Monday 27 March 2017

TLFG: 27 March - 2 April 2017

So how was the international break for you? Not too boring I hope.

The England game on Sunday seemed pretty dull but they got the all-important win so I guess that's the main thing.

As I mentioned last week, I had hoped to go to The Hive on Thursday for the friendly between Nigeria and Senegal. Thankfully everything came together and I made my first visit to Barnet's new home which I was quite impressed with.

Easy to get to by Tube, the ground is located amidst acres of football fields and sporting facilities and is smart, clean and compact.

After joining a reasonably lengthy but well marshalled queue for tickets, myself and a Senegalese friend found ourselves on the South Stand for a tenner and within touching distance of the action.

Free entry at Tooting & Mitcham on Saturday - what a bargain!

I was surprised to learn that my mate, despite having lived for many years in Paris and London and being quite a decent player himself, had never actually been to a proper match as a spectator and was duly rather excited.

The crowd behind the goal was a real mixture of people - apart from fans of the two sides, there was a core of Barnet's regular supporters, a group of Liverpool fans of largely Asian heritage and several hardcore football addicts the type of which read this blog!

I ended up next to someone who my mate explained to me was actually a singer of some reknown back in Senegal so pictures were taken as a fun night ensued.

With all the terrible things that had happened in Westminster the day before, this game and the united crowd was the perfect antidote and any glumness that was there was temporarily forgotten about during those couple of hours within the stadium.

The game itself, like most friendlies, wasn't a classic but there were some top players on show, we got a couple of goals (1-1) and some outrageous misses so we weren't short on entertainment as most people went home happy. It is also worth noting that Barnet offered all ticket holders free entry to their match against Cheltenham two days later which was a cracking deal and I was very tempted to take them up on it (they won 3-1). 

For a far more in-depth review of proceedings check out 'The Football Journey' - this new blog by a young writer from south London has only been going for a few weeks but has plenty of content already so check it out.

'Two Men In Search...' pay a visit to Brentford

It should also be mentioned that Nigeria were set to play Burkina Faso (BF) in another friendly on Monday (27 March) but this was cancelled over the weekend as not enough of the BF players could get visas so I know there will be some disappointed people. Although there are some alternative games in the capital that day, they are not of the same calibre.

Looking ahead I'd like to give a special mention to Tooting & Mitcham United at this point. The Terrors, current Ryman League Division 1 South leaders, are holding a community fun day on Saturday and are offering FREE ENTRY to everyone for the visit of South Park. Their ground is one of the best the London non-league scene has to offer so definitely pay them a visit if you're at a loose end.

Talking of prolific bloggers, 'Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game' have been at it again and have a review of their trip to Brentford ready for you to enjoy so give that a read/watch too.

Lastly from me - a couple of weeks ago I mentioned that some of my fellow QPR fans were doing a walk to raise funds for the club's team for kids with Down's syndrome. I'm pleased to report that they raked in nearly £13,000 which is pushing the total raised to nearly £100,000 since we started the annual event back in 2010. Well done all!

There are over 80 matches in the London area over the next week with games 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
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 27 March

Ryman League Division 1 North
Aveley v Bury Town @745pm - the main draw tonight was supposed to be the friendly between Nigeria and Burkina Faso at Barnet but following its cancellation this is the next best alternative. Sadly it doesn't really compare but if a midtable eighth-tier match near Lakeside shopping centre might be able to fill the gap then please give it a go. One other point of note - Mill Field, Aveley's home since 1951, is to close at the end of the season so this will be one of its final games

Gordon Brasted Memorial Trophy Quarter-Final
Wadham Lodge v Waltham Forest @745pm - up in E17 it's time for a Walthamstow derby between two clubs who groundshare. Both sides have little to play for in the Essex Senior League so this could be the only bit of silverware either of them have a realistic chance of winning


Tuesday 28 March

League One

AFC Wimbledon v Rochdale @745pm - following defeat to promotion-chasing Southend on Saturday, the Dons have another tough game against a team looking to go up. Although in eighth, Dale are finding wins hard to come by managing only two in 10 as the draws have held them back. However, they have a 100% win record at Kingsmeadow and have netted five in the two games they've played there

National League
Sutton United v Lincoln City @745pm - the currently two most famous non-league teams in the country do battle at Gander Green Lane on Tuesday. After making it to the fifth round and quarter-finals of the FA Cup respectively and both being knocked out by Arsenal, these two have delighted and thrilled many neutrals over the last few months. The U's need the points to make sure of avoiding relegation while the Imps are top of the league but only on goal difference and arrive having beaten co-leaders Forest Green on Saturday. Big game!

Kent Senior Cup Semi-Final
Welling United v Charlton Athletic @745pm - over in south-east London we have an attractive derby in the county cup. The hosts play in the sixth tier and would normally start as underdogs against the League One Addicks but given this is only a county cup game, the visitors are only likely to field a development side of U23 players and maybe one or two first-team squad members. Tickets have been reduced to £10 for adults but it should still be well worth 90 minutes of your time if you're in the area


Wednesday 29 March

Ryman League Division 1 South
Cray Wanderers v Herne Bay @745pm - the season is over for these two with promotion and relegation of no concern for either. Go and watch this if you want to see the oldest club in the London area - Cray claim to have been founded in 1860


Friday 31 March

Ryman League Division 1 North
Aveley v VCD Athletic @745pm - similar to the game on Monday, there's not a lot riding on this but it's a nice bit of Friday night football and there'll only be two games left at Mill Field after this one


Saturday 1 April

Premier League
Chelsea v Crystal Palace @3pm - the Premier League returns with this London derby featuring teams with very different priorities. The Blues need the win to cement their lead at the top while Palace have won three in a row to edge out of the dreaded bottom three. The odds are heavily stacked against the visitors but they did win at Stamford Bridge last season so it's not impossible
Watford v Sunderland @3pm - with only two wins from their last 10 the Hornets still can't quite say they're out of the relegation fight. They are seven points above the relegation zone but with sides like Leicester, Palace and Swansea all showing signs of resurgence just below them, they could easily find themselves in difficulty. In this context, a win against bottom club Sunderland is an absolute must

Brentford v Bristol City @3pm - if you can't get or don't want a ticket for either of the above, the go-to next best option for many TLFG readers over the last two or three years has been Brentford. Playing in a compact, old-school ground with a pub on every corner, a trip to watch the Bees is an attractive one. Given its size, Griffin Park is usually close to capacity and generates a good atmosphere. Unusually for the Championship, it also has terracing behind the goals so you can stand. Survival for another season at this level is almost assured but the same can't be said for City who are only a point above the bottom three. The Robins' home town of Bristol is a big place and dominates the western region of England yet it hasn't boasted a top-flight club since City were relegated in 1980 something which must make them one of the biggest underachievers in the country.

League One
Millwall v Scunthorpe United @3pm - things are starting to go a bit wrong for the Lions. After seeing their lengthy unbeaten run ended emphatically by Spurs in the FA Cup, they've gone three without a win in the league. Luckily they haven't suffered too badly and are still only three points adrift of the play-off places with a game in hand. Scunthorpe were top a while back but went on a very poor run to drop back down but two wins in three have seen them climb back to fourth so this will be important for both

League Two
Leyton Orient v Wycombe Wanderers @3pm - watching the O's struggles from the outside has been hard so it must be really bad if you actually do support them. Saturday saw another morale sapping defeat which left them seven points adrift of safety with seven games to go. It's the off pitch side of things which has really taken its toll as financial and managerial problems have left a young and inexperienced squad who haven't got the tools to cope with the current situation. Wycombe, a club just beyond the north-western border of London, are in with a shout of promotion again and will start as firm favourites

National League
Dagenham & Redbridge v Eastleigh @3pm - the Daggers scraped a vital 1-0 win over lowly York on Saturday to keep themselves in the top four of what has become a very tight promotion race. Only 10 points separate the top eight clubs with only two points between the top three. Only one side goes up automatically while the next four play-off meaning a real scramble for points should now ensue with just over a month of the regular season left to play. Eastleigh in 11th are effectively nowhere and would have fancied themselves to have done better this term - they could still give the nervy hosts an uncomfortable afternoon though

National League South
Hampton & Richmond Borough v Chelmsford City @3pm - although Hampton did well to hold title contenders Ebbsfleet to a creditable 1-1 draw on Saturday, they now face an uphill task to make the top five as current incumbents Poole and Chelmsford both won to pull further away. The Essex club are up next, knowing a win could make that play-off place all but certain

Ryman League Premier Division
Enfield Town v Bognor Regis Town @3pm - there's plenty at stake at Donkey Lane this weekend as the seemingly perennial play-off chasing Towners welcome the league leaders from Sussex. As local rivals Havant & Waterlooville have faltered over the last two weeks, the Rocks have opened a four-point lead and will be keen to maintain it as they head for north London. Enfield took a point home from their visit to the south coast in January so shouldn't be overawed

Ryman League Division 1 North
Thurrock v Haringey Borough @3pm - the hosts enjoyed a useful 1-0 win at promotion rivals Cheshunt on Saturday which kept them in fourth and allowed Haringey to remain, despite a spirited defeat to league leaders Brightlingsea, in fifth. Another win here would put them on the verge of securing a play-off spot and possibly leave Haringey as low as eighth so it's an important one for both

Ryman League Division 1 South
Tooting & Mitcham United v South Park @3pm - fancy a bargain? Well Imperial Fields is the place to be this Saturday as everyone is being let in for free as part of the club's Community Fun Day. Not only this but TMU are also top of the league and looking good for promotion. Their amazing 14-game winning run came to an end at Horsham on Saturday but what is even more amazing is that fact that despite all that success they are still only six points clear of Dorking Wanderers who have a game in hand. In other words, the title race is far from over

Combined Counties League Premier Division
Chertsey Town v Hartley Wintney @3pm - Alwyns Lane could witness the visitors reclaim the CCL title with five games to spare. Denied promotion last year because their ground wasn't up to scratch, Hartley Wintney have been brilliant again and are 20 points clear at the time of writing. Given their massive goal difference over second-placed Westfield (+86 to +40), they only need to draw this to be crowned champions. In fact, if Westfield fail to win at Abbey Rangers (less than a mile from Chertsey) then Hartley will claim the title whatever

Combined Counties League Division 1
Banstead Athletic v Redhill @3pm - the hosts sealed promotion with a 5-0 win at Worcester Park on Saturday but the title is still up for grabs. Redhill, back in third, are their only challengers as they have seven games to go while second placed Chessington only have one game left. Even with Redhill having two games in hand, Banstead's lead is still significant and a win here should realistically end the contest

Southern Counties East League Division 1
Glebe v Sutton Athletic @3pm - it's second versus fourth at Foxbury Avenue and with four games in hand on top club Rusthall and being only a point behind, a win for Glebe will be highly significant. With only the top two going up, the season's over for Sutton

FA Women's Super League 2
London Bees v Sheffield FC @7pm - with the afternoon's action out of the way, you can spend your evening at The Hive watching some women's football. A short journey away on the Jubilee Line, this could very easily be combined with the Ryman League game between Hendon and Tonbridge Angels which kicks-off at 3pm


Sunday 2 April

Premier League
Arsenal v Manchester City @4pm - the week ends with a monster of a game at the Emirates Stadium as two of the top flight's biggest clubs do battle. It should be a good game but realistically both have little chance of winning the title being 19 and 12 points behind Chelsea respectively. This match is more about securing a Champions League place, something City should ultimately manage but for the first time in goodness knows how long Arsenal might not

EFL Trophy Final
Coventry City v Oxford United @230pm - tickets for the above will be very hard or very expensive for non-members to get so you could head to Wembley instead for this cup final. Traditionally a competition reserved for League One and League Two sides, U23 teams from some Premier League and Championship sides were added to the draw this year to help the development of young players. Unpopular with clubs and supporters, crowds were tiny and all the academy sides went out long before the final. Instead we have the 1987 FA Cup winners against the 1986 EFL Cup winners as two sides who were much better in the '80s head to the national stadium. The attendance should be pretty substantial but tickets are still available on general sale at either end of the ground and are available through each club's website

FA Women's Super League 2
Millwall Lionesses v Everton @2pm - the pick of the day's women's action is to be found at Fisher's ground in Rotherhithe where the Lionesses go in search of their first win of the new season

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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