Sunday 29 April 2018

TLFG: 30 April - 7 May 2018

Well we're almost there - the season is nearly over and for many non-league teams it already is.

On Saturday the National League, Bostik League and Evo-Stik Leagues' regular seasons came to an end and it's now all about the play-offs.

Aside from some crucial games in the Premier League and EFL, these highly entertaining games will take centre stage and I highly recommend that you take in as many as you can.

The games start on Tuesday and run through every day (except Friday) to Bank Holiday Monday which is also included in this blog.

The National League have added an extra round to their play-offs this year meaning the finals will all happen the weekend after that.

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We've also got some county cup finals to look forward to and the Women's FA Cup Final at Wembley which looks like getting its biggest attendance - I'm taking my daughter along for what will be my first women's football match. 

So what, if anything, has been achieved by our local clubs over the past week?

Not all that much unfortunately.

Arsenal had to settle for a 1-1 draw in their Europa League match against Atletico Madrid which given it was at home and their opponents had 10 men for 80 minutes feels like a defeat in many ways.

The performance of the week arguably came from Crystal Palace who all but confirmed their place in next season's Premier League with a 5-0 thrashing of Leicester City. A great deal of credit should be given to Roy Hodgson for what he has achieved.

In the Championship, Fulham chalked up another win over Sunderland to ensure they have a chance of automatic promotion going into the final game but they'll need to better second placed Cardiff's result to avoid the play-offs where they came unstuck last season. Sadly Millwall and Brentford both lost and their promotion dreams now look over (the Lions have a very slim mathematical chance).

Charlton Athletic chalked up a crucial win over Blackburn but they still need to do a bit more to secure a play-off spot in League One. At the other end, AFC Wimbledon need just a point from their last two games to stay up.

Barnet, under Martin Allen, have also given themselves a chance of pulling off a miraculous escape with a win over Morecambe but will still need to rely on other results even if they do win their final game.  

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.

Finally this week, it's nice to report some good interactions with you dear readers.

On Monday I went to Loftus Road to watch QPR U23's take on Crewe Alexandra. While there I met long time TLFG reader Nick G from Australia who also gave a generous donation to the TLFG coffee-drinking fund. Thanks again sir!

On Saturday, Felix from Germany also got in touch through Facebook in desperate need of a ticket for QPR v Birmingham which was only on sale to members and those with a booking history. I wasn't around but set him up with a friend who sorted him out and he seemed to get a pretty decent game with a very young R's side winning 3-1.

There are over 60 matches in the London area over the next eight days. The highlights include some big games in the Premier League, EFL and National League and there also some important play-off games and 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.

Monday fixtures - yellow pin
Tuesday fixtures - green pin
Wednesday fixtures - magenta pin
Thursday fixtures - purple pin

Saturday fixtures - blue pin
Sunday fixtures - orange pin
Bank Hoilday Monday fixtures - yellow 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 30 April

Premier League
Tottenham Hotspur v Watford @8pm - as we approach the end of the season, there's still quite a bit riding on this match. If Spurs lose this derby, they'll be only two points ahead of Chelsea with three games to go, meaning their place in the top four could be in real jeopardy. The Hornets have reached the magic 38-point mark which is normally enough to keep teams up and they almost certainly will survive but a point here would be useful

Southern Counties East League Premier Division
Erith Town v Beckenham Town @745pm - there are a handful of non-league options on Monday but none of them are of any great significance. This will be the final match of the season for both sides - Erith have had an uninspiring campaign but managed to avoid the drop whilst Beckenham have had their best season for a while and will finish fourth


Tuesday 1 May

Professional Development League
Crystal Palace v Nottingham Forest @7pm - if you haven't managed to get to Selhurst Park so far this season then this U23 match could be your chance. Adult tickets are only £5 and can be bought online now

Surrey Senior Cup Final
Leatherhead v Merstham @745pm - two Bostik League sides from just outside London head to Sutton United's ground to fight it out for a decent bit of silverware

Bostik League South Division play-off semi-final
Cray Wanderers v Walton Casuals @745pm - the hosts claimed third place with a final day 4-0 win over Guernsey whilst the visitors recorded an impressive 4-1 victory at Ashford United to pip Hythe Town to the last play-off spot. Most non league play-off games are contested over only one leg so this game could go to penalties
Greenwich Borough v Corinthian Casuals @745pm - unlike the two sides above, this couple limped into the play-offs with Boro losing their final game and Casuals grabbing a last-minute equaliser in their match. The winners of these two ties will meet in the final on Saturday - the team who finished the regular season in the highest position will host

Middlesex Premier Cup Final
Broadfields United v Harefield United @745pm - Broadfields won this competition last year and will attempt to defend their crown against a side they groundshare with. This will be played at Harrow Borough's ground

Wednesday 2 May

National League South play-off elimination round
Hampton & Richmond Borough v Truro City @745pm - these sides met in the final league game of the season on Saturday and secured their play-off places with a 1-1 draw. As a result they've been paired up in this match meaning another lengthy journey for Cornish side Truro. Although this is also a one-legged affair, the National League play-offs have three rounds for the first time this year. The winners of this will go through to the semi-finals and then there will be a final after that so these two still have a long way to go

Bostik League North Division play-off semi-final
Haringey Borough v Heybridge Swifts @745pm - these two both recorded 2-1 wins on the final day to finish fourth and fifth. Boro won their last eight games of the season which followed their last meeting with Heybridge - a game which produced a thrilling 3-3 draw. This could be a humdinger - the winners head to the play-off final on Sunday

Evo-Stik League East Division play-off semi-final
Hayes & Yeading United v Cambridge City @745pm - after the last few years of disappointment which saw Hayes suffer three relegations, it's really pleasing to see them settled in a new stadium with a team that's doing well. H&YU have won their last three, scored 12 and managed to beat eventual champions Beaconsfield in the process so they arrive in the 'post-season' in fine form. They also did the double over Cambridge over the course of the regular season so should strongly fancy their chances here

A bit further afield
If none of the games above float your boat or you've ticked off all these grounds already then there are also play-off matches at Aldershot Town (National League), Hemel Hempstead Town (National League South),  Slough Town (Evo-Stik League Premier Division) and Bowers & Pitsea (Bostik League North Division) which are all in reasonably close proximity to London


Thursday 3 May

Nattional League play-off elimination round

Boreham Wood v AFC Fylde @7pm - much has been made on TLFG over the last few years of how successful The Wood have been given how small a club they are. Financially very well run, the club have been able to punch well above their weight and with average crowds of just 655 now find themselves in the play-offs, only three wins away from a place in the EFL. A 3-1 win over bottom club Guiseley saw them finish fourth way above the likes of Leyton Orient, Hartlepool United and Wrexham. Lancashire club Fylde have also climbed rapidly through the divisions in recent seasons and got to showcase their fine stadium on national television when they held former Premier League side Wigan Athletic to a 1-1 draw in the FA Cup back in December. League meetings between the two this season saw Boreham Wood come out on top with a 1-0 win and 2-2 draw - it should be close

Bostik League Premier Division play-off semi-final
Dulwich Hamlet v Leiston @745pm - finishing second and fifth respectively, neither had a cracking final day with the Hamlet scraping a 1-1 draw with Margate and Leiston lost at home to Hendon. Dulwich are the favourites to progress and are the form team of the division but their play-off record is pretty dreadful - this is the fourth consecutive year that they've made it and they'll be desperate to avoid another failure. Leiston have never got this far, despite a number of strong starts to seasons, and face a long journey down from Suffolk to Tooting & Mitcham's ground where this match will be played
Hendon v Folkestone Invicta @745pm - in terms of attendance, Hendon are the smallest of the four clubs taking part in the play-offs so it's a great achievement for them to make it again. With four wins from their last six matches, the Greens arrive in the 'post-season' in good shape especially when compared to Folkestone who have only won two in the same time. Invicta head to Silver Jubilee Park off the back of bruising encounters with champions Billericay and runners-up Dulwich so should be battled hardened and well supported by their sizeable fan base


Friday 4 May

Professional Development League 2 play-off final
Charlton Athletic v Crystal Palace @7pm - I don't normally cover U18 football in TLFG but there's nothing else on, it's a big game and it's being played at The Valley so there's a lot going for it. Adult tickets are also only £3


Saturday 5 May

Premier League
Watford v Newcastle United @3pm - if the Hornets get anything from their match at Spurs on Monday then this will become a fairly meaningless end of season midtable jolly up. If that is the case, the pressure will be off for both sides and we could get a really entertaining game. Watford are also developing a bit of a dominance over the Magpies with four consecutive wins in all competitions

League One
AFC Wimbledon v Bury @530pm - unbeaten in five, the Dons can secure their place in League One if they draw or win their midweek game at Doncaster. If they slip up then it will all come down to this match against bottom club Bury who were relegated some time ago

League Two
Barnet v Chesterfield @3pm - it's also a huge day for the Bees but unlike Wimbledon, their destiny isn't in their own hands. Since recently returning to the club, manager Martin Allen has had a huge impact and has given the north London club a great chance of surviving the drop, something which looked unthinkable a few weeks ago. Three wins from five, including victory over fellow strugglers Morecambe on Saturday have left them two points adrift going into this final game. Chesterfield have already finished bottom and will no doubt want to take Barnet down with them

Women's FA Cup Final
Arsenal v Chelsea @530pm - if you want to a 'double' on Saturday then you could combine the Barnet game with this cup final at Wembley. The two grounds are only a short journey apart on the Jubilee Line so it's very doable. At £15 for adults and free for kids, tickets for this match are also cheap so it's a great way to take in a game at the national stadium. So far, over 40,000 tickets have been sold which is a new record for this match. As for the game itself, Chelsea are currently the top team in English women's football so will start as favourites.

Bostik League South Division play-off final
Corinthian Casuals v Walton Casuals @3pm - these sides finished fifth and sixth in the table but both came through their semi-finals on Tuesday causing a bit of an upset in the process. The hosts have been in the top six all season and lost on penalties in last year's play-off final so they'll be desperate to go one better this time. Walton have also been competitive for most of the campaign but only just squeaked into the play-off spots on the final day. If they do go up they have a fine new stadium and facilities which would be more than capable of hosting football at a higher level


Sunday 6 May

Premier League
Arsenal v Burnley @430pm - this time last year, this match would've been important but for very different reasons with the Gunners trying to secure a top-four finish and the Clarets trying to avoid the drop. By the time this comes round, this could go a long way to deciding which of the two finishes sixth - a quite amazing change in fortunes. A lot will depend on how Arsenal fare at Manchester United today but if they lose then it'll be all to play for come Sunday
Chelsea v Liverpool @430pm - at the same time in south-west London, the biggest game of the week will see the Blues try and keep their push for a Champions League place alive. If Tottenham drop points against Watford on Monday then they'll have a decent chance of catching them. Liverpool could still do with a point or two to make absolutely sure of their top-four finish

Brentford v Hull City @1230pm - this game could have been a lot more important if recent results had gone differently. The Bees headed to Barnsley on Saturday knowing a win would place them right on the cusp of the play-off zone with one game to go and would have everything to play for going into this one. Sadly they lost and their promotion hopes ended. Hull have been fighting the drop all season but have managed to secure survival despite some indifferent results of late - in essence there's nothing riding on this
Millwall v Aston Villa @1230pm - there also looks like being a tale of heartbreak elsewhere in London where the Lions also look like falling at the final hurdle. Neil Harris's side have been superb in 2018 and went on a storming run which saw them surge into the play-off places a couple of weeks ago. Sadly their form has dipped at the crucial moment and they come into their huge final game against Villa on a three-game winless streak. This means that only a win over one of the division's top sides will do and they'll need Derby to lose by a hefty margin at home to relegation threatened Barnsley - in other words, mission almost impossible

National League play-off semi-final
Sutton United v Boreham Wood @3pm - the U's secured third place in the National League this season meaning, under the new system, that they received a bye to the semi-final stage of the play-offs. Their opponents saw off AFC Fylde on Thursday night and now travel to Gander Green Lane for this south versus north London derby to battle it out for a place in next Sunday's final at Wembley - a massive game

National League South play-off final
Dartford v Braintree Town @3pm - the Darts went toe-to-toe with Havant & Waterlooville all season and ultimately lost the divisional title on goal difference. As runners-up they receive a bye to the semi-finals. If they win this tie they will host the winner of the other semi-final at Princes Park in the final. Braintree got this far by beating Hemel Hempstead on penalties on Wednesday evening

Bostik League North Division play-off final
Haringey Borough v Canvey Island @3pm - Boro made comfortable progress through the semis, seeing off a very decent Heybridge side 2-0 in front of nearly 442 spectators - a fantastic attendance for an eighth-tier game. Canvey caused a bit of an upset by winning 2-0 at Bowers & Pitsea in an Essex derby so will be very dangerous opponents

Surrey v Barawa @430pm - somewhat overshadowed by all the other important games going on in and around London, the newly formed Surrey international side are playing their first ever game. Like Yorkshire, the English county have formed their own team, affiliated themselves to CONIFA and have lined up this friendly against African side Barawa. The match will take place at Fisher's ground in Rotherhithe so can be combined very easily with the match at Millwall

Capital Women's Senior Cup Final
Charlton Athletic v Crystal Palace @2pm - if women's football is your thing then this county cup final between two south-east London rivals should be well worth a watch. It is being played at Bedfont Sports next to Heathrow Airport

A bit further afield
A short journey into Essex will get you to the other National League South play-off semi-final between Chelmsford City and Hampton & Richmond Borough


Monday 7 May

Bostik League Premier Division play-off final
Dulwich Hamlet v Hendon @3pm - Gavin Rose's side finished as runners-up this season and should go into this game as favourites. However, their play-off record is poor and they only edged past sixth-placed Leiston 1-0 on Thursday. The Greens, on the other hand, demolished Folkestone 4-0 in their semi-final to extend their winning run to four games. They also beat Dulwich at Champion Hill in the regular season, drew with them at home and they possess 40-goal striker Niko Muir so they look like very dangerous underdogs indeed. Don't forget that this match will be played at Tooting & Mitcham United's ground

Middlesex Charity Cup Final
Hanworth Villa v Spelthorne Sports @3pm - there are a few non-league games on Bank Holiday Monday with this county cup final at Northwood's ground among the best on offer. Credit should be paid to these two Combined Counties League sides who have upset the form book and some much bigger clubs to make it this far. There are also a number of Combined Counties League games which kick-off at 1130am and can easily be combined with this, the nearest being the match between AFC Hayes and North Greenford United

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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