Monday, 9 April 2018

TLFG: 9-15 April 2018

After two-week break for Easter, TLFG is back.

How was the festive period for you? Did you manage a groundhop triple on Easter Monday or visit any grounds for the first time?

As I mentioned, I had to work the entire four-day weekend so didn't get to see anything then. I've also been away visiting relatives and working late shifts so I finally got my chance earlier today (Sunday).

After several years partnering with Prostate Cancer UK on Non-League Day, I was very lucky to receive an invitation to the EFL Trophy Final at Wembley between Lincoln City and Shrewsbury Town.

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Traditionally contested by sides in League One and League Two, the last couple of seasons have seen the controversial introduction of U21 sides from Premier League and Championship clubs too.

Thankfully no academy sides have yet made it to Wembley so today's game was significant for both competing clubs.

With Lincoln playing a division below the Shrews, they started as underdogs but roared on by a larger following they took a 16th-minute lead which they ultimately never relinquished.

As well as getting a ticket to the game, I was also treated to full hospitality in the Bobby Moore Room which was quite an experience.

Lincoln celebrate their victory at Wembley
Treated like five-star guests, we enjoyed a three-course meal before kick-off, tea and coffee at half-time and afternoon tea following the game.

The seats on the half-way line, just behind the dugouts, were amazing and we could have touched the players as they made their way to and from the royal box to pick up the trophy at the end.

I was also seated alongside representatives from Altrincham, Brentford and National League sponsors Vanarama so there were some interesting discussions too.

As a new member of the prawn-sandwich brigade, I can see how watching a game in this way can really appeal and I could get used to it but the formality/dress codes etc could get a bit stifling - definitely best as a once in a while treat.

The Conifa World Football Cup is coming told London - find out more

Since I last wrote, the build-up to the forthcoming Conifa World Football Cup here in London, has continued.

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.

We've now got a pretty clear idea of all the venues except the one for the final which is being kept under wraps - it surely can't be much longer though.

Full information about fixtures and tickets can be found here.

There's also a game taking place between two Conifa members on Sunday when Barawa play Yorkshire at Haringey Borough's ground. Yorkshire only formed a team a few months ago and this will be their first ever away game so it's an historic occasion.

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

Held over from a couple of weeks ago, our intrepid duo went to Imperial Fields to see Dulwich Hamlet play their first league game following the, hopefully, temporary move to share with Tooting & Mitcham United.


Lastly this week I'd like to thank Rod S from the USA for another generous donation to TLFG's coffee-drinking fund - it's very much appreciated, I hope you enjoyed your visit to Crystal Palace.


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 Premier League, EFL and National League and there also a number of minor cup finals 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 9 April

Professional Development League
There are a number of U23 games on Monday lunchtime. To top it all most of them are at the clubs' main stadiums so if you've never been to Charlton, Millwall or Watford this is a great opportunity to see a game at a fraction of the normal cost - as always, check the details before you travel as they could change at short notice

A bit further afield
There are two games of huge significance in the Bostik League and Evo-Stik League title races as Billericay Town host Staines Town (who have promotion ambitions of their own) and Hitchin Town take on the mighty Hereford whose climb back up the divisions after re-forming looks set to continue
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Tuesday 10 April

Championship
Fulham v Reading @745pm - the Cottagers' push for automatic promotion back to the Premier League takes centre stage as they welcome the Royals for what is effectively a derby. Aside from a draw in the recent game against QPR, Fulham have been winning for fun and now find themselves only two points behind second placed Cardiff. On paper they should beat Reading who have been poor but with two wins from three as they look to avoid the drop, they could be tricky opponents
Queens Park Rangers v Sheffield Wednesday @745pm - neck and neck in midtable, neither of these sides have got much to play for. The Owls arrive in Shepherd's Bush in pretty good form with only one defeat from five and Loftus Road is a ground they also do quite well at with only three defeats from their last 10 visits. If you're thinking of going, you should be able to get a cheap ticket via the Twickets re-sale site - at the time of writing there are 'Platinum' seats next to the Directors' Box available for £20 and other more normal tickets for even less (I think purchases have to be made before match day so don't delay)

League One
AFC Wimbledon v Charlton Athletic @745pm - some of the hottest tickets in town on Tuesday will be for this derby in the third tier. Not only are the clubs crosstown rivals but they're both in desperate need of the points at either end of the table. With the match all-ticket and limited to people with at least a previous purchasing history, you'll stand more chance of getting in at the two games above

Premier League International Cup Semi-Final
Arsenal v Villarreal @7pm - given Wimbledon's ground is so small, there might actually be a bigger crowd at the Emirates to watch this U23 game. Tickets to watch Arsenal are usually hard to get hold of or very expensive so this match gives you a great opportunity to visit one of the capital's top stadiums on the cheap. It's only £4 a ticket but you must order online by 3pm on matchday - do not turn up without one

FA Youth Cup Semi-Final Second Leg
Chelsea v Birmingham City @7pm - over on the west of town, you've alternatively got the chance to get in to Stamford Bridge for a fraction of the normal price to see the Blues' all-conquering U18 side. Enjoying a 3-0 lead after the first leg, Chelsea should cruise through

National League
Boreham Wood v Macclesfield Town @745pm - with only two wins in five, the Wood's promotion charge is starting to wobble. Currently in fifth, the three teams immediately below them are only two points behind. On Tuesday they welcome leaders Macclesfield for a huge game. Things have been tight at the top all season but over the last couple of weeks the Silkmen have opened up a surely title winning 10-point gap as nearest challengers Sutton have faltered but with a couple of clubs having games in hand, it's not over yet

Bostik League Premier Division
Dulwich Hamlet v Tonbridge Angels @745pm - with title favourites Billericay having used up all their games in hand on main rivals Dulwich, the final title battle can properly get underway. Given they had about eight games to make up, you would think they'd be miles out in front by now but it hasn't panned out that way and their advantage is only three points. If the Essex club slip up on Monday, the Hamlet have a great chance to pull level. Tonbridge are usually pretty strong but their season finished a long time ago and have little to play for here

Essex Premier Cup Final
Buckhurst Hill v Catholic United @745pm - there's some silverware up for grabs at Thurrock's ground where two 11th tier clubs meet for a shot at county cup glory

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Wednesday 11 April

Velocity Trophy Final

Billericay Town v Metropolitan Police @745pm - also known as the Isthmian League Cup, at the semi-final stage this looked like being a cracker but the Met dumped out Billericay's main title rivals Dulwich to make the final instead. The Essex club won this competition last year and should start as strong favourites here - the match is being played at Aveley's ground

London Senior Trophy Final
Erith & Belvedere v Phoenix Sports Reserves @745pm - the cup finals are coming thick and fast now with two south-east London neighbours from the 10th tier contesting this one at Haringey Borough's ground

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Thursday 12 April

Bostik League Premier Division
Dulwich Hamlet v Dorking Wanderers @745pm - with so many clubs suffering postponements over the last month, many are having to play three or more times a week to complete their fixtures. The Hamlet continue their promotion push against their Surrey opponents and admission is by donation to the club's '12th Man Fund' so it's effectively pay what you want
Staines Town v Folkestone Invicta @745pm - alongside Dulwich, these two sides are also scrapping for a play-off spot. Folkestone could even win the title but they've played more than those around them so it's probably an outside chance at best
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Friday 13 April

Development matches
There's a superb selection of U23 football on Friday with Chelsea v Tottenham at Stamford Bridge topping the bill. Arsenal also play Swansea at the Emirates whilst Fulham entertain Southampton, albeit at the club's training ground. Although only a friendly, Brentford B also welcome a squad from Belgian giants Anderlecht to Griffin Park and admission is free

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Saturday 14 April

Premier League
Crystal Palace v Brighton & Hove Albion @3pm - there are two top-flight games in London on Saturday and they both have the potential to absolute belters! First up is the 'derby' between Palace and Brighton which is usually lively whatever the occasion. A win for the struggling Eagles is pretty much a must whilst three points for the Albion should secure their place in the division for a second season
Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City @745pm - the day comes to an end with a huge game at Wembley which could go a long way to deciding the title. After spectacularly losing to Manchester United on Saturday, City know that if they win and the Red Devils somehow lose to bottom club West Brom on Sunday then the title will be theirs. Spurs are almost certain of a Champions League spot so they'll be under relatively little pressure compared to the visitors

Championship
Fulham v Brentford @530pm - if you can't a ticket for either of the above then this west London derby should provide you with a mighty fine alternative. As mentioned previously, Fulham are going all out for automatic promotion but the Bees are also in with a shot at a play-off spot themselves so both sides badly need to win. Tickets are on sale to non-members and there are a few left
Queens Park Rangers v Preston North End @3pm - a short distance to the north, this game pales into insignificance alongside the match at Craven Cottage. QPR's season is over and although Preston could get into the top six, they're in terrible form and are unlikely to be in the Premier League next season - one for groundhoppers or those looking for a cheap ticket

League One
Charlton Athletic v Scunthorpe United @3pm - the Addicks are firmly back in play-off contention so this match against one of their promotion rivals should provide more of a spectical than the one at Loftus Road and should be cheaper than Fulham

National League
Sutton United v Hartlepool United @3pm - if the U's are to have any chance of winning the title then victory against a side who were playing in the EFL last season is the only option. Hartlepool, on paper, should be beaten with relative ease but Sutton's good form is starting to desert them at precisely the wrong time

Bostik League Premier Division
Staines Town v Margate @3pm - at the time of writing, these two sit either side of the line which decides who will and who will not make the play-offs. Although Margate have a healthy six-point advantage, Staines have three games in hand so this could be a highly significant encounter

Bostik League South Division
Carshalton Athletic v Whyteleafe @3pm - the battle for the South Division title has been exciting but as we approach the final few games, it appears to have become a two-horse race between current leaders Lewes and south London club Carshalton. At present there are only two points in it but the Robins have a game in hand. This match against fellow south London side Whyteleafe should have a big bearing on where the trophy ends up going

Evo-Stik League East Division
Hayes & Yeading United v Egham Town @3pm - the hosts suffered an unexpected defeat at Aylesbury United on Saturday which left them clinging on to second place on goal difference alone. Main challengers Beaconsfield are looking good and to make matters worse have four games in hand. In fact Hayes have played more games than all of the top six so finishing sixth should still be seen as a good achievement. The Sarnies have made the play-offs for the last two seasons but are nowhere this time round and will no doubt want to to thwart their opponents' hopes

Combined Counties League Premier Division
Epsom & Ewell v Westfield @3pm - the visitors have had a great season and will be crowned champions if they win their midweek game against Chertsey. If they somehow slip up, then they'll get another chance here against E&E who are bottom of the table

Southern Counties East League Division 1
Forest Hill Park v K Sports @3pm - again, depending on midweek results, we could see a divisional title won here. K Sports are currently two points clear of Punjab United and it could be five by the time this game comes round - another win could see them over the finish line

AFA Senior Cup Final
Old Meadonians v Old Actonians @3pm - as the season comes to an end, it's always nice to throw in a few major matches from the world of amateur football. Being played at the HSBC Sports Ground in Beckenham, these two west London rivals will battle it out purely for the love of the game. With it being amateur, entrance is free

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Sunday 15 April

Friendly
Barawa v Yorkshire @5pm - this has to be one of the most unusual fixtures I've listed in TLFG over the last few years. Organised as and recognised by Conifa as an 'international' friendly it sees one of the favourites for the upcoming World Football Cup take on the newly formed Yorkshire side in their first ever away game. The match is being played at Haringey Borough's ground and I believe adult tickets are £10, available on the gate

Women's FA Cup Semi-Final
Chelsea v Manchester City @330pm - there are several women's games in London on Sunday but this is by far the best on offer as the top two sides in the country meet for a place in the final at Wembley next month. The match is being played at the ground they share with AFC Wimbledon and adult tickets are only £6. If you are interested, I would buy in advance as the ground is small and a healthy crowd is expected to attend



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!

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