Sunday 14 May 2017

TLFG: 15-21 May 2017

It's been a big week for the London football scene with the top story undoubtedly being another Premier League title triumph for Chelsea, completed on Friday night at West Bromwich Albion.

After the humiliation of finishing 10th last year, it has been quite an achievement by new boss Antonio Conte to win it with relative ease.

Tottenham ended their time at White Hart Lane with a fine win over Manchester United on Sunday, a result which sees them guaranteed to finish second.

Non-League Finals Day takes place on Sunday at Wembley - get your tickets now!!! 

Arsenal are still outside the coveted top four places but go into their final two games with a fighting chance after stringing together three wins in seven days.

At the other end, Crystal Palace ensured their survival in the top flight with an emphatic 4-0 win over Hull City who they relegated in the process. With Watford and West Ham also keeping their heads above water, there will be no London relegations this season.

There is a chance there could be seven sides from the capital in the top flight next year as Fulham drew the first leg of their play-off with Reading 1-1 on Saturday. It's going to be tough at the Madejeski Stadium on Tuesday but it's wide open.

From a personal perspective, the huge thing for me was the news that Harrow Borough had been reprieved from relegation!

Having cruelly lost their Ryman League Premier Division status for the first time since the 1970s to a 98th-minute goal, it's a huge relief to know they'll be given another year in the seventh tier.

Sadly it's come about because Worcester City of the National League North (Level 6) have voluntarily decided to drop down three divisions for financial reasons. It's a shame this once great club have had to do this.

'Two Men In Search...' check out Thurrock in the Ryman League Division 1 North play-off final

Also this week, we see the London Festival of Football Writing. Several events with some top authors (including Michael Cox who has been known to peruse these pages) will be taking place at Waterstones bookshop on Tottenham Court Road between 16-20 May. Tickets and full information can be found on their website. I'm going to the session which is taking place on the final night.

After months of preparation and competition it's also time for Non-League Finals Day at Wembley on Sunday. The FA Vase and FA Trophy finals are played back-to-back and tickets are just £25 for adults and £1 U16s which is great value so I hope to see you there. I think I'm going in the section for Cleethorpes Town supporters.

Lastly from me, I launched a new 'Books' section on TLFG during the week. There's a few relevant publications which I think are good and could be of interest to readers of this blog. It's not exhaustive by any means and I will add to it over the summer.

Before I sign off, there's also another fine piece this week from 'Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game'. Although not a visit to a London ground, it features local side Thurrock as they took on Maldon & Tiptree in the Ryman League Division 1 North play-off final - find out if they were successful...

There are only 12 matches, including two doubleheaders, in the London area over the next week with some crucial games in the Premier League, a play-off final and Non-League Finals Day among the highlights.

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).

Yellow pin - Monday fixtures
Green pin - Tuesday fixtures
Magenta pin - Wednesday 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 15 May

Premier League
Chelsea v Watford @8pm - with the Blues winning the title on Friday and the Hornets safe from relegation for another season, there's little to play for in this derby other than pride. As has been said several times in recent weeks, this could free both sides up to play a very entertaining game completely devoid of pressure. The atmosphere should be celebratory from both sets of fans but sadly the Premier League trophy presentation won't happen until the weekend

Brentford B v Manchester City U23 @7pm - the Bees are unusual in that they don't enter their reserve side in a league. Instead they arrange their own friendlies and they've come up with some big opponents this season with the likes of Bayern Munich, Valencia, Hamburg and domestic giants like Manchester United all fielding sides against them. For their final game they've managed to get City to come to Griffin Park. To top it all, admission to most of these games is free and this is no exception


Tuesday 16 May

Premier League
Arsenal v Sunderland @745pm - with the title race and relegation battle concluded, it's now all about the fight for Champions League places. Chelsea and Spurs have claimed two of the four places, meaning Arsenal now really need to win their final two games to have a chance of claiming one too. They're currently fifth, three points behind Manchester City so it's going to be tight. Sunderland are bottom with one win in 10 but with the pressure off, could be quite capable of embarrassing their hosts


Wednesday 17 May

FA Women's Super League 1
Chelsea v Arsenal @735pm - these two have been among the superpowers of women's football in England in recent years but they face a growing threat from Manchester City who won the league last season, the league cup in October and this season's FA Cup on Saturday - comprehensively beating Birmingham City 4-1. Chelsea have won their opening two games this season while the Gunners are unbeaten after three. Tickets for this game at Staines Town are £6 adults and £3 for everyone else


Saturday 20 May

League One Play-Off Final
Bradford City v Millwall @3pm - the first of the EFL play-off finals takes place at Wembley on Saturday as these two go head-to-head for a place in the Championship. Finishing fifth and sixth in the division, neither was supposed to make it this far but they have. Bradford are the bigger club and played in the Premier League as recently as 2001, they also sensationally made the League Cup final whilst still a League Two team in 2013. The Lions are no strangers to Wembley and this will be their fifth visit since the stadium re-opened in 2007. Three of those were also League One play-off finals including last year's which they lost to Barnsley. The last three games between Bradford and Millwall have ended in 1-1 draws so this could go to penalties. Tickets are available on general sale directly from each of the clubs

FA Women's Super League doubleheader
A short Tube ride to the north of Wembley, The Hive plays host to a couple of games from the FAWSL. Arsenal take on FA Cup finalists Birmingham City in a top-tier game at 1pm, before London Bees entertain second division leaders Everton at 4pm. Tickets are £9


Sunday 21 May

Premier League
Arsenal v Everton @3pm - the Gunners conclude their season with what could be a make or break game against the Toffees. As explained above, they need all the points they can get to try and make it into the top four and a place in the Champions League. Everton have had another solid season and will finish seventh whatever happens here. The last game between them, just before Christmas, saw the team from Merseyside win 2-1
Chelsea v Sunderland @3pm - it's likely to be a case of top versus bottom on the final day at Stamford Bridge where the Blues could end their title winning campaign with a goalfeast. The highlight will be the official presentation of the Premier League trophy
Watford v Manchester City @3pm - the Hornets don't have much to play for but they could have a huge impact on what goes on towards the top of the table as City look to clinch one of the final two Champions League places. It doesn't look too bright for the hosts though who have lost their last five against City in all competitions

Non-League Finals Day
With tickets likely to be hard to get or expensive for all of the above, why not head to Wembley for the annual end-of-season non-league showpiece? Kicking off with the FA Vase final between Cleethorpes Town and South Shields at 1215pm and concluding with the FA Trophy final between Macclesfield Town and York City at 415pm it provides an action packed day of football at the national stadium. Plenty of entertainment is being laid on on the concourses between games so you shouldn't get bored. Tickets for the whole day are £25 adults, £10 concessions and £1 U16s and can be bought in advance or on the day from the ticket office

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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