Sunday 19 March 2017

TLFG: 20-26 March 2017

Greetings one and all and welcome to the latest edition of TLFG.

Two words ring out loudly this week and for many football fans they are words of dread!

The 18 letters that make up the accursed phrase 'international break' send waves of loathing and boredom through the hearts and souls of vast numbers of supporters. Stripped of their regular dose of action, fans of the country's biggest clubs think that the beautiful game goes into hibernation for a few days and are regularly heard to say they hate the period because there's 'no football on'.

This is as much a sad reflection on the parlous state of the national team, which clearly inspires so little fervour, as it is a myopic view of the fans themselves.

Despite the Premier League and Championship having time off, we still have over 80 games to look forward to including some international fixtures not involving England.

Tickets for both are on sale now
Yes you heard that right, because on Thursday and next Monday you'll be able to catch African giants Nigeria play friendlies against neighbours Senegal and Burkina Faso. All three are currently ranked in the world's top 50 and boast a number of players from the biggest leagues in the world. Both games take place at The Hive, home of Barnet, which is just a short Tube ride from Wembley on the Jubilee Line (Canons Park is the nearest station). Tickets are only £10 so it looks like pretty good value. I'm hoping to be at the Senegal game. Thanks at this point should also go to TLFG reader Steve who tipped me off that they were taking place or I may well have missed it.

England's match against Lithuania at Wembley is the biggest of the week so if you're in town and were hoping to see a Premier League game then this is the best alternative. The cheapest remaining tickets appear to be £45.

Aside from these games, there are some excellent non-league options. With the regular season ending in late April for many clubs, the promotion and relegation issues are starting to heat up.

The latest video from 'Two Men In Search...' sees them visit Charlton

In other news, Saturday saw the line-up for Non-League Finals Day confirmed with Cleethorpes Town and South Shields meeting in the FA Vase final and Macclesfield Town and York City in the FA Trophy. The event is still over two months away on 21 May but tickets are on sale now - at only £25 for adults and £1 for kids, it's a great value way to spend a whole day at Wembley.

Lastly this week, we are lucky once again to have a blog from 'Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game' who paid a visit to The Valley to watch Charlton Athletic take on Scunthorpe United. Give it a read here

Right, I think that's it from me. Don't let the international break get you down, get out there and explore another part of what the London football scene has to offer and let me know what you find.

There are over 80 matches in the London area over the next week with international action at Wembley, games in the 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 20 March

Professional Development League
Crystal Palace v Bolton Wanderers @1pm - the day begins with a fine selection of U23 games all of which are taking place at the respective clubs' main stadiums. The pick is probably this match at Selhurst Park as it will let you visit a Premier League ground for a fraction of the normal price. There are also games at The Valley (Charlton) and The Den (Millwall) which kick-off at lunchtime as well

National League South
Wealdstone v Concord Rangers @745pm - the best of the non-league action is to be found at Grosvenor Vale where the Stones will hope for three points against lowly Concord in their quest to make the play-offs

Ryman League Premier Division
Dulwich Hamlet v Kingstonian @745pm - the hosts have three home matches this week as they look to push into the play-off places. Five points adrift at the moment, they begin against the K's whose poor form has suddenly seen them sucked into a relegation battle. This match is taking place in close proximity to all of the U23 matches happening earlier in the day so would make for a fine 'double'


Tuesday 21 March

Professional Development League

Watford v Leeds United @7pm - there's one U23 game on on Tuesday and it's at the Hornets' Vicarage Road ground so well worth a visit if you've not been before

National League
Boreham Wood v Lincoln City @745pm - if you'd rather see a game of real significance then this non-league match a short drive from Watford sees The Wood entertain FA Cup heroes Lincoln who are currently top of the league and looking to get back into the EFL

National League South
Dartford v Margate @745pm - in the division below there's an all-Kent clash as the Darts look to strengthen their grip on a play-off place and even keep their outside hopes of the title alive. Margate are bottom and effectively down already, being 13 points adrift with eight to play

Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division
Cockfosters v Sun Sports @745pm - Cockfosters have had a fine season and will go joint second with victory against another one of our local sides. With eight games to go, the 12-point lead top club London Colney have over them is almost certainly too much but you never know...


Wednesday 22 March

Ryman League Premier Division
Dulwich Hamlet v Havant & Waterlooville @745pm - the second of the Hamlet's trio of games is the biggest and comes in the form of title contenders H&W. Relegated from the NLS last season, they were top until Harrow beat them on Tuesday and allowed Bognor to re-take control. From a seventh-tier perspective, this is box office stuff and a crowd easily in excess of 1,000 should be present


Thursday 23 March

International friendly
Nigeria v Senegal @8pm - given its cosmopolitan population, London is frequently used by overseas nations for friendlies. Commonwealth countries like Australia, Ghana and South Africa have been among those to have done so in the past alongside the likes of Brazil who seem to use Arsenal's Emirates Stadium as a second home. Nigeria's Super Eagles also have a strong tradition of playing in the capital too and this match against West African neighbours Senegal should be highly entertaining. The match is being played at The Hive, home of Barnet and tickets are only £10


Saturday 25 March

League One
AFC Wimbledon v Southend United @3pm - with all the capital's biggest clubs having a rest over the international break, the Dons' match against the Shrimpers takes top billing on Saturday. Southend, if you don't know, is a seaside town just to the east of London so there should be a bit of derby feel to this one. The Essex club are also fighting hard with Millwall to secure a play-off place

League Two
Barnet v Cheltenham Town @3pm - defeat to Notts County on Saturday pretty much ended the Bees' season (if hadn't already). Winless in seven and well away from the promotion and relegation places, there's only really pride left to play for. Cheltenham, however, still need to make sure they get enough points to avoid the drop

National League
Dagenham & Redbridge v York City @3pm - the best the NL has to offer is this promotion/relegation match-up. With four defeats in six, the Daggers are suffering a wobble at a really inopportune time. With the leaders starting to edge away and the chasing pack creeping up, they need to be careful that they don't miss out on a top-five finish. York, fresh from upsetting Lincoln in the FA Trophy semi-finals to book a place at Wembley, are in a perilous position near the bottom but are there because they draw too many games. With only two defeats in 10, they could be tough to beat

National League South
Hampton & Richmond Borough v Ebbsfleet United @3pm - there's a big game at the Beveree between two sides chasing promotion. The hosts, after a great start to the season, are now left targeting the final play-off place after poor results saw them slide to seventh. The gap is only five points and with only two defeats in 10, they've got a reasonable chance of doing it. If they beat title contenders Ebbsfleet then things will look very positive indeed

Ryman League Premier Division
Dulwich Hamlet v Billericay Town @3pm - this fixture has become a lot more interesting over the last few weeks. A casual glance at the table shows you that these two have a good chance of making the play-offs but there's now an added spice to this game. Dulwich, through hard work and some great volunteer-led marketing, have grown to become the biggest club in the league in a relatively short three to four-year period. Crowds average 1,273 which is double what anyone else gets and is a huge amount for a seventh-tier side. Billericay have been a solid Ryman League club for a while and even enjoyed a brief spell in the Conference South but attendances of 300-400 are far more common. Recently they've been taken over by an ambitious new owner/manager who seems keen to splash the cash and has brought former England defender Paul Konchesky into the squad as a statement of intent. You'd be hard pushed to find two clubs with more contrasting approaches

Ryman League Division 1 North
Haringey Borough v Brightlingsea Regent @3pm - after a pretty tough return to the Ryman League, it's really pleasing to see the Borough doing so well this time. The only club to truly play on White Hart Lane, they are massively overshadowed by near neighbours Spurs but manage to keep going. Always keen to try and do new things to improve their lot, they've installed a 3G pitch this season and are up in fifth despite crowds of just over 100. Brightlingsea were only founded in 2005 and have progressed well. Currently nine points clear at the top, promotion looks a certainty

Ryman League Division 1 South
Greenwich Borough v Lewes @3pm - most would now concede that it's become a two-horse race for the title, leaving the rest to scrap for as a high a finish as possible to get home advantage in the one-legged play-off games. Greenwich are currently third while Lewes are seventh. The Sussex club are one of the biggest in the division and were in what is now the National League not all that long ago. Relegated, somewhat surprisingly, to this level last season they are well positioned to try and grab that all-important fifth place


Sunday 26 March

World Cup qualifier
England v Lithuania @5pm - the biggest match of the week comes right at the end when the Three Lions go in search of three points against Baltic minnows Lithuania at Wembley. Gareth Southgate's side are currently two points clear at the top of a group they should win with ease - only second-placed Slovenia have so far managed to take a point off them. Tickets are still available with the cheapest remaining ones in the £45 bracket

Women's FA Cup Quarter-Final
Chelsea v Sunderland @2pm - in the day's other game at Staines Town, the Blues' women's team face their counterparts from Sunderland for a place in the last four of the cup

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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