Sunday 17 December 2017

TLFG: 18-24 December 2017

So the final regular edition of TLFG before the Christmas/New Year Special gets published is here. Wow - how time flies.

I had thought about merging this week into the special to make it cover the next three weeks but I've run out of time.

Thankfully the Christmas one is well underway and it will hopefully get published at some point on the evening of Saturday 23 December but failing that, Christmas Eve.

But before all that, there's still plenty going on from now until next Saturday with some big derbies, important cup matches and top of the table clashes so don't wind down for the festivities just yet.

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I'm back on early shifts this week so seeing any midweek football is highly unlikely. The main entertainment for me should be my daughter's debut in her first nativity play at school - in order to attend I've had to agree to a super early shift at work which will see me need to get up at 215am so if you'd like to donate to TLFG's coffee-drinking fund this week it will be very much appreciated.

So what have you been to see over the last week? Regular reader Simon S went to Carshalton's big game with Lewes in the Bostik League while another regular Chris H went to watch Brentford B and Wealdstone - thanks for the pictures and updates gents.

A big welcome too to all new readers, subscribers and followers - thanks for joining us.

I think that's about it from me but finally don't forget next week's special - it will cover the period from 25 December - 7 January so it will include all the Boxing Day and New Year games and take you through to the FA Cup Third Round at the end.

There are 70 matches in the London area over the next seven days. The highlights include some matches in the Premier League and the quarter-finals of the EFL Cup.

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.

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

Saturday fixtures - blue 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 18 December

Professional Development League
There are U23 games taking place at Charlton Athletic, Crystal Palace, Millwall and QPR. All games kick-off at 1pm and are being played at the clubs' training grounds. As a result, some of them may not be open to the public so double check all venues, kick-off times and whether you'll be allowed in before you leave. Of the four, QPR's game against Watford is probably the best as it's a derby and most games played at Harlington are open to visitors

Spartan South Midlands League Division 1
Brimsdown v Enfield Borough @745pm - the most eye-catching non-league fixture for me is this north London derby. Although they now play at Haringey Borough's ground, Brimsdown originally hail from the Enfield area. Borough have had a fine debut season at this level and are among the frontrunners so will start as favourites


Tuesday 19 December

EFL Cup Quarter-Final
Arsenal v West Ham United @745pm - this derby is the tie of the round and is quite hard to call. The Gunners should win but Arsene Wenger rarely fields full strength sides in this competition and they could be vulnerable to a resurgent Hammers side who held them to a 0-0 draw in the league last week. For me, it will all depend on how badly West Ham want it - if they are organised and well motivated then they'll have a good chance

Brentford B v Manchester City U23 @1pm - the Bees' have arranged another attractive friendly for their second string at their training ground on Tuesday. Again, double check all the details before you travel

FA Trophy First Round Replay
Boreham Wood v Dartford @745pm - seventh in the National League and having made the second round of the FA Cup, it's been a great season for Boreham Wood. Not too shabby for a club with the smallest crowds in the fifth tier (average 740). On Saturday they managed to come away from a tricky trip to Princes Park with a 1-1 draw and should win here

Bostik League Premier Division
Staines Town v Harlow Town @745pm - there are several other non-league games on Tuesday but this just about represents the best of the rest. Staines are third and still have an outside shot at the title whilst Harlow are battling the drop so this important for both clubs as we head into Christmas


Wednesday 20 December

EFL Cup Quarter-Final
Chelsea v AFC Bournemouth @745pm - the Blues often field weaker than normal sides in this competition but with the Premier League title now seemingly out of their reach, the EFL Cup could become more of a priority than before. The Cherries' overwhelming focus will be on preserving their top-flight status so Eddie Howe will have some tough squad decisions of his own

Kent Senior Cup Quarter-Final
Cray Wanderers v Charlton Athletic @745pm - the match at Stamford Bridge is sold out so this is your next best alternative in the capital. Cray from the Bostik South play at Bromley's ground and will hopefully put on an entertaining display against an Addicks' side which will probably be largely made up of U23 players

Friday 22 December

Premier League
Arsenal v Liverpool @745pm - one of the biggest games of the Premier League season, this was always going to be moved for TV purposes. There was talk of very controversially moving it to Christmas Eve but that didn't happen and we've got it on a Friday night instead which isn't much better for the away fans. Much of a muchness in the league, this is another one that's quite hard to call. Many teams struggle at the Emirates but not so Liverpool who Arsenal have only beaten five times in the last 10 attempts in all competitions - the Reds won a thriller here last year 4-3. In fact, Liverpool are unbeaten in five matches home and away against the Gunners over the last couple of years, scoring an impressive 14 goals in the process


Saturday 23 December

Premier League
West Ham United v Newcastle United @3pm - a hugely important game in the battle to avoid relegation. A few weeks ago, you'd have favoured Newcastle to win this but now their form has collapsed and it's the Hammers who are on the rise. Given that current form and home advantage, you'd have to back David Moyes's side in this one

Queens Park Rangers v Bristol City @3pm - when QPR were fighting to get out of what is now League One back in the early years of this century, there used to be some all mighty ding dongs against the Robins and I was a fairly frequent visitor to Ashton Gate as a result. One thing that increased the rivalry then and is still a factor today is that Ian Holloway, a big Bristol Rovers man, was the manager. Now both Championship sides, the relationship is a bit different with QPR floundering towards the wrong end of the table and City going all out for promotion. Given how well they're doing and how relatively easy it is to get from Bristol to Shepherd's Bush, the away end is pretty much sold out (19 tickets remaining out of 1,800 when I looked earlier) so there should be a lively atmosphere
Fulham v Barnsley @3pm - this match doesn't have quite as much riding on it for both teams and there isn't any strong rivalry. It is a better value option in terms of price though, with plenty of adult tickets available for £20-£25 although these prices only apply if you buy before Saturday

League One
AFC Wimbledon v Bradford City @3pm - the Dons are finding it really tough at the moment. Aside from an FA Cup win over Charlton, they're winless in three in the league with their latest performance ending in a 4-0 home loss to leaders Wigan leaving them second from bottom. The good news is that it's tight towards the foot of the table with the four teams above them all catchable with a win. The bad news is that Bradford are another one of the good sides who will be incredibly tough to beat. A former Premier League side, they are too big to be in this division and will bring sizeable support
Charlton Athletic v Blackpool @3pm - after being a big part of the leading group for most of the season, the Addicks are in real danger of falling by the wayside. Out of the FA Cup and winless in four in the league, only goals scored is keeping them in the play-off places. However, they have a real chance of getting back to winning ways against Blackpool who are currently down in midtable and in worse form than they are

League Two
Barnet v Cheltenham Town @3pm - the Bees picked up their second win in four games to move off the bottom and out of the relegation zone completely on Saturday. A win against Cheltenham could see them move up another three places if results go their way, such is the tightness of the relegation race in this division. The visitors are no better than the Morecambe team who Barnet saw off on Saturday so they should be confident of being able to do well again here

National League
Sutton United v Tranmere Rovers @3pm - I would easily expect a crowd of 2,500-3,000 to pack into Gander Green Lane for the biggest non-league game of the day. Despite being just outside the play-off places, Tranmere are the giants of the division and it was a real surprise when the former second tier side and former EFL Cup finalists got relegated to this level a couple of years ago. Sutton are currently second in the table and could go top if they win
Bromley v Macclesfield Town @3pm - whether they do depends how well current leaders Macclesfield get on at Hayes Lane. The hosts have lost a bit of form of late and with it their position in the play-off places - it's going to be another close one

National League South
Dartford v Braintree Town @3pm - there's a real humdinger on the cards at Princes Park where the teams in first and second do battle to see who will be top at Christmas. These two and Hampton & Richmond Borough are all locked together on 38 points in one of the closest title races around
Wealdstone v St Albans City @3pm - both these sides sit just outside the play-off places and there's a hint of a derby feel to this one as they're not a million miles away from one another

Bostik League Premier Division
Dulwich Hamlet v Leiston @3pm - with only one defeat in 17 league games, it's no surprise that Dulwich find themselves top as we approach Christmas. However, they've found in quite tough going when they've had to play their main contenders with Metropolitan Police the only side in the top 10 that they've so far been able to beat (even Harrow Borough managed that!). So is their position a bit of a false one? Have they had easier fixtures than the rest? This match could prove to be illuminating as it features Leiston who are fourth. The reverse fixture in Suffolk near the start of the campaign ended in a 2-2 draw and with four wins from their last five games (the only defeat coming against big spending Billericay) they're looking pretty formidable

Bostik League North Division
Haringey Borough v Bowers & Pitsea @3pm - after welcoming over 1,000 supporters to Coles Park for their narrow FA Trophy loss to Leyton Orient on Saturday, Haringey can get back to concentrating on the league. With four or five games in hand on most of the clubs above them, seventh placed Boro have a great chance of getting promoted. Bowers are currently second and must be beaten if they are to be taken seriously

Bostik League South Division
Molesey v Cray Wanderers @3pm - the visitors have played a patient game this season, keeping slightly below the headlines while the likes of Corinthian Casuals, Carshalton and Greenwich have caught the eye. However, they've put together a 15-game unbeaten run themselves and have now crept up to second. A win at lowly Molesey could see them go top

Evo-Stik League East Division
Hanwell Town v AFC Rushden & Diamonds @3pm - it's been a season to forget so far for the hosts. Second from bottom after only three wins all season, it's looking pretty bleak for Hanwell. On Saturday, they should get one of their biggest crowds of the season as the leaders pay a visit. This phoenix club were formed from the ashes of a former third-tier team that went bust a few years ago and they still attract strong support

Combined Counties League Premier Division
Hanworth Villa v Bedfont Sports @3pm - the match of the day in the CCL is this local derby between two of the division's top five. With leaders Westfield still catchable, Bedfont really need to win

Essex Senior League
Ilford v Redbridge @1pm - the Foxes welcome leaders Redbridge to Cricklefield for a derby that could play an important part in this year's title race
West Essex v Clapton @3pm - the attendance of the day will come at another east London derby. Although a title attempt is pretty much over, they are both in the top eight. The match will be played at Barking's ground and the Clapton Ultras should swell the crowd considerably

Spartan South Midlands League Division 1
London Lions v Enfield Borough @3pm - the best game on Saturday in the 10th tier would appear to be this north London derby at Rowley Lane. Both new to the division this year, the sides are up in the top five


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!

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