Monday 14 May 2018

TLFG: 14-20 May 2018

Well what a dramatic weekend it's been.

Maybe not so much for our local Premier League clubs where everything was pretty much settled going into the final round of games, but lower down in the EFL and among the non-league ranks.

Earlier this evening we saw Charlton Athletic succumb to Shrewsbury Town in the League One play-offs after two narrow 1-0 defeats, meaning the Addicks will have to spend another year in the third tier.

Fulham lost the first leg of their Championship semi-final by a similar scoreline and now have it all to do against Derby in the home leg on Monday.

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There was also play-off heartbreak for Boreham Wood who made it to Wembley for the National League play-off final where they faced the very challenging prospect of former EFL side Tranmere Rovers.

Things got off to a bizarre start when Tranmere had a man sent off after 40 seconds but then took the lead minutes later. The Wood managed an equaliser but couldn't take advantage of the extra man and let another one in shortly before the end to lose 2-1.

The other big disappointment about the day was the poor attendance of 16,306. I wasn't predicting many from Boreham Wood but given Tranmere's stature, I would've expected at least 20-25,000 from them alone but it wasn't to be.

It's great that non-league sides are getting the chance to play at Wembley but is it worth it for so few? The atmosphere would've been a lot better in a ground like Loftus Road, The Den or Vicarage Road which would have been nearly full to capacity.

On Sunday in the National League South play-off final, Hampton & Richmond Borough hosted Braintree Town and opted to make the match all-ticket.

Such was the demand for the game that all tickets sold out in advance meaning a 3,000+ crowd, similar to that achieved by Dulwich and Hendon last week.

Tickets are on sale now and will also be available on the day
Like the Bostik Premier final, Hampton and Braintree also produced a 1-1 draw which saw penalties ensue - sadly for the hosts, it was the Essex club who prevailed and they duly returned to the fifth tier after only one season away.

Also I'd like to give a quick mention to Corinthian Casuals who, despite losing in their play-off final to Walton Casuals last weekend, have still been promoted as a kind of lucky loser because they had the best record of all the other teams who had come equally close in parallel leagues.

The other talking point at non-league level this week, was the release of new look divisions at Steps 1-4 (fifth to eighth tiers of the national game) by the FA.

An extra fourth division has been inserted at Step 3 causing my beloved Harrow Borough as well as Hendon, Metropolitan Police and Staines Town to be shunted out of the Isthmian League and into the Southern League.

This ends years of association and tradition for Harrow and Hendon who will now be expected to travel frequently to clubs in Devon, Dorset, Somerset and even Wales! 

Don't get me wrong, this prospect is exciting as there are some great clubs and destinations in the Southern League but the financial implications from all the extra travelling could be significant - it's as if we'd been promoted to the National League South rather than moved sideways!

The decision has already had a big impact on Metropolitan Police whose manager of 15 seasons Jim Cooper resigned pretty much on the spot citing the increased travel as the reason for his exit.

Harrow had an excellent end to their season and finished in the top half for the first time in a while but despite this, still only managed to attract an average of 177 fans to games which is way below where it needs to be. I'm hoping to try and do my bit to up that with plans afoot to discuss things among fellow supporters over the summer. Watch this space...

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 in just over two weeks!

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, it's nice to report some more good interactions with you dear readers.

Thanks this week goes to long-time reader Daniel R from Sutton who gave a generous donation to the TLFG coffee-drinking fund. Thanks again sir!

I think that's about it from me for this week - as always, enjoy your football watching and let me know what you've been up to.

There are over 30 matches in the London area over the next seven days. The highlights include the FA Cup Final, an EFL play-off and Non-League Finals Day.

With games pretty thin on the ground, I've also included a few from the 11th and 12th tiers whose seasons are continuing for another week or so. These games are often played at fairly rudimentary grounds, with few facilities and can be particularly susceptible to a change of venue or kick-off time.

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

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 14 May

Championship play-off semi-final second leg
Fulham v Derby County @745pm - the Cottagers were on a very impressive run of form coming into the final day of the season but they lost at relegation-threatened Birmingham to miss out on automatic promotion. As a result, they ended up in the play-offs and began by losing the first leg of their semi-final to Derby 1-0. Although the deficit is only small, they've now lost two in a row and the pressure is really on. Both clubs have a history of choking in recent years so it's anyone's

Tuesday 15 May

Middlesex County League Division 1 West
New Hanford v PFC Victoria London @630pm - quite simply, if the visitors win then they will be crowned champions of the division on goal difference. Anything else and the honours will go to Larkspur Rovers. If PFC succeed, it will be their second title in a row after winning the Second Division last season - a team to watch

Essex Olympian League Division 1
Sungate v Buckhurst Hill @630pm - elsewhere in the 12th tier, you've got the chance to run the rule over a Buckhurst Hill side who have already won the title. They're currently seven points clear and have two or three games in hand on all those immediately below them

Wednesday 16 May

Combined Counties League Division 1
Farleigh Rovers v Worcester Park @7pm - the visitors have already won the title with relative ease and will look to extend their margin of victory to 12 points on Wednesday evening. Farleigh aren't a patch on the side which claimed the Division 1 crown back in 2014/15 so should be beaten

FA Women's Premier League Southern
Charlton Athletic v Gillingham @745pm - the Addicks' women's team secured the Southern title with a 4-0 drubbing of local rivals Crystal Palace on Sunday. This means they will face off against Blackburn Rovers, who won the Northern title, in two weeks time. In the meantime they need to complete their remaining league fixtures, the first of which is against the lower midtable Gills


Thursday 17 May

Southern Combination Cup Final

CB Hounslow United v Staines Lammas @745pm - the first bit of silverware for the week comes up for grabs at Bedfont Sports' ground near Heathrow where these two relatively local rivals will meet to try and win it. CB Hounslow play a division above Staines so will start as favourites


Friday 18 May

Ray Wilkins Memorial Game
Chelsea Legends v Inter Forever @745pm - a selection of former Chelsea, Inter and a few from some of Ray Wilkins' other former clubs will take to the Stamford Bridge pitch to raise funds for the Chelsea Foundation and Crohn's and Colitis UK. Tickets are £20 for adults and £10 concessions


Saturday 19 May

FA Cup Final
Chelsea v Manchester United @515pm - the match of the week is to be found at Wembley where two of the country's biggest clubs go toe-to-toe for one of the most famous cups in world football. Although both sides will be disappointed with their league performances this year, they did still both finish in the top five. The two also have great FA Cup pedigree with 19 wins between them from a total of 31 appearances in the final. With Manchester City having hoovered up all the other domestic prizes this season, these clubs will be desperate not to miss out

A bit further afield
With the CONIFA World Football Cup heading to London in just over two weeks, one of the favourites will be playing a warm-up game at Slough Town's Arbour Park ground which is also one of the host venues. Panjab were runners-up at the last tournament and are currently top of the organisation's rankings. On Saturday they take on Jersey at 3pm - adult tickets are £5


Sunday 20 May

Non-League Finals Day
One of the highlights of my year sees the FA Vase and FA Trophy finals played back-to-back at Wembley. The two premier non-league cup competitions used to be played separately, sometimes in front of very sparse crowds. This will be the third year that the FA has decided to play them on the same day and hopefully a decent crowd will turn up. Stockton Town play Thatcham Town in the Vase final at 1215pm before Brackley Town take on Bromley at 415pm. The latter have sold over 15,000 tickets so we should get at least 20,000 for the Trophy final alone. I'm predicting wins for Stockton and Bromley but I'll be sitting with the Thatcham fans. Tickets are available now and will also be on sale from the Wembley box office on the day at a cost of £25 for adults, £10 concessions and £1 for U16s - remember, one ticket gets you in for both games

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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