Monday, 24 April 2017

TLFG: 24 April - 1 May 2017

At this time of year, with the season drawing to a close, emotions can run high.

Saturday was a turbulent one for mine which were put through the wringer as I followed the progress of Harrow Borough via a mobile phone as I spent the afternoon visiting relatives in Bristol.

As regular readers may know, I've been going to watch the Boro on and off since 1988 and although they've spent most of that time flirting with relegation, they've somehow always avoided it - some escapes have been truly miraculous with a 5-1 away win on the final day at a decent Windsor & Eton side in the early '90s being one of the most notable.

As recently as the 18 March, Harrow were sitting snugly in midtable after a solid 3-1 win at AFC Sudbury and another season in the Ryman League Premier Division looked certain. But then it all went wrong as Steve Baker's side failed to win any of the following eight fixtures meaning they found themselves two points above the relegation zone going into the final game - a very tough and long trip to Lowestoft Town.


This week 'Two Men In Search...' review the Ryman League Cup Final

There were eight teams in the relegation mixer at the start of the day and only two places in the bottom four still 'up for grabs' with Sudbury and Grays already down. There were several teams between us and the dotted line of doom who would surely slip up and go down instead of us.

When I logged on shortly before 5pm I noticed we had unsurprisingly lost 2-0 but were 'safe'. However, two crucial games at Burgess Hill and Hendon were still in progress.

At that point Canvey Island had been confirmed as relegation casualties and Burgess Hill were filling the final relegation spot after conceding a late equaliser against Merstham. Hendon were trailing to Staines but their game had kicked off 75 minutes late after the referee had been held up in traffic!!!

With just seconds to go, old rivals but very much friends, Harrow and Hendon were safe no matter what happened in their games and then it came... a 98th-minute winner for Burgess Hill. What the time was added on for I don't know but its significance was massive for two sides from north-west London.

Hendon dropped down into the relegation zone and Harrow stayed above them by virtue of having a goal difference that was just one better. Now we just had to hope and pray that Staines could hold out for the entire second half as a solitary goal and a draw would be enough for Hendon to stay up at Harrow's expense. Sadly the Swans' second half resistance lasted all of a few seconds as the Greens equalised almost from the kick-off.

Nothing further happened and with the game ending 1-1, Harrow Borough were relegated for the first time since the 1970s.

For a season which had included the highs of reaching the FA Cup First Round and playing Northampton Town, beating eventual Ryman League champions Havant & Waterlooville, stuffing Dulwich Hamlet 4-1 at Champion Hill and seeing our star player turn pro with Cardiff City, it ended on the darkest note I've experienced in nearly 30 years of following the club.

Tickets for the FA Vase and FA Trophy doubleheader at Wembley on 21 May are on sale now
With crowds struggling to break the 200 barrier for several years now, I fear for the future of a club which hasn't been hugely proactive in trying to build its supporter base. I know there are good reasons for this but it is an acute problem that needs to be addressed.

What happens to Steve Baker is an interesting question. He pulled off one of the great escapes when he came in two years ago and the football his side were playing less than six weeks ago was more than good enough for this level but can he really be kept on after presiding over this?

I personally hope Harrow transfer across to the Southern League next season so they can make a completely fresh start and play derbies against the likes of Hayes & Yeading, Hanwell, Northwood and Uxbridge rather than face long journeys to Essex and Suffolk every other week in the Ryman North.

Ho hum. In other news, QPR did their best to destroy my love for football too by losing 3-1 at Brentford to keep themselves firmly in the competition to win a relegation spot from the Championship!

Being five points clear with two games to play, their chances of survival look reasonable but a lot could hinge on their next match against fellow strugglers Nottingham Forest.

There was also sad news at Brisbane Road where Leyton Orient confirmed their inevitable relegation from the EFL after a 112-year stint. Sadly there are more problems facing the club than just those on the pitch so the future doesn't look great in that part of east London.

On the bright side, Tooting & Mitcham United finally got their hands on the Ryman League Division 1 South title despite losing at main challengers Dorking Wanderers on the final day. That result meant they finished first on goal difference alone as both sides amassed a staggering 105 points each. I hope for Wanderers' sake that they don't ultimately end up losing to Hastings who finished 23 points behind them in fifth!


The coming week doesn't have as many matches as normal but we've got lots of play-off games and a few cup finals at non-league, amateur, women's and youth level.

The Ryman League play-offs start on Tuesday and conclude on Bank Holiday Monday and include some great games all of which are played over only one leg. The semi-final between Dulwich and Enfield on Thursday should be a cracker.

Also this week we've got another piece from our friends at 'Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game' who made their now customary trip to the Ryman League Cup Final a couple of weeks ago. The match between Billericay and Tonbridge was played at Carshalton Athletic's ground and produced quite a scoreline!

Right, enough of my whinging, it's late and we've all got much better things to do. Enjoy your week and I hope it doesn't end like mine did.


THE WEEK AHEAD
There are 50 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 National League South).

MIDWEEK MATCH MAP
Yellow pin - Monday fixtures
Green pin - Tuesday fixtures
Magenta pin - Wednesday fixtures
Purple pin - Thursday fixtures
Black pin - Friday fixtures




WEEKEND MATCH MAP
Blue pin - Saturday fixtures
Orange pin - Sunday fixtures
Grey pin - Bank Holiday Monday fixtures




TLFG DAILY DIGEST
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 April

Premier League 2
Fulham v Wolverhampton Wanderers @7pm - the Cottagers' U23 side play their last match of the season against Wolves. There's actually quite a bit riding on this as they are both in the top five and headed for the Division 2 play-offs. Wolves have already guaranteed a second-placed finish but Fulham could conceivably miss out if they lose this

Professional Development League
Charlton Athletic v Millwall @630pm - elsewhere in London's U23 world, there's a derby between two south-east London clubs taking place at The Valley. These two are the top two in the southern division of the league and also heading for the play-offs

----------------------------------------------------

Tuesday 25 April

Premier League

Chelsea v Southampton @745pm - after last week's setback at Manchester United, the Blues will look to return to winning ways in the league and extend their lead back to seven points. Having seen off nearest rivals Spurs in the FA Cup on Saturday, the midtable Saints should be beaten too

Ryman League Division 1 South play-off semi-final
Greenwich Borough v Corinthian Casuals @745pm - Tuesday brings us our first play-off game of the season as big spending Greenwich welcome CC's whose players, I was recently told, are paid nothing or next to nothing. Borough finished third in the division so have home advantage for this one-legged fixture

Middlesex Charity Cup semi-final
Ashford Town (Middlesex) v Hampton & Richmond Borough @745pm - the hosts play two divisions below their opponents, who make the relatively short journey up from the Beveree, so will start as underdogs. Wealdstone await the winners

Capital Women's Cup Final
Charlton Athletic v Tottenham Hotspur @730pm - I'm not an expert on the women's game as yet but this cup seems to be for all senior women's teams in the London area who are not in the FA Women's Super League (i.e. third tier and below). Spurs have already won the FA Women's Premier League Southern title so will want to scoop up another piece of silverware here. With the match taking place at Wingate & Finchley it's on their north London patch too

-----------------------------------------------------------

Wednesday 26 April

Premier League
Arsenal v Leicester City @745pm - after all the acrimony shown to him in recent weeks, Arsene Wenger has managed to produce back-to-back victories in the league and cup - the latter taking the Gunners past Manchester City into the FA Cup Final. The run to Wembley has given them games in hand on all the teams above them so the top four is still within reach. League champions Leicester were reborn following the departure of Claudio Ranieri and went on a five-game winning run. However, that has now ended and four games have gone by without a victory. Nevertheless, I expect a very spirited Foxes side to turn up and push Arsenal hard
Crystal Palace v Tottenham Hotspur @8pm - investing in Big Sam seems to have reaped its rewards as the Eagles managed a fine away win at Liverpool on Sunday to take them to 12th and the all-important 38-point mark which usually sees teams survive in the top division. Spurs will have been left disappointed by their cup defeat to Chelsea - it will be interesting to see if they can raise themselves and produce the kind of performance that has seen them win their last seven league games

FA Youth Cup Final second leg
Chelsea v Manchester City @745pm - Stamford Bridge plays host to this decisive match in the most prestigious U18 competition in the land. The Blues have completely dominated this event in recent years, making the last five finals and winning four of them - only Manchester United have been more successful since it started in 1952. Interestingly Chelsea have beaten Manchester City in the last two and will probably prevail again having drawn the first leg 1-1. Tickets must be bought in advance and are only available until 4pm (in person) on the day of the match so don't turn up without one

Ryman League Division 1 North play-off final
Thurrock v AFC Hornchurch @745pm - if you want a big non-league match instead then get yourself down to Ship Lane for this Essex derby against near neighbours who finished third and fourth in the RLD1N. In the respective league matches, each side won their home game 2-0 so there is very little to choose between them. Remember, these games are played over one leg so a place in the final awaits the winners

Middlesex Premier Cup Final
Broadfields United v Hillingdon Borough @730pm - there's another piece of silverware up for grabs at Northwood's ground where these two local rivals from the Spartan South Midlands League Division 1 do battle in the final of this cup which is primarily for teams in the 10th tier

-----------------------------------------------------------

Thursday 27 April

Ryman League Premier Division play-off semi-final
Dulwich Hamlet v Enfield Town @745pm - for non-league fans, this tie was made to make your mouth water. Dulwich and Enfield are two of the best supported clubs in the division and finished third and fourth respectively. It's also a case of south London versus north and both sides are in decent form. Both have had some big disappointments associated with the play-offs in recent seasons but only one of them can succeed in this one-legged tie. Tickets are available in advance but will also be available on the night - be prepared to queue, though, as a close to 3,000 capacity crowd will almost certainly turn up

------------------------------------------------------------

Friday 28 April

Surrey Premier Cup Final
Banstead Athletic v Worcester Park @745pm - Combined Counties League Division 1 winners Banstead go after some more silverware against possible third-place finishers Worcester Park in this county cup final at Sutton United

------------------------------------------------------------

Saturday 29 April

Premier League
Crystal Palace v Burnley @530pm - prior to their win at Liverpool, this looked like being an absolutely crucial game for Palace but a bit of the pressure has now been taken off. Nevertheless, they won't want to take any chances and will want to make certain of their place in the top flight against a Burnley side whose position has become a little unsure after a weekend of bad results

Championship
Fulham v Brentford @3pm - with Chelsea in a league of their own, three other teams are left to battle for runners up spot in the unofficial west London league with QPR and these two vying for supremacy. For many years it was QPR, Fulham and Brentford in that order, then it became Fulham, QPR and Brentford, currently it's Fulham, Brentford, QPR - a position confirmed by the Bees' comfortable 3-1 win over Rangers on Saturday. Buoyed by that victory, they head straight to Craven Cottage to try and throw a spanner in the Cottagers' play-off plans which are still very vulnerable despite a great four-game winning run. Cheered on by a large away following and with nothing whatsoever to lose, I really fancy Brentford who are remarkably unbeaten in their last seven at Craven Cottage
Queens Park Rangers v Nottingham Forest @3pm - if you're a neutral and for some crazy reason don't want to go to the game above, then you'll be very welcome in Shepherd's Bush for this game of some importance towards the foot of the table. QPR have completely collapsed in recent weeks as Ian Holloway has experimented with players and formations perhaps a little earlier in the campaign than he should have. Six straight defeats have seen them slide down the table to sit five points above the relegation zone with two games to go. Probability suggests that should be enough to survive but a defeat to Forest, who are below them, and a win for Blackburn could make the final day very tense indeed

League Two
Leyton Orient v Colchester United @3pm - the O's have been in a sorry state for most of the season and sadly saw their relegation out of the EFL confirmed on Saturday after losing at Crewe. This will therefore be their last home game as a member of 'the 92' - a club they have been members of for 112 years. A dark day for football in east London
Barnet v Grimsby Town @3pm - the other game of the day in the fourth tier is a totally meaningless midtable clash. With the pressure off you could get to see two sides throw caution to the wind and produce a really entertaining game or it could end up turning into a friendly. Really only worth going to if you're a fan of one of the sides or a groundhopper looking to tick The Hive off your list

National League
Dagenham & Redbridge v Woking @1215pm - if you're looking for a match with a bit of meaning then this game way out east has a fair bit going for it. Saturday is the final day of the regular season in this division - the Daggers have already guaranteed a play-off semi-final against Forest Green Rovers but a win here could see them finish third which would give them home advantage for the all-important second leg. The Cards, on the other hand, are still fighting to avoid relegation and need a draw to make sure of it

National League South
Hampton & Richmond Borough v Concord Rangers @3pm - over the last couple of weeks the play-off picture in this division has changed drastically with fifth placed Poole Town and sixth placed Hungerford Town denied the right to compete because their grounds were deemed unsuitable for promotion. As a result, Hampton in seventh now suddenly find themselves eligible to take part in the 'post-season'. To make sure of it, they need to win this game or match Wealdstone's result who are just below them.

Essex Senior League
Barking v Stansted @3pm - the Blues bring their title-winning season to a close with this home game against the Airportmen. The match is of little significance but a win would take Barking's points tally for the season to an impressive 103. This match could very easily be combined with the early game at Dagenham & Redbridge if you wanted to see two games in quick succession on Saturday

Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division
Cockfosters v London Colney @3pm - this could effectively become another exhibition match on the final day of the SSML season as third place Cockfosters entertain the league champions in what is also a bit of a derby

The Arthur Dunn Challenge Cup Final
Old Reptonians v Old Carthusians @3pm - as the season winds down it's become a TLFG tradition to fill things out with some amateur football. On Saturday at Merchant Taylors' School near Watford we see the final of this historic cup which was first contested way back in 1903. Named after the FA Cup winning Old Etonian who proposed it and then died shortly after, it features teams of former pupils or 'old boys' of all the poshest schools in the land. Saturday's game features teams from Repton (Derbyshire) and Charterhouse (Surrey). Why should you be interested in this? Well former pupils of these schools were instrumental in setting up the FA and organising football as we know it. Some of these amateur clubs are among the oldest in the world. Old Carthusians have been in existence since 1876, won the FA Cup back in 1881 and have dominated this competition for most of the 21st century. To top it all, because it's strictly amateur, it's free to get in

Southern Amateur League Senior Cup Final
Crouch End Vampires v Polytechnic @3pm - two more ancient amateur clubs from north and west London battle for honours at the HSBC Sports Ground in Beckenham in the other final of the day. The Vampires were formed in 1883 whilst Polytechnic (originally known as Hanover United) date back possibly all the way to 1873. Polytechnic have already won the SAL title and will be going for the double here

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sunday 30 April

Premier League
Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal @430pm - the biggest game of the week is almost certainly the North London derby at White Hart Lane. As always bragging rights are at stake but so are Spurs' title aspirations and the Gunners' hopes of making the top four. I needn't write much more as you know just how important this match is

League One
AFC Wimbledon v Oldham Athletic @12pm - I think something to do with the availability of Wembley for the play-offs means the League One season is finishing a week earlier than the Championship and League Two. As a result we've got a couple of bonus EFL games on Sunday lunchtime to look forward to. The downside is that both are of little consequence. The Dons could break into the top 12 with a win here
Charlton Athletic v Swindon Town @12pm - in the other game, the Addicks welcome freshly relegated Swindon. A win for the hosts will see them finish just ahead of Wimbledon - exciting stuff!

FA Women's Super League 1
Chelsea v Yeovil Town @2pm - the Blues get their season underway with this fixture at Staines Town in what is the pick of several women's games on Sunday

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Monday 1 May

Premier League
Watford v Liverpool @8pm - the Hornets moved to the magical 40-point mark last weekend and should be able to coast to the end of the season now. The Reds suffered their first reverse in eight league games on Sunday and will need to win to maintain their hopes of a top-four finish as the teams below them all have games in hand. When they last met in November at Anfield, Liverpool won 6-1

Essex Senior League Challenge Cup Final
Sawbridgeworth Town v Takeley @3pm - there are three cup finals to choose from in the London area on Monday. This one initially escaped my attention because it features two clubs from outside TLFG's catchment area but the game is being played at Redbridge FC which is really easy to get to as it's next to Barkingside station

Southern Combination Challenge Cup Final
Camberley Town v Sutton Common Rovers @3pm - this cup tends to primarily feature sides from the ninth and tenth tiers who come from Surrey and Middlesex, although teams from a higher level can enter too. Running since 1958, Hampton & Richmond are the most successful club in the competition's history. Camberley have had a better season than their opponents but this is being played at Sutton United which is also SCR's home ground

Middlesex Charity Cup Final
Ashford Town (Middlesex) v Wealdstone @730pm - another piece of county cup silverware comes up for grabs at Hanwell Town's ground on Monday night. The Stones will start as strong favourites as they play two levels above their opponents. Wealdstone are also in the Senior Cup Final so will be going after the Middlesex double. The later kick-off means this game can easily be combined with either of the earlier matches so you can watch two cup finals in a day


GET INVOLVED
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.

No comments:

Post a comment