Sunday, 18 February 2018

TLFG: 19-25 February 2018

I'm tired.

Having enjoyed a week's holiday, I had to head into work for an 0530 start this morning after very little sleep and I've now been up for getting on for 20 hours so forgive me if this week's entry isn't up to scratch.

The highlights of the last few days were a trip to York with my family for a bit of sightseeing - the National Railway Museum and York's Chocolate Story were probably the standout attractions we had time to visit. Whilst on Thursday I was lucky enough to land some passes to the London Classic Car Show at the Excel Centre.

I'm not a motoring fan, I don't even have a driving licence but even I could appreciate the fine pieces of engineering that were on display from vintage 1920s cars right through to top of the range contemporary models from McLaren, Jaguar and Lister. Heck, I even got to see Anthea Turner!

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I also finally got round do donating blood platelets again after colds had ruled out my last two attempts - I was particularly motivated after learning of the death last week of young football fan Frankie Sherwood whose story I'd followed for a couple of years and who had received platelets to help him with his neuroblastoma treatment.

Saturday had been all about going to see some football but an inability to commit meant that come the day, half-decent tickets to see QPR play Bolton had skyrocketed to £38 and I just couldn't bring myself to pay that much to watch two lower midtable Championship sides have a go at each other so I decided to go and watch my local non-league side Kensington Dragons instead.

They play at the Linford Christie Stadium on Wormwood Scrubs and I noticed they had a decent Middlesex County League game against Cricklewood Wanderers who'd had a decent run in the FA Vase.

It was weird walking to the 230pm kick-off flanked by fans going to QPR whose Loftus Road ground I had to pass on my way.

I cut a lonely figure at the Scrubs on Saturday afternoon
On arrival at the Scrubs I noticed to my dismay that the stadium was a hive of inactivity with the pitch looking pretty heavy and no goals set up.

I then peered into the distance and saw the two teams in action on one of the Scrubs' regular park pitches but I'd have needed football boots or wellies to make it across and I simply wasn't prepared. I had to tramp back home via Loftus Road again but this time the action was well underway and I had to listen to my fellow fans from outside as they enjoyed what ended up being a pretty comfortable 2-0 win.

Once again, there may be opportunities for me to see a game this week but there are obstacles that need to be removed before I can be certain.

Have a great week and enjoy your football.

There are over 90 matches in the London area over the next seven days. The highlights include some big games in the Champions League and  Europa League and there's the EFL Cup Final 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.

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 19 February

Professional Development League
Millwall v Watford @1pm - there is also a derby between Crystal Palace and QPR at the Eagles' training ground but I've gone for this as it's being played at Dartford's ground which has fine facilities for spectators who are being allowed in for £5. Whether the Palace game is open to the public remains to be seen so check with the club before you travel

National League South
Wealdstone v Gloucester City @745pm - the early kick off at Dartford above means you could easily combine it with this non-league match if you've got the day off. With both sides needing points to further their ambitions at either end of the table, it should be far more competitive than the afternoon games

Tuesday 20 February

Champions League
Chelsea v Barcelona @745pm - with the competition down to its last 16 sides, the Blues welcome one of the biggest clubs in the world who have won this title five times. Although they're the top club in Spain at the moment, they're not the super power they have been in recent years, something reflected by them being only third favourites to win the Champions League. Sadly, Chelsea are also way off their best and are not expected to make it to the next round

Brentford v Birmingham City @745pm - a run of three games without a win looked to have put paid to the Bees' play-off hopes but a comfortable victory at Sunderland on Saturday combined with three of the four teams immediately above them dropping points has put them back in contention. Birmingham, on the other hand, have been pretty poor this season and despite a three-game unbeaten run bringing them into February, they've lost another couple of games since and are looking vulnerable again
Millwall v Sheffield Wednesday @745pm - aside from a now understandable blip at Rochdale in the FA Cup, the Lions are on a great run at the moment. Now six games unbeaten, thanks to a win at Birmingham on Saturday, Neil Harris's side continue to impress. Promoted to the second tier at the start of the season, the Bermondsey club are one of the smallest in the division and punching well above their weight. Currently 14 points clear of the relegation zone, another season in this division looks pretty much certain. The Owls, conversely, are one of the big boys of the Championship and were expected to do well this year but after a good start it's all gone a bit meh and they're now below Millwall in the table

League Two
Barnet v Carlisle United @8pm - last weekend the Bees stung promotion chasing Notts County and this weekend they took a point off title contenders Accrington - four points they never looked like getting prior to Graham Westley's arrival as manager. Sadly a midweek loss at fellow strugglers Yeovil was sandwiched in between meaning the north London club are still in dire trouble. Carlisle are a solid midtable side but they face a mammoth journey down from Cumbria and must be beaten

National League
Boreham Wood v Maidstone United @745pm - if Barnet do go down there is a very real possibility that they could be replaced by near neighbours Boreham Wood, something which would have seemed unthinkable a few years ago. In all honesty it still seems pretty unthinkable now - could we really see a club with average crowds of 699 make it into the EFL??? At the time of writing The Wood have won four of their last five games to leave them sitting snugly among the play-off places. As a former Football League side themselves and with crowds that dwarf those seen at Meadow Park, we should really be talking about Maidstone making a promotion push but they'll just be happy to stay up

London Senior Cup Quarter-Finals
Dulwich Hamlet v Harrow Borough @745pm - with promotion very much the priority for Dulwich there could well be some squad rotation going on at Champion Hill. Consequently, admission has been cut and the crowd is likely to be somewhat lower than normal. Harrow haven't quite secured enough points to make them safe from the drop but could have enough to cause an upset if Steve Baker selects a competitive starting line-up
Metropolitan Police v Tooting & Mitcham United @745pm - both of these sides usually take this competition very seriously with one or other of them featuring in the last four finals. The Met still have a good chance of making the play-offs while Tooting are fighting tooth and nail to avoid the drop - whoever sees it as a bigger priority will probably come out on top

Essex Senior League
West Essex v Redbridge @745pm - if none of the above appeal, then maybe an east London derby will get you out of the house. I think I'm right in saying that the hosts made a fine start to the season and topped the league in the early stages. They've fallen away a bit since then but are still capable of bagging a place in the top five. Beginning on 28 October, the Motormen won 13 games on the trot to cement themselves at the top but that run has now ended. By a quirk of fixture fate, they ended up playing nearest rivals Great Wakering home and away in back-to-back games at the start of February but only gleaned one point and now they and FC Romania are only three points behind while Basildon in fourth could get even closer if they win their games in hand - Redbridge badly need to win here

Wednesday 21 February

Middlesex Senior Cup Semi-Final
Hendon v Barnet @745pm - I'm a big supporter of getting more of London's pro clubs to take part in county cup competitions like this one so credit to the Bees for entering this year. Barnet used to compete regularly and won the cup twice way back in the 1930s. In more recent times they've switched to similar competitions in Hertfordshire as it was a better geographical fit when they were playing at Underhill. However, now they're at The Hive they've made a return to Middlesex. On paper they should comfortably win this north London derby but they'll probably only field a development team and Hendon are a fine non-league side with one of the best records in the history of the cup (13 titles). Admission has also been reduced to £5 and there's an exhibition game of walking football before the match to keep you entertained

FA Women's Super League 2
Millwall Lionesses v London Bees @745pm - after narrowly losing to Arsenal in the FA Cup on Sunday, the Lionesses return to league action with this derby on Wednesday night. Currently second to Doncaster by only a point, a win here against the struggling Bees could put them top

A bit further afield
Elsewhere on Wednesday two of London's biggest clubs are fielding U19 teams in the Uefa Youth League. Tottenham Hotspur entertain Monaco at Stevenage's ground at lunchtime before Chelsea take on Feyenoord at Aldershot Town in the evening. Both grounds are outside London but easy to get to by train and you can pay on arrival

Thursday 22 February

Europa League
Arsenal v Ostersunds FK @805pm - having won the opening leg in Sweden 3-0, progress into the last 16 looks like a formality for the Gunners. However, with Sunday's EFL Cup Final looming, Arsene Wenger will almost certainly tinker with his starting line-up and the visitors might have a slim chance of forcing their way back in

A bit further afield
Your alternative option on Thursday night can be found on the northern fringes of London where Tottenham Hotspur Ladies play Watford Ladies in a derby at Cheshunt FC

Friday 23 February

FA Women's Super League 1
Arsenal v Everton @730pm - with the top two spots pretty much sewn up already, the Gunners need to make sure of pipping Liverpool to third place. On Friday they welcome the Reds' big rivals to Meadow Park for a match they should win

A bit further afield
If only men's football will do then head up once again to the northern outskirts of the capital to see Woodford Town 2017 in Essex Senior League action against Takeley. The north-east London club are currently groundsharing at Goffs Lane, home of FC Broxbourne Borough


Saturday 24 February

Premier League
Watford v Everton @530pm - there's only one Premier League game in London this weekend and it's up at Vicarage Road. Although in midtable, neither are quite out of the woods when it comes to avoiding relegation so they could both do with a win. When I last checked, only a handful of tickets were still available so don't delay buying one if you want to go

Fulham v Wolverhampton Wanderers @530pm - although playing at the level below, this game is arguably far more important than the one above and could be far more entertaining. The Cottagers are the team to watch in the Championship at the moment with five wins and a draw from their last six putting them top of the form table and in the top five overall. Last Saturday they saw off the then even hotter Aston Villa and now they welcome the leaders for another huge match. Wolves' form has dipped slightly of late so it should be really interesting to see what happens - tickets are available
Queens Park Rangers v Nottingham Forest @3pm - despite a lot of moaning and groaning by QPR fans over the last couple of months, things really aren't that bad. With three wins from the last six, midtable safety is almost assured. Although just behind QPR in the table, Forest's form is worrying and a home win should be the order of the day. However, the visitors are one of Rangers' bogey teams and history suggests it could go either way

League One
Charlton Athletic v Shrewsbury Town @3pm - the deal of the day is to be found at The Valley where all tickets are being sold at a flat rate of £5. Usually when clubs do this it's for matches against unglamorous opponents who no-one really wants to watch but that's definitely not the case here as Charlton are currently sixth and the Shrews are top so it's a really important game

Premier League International Cup
Arsenal U23 v Dinamo Zagreb II @2pm - in a slightly strange bit of scheduling, the Gunners' youngsters welcome Croatian opponents to Boreham Wood for this knockout tie. Usually U23 games at Meadow Park are free entry but check before you travel

FA Trophy Quarter-Finals - this competition for sides in the fifth to eighth tiers of the English system is now down to its last eight. With £10,000 prize money up for grabs for each of the winners and a place in the final at Wembley in May now within touching distance, things are getting really serious.
Bromley v Spennymoor Town @3pm - the Ravens are one of three London clubs to have made it this far so the chance of one of our local teams getting to Wembley is good. They are also doing well in the league and are the highest ranked club left in the Trophy so it will be interesting to see which competition they prioritise. On paper they should be too strong for Spennymoor who play a level below and face a long journey down from County Durham. They should not be underestimated though as they've enjoyed three promotions since winning the FA Vase five years ago and are well positioned to go up again this year
Leyton Orient v Gateshead @3pm - in terms of size and average attendance, the O's are the biggest club left in. After a terrible start to life in non-league football, they've started to regroup under new boss Justin Edinburgh and are gradually climbing the table. They have also done really well to get this far in the Trophy and should fancy themselves against another side with a long journey down from the north east
(The other remaining London club are Wealdstone and they're playing away at Billericay Town. The Essex club are based a short journey outside London so this is also a very decent option if you fancy visiting a new ground)

National League
Sutton United v Guiseley @3pm - the U's are London's main challengers for the NL title. Currently in fifth, five points behind leaders Macclesfield, they've still got a great chance of getting promoted. A win is almost a certainty against Guiseley who have miraculously dodged relegation in recent seasons and are rooted to the bottom again after seven straight defeats

National League South
Dartford v Truro City @3pm - the Darts held on to top spot for another week after winning at Wealdstone on Saturday but nearest rivals Havant & Waterlooville still have the games in hand to sweep past them should they win them. Truro are also among the leading pack and had a spell at the top themselves earlier in the season so it could be challenging afternoon

Bostik League Premier Division
Wingate & Finchley v Dulwich Hamlet @3pm - a north versus south London clash between sides hoping to make it up via the play-offs. It's also a bit of a David and Goliath clash as W&F look to get one over on the giants of the division. They pulled off a shock win at Champion Hill earlier in the season so should be more than capable of doing it again

Evo-Stik League East Division
Hayes & Yeading United v Ashford Town (Middlesex) @3pm  - the hosts strode into the top three with victory at Cambridge City on Saturday with former QPR midfielder Scott Donnelly among the scorers. Next up are local rivals Ashford - if Hayes win they could end the day six points off top spot

Southern Counties East League Premier Division
Croydon v Beckenham Town @3pm - the visitors are having their best season in years and are currently joint top with Sevenoaks. Sadly they've played three games more than their rivals so a win in this local derby is almost essential. Premier League and EFL season-ticket holders are also being admitted for half price - perfect for any Palace fans who are without a game on Saturday

Combined Counties League First Division
Cobham v AC London @3pm - the top three are eligible for promotion come the end of the season subject to having good enough grounds and with both of these sides in the top six, they've got a decent chance. Cobham have several games in hand which if won will put them third

Sunday 25 February

EFL Cup Final
Arsenal v Manchester City @430pm - the first major piece of domestic silverware comes up for grabs on Sunday. Despite all the moaners, Arsene Wenger has delivered yet another cup final appearance for the Gunners' fans. Given Manchester City's electric performances this season, the north London club will do extremely well to win it but few expected them to beat Chelsea in the FA Cup last May. Despite having bigger priorities than Arsenal, City usually treat this competition with great respect and have won two of the last four finals - it's theirs to lose

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!

You can contact TLFG through the comments section below or via FacebookTwitter or even by good old email.

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