeming to have most of the play, they didn't really create any great chances until the closing stages when Shaun Preddie equalised from a corner and then Ibrahim Meite won it deep into injury time with a composed finish from a cross.

When I used to watch Harrow regularly, they were always woeful in the FA Cup but they've done pretty well over recent years reaching the First Round in 2010 (losing to Chesterfield) and the Fourth Qualifying Round again two years ago.

With all the National League sides entering at the next stage, there are going to be some big names waiting to be picked in Monday's draw. With the competition still regionalised at this point, Harrow won't be able to draw Tranmere Rovers but former Football League clubs like Dagenham & Redbridge, Aldershot, Maidstone and Torquay are all a possibility as is a derby against local arch rivals Wealdstone which would be quite something!

Well that was my Saturday - I hope yours was good too.

Next weekend I'm intending to go to Dulwich Hamlet v Bognor Regis Town. There's another international break and the hosts are offering a special deal to get new people in. Harrow Borough have also got something planned too - see the Daily Digest towards the foot of the page for the details.

Talking of Dulwich, our friends at 'Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game' recently went to check out their game against Hendon - you can read about it here.

Despite there being an international break there are still 90 matches in the London area over the next week with a World Cup qualifier and games in the EFL, FA Cup, FA Trophy and several county and minor league cups.

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 3 October

Essex Senior League

Tower Hamlets v Sporting Bengal United @745pm - there's only one game on but it's a bit of treat as the two inhabitants of Mile End Stadium meet for this local East End derby


Tuesday 4 October

Checkatrade Trophy - this competition features League One, League Two and, controversially, U23 sides from 16 Premier League and Championship clubs. We're still at the group stage at the moment and tickets are very cheap with adult tickets at between £5-10 for most games.

AFC Wimbledon v Plymouth Argyle @745pm - the Dons have voiced very strong concerns about the introduction of U23 sides to this competition and even urged their fans to stay away from their last match. This one should be a bit better attended as it's against, in their view, a more bone fide opponent. They're also enjoying a decent unbeaten run at the moment but nothing like that of League Two leaders Argyle who have only lost once this season
Millwall v Gillingham @745pm - with the Gills located just outside south-east London this is effectively a derby. Last season these two were promotion rivals and you'd expect them to do well again this time but neither have really got going yet

National League
Bromley v Woking @745pm - this match already has the feel of a relegation 'six-pointer' about it as both have made disappointing starts. Given this is a national division, this can fairly be described as a derby too as the Cards are another club who live just outside TLFG's catchment area

FA Cup Third Qualifying Round Replay
Egham Town v Faversham Town @745pm - with the fourth qualifying round draw taking place on Monday, the winners of this should know who their opponent will be. With several former Football League clubs in the draw, it could mean a big payday for the victors

Combined Counties League Cup
Raynes Park Vale v Colliers Wood United @745pm - it's A3 derby time again and it's already the second meeting of the season for these two local rivals. The last match just over a month ago ended in a 2-2 draw

Essex Senior League
Barking v Barkingside @745pm - as the names would suggest these two don't play a million miles apart so it's a derby. It's also a good chance to take a look at Barking who have recently moved into top spot


Wednesday 5 October

FA Cup Third Qualifying Round Replay
Hadley v Eastbourne Borough @745pm - the match of the night, for me, takes place up in Barnet where ninth tier Hadley have done amazingly well to get to this stage of the competition (a club record). Having drawn with their sixth-tier opponents away from home on Saturday, it would be quite a story if they made it through here

Ryman League Division 1 South
Walton Casuals v Dorking Wanderers @745pm - the Stags are spending this season groundsharing with Whyteleafe which is a whopping 16 miles (25km) from where they're from. Despite this upheaval, they've made a good start and welcome the current league leaders on Wednesday

Southern Counties East League Premier Division
Croydon v AFC Croydon Athletic @745pm - there seems to be loads of good derbies this week and this is no exception with the visitors already four points clear in the SCEFL


Friday 7 October

U23 Professional Development League
Queens Park Rangers v Nottingham Forest @2pm - if it's a lunchtime bargain you're after, get along to Loftus Road for 2pm where it's free to get in

Southern Counties East League Division 1
Holmesdale v FC Elmstead @745pm - get your weekend underway with some Friday night football down near Bromley. It's a midtable clash but the clubs groundshare meaning there will be that little bit more at stake


Saturday 8 October

World Cup Qualifier

England v Malta @5pm - the post-Sam Allardyce era begins in earnest this week with the Three Lions taking on one of Europe's smaller nations at Wembley. It should be a cakewalk even for this England side and tickets are still available

League Two
Leyton Orient v Portsmouth @3pm - with it being an international break, this is only EFL game taking place in the capital but it's a pretty decent one with Pompey likely to bring a large following

National League
Sutton United v Woking @3pm - newly promoted Sutton were up with the leaders a few weeks ago but have become a bit inconsistent and have dropped back into midtable. However, a win in this Surrey derby could put them back in contention for a play-off place

National League South
Hampton & Richmond Borough v Poole Town @3pm - I saw the Beavers in action on Non-League Day and was very impressed as they took St Albans apart. They've kept things going nicely and are second going into this match against another top-five side

Ryman League Premier Division
Dulwich Hamlet v Bognor Regis Town @3pm - these sides last met in last season's play-off semi-finals which Dulwich won. So far this season, Bognor have made the brighter start but it should be close. A big crowd is expected, especially as the hosts are holding a 'Trade Union Day' so if you're a member of a union and turn up with your membership card you'll get in for just £4.
Harrow Borough v Billericay Town @1pm - the other deal of the day is to be found at Earlsmead where kick-off has been brought forward to allow anyone with a ticket for England v Malta to pop down there first (it's a five-minute train ride from Wembley) and get in for £5.

FA Trophy Preliminary Round - this knock-out cup competition, with its final at Wembley in May, is contested by teams in the fifth to eighth tiers. This is the opening round and features sides from the eighth tier only. 

VCD Athletic v Greenwich Borough @3pm - the hosts had a great couple of seasons a few years back and climbed from the Kent League up to the Ryman Premier in quick time. They lost their manager and went back down to the Ryman North. Greenwich play in the parallel Ryman South and are the new team on the up, something made possible by some recent big investment from new owners. They are a club to watch but won the SCEFL title last season with virtually no-one watching - they must be careful to do things sustainably or they will almost certainly become another non-league boom/bust club
Chipstead v Kempston Rovers @3pm - like the FA Cup, the Trophy allows teams to come up against sides they would never normally play. On Saturday the Chips welcome last season's United Counties League champions who have made a flying start to life in the Southern League. With only one defeat in 10 league games so far, they are going to be tough to beat
Whyteleafe v Cheshunt @3pm - with the Leafe making a disappointing start, this game is again more about the visitors who are well placed to mount a play-off challenge in the Ryman North


Sunday 9 October

FA Trophy Preliminary Round
Cray Wanderers v Carshalton Athletic @3pm - this tie between two sides from the Ryman South looks like a fine way to end the week. Not only are they from the same division but they're just two points apart in sixth and seventh so appear well matched too


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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