Sunday, 7 January 2018

TLFG: 8-14 January 2018

Welcome one and all to the first TLFG of 2018!

I hope you're well and the festive break was a good one for you. Happy Christmas to anyone celebrating the Orthodox version today (Sunday).

So how was it for you? How many games did you get to see?

Personally I managed two. I could've done at least four but decided to stick with just a couple to conserve my funds and energy (I did a lot of running during this period including five parkruns all over London).

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Both took place at the recently re-named Rogers Family Stadium as I went to watch a couple of Harrow Borough games.

Sadly there wasn't much to celebrate as they lost the derby match against Hendon 4-0 and then went down 2-1 against Leatherhead.

Despite the results, it was good to get back there and see some games and I even took a couple of friends to boost the attendance.

Harrow (in red) successfully defend a corner during the Boxing Day derby against Hendon

I also had the chance to watch QPR a couple of times but I found myself making excuses again and passed up the opportunity. It was a shame to miss the win over Cardiff but the MK Dons defeat in the FA Cup is one I'm sure all R's fans will want to erase from their memories ASAP.

So what else has been going on?

Regular readers will know that the Conifa World Football Cup is coming to London at the end of May and the draw took place on Saturday in Northern Cyprus. Local interests Ellan Vannin (a.k.a. the Isle of Man) are in Group 1 alongside Barawa (Africa), Tamil Eelam (Asia) and Cascadia (North America).

More details about venues and tickets are set to be announced later this month so keep your eyes peeled for further updates.

So what have you been to see over the last couple of weeks?

A hastily arranged friendly at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre between two non-league sides caused a flurry of activity among the groundhopper community earlier in the week. Primarily an athletics stadium, and a decaying one at that, the chance to watch a game there for free drew a few committed hoppers to that corner of south-east London. Built on the site of the stadium that used to host FA Cup finals before Wembley, it is historically quite a significant place.

This Saturday sees a bumper crop of four Premier League games in the capital and the last time I looked, the ones at Crystal Palace, Tottenham and Watford were on sale to non-members - a rare thing indeed!

Finally this week, many thanks to American reader John B who very generously donated to TLFG's coffee-drinking fund it is very much appreciated.


THE WEEK AHEAD
There are over 80 matches in the London area over the next seven days. The highlights include some matches in the Premier League, the semi-finals of the EFL Cup 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.

MIDWEEK MATCH MAP
Monday fixtures - yellow pin
Tuesday fixtures - green pin
Wednesday fixtures - magenta 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 8 January

Professional Development League
Crystal Palace and QPR have U23 games at their respective training grounds. Both games kick-off at 1pm. Palace entertain Ipswich while QPR welcome London rivals Charlton. If you're interested in going to either, make sure you double check all the details before you travel as venues and whether or not the public will be admitted can be changed at short notice

Bostik League North Division
Haringey Borough v Aveley @745pm - there are other non-league matches taking place on Monday but this is probably the most meaningful. Haringey had a number of games in hand after a couple of decent cup runs but three defeats from their last five has probably knocked them out of a title race being dominated by AFC Hornchurch. However, a place in the play-offs looks like theirs for the taking - provided they don't mess up too much more

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Tuesday 9 January

EFL Trophy Third Round
Charlton Athletic v Oxford United @745pm - the much maligned EFL Trophy is down to its last 16 teams. It's straight knockout from this point onwards. Fans and some participating clubs aren't really into this and attendances have been small - consequently adult tickets are only £10

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

National League
Dagenham & Redbridge v Boreham Wood @745pm - this match has a lot going for it: a derby, two of the top eight and only a point between them in the table. Both recorded decent results on Saturday so this should be close

Bostik League Premier Division
Wingate & Finchley v Leiston @745pm - a couple of levels below, we've got another top eight clash. Although the quality of football might be quite decent, don't expect a huge crowd - Wingate have the smallest attendances in the division and Leiston hail from Suffolk so won't bring many

Essex Senior League
Redbridge v Great Wakering Rovers @745pm - the Motormen saw their match against Stansted postponed on Saturday allowing FC Romania and Basildon United to close the gap on the leaders. Next up for Redbridge are two-time former champions GWR. Rovers are currently fifth and are by no means out of the title race themselves
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Wednesday 10 January

EFL Cup Semi-Final first leg
Chelsea v Arsenal @8pm - London's two biggest clubs meet as the EFL Cup nears its climax. Normally this competition would be well down the list of priorities for both but with the league title almost certainly beyond both of them then maybe they'll give it a good go. With five wins from seven appearances in the final, the Blues have by far the more impressive record and should be favourites to prevail over the two legs

Bostik League South Division
Cray Wanderers v VCD Athletic @745pm - currently third and with games in hand on the top two, this is an important game for Cray. VCD should be beaten and the points will lift them to second
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Friday 12 January

Premier League 2
West Ham United v Leicester City @7pm - the Hammers' U23 side face a tough match against Leicester who are currently second in this league for the best academy sides in the country. This match will be played at Dagenham & Redbridge's ground but, as always, double check the details before you set off
Fulham v Reading @7pm - two of the top sides from the division below meet in the other U23 game of the night and this might end up being your preference as it's being played in the comfortable surrounds of Craven Cottage. However, please check this before you depart as some sources are suggesting it might be at Motspur Park instead

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Saturday 13 January

Premier League
Chelsea v Leicester City @3pm - both sides found themselves held by lower league teams in the FA Cup on Saturday in what must be seen as slightly disappointing performances. Chelsea come into this on the back of their big cup semi against Arsenal so might need to rotate their squad a bit. If the Foxes do get something out of this it will be some achievement as they've only managed one win in 14 attempts against the Blues and that came two seasons ago when they won the title
Crystal Palace v Burnley @3pm - after their horrific start to the season, new manager Roy Hodgson has done a superb job to turn Palace's fortunes around lifting them from the bottom right up to 14th. They have an FA Cup game against big rivals Brighton on Monday but will no doubt view this tricky game against an outstanding Burnley team as more important. A lot has been made of how well Sean Dyche's side have done this season but it's worth pointing out that they are now winless in six in all competitions so things aren't quite as rosy as they might appear
Tottenham Hotspur v Everton @530pm - the day's late game looks like a good one. These two have seemingly been in England's top flight forever (Everton hold the record for the most seasons spent in the country's highest division) and both come into this game in the top 10. Both had excellent season's last time out and have fallen a bit behind those high standards. New manager Sam Allardyce has done really well to lift the Toffees who were really floundering under Ronald Koeman but Spurs are still in far better form and should have the edge at Wembley
Watford v Southampton @3pm - this match completes what is a bumper programme of Premier League games in London on Saturday. Aside from the Chelsea game, all the others should have tickets available in fairly decent supply to non-members including this one. On paper this is probably the least attractive game as it features two sides in pretty dodgy form but that suggests to me that it could be pretty close

Championship
Brentford v Bolton Wanderers @3pm - the Bees suffered the humiliation of losing at home to League Two side Notts County in the FA Cup on Saturday. They'll want to put that behind them as soon as possible and concentrate on keeping their good run in the league going instead. Bolton have been pretty poor this season but are showing signs of improvement with three wins from four lifting them out of the relegation zone
Millwall v Preston North End @3pm - the Lions are one of the smaller teams in the division but are more than holding their own. Currently 15th, they come into this on the back of a solid 4-1 FA Cup win over Barnsley. Preston, on the other hand, are well in the hunt for a play-off place and crushed League Two promotion contenders Wycombe 5-1 at Adams Park as they enjoyed a fruitful afternoon in the cup too

FA Trophy Second Round - with all our other EFL teams playing away, the focus next switches to the FA Trophy. This knockout competition is for clubs which play in the fifth to eighth tiers of English football with the final at Wembley in May. At this stage we are down to the last 32 teams. The draw is completely open (not regionalised or seeded) and the winners of each tie receive £7,000 prize money
Sutton United v Hendon @3pm - we've got a derby at Gander Green Lane where a team from London's deep south host one from the north-west. As recently as 2011, these two were playing each other in what is now the Bostik League but two promotions in seven years has left the U's in a far superior position. Hendon are having a fine season and should be able to challenge Sutton but avoiding defeat will take some doing
Wealdstone v Hereford @3pm - for me one of the games of the day at any level will be this one at Grosvenor Vale. Back in 1985 the Stones were the best team in the fifth tier and became the first club to do the non-league double, winning both the Conference and FA Trophy. They've had a tumultuous ride since then, losing their ground, losing loads of money and plummeting down the divisions but 33 years on they've made it back up to the sixth tier and on paper they should start as favourites against Hereford from the division below. Well that would be the case under normal circumstances but the Bulls are no ordinary seventh tier club. Founded from the ashes of former EFL club Hereford United in 2014, the club have made rapid progress through the divisions and made the FA Vase final in 2016. Still comfortably generating crowds of 2,500+, the Vale is likely to be packed and segregation will be in place. However, tickets will be available on the day - just make sure you get there early to avoid disappointment

National League South
Dartford v Havant & Waterlooville @3pm - with the title race so desperately tight almost every game is of significance to someone. As it stands, this will see the leaders play host to the side in fourth. Havant are three points behind but crucially have two games in hand on all those above them so are effectively the leaders in waiting

Bostik League South Division
Chipstead v Lewes @3pm - this game gives you the chance to take the measure of Lewes who are the current leaders. The Sussex club are way too big to be in this division and it seems as if they've got a side together who are capable of getting them out of it

Evo-Stik League East Division
Ashford Town (Middlesex) v AFC Dunstable @3pm - the hosts sit just outside the top six and will need to beat sides like second-placed Dunstable if they are to progress

Combined Counties League Premier Division
Hanworth Villa v Walton & Hersham @3pm - two of the top six meet at Rectory Meadow on Saturday. Hanworth's title challenge is all but over but there's still a chance the Swans could claim the title if Westfield fall apart in the second half of the season

Southern Counties East League Division 1
Bridon Ropes v Punjab United @3pm - fourth plays second at the Meridian Sports Ground. The Ropes are having a great season by their standards but welcome a club who are new to the division and doing even better

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Sunday 14 January

FA Women's Super League Cup Semi-Final
Chelsea v Manchester City @2pm - the pick of the day's games sees the top two sides in women's football meet in the semi-final of the League Cup for what should be a great game at AFC Wimbledon'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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