Sunday 7 May 2017

TLFG: 8-14 May 2017

The end of the 2016/17 season is almost upon us.

Aside from the play-offs, the EFL season ended earlier today as the Championship became the final division to complete its fixtures.

With safety secured last week, I made the decision to head up to Norfolk to watch QPR take on Norwich City in a game that was of little consequence to either team.

I hadn't been to the city itself for about 30 years and had never been to a game there which is surprising given how easy it is to get to from London. With direct trains from Liverpool Street leaving regularly and taking two hours and the ground pretty much next to the station, it really is a good place to consider visiting if you're looking for somewhere new or your London match options aren't great.

It was also a chance to catch up with my oldest friend who moved to the area about 10 years ago. I'd kept in touch throughout that time but we hadn't seen each other at all so it was kind of strange meeting up again.

This fine event takes place over several nights next week - more info
Thankfully, we both looked pretty much the same and the conversation flowed with ease had it always had. In the intervening years marriages and children had materialised and we'd both mellowed but essentially we were still the same.

Anyway, enough about my boring personal stuff and onto the action.

Carrow Road is a fine ground in a good location with a capacity of around 30,000 and it was largely full for this end of season send off.

Sadly, from my perspective, QPR appeared to have ended their season last week as Norwich ran riot in the opening stages with one shot being cleared off the line, another saved and another hitting the bar all in what seemed like the first five minutes!

The only surprise about Norwich's deflected opening goal was that it took over 20 minutes to come - they should have been out of sight by then.

It looked as if that profligacy might cost them when Rangers had a shot tipped onto the woodwork in the dying seconds of the half as it stayed 1-0 at the interval.

The second half seemed more open as substitutions shook things up a bit but ultimately it was the hosts who were far more clinical as they eased away to a 4-0 win which flattered QPR - it could easily have been double.

With seven defeats from their final eight games, Ian Holloway's side finished 18th just two points above the relegation zone. His overall win record in recent years with Crystal Palace, Millwall and now QPR is pretty poor and many fans are tonight calling for his head on forums all over the internet. I have to say I wouldn't miss him if he did go but I am, perhaps rashly, prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Elsewhere in the division, from a London perspective, Fulham made it into the play-offs and have what is effectively a derby against Reading in the semi-finals.

Also on Sunday, Millwall secured a place in the League One play-off final at Wembley with a thrilling 3-2 win at Scunthorpe.

Sadly for Dagenham & Redbridge, Forest Green Rovers got the better of them in the National League play-offs and in the National League South both Dartford and Hampton & Richmond Borough bowed out at the semi-final stage too.

Less than 2 weeks to go until Non-League Finals Day - get your tickets now!!!
I heard reports from readers that the charity match between Peckham Town and Somaliland on Saturday went well with over £600 being raised. This Saturday at 230pm, Peckham's U21 side will be hosting the U18s from QPR in another eye-catching fixture at the Menace Arena so get down to Dulwich Common if that appeals to you.

It also came to my attention the other day that the London Festival of Football Writing is coming up next week. 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 think that's about it from me. Once again, if you're around, please consider coming to Wembley for Non-League Finals Day on 21 May - two cup finals back-to-back for £25 is great value so I hope to see you there.

There are only 17 matches in the London area over the next week with some crucial games in the Premier League and some play-off matches in the EFL and National League 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

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 8 May

Premier League
Chelsea v Middlesbrough @8pm - on paper it doesn't look like the most thrilling match up but the result could be huge for both teams. A win will give the Blues an almost unassailable seven-point lead at the top with three games to go and will relegate Boro in the process - hopefully that fact will make the visitors fight that bit harder but you feel it would be delaying the inevitable even if they did manage to win

Premier League 2
Arsenal v Manchester United @7pm - if you can't get a ticket for the above then why not head to the Emirates instead for this attractive looking U23 game? This is the last match of the season for the Gunners' youngsters and a win will see them finish fourth. United have had a poor campaign but have done enough to avoid relegation. Tickets are only £4 but must be bought online by 3pm on Monday - no tickets will be available on the night

Professional Development League play-off semi-final
Charlton Athletic v Hull City @7pm - the PDL effectively makes up the third tier of U23 football in England. It's split into a northern and southern division and the top two from each play-off before the winners meet in the final. Millwall or Sheffield Wednesday await the winners. Tickets for this match, at The Valley, are available on the gate and are only £3


Saturday 13 May

Championship play-off final first leg
Fulham v Reading @530pm - the match of the day takes place at Craven Cottage and it has the potential to be a real humdinger. With Reading being located not far to the west of London, this is pretty much a derby so the atmosphere should be good. Although the Royals finished third, it is Fulham who are seen by many as favourites as they enter the post season with the best form of the four teams still standing. With five wins and a draw from their last six and with the knowledge they thrashed the Berkshire club 5-0 on their last visit back in December, it's looking pretty promising for Slavisa Jokanovic and his side

FA Women's Cup Final
Birmingham City v Manchester City @515pm - reigning Super League champions Man City should start as favourites in this showpiece match of the women's game at Wembley. The two clubs' league campaigns have only just begun and saw them draw 1-1 earlier this week. With tickets a snip at £15 for adults and free for kids, this represents a great value day out at the national stadium

Combined Counties Leaue Division 1 Cup Final
AC London v Redhill @3pm - there's another bit of silverware up for grabs over near Heathrow airport where these two 10th-tier teams look to end the season on a high at Bedfont & Feltham's ground


Sunday 14 May

Premier League
Crystal Palace v Hull City @12pm - two clubs threatened with the drop meet for this relegation six-pointer at high noon. Big Sam looked to have done enough to have saved Palace a couple of weeks ago but three defeats in quick succession have left them four points clear with two games to go. Hull will start the game in the bottom three and could find themselves relegated if they fail to win and other results go against them
West Ham United v Liverpool @215pm - with that game out of the way, focus moves to Stratford where West Ham will look to dent Liverpool's hopes of a top-four finish. The Hammers' fine win over Spurs on Friday secured their place in the division for another year so they have little to play for other than pride
Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United @430pm - a Super Sunday of London football comes to a close at White Hart Lane with what could be Tottenham's last throw of the dice in this year's title race. If Chelsea beat West Brom the night before then they will win the league but anything else will keep Spurs in it - just. The visitors will badly need to win to stay in the hunt for a Champions League place

National League Promotion Final
Forest Green Rovers v Tranmere Rovers @3pm - after overcoming Dagenham & Redbridge in the semi-finals, FGR head to Wembley for the second year running as they look to claim a place in the EFL for the very first time. The Gloucestershire club have been among the contenders to go up for several years but always miss out. Tranmere, the former League Cup finalists and second-tier side not that long ago, should provide formidable opposition though and will be expected to bring thousands more spectators. The Merseyside club are also in better form, notably stuffing midtable Solihull Moors 9-0 a month ago!

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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