Sunday 27 November 2016

TLFG: 28 November - 4 December 2016

Welcome one and all to the latest edition of TLFG.

I hope you've had a good week. I actually had a few days off and managed to see not one but two games in the time available.

On Tuesday I went back to Earlsmead to watch Harrow Borough take on the rapidly improving Dulwich Hamlet in the Ryman League.

A few weeks ago, Harrow had somehow managed to win the reverse fixture at Champion Hill by a resounding 4-1 scoreline. Sadly, that performance seemed like a distant dream this time as the Hamlet cantered to a very comfortable 2-0 victory which could easily have seen them score several more.

On Thursday I pulled out my passport and headed off for a bit of European groundhopping.

The teams line up ahead of the match at the well appointed Luminus Arena

Over the years I've been to most of the continent's most famous stadiums so I now enjoy ticking off some of the more random ones.

Having suggested a few games to my fellow hoppers in the Netherlands and Germany, it was decided that the Europa League game between Genk and Rapid Vienna most appealed so that's what we went for.

To me names like these conjured up memories of growing up in the '80s when teams from virtually anywhere in Europe could win or seriously challenge for Uefa honours.

Belgian teams and their unusual names have always held a kind of romance and mystery to me - the likes of Ghent, Mechelen, Anderlecht, Club Brugge etc etc have always appealed in some way so it didn't take much to persuade me to go.

Being someone who works in the railway industry, I have the considerable perk of being able to travel all over the continent at a much reduced rate or even free in some countries, so I travelled by train.

The journey from St Pancras, with a change in Brussels, only took four-and-half hours so it was pretty easy.

Genk go close to doubling their lead

After meeting my friend Ashley, who had driven from Dusseldorf, we headed to the Luminus Arena for the evening's entertainment.

The ground is a bit like a larger and more modern version of Loftus Road with much better leg room and sight lines - in fact, QPR's proposed new stadium could do well to copy it.

With friendly staff and stewards, the visit began well.

The match itself wasn't a classic with the hosts winning 1-0 courtesy of a pretty scrappy first-half goal. The ground was also far from full but both sets of 'ultras' created a decent amount of noise so the atmosphere was good enough.

I've got another week off in February in time for the first knockout round so maybe I'll be on the rails again.

There are over 100 matches in the London area over the next week as the EFL Cup, FA Cup and FA Vase make their return. There is also action in the Premier League, EFL, National League and several minor league and county cup competitions.

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
Purple pin - Thursday 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 28 November

Premier League 2
Arsenal v Leicester City @7pm - the pick of the day's U23 matches takes place at Boreham Wood in the far north of London
Fulham v West Ham United @7pm - in the division below we've got a London derby which you might prefer as it's being played at Craven Cottage

Ryman League Division 1 North
Haringey Borough v Thamesmead Town @745pm - if it's a non-league game you're after, this is the best on offer


Tuesday 29 November

National League

Dagenham & Redbridge v Torquay United @745pm - currently fifth, the Daggers are currently London's highest ranked non-league side. The former Football League club welcome another team more used to playing in the fully professional ranks and a win could put them in the top three
Sutton United v Dover Athletic @745pm - just behind them are Dover who have been steadily improving over the last couple of season's and made the play-offs last time. With three wins on the bounce, they're going to be tough opponents for midtable Sutton
Boreham Wood v Braintree Town @745pm - we're pretty spoiled for good games in this division tonight. The hosts take on strugglers Braintree knowing a win could leave them just three points adrift of the play-off places

FA Trophy Third Qualifying Round Replay
Wealdstone v Maidenhead United @745pm - if it's cup football you want then this match should get your mouth watering. The Stones have been have had a dodgy time of late so did really well to earn a 2-2 draw at National League South leaders Maidenhead on Saturday. To illustrate how strong they are, it should be noted that the Magpies played most of the game with 10 men, so with their numbers restored it could well be a tricky night for Wealdstone

Ryman League Premier Division
Dulwich Hamlet v Metropolitan Police @745pm - after an average start to the season, the Hamlet are starting to look like contenders again. With eight wins from their last 10 matches in all competitions, they can give anyone in the division a game right now. The Met are struggling and should be defeated with relative ease
Staines Town v Enfield Town @745pm - from a London perspective, these two are currently second and third in the Ryman League standings behind Dulwich. Staines could draw level with the Champion Hill club if they win while Enfield, with games in hand on both, could ultimately surpass them both

Gordon Brasted Memorial Trophy
Barking v Clapton @745pm - this cup is fought for by members of the Essex Senior League and this East London derby is one of the ties of the round. Not only does it feature two local rivals but Barking are top of the league and looking like champions already

Surrey Senior Cup
Chertsey Town v Abbey Rangers @745pm - on the other side of London we have a very local derby between sides from neighbouring Surrey towns. Chertsey obviously come from Chertsey while Abbey hail from Addlestone but when you look on the map, their ground is pretty much in Chertsey too so they really are close

FA Youth Cup Third Round
Watford v Norwich City @7pm - if all this non-league action isn't your thing, you can watch the respective U18 sides of these two lock horns at Vicarage Road


Wednesday 30 November

EFL Cup Quarter-Final

Arsenal v Southampton @745pm - we're now down to the last eight as the domestic season's first bit of silverware starts to come into view. Given how successful they've been in the FA Cup, the Gunners haven't shone quite so brightly in this competition. With only two wins, the last way back in 1993, you'd think they were due another one soon. It all really depends on Arsene Wenger's team selection and how seriously he takes it. Southampton come into this on the back of a win over Everton and are the type of team that should be throwing everything at this cup in order to win it


Thursday 1 December

Queens Park Rangers v Wolverhampton Wanderers @745pm - wow, December already! You can get the festive month underway with a visit to Loftus Road for this televised game between two former Premier League sides who should be doing better


Saturday 3 December

Premier League
West Ham United v Arsenal @530pm - with six teams in the top flight, not many weeks go by without a derby and we've got another big one to look forward to at the London Stadium. The Hammers have had a poor season and are winless in four but they picked up a great point against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday which will no doubt raise their spirits. The Gunners, however, haven't lost in a while and historically have a far superior record in the head-to-head. It should be noted though, that they only managed to take one point off West Ham last season but Slaven Bilic's side were performing a lot better than the current bunch
Crystal Palace v Southampton @3pm - the Eagles and in particular manager Alan Pardew face a critical afternoon. With their losing run extended to six games on Saturday and now only goal difference keeping them out of the bottom three, they really must arrest their decline soon. As already mentioned, the Saints are no mugs and will start the game as favourites
Tottenham Hotspur v Swansea City @3pm - Spurs finally lost their unbeaten record at Chelsea on Saturday but they've got a great chance to bounce back with this game against the struggling Swans. The Welsh club have been poor this season but even they managed to beat Palace this weekend to show just how troubled the Selhurst Park outfit are

Fulham v Reading @3pm - if you're struggling to get a ticket for any of the above then this game offers a great alternative. Any game between Reading and one of the division's trio of west London clubs qualifies as a derby as the Royals are only 25ish miles west of the capital. Likely to travel in significant numbers, their fans should produce a decent atmosphere to cheer on their team who are currently third after winning five on the trot

FA Cup Second Round - at this stage of the competition the remaining League One, League Two and non-league clubs do battle for the big prize of a third round draw potentially against one of the biggest clubs in the country 

Charlton Athletic v MK Dons @3pm - the Addicks took a very tidy point off promotion contenders Sheffield United on Saturday so they should fancy their chances of progressing against MK Dons who are struggling towards the foot of the League One table
Sutton United v Cheltenham Town @3pm - the U's wrote their name into FA Cup history back in 1989 when they beat then top-flight side Coventry City in a third round tie. Cheltenham won the National League title last season but have struggled to adapt to life back in League Two and are well and truly there for the taking

National League South
Dartford v Poole Town @3pm - currently fifth and sixth with only goal difference separating them, these play-off contenders should produce one of the matches of the day at this level

Ryman League Premier Division
Staines Town v Havant & Waterlooville @3pm - as mentioned above, Staines are one of London's main contenders in the division this season. On Saturday they welcome the current leaders who have responded really well following relegation from the National League South
Hendon v Enfield Town @3pm - elsewhere we've got a north London derby to enjoy at the Greens' new Silver Jubilee Park ground

FA Vase Third Round - at this stage of this national competition for sides predominantly in the ninth and 10th tiers, we're down to the last 64 teams. The winners of each tie pocket a cheque for £975 and move one step closer to a dream Wembley final in May

Abbey Rangers v Eastbourne Town @3pm - Abbey only moved into the 10th tier last season and after winning an instant promotion are up in the Combined Counties Premier. It's quite an achievement to have also have got this far in the Vase. Their East Sussex opponents play at a similar level so it should be pretty close
Croydon v Glebe @3pm - the Trams welcome fellow SCEFL members Glebe to the Croydon Arena. Although the visitors play in the division below, they're challenging for promotion and will fancy their chances
FC Romania v Tring Athletic @3pm - not normally covered by this blog, FC Romania are playing this match at AFC Hornchurch's ground so make the list for one week only. Technically gifted, the Essex Senior League side are usually good to watch but Tring aren't a bad side themselves
Sun Sports v Hoddesdon Town @3pm - only a couple of places separate these Hertfordshire rivals in the SSML table so we should get another evenly matched tie here
Wembley v Peterborough Sports @3pm - it would be quite something if the side from Vale Farm ended up playing at the national stadium but with Peterborough currently top of the United Counties League, the draw has not been kind to them


Sunday 4 December

FA Cup Second Round

Millwall v Braintree Town @2pm - in National League strugglers Braintree, the Lions couldn't have hoped for a much better draw. Now back in decent form in League One, Millwall's main problem should be complacency

FA Vase Third Round
Sutton Common Rovers v Corinthian @3pm - the 3G pitch at Gander Green Lane plays host to two important cup ties this weekend with groundsharers SCR hoping that they and Sutton United both take a step closer to Wembley

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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