Monday, 30 October 2017

TLFG: 30 October - 5 November 2017

It occurred to me the other day that TLFG must be hitting some kind of anniversary and it turns out this blog became a six-year-old at the beginning of October.

How things have changed in that time.

Back then, 50 page impressions a day was a big thing to get excited about. Now at least 10 times that is a given (still not much I know but it'll do for me).

During that first season I was unemployed and childless so had a lot more time on my hands and went to games at all levels once or twice a week - I also had a QPR season-ticket as they returned to the Premier League after a 15-year absence. Consequently I did a lot of groundhopping and the reviews appeared here. Nowadays I leave that task mainly to you dear readers or other bloggers who are happy to have their work promoted here.

A free cuppa you say? What a fine start to the weekend

Back then the guide used to feature a TLFG Top 10 which fairly strictly had one game and one game only from each of the 10 levels this blog covers. You could therefore see a game played on little more than a park pitch recommended over one in the Premier League but times have changed.

Over the years I'm pleased to say women's football has grown significantly in popularity and made its way into TLFG, various other pages/indexes have been added and several clubs have come and gone at non-league level.

It also says something that on week one of this blog, the top match in London was a game between a struggling Arsenal side and Sunderland who were both in the bottom six - the Gunners won 2-1.

There have been lots of other moments but it has definitely had a big impact on my life. Not only do I know more about football in this city than I ever have but I have made some amazing contacts and experienced some great football moments both here and in Europe as a result.

Apart from that, the other main highlights have all been in the form of feedback I've received from you. The whole purpose of this blog is to promote London football and make it as accessible to you as possible so when I hear or read that people have acted on advice I've given them and had a great time, then it makes all the effort that goes into this really worthwhile.

To coincide with the First Round of the FA Cup, we've got this interesting game
On average this blog takes about eight hours a week to put together and often takes me well past my self-imposed midnight deadline on Sunday night/Monday morning as I try to cram in as much as possible while doing shift work - but if I didn't enjoy it then I wouldn't do it.

It's also my birthday this week so hopefully I'll get to indulge in some live football at some point and tell you all about it on Sunday.

Ok I think that's enough from me, enjoy your week and let me know what you've been up to - photos are always welcome on TLFG's Facebook page.

UPDATE: (02/11/17): If you're at a loose end on Sunday, it's just come to TLFG's attention that there's an historic match taking place in East London where the re-formed Upton Park FC will be playing Clapham Rovers in a re-enactment of the match which produced the first ever goal in the history of the FA Cup back in 1871. The match is being played in West Ham Park where the original tie was played. It will also be the first time Upton Park FC have played at their old home ground for over 100 years so it should be quite an occasion. It kicks off at 115pm and it's free to get in.

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THE WEEK AHEAD
There are over 90 matches in the London area over the next seven days as the Champions League, Premier League and Championship take centre stage. It's also a big week of cup football with the next round of the FA Cup taking place and a number of FA Trophy replays 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.

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.

MIDWEEK MATCH MAP
Monday fixtures - yellow pin
Tuesday fixtures - green pin
Wednesday fixtures - magenta pin
Thursday fixtures - purple pin
Friday fixtures - black pin



WEEKEND MATCH MAP
Saturday fixtures - blue pin
Sunday fixtures - orange pin




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 30 October


FA Trophy First Qualifying Round Replay - this national knockout cup competition is for sides in the fifth to eighth tiers with its final at Wembley. At this stage the draw is regionalised and limited to clubs in the seventh and eighth tiers. The winning clubs in each tie will receive £3,250 in prize money
Haringey Borough v Harrow Borough @745pm - eighth tier Haringey nearly pulled off a cupset on Saturday but were denied by a last-minute equaliser. Back on their own 3G pitch and in great form, it could be tough for Harrow in this 'Battle of the Boros'

Professional Development League
Earlier in the day there are also U23 games at QPR and Watford. As it stands both games are being played at the clubs' training grounds. If you do want to go, please make sure you check the matches are still taking place, where and when they're being played and if you'll be allowed in

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Tuesday 31 October

Championship

Fulham v Bristol City @745pm - the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham is the place to be for the pick of the football action on Tuesday. In the south of the borough we have this interesting game between midtable Fulham who are only four points off a play-off spot and the team currently in fourth
Queens Park Rangers v Sheffield United @745pm - a couple of miles north in Shepherd's Bush, QPR welcome the leaders. The Blades are top courtesy of Rangers' victory over their title rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday so Ian Holloway's team shouldn't be underestimated

EFL Trophy
AFC Wimbledon v Luton Town @745pm - the Dons have made no secret of their dislike for this competition after academy sides from Premier League and Championship clubs were introduced last season. As a result they barely advertise these games (I can't find anything about tickets for the game on their website) and consequently attendances are pretty sparse. However, they've won their opening two games and top their group. Luton are just behind and on any other occasion this would be quite a big game as the Hatters play just outside London and used to be a top-flight club at the same time as the original Wimbledon. To clarify, thanks to Luton's website, tickets will be £10 and are only available on the gate

FA Trophy First Qualifying Round Replays
Thurrock v Kingstonian @745pm - there's an all-Bostik Premier tie to be enjoyed at Ship Lane where if we get anything close to a repeat of the 3-3 draw the two played out on Friday in the original game, we'll be very happy indeed
Egham Town v Bowers & Pitsea @745pm - two play-off hopefuls from the parallel Evo-Stik East and Bostik North fought out a 1-1 draw on Saturday. On paper B&P would appear the slightly stronger but they've lost home advantage

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Wednesday 1 November

Champions League
Tottenham Hotspur v Real Madrid @745pm - we're into November already but what a cracking way to start it with this sold out monster of a game at Wembley Stadium. Not many people gave Spurs much of a chance at the Bernabeu a couple of weeks ago but they recorded a fantastic 1-1 draw to go into this match as joint group leaders with the Spanish giants. A lot could depend on whether Tottenham's star striker Harry Kane will be fit in time to play after tweaking a hamstring last week

Uefa Youth League
Tottenham Hotspur v Real Madrid @3pm - earlier in the day, the sides' U19 teams will also do battle at Spurs' training ground in Enfield. A small amount of tickets were available for this match but they have all been taken

EFL Trophy
Charlton Athletic v Fulham U23 @745pm - your next best option if you want to see some professional footballers in action is this game at The Valley. As with the AFC Wimbledon game above, the crowd is likely to be small as the Addicks' first-team squad take on the Cottagers' youngsters. Tickets are £10

FA Trophy First Qualifying Round Replay
Grays Athletic v Cray Wanderers @745pm - the non-league option is over at Parkside where sides from the Bostik North and South meet for what should be a pretty even contest - the initial game produced an entertaining 2-2 draw

FA Women's Super League Cup
Millwall Lionesses v Arsenal @745pm - the hosts face a tough game against the Gunners who come from the division above. We are still at the group stage of the competition, with this being the second of four matches for each of the sides. The top two in the five-team group progress to the knockout stages. The match takes place at Fisher's ground in Rotherhithe and costs £5 for adults

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Thursday 2 November

Europa League

Arsenal v Red Star Belgrade @745pm - Arsene Wenger's side are undoubtedly the strongest side in Group H and should beat last season's Serbian League runners-up. Having won the reverse fixture 10 days ago, the Gunners come into this game with a 100% record from their three matches and are already five points clear at the top

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Friday 3 November

Southern Counties East League Premier Division
Glebe v Beckenham Town @745pm - get your weekend underway with this south-east London derby in Chislehurst. The hosts have recently installed former Dagenham & Redbridge captain Anwar Uddin as manager. The first British Asian to captain one of 'the 92', he is also the Diversity & Campaigns Manager working on the 'Fans for Diversity' project which is run by the Football Supporters Federation and Kick It Out. This game is being dedicated to that cause and to entice you along, all spectators will get a 'free cuppa at Half Time'

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Saturday 4 November

Premier League
West Ham United v Liverpool @530pm - after seeing his side mount a remarkable comeback at Spurs in the EFL Cup on Wednesday, Slaven Bilic was just moments away from a perfect week when Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha plundered a 96th-minute equaliser to deny the Hammers another derby win. With five goals in two games, West Ham are looking much better than they did against Brighton just over a week ago and will fancy themselves to get something against the Reds' suspect defence

Championship
Brentford v Leeds United @530pm - at exactly the same time on the opposite side of London we have what could be a humdinger of a game in the second tier. The Bees are in lower midtable but are potentially a side on the rise after stringing together a seven-game unbeaten run. I say potentially because four of those games have been draws and it's holding them back. Leeds, on the other hand, made a great start and are up in fifth but on a worrying slide with four defeats from five. Brentford also have a great home record against the Yorkshire club with their last defeat coming nine games ago, way back in 1950!
Millwall v Burton Albion @3pm - tickets for the match above will be hard to get without membership or a previous purchasing history but there shouldn't be any problem getting one for this game. That's because it isn't a particularly mouthwatering prospect. Respectively 15th and 22nd in the table, they've managed only 25 goals between them so far this season which is less than one a game

FA Cup First Round - with the qualifying rounds completed we've reached that magic moment when the surviving non-league clubs get the chance to play against professional sides from League One and League Two. In some cases, this can mean some of the minnows taking part in the biggest match in their history. Not only is this prestigious but it nets the smaller sides thousands of pounds in gate receipts and prize money which can prove to be transformational if invested wisely. The winners of each tie will receive a cheque for £18,000. 
AFC Wimbledon v Lincoln City @3pm - both these clubs are associated with FA Cup magic. The Dons famously won the competition in 1988 beating a seemingly unstoppable Liverpool side 1-0 in a dramatic final to cause one of the greatest cup upsets of my lifetime. Whilst the Imps, as a non-league side, made it all the way to the quarter-finals last season seeing off the likes of Ipswich, Brighton and Burnley before finally losing to eventual winners Arsenal at the Emirates. Now back in League Two, Lincoln are pushing for promotion again and should prove to be tricky opponents for the hosts who are struggling in the division above
Boreham Wood v Blackpool @3pm - the more romantic tie is to be found at Meadow Park where non-leaguers Boreham Wood welcome former Premier League side and FA Cup winners Blackpool. The Seasiders fielded a very entertaining side in their one season in the top flight back in 2010/11 but some terrible off-the-field shenanigans have seen the club plummet to League Two since then. Now back in the third tier and pushing for promotion, things are looking a bit more promising for the Lancashire club and they should win here. However, the Wood have a habit of making the first round and are no strangers to playing the big boys. Currently one of the top 10 sides in non-league football, the Hertfordshire side should give it a good go

Bostik League Premier Division
Hendon v Kingstonian @3pm - the Greens face a tricky game against the K's who have started the season well at their new temporary home in Leatherhead. Despite some upheaval off the pitch, the Surrey club are still in the top eight and win as many as they lose. If Hendon do triumph they could well return to the top of the table
Thurrock v Dulwich Hamlet @3pm - whether they do depends entirely on the Hamlet. With the main title challengers Billericay otherwise engaged in the FA Cup, Dulwich could potentially open up a six-point lead at the top if they vanquish lowly Thurrock

Bostik League North Division
Haringey Borough v Dereham Town @3pm - after their fine FA Cup run, Haringey have seen a number of league matches postponed meaning they're only in fifth at the time of writing. With games in hand on most of the sides above them, they could well become title challengers. We'll get a good indication of how likely that is here as Dereham are the current leaders

Combined Counties League Premier Division
Spelthorne Sports v Westfield @3pm - in my opinion, the pick of the action in the ninth tier is to be had over in Ashford where fifth-placed Spelthorne entertain the league leaders. Westfield, from Woking, are four points clear at the top with two games in hand and are averaging nearly three goals a game

Combined Counties League Division 1
Staines Lammas v FC Deportivo Galicia @2pm - the hosts, with several games in hand, are well placed to push for promotion this year. Recently promoted FCDG have been more than holding their own at this level and made headlines this week by announcing the signing of veteran Spanish midfielder Quique de Lucas. The 39-year-old had a season at Chelsea in 2002/03 and also played many times for Espanyol, Alaves and Celta Vigo during a career totalling well over 500 appearances
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Sunday 5 November

Premier League
Chelsea v Manchester United @430pm - the week comes to an end on my birthday and the football schedulers obviously noticed this as there's a great selection of games. The biggest game of the weekend takes place at Stamford Bridge where two of the heavyweights of the Premier League slug it out in the teatime game. The reigning champions are finding things relatively tough this season and struggled to get past struggling Bournemouth in Dorset on Saturday. Former Blues boss Jose Mourinho is likely to get a good reception on his return to Stamford Bridge but he'll be desperate to win this otherwise his current side could start to look like also-rans too.
Tottenham Hotspur v Crystal Palace @12pm - earlier in the day there's also an important London derby at Wembley. Both sides need the points to further their causes at either end of the table. Spurs should be strong favourites to win but with four points from three games, Roy Hodgson is starting to move Palace in the right direction

FA Cup First Round
Charlton Athletic v Truro City @2pm - the Addicks are fourth in League One so should stroll to victory against Truro. The Cornish side play three levels below their hosts but are the highest ranked club in the county's history and will have absolutely nothing to lose
Dartford v Swindon Town @2pm - in the other tie of the afternoon a side from the National League South host one from the fourth tier. With Swindon a former Premier League club, albeit for just one season over 20 years ago, this is also a prestigious occasion for the Darts. Both sides are chasing promotion in their respective divisions so come into the game in reasonable form - there's some real cupset potential here

FA Women's Super League Cup
Arsenal v Reading @2pm - the pick of the women's action comes at Meadow Park where two of the country's top four sides meet for this group stage match
London Bees v Millwall Lionesses @2pm - a short journey to the south there's also a London derby in the same competition featuring two clubs from the second tier of the women's game


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 in the London area for this blog then get in touch. I also very much welcome photos of your football travels.

NEED HELP?
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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