Monday, 9 October 2017

TLFG: 9-15 October 2017

Greetings one and all and welcome to this week's TLFG.

My participation in Non-League Day has meant the last week has been incredibly hectic and I've had very little time to work on this blog.

UPDATE: 11/10/17
The blog is now ready to go - three days late so here it is. Fill your boots!

First up apologies for what must be the latest ever publication of TLFG.

Thankfully this was entirely the result of what turned out to be a fantastically successful Non-League Day.

Things got really busy, really early in a way they never have before and consequently this blog has been put on the backburner a bit in recent weeks.

Yours truly puts in an appearance at Sky Sports News HQ
The main events of last week for me were a couple of appearances on Sky Sports News (where I shared the make-up room with Kirsty Gallagher), an early morning trip to BBC Broadcasting House to be on Radio 5 live (where I ran into and caught up with the doyenne of sports broadcasting that is Caroline Barker) and a cameo appearance in an article in The Times.

After some excellent discussions with the Premier League, they and their member clubs delivered some superb support for NLD in the form of programme and internet articles and social media posts. Having the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United (to name just four) backing the cause made a big difference. There was also good support from EFL clubs too, some of which even had games of their own on the day but still happily helped out.

Thankfully the charity angle worked really well for the first time with clubs' fundraising efforts for Prostate Cancer UK and other good causes raising thousands of pounds across the country.

On the football front, I attended two games on the day. First up I went to Dulwich Hamlet v Needham Market in the Bostik Premier.

It was with heavy heart that I didn't go to watch Harrow Borough v Kingstonian but by Thursday the club had shown no sign of engaging with the day so I committed to Dulwich instead who couldn't have done more.

With a 'Pay What You Like' deal in place and all profits going to local charities, a large crowd was guaranteed. On arrival at the ground, the queue snaked up from the car wash and into the Sainsbury's car park in a way I'd never seen despite many big games at Champion Hill in recent years. The queue was so big that stewards directed us to the other side of the ground to go through another turnstile reserved for big occasions.

Sky Sports News pay a visit to Dulwich Hamlet on Non-League Day

Aside from a penalty miss by Needham, the game itself was a bit of a stroll for the Hamlet who scored a goal minutes either side of the fluffed chance to win 2-0.

But what was the eventual attendance I hear you cry? A very healthy 2,417 - over a thousand more than average so I think we can say that went well.

With this game complete, I then made my way across town to Feltham for the evening game between PFC Victoria London and North Acton.

I don't think I've ever been to a 12th tier game before but that's exactly what this Middlesex County League match was.

Only founded last year, PFC (a club mainly for Polish players) won promotion at the first attempt and also won a cup too. In winning that cup, they drew a crowd of several hundred so it was ambitiously decided to try and get 1,000 to attend on NLD with the kick-off pushed back to try and make it possible.

The team groundshare with Hanworth Villa and there was hardly a sign of anyone when I arrived with a friend about 20-30 minutes before kick-off.

With the teams finally out on the pitch, the ground did fill up a bit but there was nowhere near the four-figure crowd that was hoped for.

It was a shame because an action-packed 90 minutes ensued.

Wild tackles flew in, the managers scrapped on the touchline, chances aplenty were created but until fairly late in the game it remained goalless.

The PFC Victoria ultras celebrate after watching their side open the scoring
Eventually, a well crafted and crisply finished goal was taken by the hosts causing the handful of ultras behind the goal to unleash a pyro show similar to that that you'd find at any Ekstraklasa game albeit on a smaller scale.

Although delighting most of the spectators, it saw the referee suspend play and order them to be moved from behind the goal which they complied with after being persuaded by one of the players.

Ultimately the game ended 1-0 and the majority of the crowd went home happy. Club officials guestimated there were around 350-400 there and with it being free entry it would be impossible to get a precise figure - I just strolled in through a side entrance. Personally I think it looked more like 150-200 but either way it was still a stunning attendance for a game at this level.

On the downside, I heard on Monday that the club had received a hefty fine for the pyrotechnics and North Acton tweeted that their players had been threatened and abused by members of the crowd during the game. Whether this was the case and what form this abuse took is unclear but it was particularly disappointing to hear this as 'Kick It Out' had chosen it as only one of six games nationwide to promote their message.

Overall though, it was a fine day. NLD received lots of great feedback from the public and our partners. Amazingly #nonleagueday was number 2 trend on Twitter in the UK for the whole of Saturday and 11th worldwide which has never happened.

Needless to say, preparations are already under way for next year.

If you supported the day by going to a game and/or promoted our message in some way then thanks very much I really, really appreciate it.


THE WEEK AHEAD
There are over 90 matches in the London area over the next seven days as the Premier League and Championship make their return. One of the highlights of the week is the FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round - the final hurdle that the remaining non-league clubs have to negotiate before going into the hat with the League 1 and League 2 teams. The tie of the round locally is the mouthwatering east London derby between Dagenham & Redbridge and Leyton Orient.

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.

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Wednesday 11 October

Bostik League North Division
Grays Athletic v Potters Bar Town @745pm - the top ranked match in the men's game takes place at Aveley. On paper it would appear that it's not much to get excited about as Grays are down near the bottom and PBT in midtable

Combined Counties League Cup
Colliers Wood United v Balham @730pm - down at the Wibbandune we've got a groundshare derby to look forward to between two ninth-tier teams

Essex Senior League Cup
West Essex v Basildon United @745pm - two of the ESL's top four meet in the opening round of the league's knockout cup competition

FA Women's Premier League Southern
Charlton Athletic v West Ham United @745pm - you could argue that this is the football event of the day as it's a derby and takes place at The Valley

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Thursday 12 October

FA Women's Super League Cup

Arsenal v London Bees @730pm - women's football tops the bill on Thursday night as the Gunners entertain their local rivals at Boreham Wood
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Friday 13 October

Premier League 2
Tottenham Hotspur v Leicester City @1pm - Spurs' U23 side are having a poor season and are currently bottom of their division, whilst the Foxes are up in the top four. This game will take place at the club's impressive training ground but check before you travel that you will be admitted as it is unclear at this stage
Fulham v Stoke City @7pm - a much safer bet is this match at the Cottagers' training ground. It is open to the public, the facilities for spectators are pretty decent, it's easy to get to and only £3 for adults
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Saturday 14 October

Premier League
Crystal Palace v Chelsea @3pm - the Eagles have made the worst possible start, losing all seven without scoring a goal. Things are unlikely to get any better on Saturday when the league champions pay a visit. If Roy Hodgson's men get anything out of this, it will be quite an achievement
Watford v Arsenal @530pm - there's another derby at Vicarage Road where two of the top eight do battle. Only a point currently separate them in the table which shows how far Watford have come in recent years and/or Arsenal have fallen
Tottenham Hotspur v Bournemouth @3pm - the two games above will be tough to get tickets for, but that's not the case at Wembley where you'll find it very straightforward to get in. Spurs are unbeaten in five, up in third and should have way too much for the Cherries

Championship
Brentford v Millwall @3pm - there's a cracking London derby to look forward to at Griffin Park. However, because it's a small ground and security will be tight, you'll need to have a purchasing history with the Bees to be able to buy a ticket for this one
Fulham v Preston North End @3pm - the alternative at Craven Cottage is a good one as two of the top 10 meet in the battle for a play-off spot

League One
Charlton Athletic v Doncaster Rovers @3pm - the Addicks made a great start but then ran into a rough patch. They managed to arrest that slump with a solid win at Fleetwood and could make further inroads into the top six with a win here

FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round - the country's top cup competition has reached a critical point. At this stage the National League sides enter the draw alongside all the remaining lower ranked non-league sides. The winners progress to the First Round 'proper', where they will go into the draw against all the clubs in League One and League Two, and also receive £12,500 in prize money. 
Dagenham & Redbridge v Leyton Orient @3pm - undoubtedly the tie of the round in these parts as two East End clubs from the National League meet at Victoria Road. They've met many times over the last 25 years since D&R formed and it's the O's who have had the upper hand - currently the Brisbane Road club are unbeaten in seven against their local rivals
Hampton & Richmond Borough v Truro City @3pm - a struggling Beavers side travelled down to Cornwall on Saturday for a National League South game against Truro. They managed to force a draw and unseated Truro from top spot in the process. This time they'll have home advantage so could go one better and beat them
Haringey Borough v Heybridge Swifts @3pm - the final tie in London pits two of the best teams from the Bostik North against each other. Coming from the eighth tier, these are a couple of the lowest ranked teams left in the competition and for either to make the first round would be some achievement

Bostik League Premier Division
Staines Town v Dulwich Hamlet @3pm  - the match of the day in the seventh tier can be found at Wheatsheaf Lane where sixth-placed Staines take on a Dulwich side who will go top if they win

Bostik League North Division
AFC Hornchurch v Bowers & Pitsea @3pm - there's an even more crucial game in the eighth tier where the Urchins, in second, entertain the team who are third. Only goal difference currently separates them and with both being from Essex, there's a bit of a derby flavour to this one too

Bostik League South Division
Cray Wanderers v Corinthian Casuals @3pm - formed in 1860, the hosts are believed to be the oldest club in London. On Saturday they take on another historic club as they look to keep pace with the other play-off contenders

Evo-Stik League East Division
Ashford Town (Middlesex) v Hayes & Yeading United @3pm - the Tangerines are leading the charge in this division from a TLFG perspective. Up in fifth and with games in hand on all those above them, things are looking good. H&YU have always been the more senior club but recent times have been tough and start this derby as underdogs

Essex Senior League
Barkingside v Ilford @3pm - these two groundsharers are locked together in midtable as we head into what I will dramatically title the 'Seven Kings derby' (because it's the nearest station)
Clapton v Great Wakering Rovers @3pm - after attracting a crowd of nearly 800 on Saturday for the 'away' game at Hackney Wick, the Old Spotted Dog will probably be pretty empty again for the visit of the league leaders. The Clapton Ultras are, as far as I know, still in dispute with the people running the club and will resume their boycott outside the ground

Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division
Wembley v Hoddesdon Town @3pm - the Lions finished fourth last season and are currently fourth again. That position makes them the top TLFG club in the division. The visitors are only a point behind but beating them could see a move up to second

Combined Counties League Division 1
Staines Lammas v Eversley & California @3pm - the hosts welcome the league leaders to the Lucan Pavilion for this interesting top-four clash
Worcester Park v Chessington & Hook United @3pm - regular title contenders Worcester Park will go top if they beat local rivals Chessington and Eversley come unstuck at Staines

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Sunday 15 October

Premier League 2
West Ham United v Manchester United @1pm - I'm a huge believer that the country's top clubs should make more of their U23 games. Often poorly advertised or moved at short notice, some potentially great games are never even considered by most fans. On Sunday we've got the chance to watch what looks like being a great game at the London Stadium. Tickets are only £5 but you're advised to buy in advance as only a small section of the ground will be open

Kent Senior Trophy First Round
Cray Valley PM v Fisher @3pm - if it's a non-league game you're after then this is the best on offer as two sides from the SCEFL begin their quests for county cup glory

FA Women's Premier League Cup
Crystal Palace v Lewes @2pm - the teams who are third and second in the league meet in the cup in the standout women's game of the day. The match will be played at Bromley's ground


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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