Monday, 23 April 2018

TLFG: 23-29 April 2018

The big story of the week from a London perspective had to be the announcement that Arsene Wenger is to step down as Arsenal manager after 22 years at the helm.

As someone who doesn't support the Gunners but has a soft spot for them, I have a lot of respect for the Frenchman, what he has achieved over the years and the grace with which he's done it.

I agree that it's definitely the right time for him to go and he probably should have gone well before now but I've found it rather unedifying to see so many Arsenal fans celebrate his departure in a way that seems unwarranted given his huge commitment to the club.

Ian Holloway isn't doing a great job at QPR and I wouldn't be devastated if he got replaced at the end of the season but as a someone who lives and breathes the club, I'd give him the respect he deserves were he to go.

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Aside from that, a lot of big games got played over the weekend with two London clubs heading to Wembley for the FA Cup semi-finals - sadly Tottenham didn't make it through but Chelsea did and they will face Manchester United in a blockbuster final on 19 May.

In the Premier League, Arsenal responded superbly to the news of Wenger's departure with a 4-1 win over West Ham which put them back in the top six and left the Hammers needing to do a bit more to avoid the drop.

Crystal Palace also picked up a point at Watford - this result also means the Eagles aren't quite out of the woods yet whilst the Hornets reached the mythical 38-point mark which usually signals survival.

It was derby weekend in the Championship where Fulham stole the show with a sensational 3-0 win at Millwall on Friday to briefly move into the top two. In west London, Brentford beat near neighbours QPR 2-1 to move to within a point of the play-offs with just two games to go.

A superb away win at Portsmouth saw Charlton keep hold of fifth place in League One as the season nears its end whilst AFC Wimbledon extended their unbeaten run to four games with a draw against Oldham to stay just above the relegation zone.

Harrow fans make their way home via the mean streets of Needham Market

Martin Allen's return to Barnet continues to reap rewards with only one defeat in five giving them a fighting chance of survival. Their win over Newport on Saturday means they are still four points adrift of safety with two games to go but it's still possible.

For the second Saturday running I managed to get out to a Harrow Borough game.

The match against Suffolk side Needham Market had been in the diary for a long time as I have an old school friend who now lives near Norwich and we agreed this would be a good one to catch up at.

Back in the early '90s we used to travel all over watching Harrow when we could but this was probably his first time watching in 25 years.

Having enjoyed a smooth train ride up from London through some beautiful sun-drenched Essex countryside, I met him outside the station from where it was only a short walk to the ground.

Bloomfields is well located and has a modern well appointed clubhouse with decent facilities.

Luckily for us, the club were only charging £5 to get in as a final game of the season promotion. Once through the turnstile, we were greeted by a well stocked and reasonably priced tea bar which was very well run by a lady who I presume was called Dani as she had it embroidered on her polo shirt.


Over the course of the afternoon, I enjoyed a couple of drinks and a slice of homemade 'Hemmingway Lime Cake' which was very tasty indeed. I don't think I even spent £3.

The game itself was pretty entertaining.

Boro have been in decent form of late and raced out of the blocks creating a number of chances before Ryan Moss swept in George Moore's low cross in the eighth minute to get us all punching the air with joy.

Woodwork was hit and both keepers made at least three top class saves each as the sides pushed hard for more goals but none materialised as the plucky team from Middlesex picked up another away win to move to the heady heights of 13th with one game to play.

There's a good chance I'll go to QPR to watch the U23s on Monday and then that will probably be it until the 5 May when I hope to take my daughter to the women's FA Cup Final at Wembley.
The Conifa World Football Cup is coming told London - find out more

Don't forget that the CONIFA World Football Cup is coming to London soon.

The tournament which runs from 31 May - 9 June is for teams representing 'nations, de-facto nations, regions, minority peoples and sports isolated territories' which are not recognised by Fifa.

Competitors in the 16-team tournament include Ellan Vannin (aka the Isle of Man), Northern Cyprus, Panjab, Tamil Ealam and Tibet.

Full information about fixtures and tickets can be found here.

We're also lucky enough this week to have another video piece from our friends at 'Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game'.

This time, our intrepid duo headed to Surrey to check out the new facilities at Bostik League club Walton Casuals who continued their promotion push against Corinthian Casuals.




Lastly from me I'd like to thank Glidden L from Texas, USA for a very generous donation to TLFG's Coffee Drinking Fund - much appreciated!

THE WEEK AHEAD
There are over 100 matches in the London area over the next seven days. The highlights include some big games in the Europa League, Premier League, EFL and National League and there also some important county cup matches 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.

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.

Monday 23 April

Professional Development League
There are five U23 games taking place in the capital on Monday with four of them set to take place at the clubs' main stadiums. If you've never been to Charlton Athletic, Millwall, QPR or Watford now's your chance to visit on the cheap. However, as with all youth games, please check all details as they are subject to change at short notice

National League South
Wealdstone v East Thurrock United @745pm - the most high profile non-league game of the day can be found at Grosvenor Vale but there's little riding on it. The Stones looked like being a good outside bet for a play-off spot but since suffering the disappointment of their FA Trophy semi-final defeat, their form has disintegrated and they'll finish in midtable. East Thurrock aren't a huge club and have done really well to survive another season at this level - a win here will see them move above Wealdstone in the table

Southern Counties East League Division 1
Stansfeld v K Sports @745pm - head south-east to Chislehurst for a game of far more importance. The hosts were new to the division this year and have comfortably held their own but they'll have to be at their best for this one as K Sports arrive knowing a win will hand them the divisional title. With leaders Punjab United completing their fixtures on Saturday with a 1-1 draw at Holmesdale, K Sports were left two points behind and now have the chance to clinch the title by winning here

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Tuesday 24 April

National League
Bromley v Barrow @745pm - this match will have a big bearing on what happens at either end of the table come the end of the regular season on Saturday. With Wealdstone wilting after their FA Trophy semi-final defeat, Bromley have bloomed after winning theirs and come into this match with real momentum as they look to nick a play-off place at the death. If results go their way elsewhere on Tuesday, then a win should see them end the night in the top seven. Barrow had one of their best seasons for a long time last year and were really tough to beat, this year has been almost exactly the opposite and they currently find themselves just above the relegation zone courtesy of better goal difference only - a huge game for both teams

National League South
Welling United v Bath City @745pm - the Wings looked like finishing among the play-off places a few weeks ago but only one win from five games has left their promotion hopes looking slim. With two games to go, a top-seven finish is possible but a defeat here, against a side with little to play for, will end their season

Bostik League South Division
Corinthian Casuals v Guernsey @745pm - the hosts have been right up there all season but Saturday's surprising home defeat by Herne Bay saw Casuals drop out of the play-off places for the first time in months. Thankfully for them, the table is ridiculously tight and if they win this game in hand against midtable Guernsey they'll jump back up to fifth going into the final game

Combined Counties League Premier Division
AFC Hayes v Bedfont Sports @745pm - with the season approaching its climax for many non-league clubs this is another one where both sides need something out of the game. The hosts have had a disappointing season and find themselves just above the relegation zone. Thankfully they have a nine-point cushion over the team below them but they still have five games to play so they are catchable. Bedfont, on the other hand, will get promoted if they can secure the runners-up spot. They are the current incumbents but are only two points ahead of Sutton Common Rovers so really must be targeting a win

Essex Senior League
Redbridge v Southend Manor @745pm - the Motormen were top for a long time but only one win from five has left them trailing behind. With three games to go, they know they have to win here or their title hopes will end. However, finishing second and gaining promotion will still be a possibility

FA Women's Super League 1
Arsenal v Liverpool @730pm - with Chelsea and Manchester City being so dominant, it's really a case of who's good enough to finish third. These two are probably the most likely contenders so this game could have a big effect on how the league table ends up

A bit further afield
There are two big non-league games a few miles beyond London's borders which are well worthy of your consideration. Up in Essex, Billericay Town will finally clinch the Bostik League title if they manage to beat county rivals Harlow Town. Whilst to the south east of the capital you could catch the Kent Senior Cup Final between Maidstone United and Folkestone Invicta at Maidstone's ground - on paper the hosts should win as they play two divisions above their opponents
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Wednesday 25 April

Bostik League North Division
Romford v Grays Athletic @745pm - the best game on Wednesday should be this Essex derby. The hosts simply have to win or they will be relegated with a game to spare. This will also be the penultimate game at Thurrock's Ship Lane ground before it closes to Bostik League action so if you haven't been, this might be your last chance

Combined Counties League Premier Division
Balham v Colliers Wood United @730pm - there's very little riding on this other than bragging rights as the two south-west London clubs groundshare. On this occasion it's a case of tenants against landlords

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Thursday 26 April

Europa League Semi-Final First Leg

Arsenal v Atletico Madrid @805pm - with Arsene Wenger having finally announced his departure after 22 years as manager, the Gunners' players will hopefully come into this hugely important match with even more motivation to win than they might previously have had. Winning a major European trophy would be a great send off for the Frenchman and it would seem very possible given they way they've breezed through the previous rounds. However, Atletico are currently second in the Spanish league, are the favourites to win this and consequently will be incredibly tough to beat

Evo-Stik League East Division
Egham Town v Beaconsfield Town @745pm - the Sarnies' season ended a while ago but they can still have a big impact on who ultimately wins the title. Beaconsfield are second at the time of writing and have games in hand on all the other sides in the top five so in many ways they're the favourites for the divisional title. On Saturday they lost a huge game against promotion rivals Hayes & Yeading but have another match prior to this so could be top by the time this kicks-off

Middlesex Charity Cup Semi-Final
Hanworth Villa v Hampton & Richmond Borough @745pm - with a place in a county cup final against Spelthorne Sports awaiting the winner, you'd like to think the competing clubs would take this pretty seriously. With their season effectively over Hanworth will probably throw everything at it but with the Beavers wanting to make sure of a third-place finish in the league, they might rest a few players

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Friday 27 April

Championship
Fulham v Sunderland @745pm - the Cottagers have been selected to star on Sky Sports for the second Friday running. After comfortably seeing off Millwall in last week's game to keep themselves in the hunt for automatic promotion to the Premier League, it's no surprise that they've been picked again. Maybe the schedulers thought Sunderland would've had a bit more about them and might still have been fighting to stay up but sadly that's not the case as the Black Cats confirmed their relegation to League One on Saturday. Given the way Fulham have been playing, they should sweep the Mackems aside with relative ease

FA Youth Cup Final First Leg
Chelsea v Arsenal @745pm - with adult tickets for the match above starting a £35, you might find a night out at Stamford Bridge costs you a lot less - that's a sentence you won't hear very often! Once again, the Blues' all-conquering U18 side have made it to the final of this prestigious youth competition and should start as strong favourites to win again. Chelsea have made it to seven of the last eight finals and have won six of them. Arsenal's last appearance in the final came in 2009 when they beat Liverpool. Tickets are on sale now and are only £5 for adults - please note that you must buy before 4pm on the day of the match or you will not get in

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Saturday 28 April

Premier League
Crystal Palace v Leicester City @3pm - the Eagles picked up another useful point in their fight against relegation in the derby game at Watford on Saturday. Now six points clear of the relegation zone with three games to go, things are looking promising for Roy Hodgson's side. On Saturday they welcome a useful Leicester team who look well placed to claim a top-eight finish. It's highly unlikely they'll end up any higher than that but they could drop a few places if they take their feet off the gas in the final few games so will want to avoid any complacency

Championship
Queens Park Rangers v Birmingham City @3pm - after a long and pretty fruitless campaign, QPR prepare to host their final home game of the season. With their place in next season's Championship secured several weeks ago, Ian Holloway has been rotating the squad frequently to give a few youngsters and reserves a chance to impress. The results have been hugely mixed but of little consequence. Birmingham, however, still need points to ensure they survive and have completely sold out their allocation of tickets so there should be a decent atmosphere and perhaps even a little naughtiness (the away fans don't have a great reputation and QPR's often invade the pitch after the final home game with several trying to reach the travelling support so let's see what happens...)

League One
Charlton Athletic v Blackburn Rovers @3pm - if you're a neutral looking for a game on Saturday I'd strongly advise you to pick this one over the two above. These two former Premier League clubs have endured a tough few years that have seen them both fall as low as the third tier. After a significant wobble, the Addicks are firmly back in play-off contention after impressive back-to-back away wins over promotion rivals Shrewsbury and Portsmouth. These wins have moved them up to fifth but that's as far as they can go with just two games remaining. With a number of sides snapping at their heels they can easily fall back out of the leading group and must win their final fixtures to have any chance. Sadly, a title chasing Blackburn side are the next on their fixture card and they'll seal automatic promotion with a win here so should be hugely motivated to get a result themselves

National League
Boreham Wood v Guiseley @1230pm - the Wood could head into their final game of the season knowing a win will earn them a place in the play-offs. A lot will depend on Bromley and Ebbsfleet's midweek fixtures as to whether Luke Garrard's side will start the day in the top seven but there's a very good chance they will. If the Hertfordshire club do make the play-offs it will be a huge achievement as they have such a small fan base - the smallest in the National League (average 653). It was a surprise when they made it out of what is now the Bostik League a few years ago so to now be pushing for a place in the EFL is hard to comprehend. In Guiseley they face the perfect opponent for such a crucial game - bottom for most of the season and relegated a while ago, the Yorkshire side are pretty hopeless but will the pressure get to the hosts?
Sutton United v Aldershot Town @1230pm - on the south side of town there's an even bigger game between the sides battling to finish third. Sutton currently have it but Aldershot are just a point behind in fourth. The format of the NL play-offs have changed this year meaning that there are three rounds - firstly the teams finishing 4th-7th face a game each (4th v 7th & 5th v 6th), then the winners of those games travel to the sides finishing second and third before the winners of those games meet in the final at Wembley. Therefore finishing third will see you play one less game and have home advantage for the one legged semi-final. Macclesfield have already won the title and Tranmere have secured second place

National League South
Hampton & Richmond Borough v Truro City @3pm - the same play-off system is in place in this division too and like Sutton, Hampton are currently third and looking to stay that way as the top two are uncatchable. Truro were top at one point but have fallen just outside the top seven with only goals scored keeping them out of that elite group so it's a particularly crucial game for them

Bostik League Premier Division
Dulwich Hamlet v Margate @3pm - if Billericay somehow fluff their lines against Harlow in midweek then it could give second placed Dulwich a sniff of the title. The Hamlet have a midweek game themselves which could put them only a point behind heading into the final game but there are a lot of ifs and buts about how important this game will be for the south London club. What we do know is that Dulwich can't finish lower than second whilst Margate should come into the game knowing a win will give them an excellent chance of clinching a play-off spot
Harrow Borough v Burgess Hill Town @3pm - it makes a change to head into the final day as a Harrow fan knowing your side are safe and you have the power to relegate someone. Burgess Hill and Tooting & Mitcham are locked together on points at the foot of the table and only one of them will go down. Burgess Hill are currently ahead on goal difference so know that they just need to match Tooting's result to stay up. Boro suffered relegation on the final day of last season after losing at Lowestoft and then seeing the Hillians score a 98th-minute winner in their match to edge them out. Thankfully Harrow got reprieved but I'm sure there will be one or two who'd be more than happy to see the visitors suffer in a similar way
Metropolitan Police v Tooting & Mitcham United @3pm - as explained above, it's not looking great for Tooting heading into the final day. After earning a useful point at Harrow last week, the Terrors put themselves in pole position to stay up but then lost at home to fellow strugglers Harlow on Saturday to hand the initiative back to Burgess Hill. To re-cap - they have to better whatever the Hillians achieve at Harrow so even a win may not be enough
Staines Town v Thurrock @3pm - depending on midweek results, the Swans may come into this looking to secure a play-off spot. Whatever happens, this will be a sad day for Thurrock as it will be their last game before they resign from the league for financial reasons

Bostik League North Division
Barking v Potters Bar Town @3pm - as with so many other games on Saturday, a lot will depend on midweek results. Either way, Potters Bar will start the game looking to clinch the second automatic promotion spot with Bowers & Pitsea, Haringey Borough and Heybridge Swifts all likely to be mounting a challenge too on what should be a nail-biting final afternoon
Romford v Mildenhall Town @3pm - if they win in midweek then this will be Romford's last chance to avoid relegation and only a win will do to stand any chance

Bostik League South Division
Carshalton Athletic v VCD Athletic @3pm - with automatic promotion already secured, the Robins can go one better and win the divisional title here. With a one-point lead over Lewes going into the final game, they just have to match the Rooks' result to be crowned champions
Cray Wanderers v Guernsey @3pm - with the automatic promotion places already accounted for it's now all about who will finish in the top six. As we head into the final day, Cray are currently fourth and given they have the best goal difference and are the highest scorers in the division then they'll want to pip Greenwich to third to make sure of home advantage throughout the play-offs

Evo-Stik League East Division
Hayes & Yeading United v Barton Rovers @3pm - the hosts have already secured a play-off spot but where they finish in the top six remains to be seen. With several clubs around them having midweek matches to play, the table could change a lot before Saturday. If Beaconsfield and Hartley Wintney lose their midweek games in hand then Hayes could still finish second and go up automatically but that's highly unlikely. Barton are second from bottom but with only one going down, have little to play for

Combined Counties League Premier Division
Bedfont Sports v Walton & Hersham @3pm - this could be the match which confirms Bedfont's promotion but depending on other results, the visitors could still be in with a shout too


Southern Counties East League Premier Division
Cray Valley PM v Whitstable Town / Erith Town v Sevenoaks Town @3pm - because of the all permutations and the fact that it's 0135 as I write this and I'm running out of steam, I'm going to conflate these two into one entry. It's possible that the SCEFL title will be decided at one of these two games so check the midweek scores and league table to see how significant these games will be - Sevenoaks are currently top and Whitstable second

Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division
Edgware Town v Berkhamsted @3pm - the visitors have been in second for a while and could well make the runners-up spot their own with a victory here, provided midweek results go their way

Southern Amateur League Challenge Cup Final
Polytechnic v Winchmore Hill @3pm - if you've enjoyed one of the amateur cup finals of recent weeks then you've got another chance on Saturday. Polytechnic are currently well clear at the top of the SAL and will probably complete the double as Winchmore Hill are bottom. The match will be played at the Bank of England sports ground in Roehampton and it's free to get in

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Sunday 29 April

Premier League
West Ham United v Manchester City @215pm - the Hammers could still do with another win or two to make absolutely sure of their place in next season's Premier League but they're unlikely to get one against the newly crowned league champions. City celebrated their title triumph with a 5-0 demolition of Swansea on Sunday and could just as easily take West Ham apart here

FA Women's Premier League Southern
There are two women's games at 2pm on Sunday - QPR entertain Charlton who are one of the favourites to win the division whilst West Ham welcome Lewes




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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