Sunday 3 September 2017

TLFG: 4-10 September 2017

Well that's it. September's here and summer's over!

Normally a depressing thing to contemplate but for the fact it heralds the football season proper as the games come thick and fast, a chill starts to tinge the air and midweek games start to be played in the dark.

Hmmm maybe that is still a bit depressing but anyway enough of that. How was your international break? Did you make the most of it or grumble on the sidelines with your hands over your eyes and earplugs in pretending there was 'no football on'?

After a bit of umming and ahhing I opted to attend the Game4Grenfell over Harrow Borough's FA Cup tie at Enfield Town.

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On reflection it looks like I made the right choice as Boro bowed out to a late goal meaning any chance of repeating last year's glorious run to the first round ended at the first attempt.

The charity match for survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire had received increasing amounts of publicity all week with new participants revealed as kick-off approached.

We already knew a host of ex-pros, TV presenters, pop stars and Game of Thrones actors would take part but then we were told running leagend Mo Farah would take part and there would be a half-time show with Haringey Borough fan Emile Sande (I think she's a singer too) and Rita Ora. Arguably the biggest coup of all was revealed the night before when Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho said he would play too.

Thankfully I'd bought my tickets in person in advance so could just walk in because the queue for collection at around 215pm on Saturday afternoon was the longest I have ever seen it in my 34 years of going to QPR. As a result many of the close to capacity crowd missed kick-off.

I've mentioned before on here that I'm not really into celebrity games like this as the quality of play is usually a bit iffy. The most notable thing from my point of view was how much slower than professional football the pace was and the power of the celebs' passes and shots was also clearly lacking.

Despite his spindly frame and lack of shot power, it was Farah who opened the scoring for the side managed by Les Ferdinand right at the start, sweeping home a loose ball after a mix up in the penalty area between former England keeper David James and some of his defence.

Captaining Alan Shearer's side was Trevor Sinclair who scored twice during the game to show he still has plenty about him. The other ex-pros to catch my eye included Stan Collymore who barely got out of second gear and could have had a hatful of goals if he hadn't continually tried to set up some of the firefighters or Grenfell survivors who were also given a run out. Paul Merson was also impressive despite the significant amount of excess baggage he'd stashed in the hold and played plenty of those trademark passes he used to make with the outside of his foot.

Jose Mourinho calmly converts his penalty during the shoot-out

However, the show was ultimately stolen by Mourinho who emerged from the bench with half an hour to go to replace David James in goal for Shearer's side.

Being a former Chelsea manager he was booed loudly by the QPR supporters in the crowd as he took his place between the sticks in front of the Loft.

Unperturbed, the Special One had to immediately deal with a corner which he punched clear with some aplomb.

For the remainder of the game he played the ultimate pantomime villain - remonstrating with the referee, getting booked for time wasting and generally winding up the crowd.

The Portuguese supremo did get beaten once but was generally pretty handy, making a couple of saves and kicking very competently too which when you consider he never really had a playing career was no mean feat.

With the game ending 2-2, a penalty shoot-out was announced but proceedings were held up by a pitch invasion which was the only blot on the afternoon.

Although it was almost made up entirely of children, the match was close to being abandoned which would've been a great shame.

The shoot-out did eventually proceed with the kicks largely taken by firefighters and survivors apart from one by Mourinho which he tucked away deftly and the winner from singer Olly Murs to give Team Ferdinand victory.

There's now less than five weeks to go until this year's Non-League Day

With a lengthy half-time, the whole match lasted nearly three hours but it still provided great entertainment for all.

With fans of all local clubs in evidence around the stadium and mascots from Arsenal, Spurs and Reading coming into the area too it was a great way for football to remember, celebrate and support all those involved in the tragedy.

The rest of my week has been spent preparing for Non-League Day which is now just over a month away.

The last few days has been all about sending out press releases, launching a special offer and starting a new relationship with one of the leagues in Scotland as we look to make meaningful progress there for the first time.

Over the next few days there'll be a lot more social media work and another meeting with our charity partner Prostate Cancer UK.

In other news, my daughter will also be starting school (some long time readers might remember her being born) and I've got to squeeze a load of half marathon training in, including a 10-mile run tonight.

Anyway, that's it from me - have a great week and keep me updated on which matches you get to.

There are over 90 matches in the London area over the next seven days as the Premier League and EFL make their return. There are also a few FA Cup replays and the opening round of the FA Vase too.

As always, 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 (orange 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.

A must have for watching football in England in 2017-2018

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.

Monday fixtures - yellow pin
Tuesday fixtures - green pin
Wednesday fixtures - magenta pin
Friday fixtures - black pin

Saturday fixtures - blue pin
Sunday fixtures - orange pin

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 4 September

World Cup qualifier
England v Slovakia @745pm - with three games to go in Group F this match could end up playing a big role in deciding who wins it. Currently first and second respectively and only two points apart, this is an important match for the Three Lions. Although the visitors have won their last five group games to be in better form, they did lose the reciprocal fixture this time last year in Sam Allardyce's only game as England manager

Southern Counties East League First Division
Lewisham Borough v Forest Hill Park @745pm - if international football really isn't your thing then head down to the Ladywell Arena where the two sides who share it meet for this south-east London derby

Tuesday 5 September


Brentford B v Queens Park Rangers U23 @745pm - the Bees' youngsters and reserves host their counterparts from local rivals QPR in this interesting friendly at Griffin Park

National League South
Hampton & Richmond Borough v Chelmsford City @745pm - the Beavers made the play-offs last season but have made a disappointing start. Down in 15th they've managed to arrest a worrying losing streak and are now unbeaten in two. However, Chelmsford are the current league leaders and have lost only once this season

FA Cup First Qualifying Round Replays
Wingate & Finchley v Hendon @745pm - the pick of the night's replays is this north London derby between clubs who are currently neck-and-neck in the Bostik Premier. The original tie on Saturday ended 1-1 and it could easily go all the way to penalties
Egham Town v Ramsgate @745pm - the Sarnies looked to be home and dry on Saturday but two goals in the dying minutes saw them blow a 3-1 lead and have to settle for this replay. The two sides play in parallel level eight competitions and on paper Egham should win as they have made a far better start to the season
Hayes & Yeading United v Maldon & Tiptree @745pm -  we've got another Bostik v Evo-Stik clash to look forward to at H&YU's new SkyEx Stadium. Neither have made a stunning start to this campaign but they also produced a thrilling 3-3 draw in the initial match on Saturday

Bostik League South Division
VCD Athletic v Walton Casuals @745pm - the visitors are moving to a brand new stadium in the coming weeks but have begun the season sharing at Cobham. Despite being without a ground of their own, they've flown out of the blocks, won all their games and are one point clear at the top. VCD have only won twice and are down in midtable


Wednesday 6 September

Premier League International Cup
West Ham United v Villarreal @7pm
The Hammers' development squad have been drawn in a group alongside Spurs, Benfica and Villarreal from Spain. West Ham's youngsters won promotion to the top division of Premier League 2 last season so will hope to do well in this match at Dagenham & Redbridge's ground

FA Cup First Qualifying Round Replay
Grays Athletic v Hertford Town @745pm - two divisions separated these sides last season but with a relegation and promotion between them they're now both in the Bostik North. After drawing 1-1 on Saturday, the two will do it all again at Aveley's fine new ground

Southern Counties East League Premier Division
Cray Valley PM v Croydon @745pm - the hosts have won all three of their opening league games to sit fourth in the table. Already they have games in hand on all those above them. CVPM would also look a good bet to beat Croydon, who are sixth themselves, but they come into this on the back of a 6-0 humbling by Leatherhead in the FA Cup and it will be interesting to see how they respond

Friday 8 September

Professional Development League
Millwall v Birmingham City @1pm - if you're at a loose end on Friday lunchtime then a trip to the New Den in South Bermondsey might take your fancy. The Lions' U23 side are looking for only their second win of the season as they look to push up the table


Saturday 9 September

Premier League
Arsenal v AFC Bournemouth @3pm - the only top-flight game of the week takes place at the Emirates Stadium where a troubled Gunners side welcome Eddie Howe's Bournemouth. With only one win from three, Arsene Wenger and his charges are already under huge pressure to get positive results and if it all goes pear shaped against the struggling Cherries then all hell could break loose!

Fulham v Cardiff City @3pm - with only one win from their opening five games, things could be going better for the Cottagers. They'll do very well to win this one too as Neil Warnock's Bluebirds side have beaten everyone so far and are three points clear at the top. If bought in advance, adult tickets for this game are being sold at a flat rate of only £20 with kids for a quid which is very good value
Queens Park Rangers v Ipswich Town @3pm - just up the road, QPR also have a tough one as they take on the Tractor Boys who are second. Rangers have a pretty decent record against the Suffolk club having beaten them on six of the last eight occasions since 2010

League One
AFC Wimbledon v Portsmouth @3pm - as a former Premier League club, Pompey and their large army of supporters will give the Dons' one of their biggest attendances of the season. As a result you are advised to buy as soon as possible if you're hoping to go as Kingsmeadow is small. On the pitch, neither have been doing very well with only one win each so far
Charlton Athletic v Southend United @3pm - the Addicks were tipped to do well this year and they've not let anyone down so far with four wins from five lifting them to third in the table. The Shrimpers missed out on the play-offs by just one point last season but have yet to really get going

League Two
Barnet v Cambridge United @3pm - the Bees recorded an impressive 4-1 win at Swindon on Saturday to climb up to ninth. The visitors are just behind them on goal difference so this should be pretty close

National League
Boreham Wood v Leyton Orient @3pm - much was made last week of how London had all of its five clubs in the top eight of the division. That has been reduced to three after the latest round of games with The Wood among those to come unstuck. They could well extend their losing run to three matches as they welcome joint leaders Orient for this tough derby

National League South
Dartford v Chippenham Town @3pm - the Darts look like being the main challengers from our region in this division. Currently sixth, they are expected to push for a play-off place again. Chippenham are new to the division after winning promotion from the Evo-Stik League and have made a steady but unspectacular start

Bostik League Premier Division
Harrow Borough v Merstham @3pm - unfancied Boro shocked everyone by winning their first four games to top the league. Since then results have started to look a bit more normal with a 6-0 loss to Hendon in the Bank Holiday derby and a disappointing FA Cup defeat at Enfield Town after conceding a late goal. They'll want to reverse that losing trend as soon as possible and this match against midtable Merstham should give them a decent chance

Bostik League North Division
Aveley v Heybridge Swifts @3pm - the Millers welcome joint league leaders Heybridge to Parkside on Saturday. The visitors have won all four of their league games, scoring an average of over three goals per match. They also travelled to Arlesey Town in the FA Cup on Saturday and thrashed them 7-0 - it's going to be tough

Bostik League South Division
Walton Casuals v Horsham @3pm - what a time to be a Stags fan, top of the league and moving into a brand new state of the art stadium. Having started the season sharing at Cobham, Walton begin life at the new Elmbridge Sports Hub with this game against Horsham

Evo-Stik League East Division
Uxbridge v Ashford Town (Middlesex) @3pm - with four games played Uxbridge are leading the way in terms of clubs from the London area in this division. With three wins from four they are only narrowly ahead of local rivals Egham, Northwood and Ashford who they play here. These two play either side of Heathrow Airport with Uxbridge to the north and Ashford just below it

FA Vase First Qualifying Round - this national knockout competition for clubs primarily in the ninth and 10th tiers gets underway this weekend. At this stage the draw is regionalised to minimise travel expenses with the winners of each tie receiving £550 in prize money. In the London area, a few clubs from the 11th tier are also taking part and their fixtures have been included on the match map as well. Below are a selection of the many ties taking place around the capital

Bedfont Sports v Three Bridges @3pm - the hosts are starting this season on a new artificial pitch and it seems they really mean business as they've gone six without defeat to share the lead of the Combined Counties League. Three Bridges got relegated from the Ryman League last season and could well be beaten here
Tower Hamlets v Hackney Wick @3pm - in Mile End we have this tasty looking derby to look forward to between two sides from the Essex Senior League
Enfield Borough v Canning Town @3pm - having only been formed last year, the hosts are going from strength to strength. Winning promotion to the SSML Division 1 at the first attempt, they've got a 100% win record so far this season too. On Saturday they play their first ever FA Vase tie against 11th tier opposition from east London who they should beat
FC Elmstead v Whitstable Town @3pm - the Cocks will have their work cut out as they prepare to play SCEFL leaders Whitstable. The visitors have won all their games this season and should progress here
Tooting Bec v Littlehampton Town @3pm - the hosts are another side from the 11th tier who are making their bow in this prestigious FA competition. The south London club welcome a side from the Sussex coast who play two levels above them
Westside v Steyning Town @3pm - our final local debutants on Saturday are Westside who originally hail from Wandsworth. They play alongside Tooting Bec in the Surrey Elite Intermediate League and also face a side from the Southern Combination


Sunday 10 September

Bostik League South Division
Thamesmead Town v Sittingbourne @3pm - as it stands this match to be played at Dartford's ground represents a top-eight clash. However, the round of games taking place the day before could well change that

FA Vase First Qualifying Round
FC Deportivo Galicia v Lewisham Borough @3pm - we've got a game between sides from the parallel first divisions of the CCL and SCEFL over near Heathrow. It should be pretty even and it's Lewisham's first Vase tie too
Stansfeld v Bedfont & Feltham @3pm - B&F are having a stinker of a season, losing all their league games up to this point. They'll hope for a change of fortunes in the Vase against another side who are making their first appearance

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 in 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. I do not charge for this advice like some other sites so don't hold back!

You can contact TLFG through the comments section below or via FacebookTwitter or even by good old email.

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