Sunday 28 January 2018

TLFG: 29 January - 4 February 2018

As we come to the end of the another month, it's good to see the days getting longer and whole Saturday afternoon matches being played in daylight.

The approach of summer brings promise of the quadrennial* football feast that is the World Cup and to get us in the mood we now effectively have a mini version of the tournament taking place on one day at the end of March!

I'm not talking about the eagerly anticipated Conifa World Football Cup at the end of May but the group of friendlies that have so far been announced for 27 March.

Top billing, unsurprisingly, goes to England v Italy at Wembley, last week we brought news of Australia v Colombia at Craven Cottage and now we've also learned of Nigeria v Serbia at The Hive (thanks to Niels VM for the tip-off).

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Ironically of the teams above, it is Italy - the third most successful team in World Cup history - who are the only ones not going to Russia for this year's tournament.

It's a shame the games are taking place on the same day at the same time as it would be nice to have seen at least a couple of them. So which one will you pick?

In other news, many congratulations are due to Arsenal for edging past Chelsea into the EFL Cup Final at Wembley next month.

Last week I predicted they'd probably have the edge and I backed this up by taking part in a free-to-enter Facebook competition run by my local Turkish takeaway to predict the exact score. I went with 2-1 and won a £25 online voucher. Yum!

I also travelled down to the West Country on Saturday to watch QPR take on Championship side-of-the-moment Bristol City.

After their impressive EFL Cup exploits which saw them beat Manchester United and then narrowly lose to Manchester City over two legs in the semi-final, I wasn't expecting all that much.

Ashton Gate has been hugely developed since I last went there seven or eight years ago and would more than hold its own in the Premier League.

Charlton Athletic's very popular 'Football For A Fiver' promotion is back
The stewards and staff are reputed to be among the friendliest and most helpful in the country and I definitely found that to be the case - more on that later.

Probably the only drawback is its distance from the station and town centre but there are shuttle buses and taxis and at about 2.5 miles it is possible to walk if you arrive in good time.

The first half an hour went well enough with our defence soaking up most of what came its way fairly comfortably.

Then shortly after the half hour City had a man sent off for a rash tackle and the Rangers faithful started to get excited.

Sadly, and not for the first time, it didn't work out like that with the hosts scoring from a corner right on half-time and then nicking another on the counter midway through the second half after surviving a concerted spell of pressure.

QPR did keep pushing but shots on target were few and far between and the match ended 2-0 amid heavy swirling drizzle.

Tickets for this year's Non-League Finals Day at Wembley are on sale now
As a few of us loitered around outside waiting for friends and chewing over the debacle, one of the catering staff appeared carrying a tray heaped high with warm unsold pasties and encouraged us to fill our boots, improving the mood markedly - so thanks very much to the lady in question.

Looking ahead to 24 February, Charlton Athletic are running their very popular 'Football For A Fiver' promotion where all adult tickets are just £5. Interestingly they've picked the home game against title contenders Shrewsbury Town who recently took West Ham United to a replay in the FA Cup so it should be a good game.

Lastly, this weekend sees the next rounds of the FA Trophy and FA Vase. Don't forget that tickets for Non-League Finals Day at Wembley on 20 May where the finals of both these competitions are played back-to-back are also on sale now.

There are over 80 matches in the London area over the next seven days. The highlights include the return of the Premier League and the next round of the FA Trophy.

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
Thursday fixtures - purple 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 29 January

Professional Development League
There are a couple of U23 games on Monday afternoon with Charlton Athletic and Watford both playing at 'home'. The Addicks' match against Bristol City is being played at Greenwich Borough's ground so I'd recommend that as facilities for spectators will be a lot better than those at the Hornets' training ground

Bostik League North Division
Haringey Borough v Tilbury @745pm - the best of the day's non-league action should be found at Coles Park where the hosts will look to win and keep up with their fellow play-off contenders


Tuesday 30 January

Premier League
West Ham United v Crystal Palace @745pm - there's a full midweek programme of Premier League games this week with this fine looking London derby dominating proceedings on Tuesday night. Both sides have climbed to what appear to be fairly healthy midtable positions but with only six points separating the teams in 10th and 20th, they're both very much still in the battle to avoid relegation so a win will be valuable for both. If you want to go, there are still quite a few tickets available via the club's resale scheme

Millwall v Derby County @745pm - over the river in Bermondsey there's an intriguing clash between the Lions and promotion contenders Derby. The Rams are on a fantastic nine game unbeaten run and have climbed to second as a result. Part of this streak saw a 3-0 win over Millwall just before Christmas so they'll start as favourites against their midtable opponents

Brentford B v Bristol Rovers U23 @1pm - it's possible to see two games in one day if you combine this match with one of the later evening kick-offs. This game will take place at Brentford's training ground - the public are usually admitted but double check all the details before you travel

Bostik League Premier Division
Hendon v Leatherhead @745pm - the top non-league game of the night sees two play-off hopefuls meet at Silver Jubilee Park. Although currently down in seventh and 10th respectively, both have games in hand on most of those above them so could climb the table considerably

Essex Senior League
Redbridge v Stansted @745pm - the Motormen took full advantage of their nearest rivals not playing on Saturday with a 4-1 win at Waltham Forest to go six points clear at the top. If FC Romania lose at Barkingside on Monday then Redbridge will go nine points clear with a victory here

Wednesday 31 January

Premier League
Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United @8pm - the match of the week is this clash of the Titans at Wembley. Worthy of any cup final line-up, this relatively humble league game is pretty much sold out as you would expect. Both sides are unbeaten in five with three wins and two draws but whilst United brushed past League Two strugglers Yeovil in the FA Cup on Friday, Spurs could only manage a draw against Newport from the same division. Although the Red Devils historically have a far better head-to-head record against their London rivals, Tottenham are unbeaten in five at home against the Old Trafford club
Chelsea v AFC Bournemouth @745pm - in terms of form these two are both among the best in the division right now but in pretty much every other respect there are light years between them. The Cherries sensationally beat the Blues at Stamford Bridge when they joined the Premier League back in 2015 but have lost the five games since then including two matches (one in the EFL Cup) this season so it's going to be very tough for them

Bostik League North Division
Romford v AFC Hornchurch @745pm - if you're struggling to get a ticket for either of the above, and you probably will, then this Essex derby between teams at opposite ends of the table could be a reasonable alternative

Thursday 1 February

FA Women's Super League 1
Chelsea v Manchester City @7pm - get the new month underway with this massive women's game at Kingsmeadow. The two biggest and best teams in the country go head-to-head in this rearranged fixture with top spot up for grabs


Friday 2 February

Premier League 2
Fulham v Blackburn Rovers @7pm - the Cottagers welcome PL2 Division 2 leaders Blackburn to Mostpur Park for what could be a very interesting U23 game


Saturday 3 February

Premier League
Arsenal v Everton @530pm - I think I'm right in saying that these are the two longest serving clubs in the top flight with neither having suffered a relegation for decades - in Arsenal's case since 1919. Sadly, neither have won the league title for a long time and neither are going to get anywhere near this year. For the Gunners, a place in the top four is still achievable while survival is still the priority for Sam Allardyce's team despite being in ninth - a home win should be the order of the day

Fulham v Nottingham Forest @3pm - the team from SW6 recorded their fourth win on the bounce on Saturday to finally move into the top six. The west London club are in great form at the moment and are desperately hoping to improve on their impressive performance last season which ended with a play-off defeat to Reading. Forest are in midtable and should be there for the taking but the beauty of this division is that everyone is beatable
Queens Park Rangers v Barnsley @3pm - after the dismal display at Bristol City on Saturday, there will be huge pressure on Rangers to win this game. Barnsley at home is usually a banker for QPR - they've won the last 10 and the current Tykes side aren't particularly special but all runs have to end at some point...

League One
Charlton Athletic v Oxford United @3pm - the Addicks finally surrendered their place in the top six to Rotherham during the week and failed to take it back as their game at Blackpool got postponed on Saturday. With three wins in a row, they're still in good form and an Oxford side with three defeats in five look vulnerable

FA Trophy Third Round
Wealdstone v Warrington Town @3pm - aside from the top division of the National League, all non-league teams play in regionalised leagues so when they enter national cup competitions like this one it often leads to some unusual match-ups. I could be wrong but I doubt these two have ever played before. The Stones won the competition back in 1985 and enjoyed a great run to the semi-finals in 2012. The Wire hail from Cheshire and are one of the top clubs playing at the level below Wealdstone. If they win this last-16 tie it will equal their best ever performance in the FA Trophy

Bostik League Premier Division
Dulwich Hamlet v Metropolitan Police @3pm - the hosts saw their game at Leatherhead postponed on Saturday and their lead at the top cut to just two points as nearest rivals Billericay thrashed struggling Tooting 6-2 at Imperial Fields. Given that the Blues still have seven games in hand, Dulwich's time at the top will soon be over. If they are to keep themselves in with a chance then they've got to get back to winning ways soon but in Met Police they face another top six side. Having lost their last two home games to Merstham and Wingate & Finchley, it could be another tough afternoon

Bostik League South Division
Thamesmead Town v Lewes @3pm - after winning last weekend's top of the table clash against Cray, Lewes have managed to stay just ahead of their south-east London rivals. After nicking a late draw against Walton Casuals on Saturday, the Rooks are now two points clear and can't really afford any slip ups if they're to stay out of the play-off places. Thamesmead are ticking over nicely enough in midtable with their recent games producing loads of goals (there have been 24 in their last five matches) and the reverse fixture ended in a 2-2 draw

Southern Counties East League Division 1
Fisher v K Sports @3pm - currently third, the Fish are London's main challengers in this division and will hope to return to the ninth tier as soon as possible. K Sports are currently top and will provide a stern test for the Rotherhithe club

Sunday 4 February

Premier League
Crystal Palace v Newcastle United @215pm - the Magpies are set to spend their second Sunday in a row in London following this weekend's FA Cup defeat at Chelsea. Now both out of the nation's premier cup competition, both sides can concentrate on the more important task of securing top-flight survival. Newcastle sneaked a 1-0 win in the reverse fixture shortly after Roy Hodgson's arrival at Palace in October. Consequently I think they'll find the current Eagles side much improved and could struggle

Women's FA Cup Fourth Round

London Bees v Chelsea @2pm - we're now down to the last 32 and the draw has thrown up this interesting London derby. The hosts play in the second tier of the women's game and will do really well to make progress as the Blues could well be the top side in the land by the time this kicks off
Millwall Lionesses v Coventry United @3pm - in the other London tie there could also be a mismatch as FAWSL2 leaders Millwall host a side from the tier below

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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*don't worry, I had to look this up before using it

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