Monday, 7 May 2018

TLFG: 8-13 May 2018

It's all about quality not quantity as we head into this crucial week of the campaign.

With the regular season now over in the EFL and most of the local non-league competitions, it's becoming all about play-offs and cup finals.

There are only about a fifth of the normal amount of games on offer this week but most are well worthy of your time.

So how has your week been?

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Personally, I made it to the women's FA Cup final at Wembley on Saturday which saw Chelsea beat Arsenal 3-1 in front of a record crowd of over 45,000 and then today (Monday) I headed to Imperial Fields in Mitcham to see the Bostik League Premier Division play-off final.

These games are always huge occasions but work usually limits the amount of them I get to go to.

This year's final pitted Dulwich Hamlet against Hendon in a London derby and much was expected of the game.

With a limited amount of 1,250 tickets snapped up in advance, a big crowd for this seventh-tier game was predicted.

I arrived about 45 minutes before kick-off to find most of the grandstand and covered areas behind the goals full already so it was no surprise that with full-time approaching a figure of 3,321 was given as the attendance - quite remarkable for a game at this level. When was the last time there was a crowd like this in the Bostik League?

The match itself was understandably tense and Hendon's goal came against the run of play late in the first half after a goalkeeping howler gifted them the lead.

Dulwich levelled not long after the interval and then saw another effort crash off the bar but the Greens dug in to force extra time.

Chances were scant during the extra 30 minutes, particularly for Hendon who disappointingly created little for their 40-goal striker Niko Muir throughout.

Penalties ensued and with the score at 3-3, it was left to former Stevenage striker Dipo Akinyemi to convert the winning kick and spark a mass pitch invasion.

A mammoth crowd of 3,321 roared Dulwich to victory over Hendon on Monday
Having suffered a multitude of play-off woe in recent years, it seemed kind of right that Dulwich finally had their win and a chance to play in the National League South.

With average crowds of over 1,300 they seem well equipped to compete at that level - it's now all about sorting out the future of their ground at Champion Hill but in the meantime they'll have the facilities at Imperial Fields for as long as they need them.

In other London football news this week - Arsenal bowed of the Europa League at the semi-final stage but then gave departing boss Arsene Wenger a great send off in his final game at the Emirates, thrashing Burnley 5-0.

A shock loss to West Brom means that Tottenham's place in the top four is now in doubt with midweek games going a long way to deciding whether they or Chelsea grab a Champions League spot.

With Crystal Palace and Watford already safe, West Ham recorded a relatively comfortable win at Leicester to secure their top flight status for another year too.

In the Championship, Fulham lost at Birmingham to miss out on automatic promotion back to the Premier League and must now face Derby County in the play-offs.

Despite losing, Charlton Athletic earned themselves a play-off spot and now meet Shrewsbury Town in the semi-finals whilst at the other end AFC Wimbledon managed to avoid the drop.

Some great results since Martin Allen's return to the Barnet hot-seat had given the Bees a fighting chance of staying up on the final day. They got the win they needed against Chesterfield but saw Morecambe pick up a point at Coventry to ensure the north London club return to the realms of non-league football again.

In the National League play-offs, Boreham Wood stunned a large crowd at Gander Green Lane to win 3-2 against Sutton United and book themselves a trip to Wembley for next Saturday's final against Tranmere Rovers.

Hampton & Richmond Borough booked their place in the National League South play-off final with a win at Chelmsford City - they will host Braintree Town in the final on Sunday.

In the Bostik North and South play-off finals - Haringey Borough and Walton Casuals prevailed so they'll both be moving up to the seventh tier next season.


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

Thanks this week goes once again to Wayne C from Nevada, USA who gave a generous donation to the TLFG coffee-drinking fund. Thanks again sir!

It was also nice to have a catch-up with Hendon fan Bryan R who I met, in philosophical mood, on the tram back from Imperial Fields on Monday evening.

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.

THE WEEK AHEAD
There are over 20 matches in the London area over the next six days. The highlights include some big games in the Premier League, some important play-off matches in the EFL and National League and some 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
Tuesday fixtures - green pin
Wednesday fixtures - magenta pin
Thursday fixtures - purple 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.

Tuesday 8 May

Premier League International Cup Final
Arsenal v Porto @7pm - this glamorous tournament for U23 sides reaches its climax at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday night. Tickets are only £4 but must be bought online by 3pm - no tickets will be available on the night

Friendly
Brentford B v Manchester City U23 @7pm - the Bees' second string bring their season to a close with another eye-catching friendly at Griffin Park and once again it's free to get in
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Wednesday 9 May

Premier League
Chelsea v Huddersfield Town @745pm - having seemingly kissed their Champions League hopes goodbye, the Blues are now right back in contention for a top-four finish. A win against a lowly Terriers side would look like a formality but the battling Yorkshire team picked up an unlikely point at champions Manchester City in their last game so can't be written off
Tottenham Hotspur v Newcastle United @8pm - with only two wins from five, Spurs are now in grave danger of being caught by Chelsea. A win against the Magpies is a must and, as above, you'd have to favour them on paper but Rafa Benitez's side are under no pressure and could cause problems

London Senior Cup Final
Balham v Cray Valley PM @745pm - this year's final will be contested by two ninth-tier teams which is quite an achievement given way bigger sides enter the competition. Cray Valley are the reigning champions but Balham have had some great results to get this far, including a memorable 1-0 win over AFC Wimbledon. The match is being played at Hendon's ground

FA Women's Super League 1
Chelsea v Birmingham City @7pm - the Blues won only their second women's FA Cup on Saturday by beating Arsenal in the final at Wembley. With that behind them, the London club are thrown straight back into league action and they'll probably need to win this to remain level on points with Manchester City who play earlier in the week

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Thursday 10 May

Premier League

West Ham United v Manchester United @745pm - after a lot of turmoil and worry in recent months, the Hammers secured their Premier League status for another year with a 2-0 win at Leicester on Saturday. Next up they welcome one of manager David Moyes' former clubs who need just a point to guarantee that they finish as runners-up

League One play-off semi-final first leg
Charlton Athletic v Shrewsbury Town @745pm - the Addicks limped into the play-offs with a 1-0 defeat at Rochdale on the final day. In so doing, they claimed sixth and now face the Shrews who suffered the ignominy of losing to a poor MK Dons side on Saturday. With neither team in great form it's hard to pick a winner but the last time the clubs played, only last month, Charlton won 2-0

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Saturday 12 May

National League play-off final
Boreham Wood v Tranmere Rovers @3pm - with the final round of Premier League games being held over until Sunday, this non-league fixture at Wembley takes centre stage. Having negotiated two play-off rounds already (beating AFC Fylde and Sutton United), Boreham Wood will arrive at the national stadium as massive underdogs. With average crowds of only 655 (the smallest in the division), they now have to topple the undisputed giants of the league who were in what is now known as the Championship not all that long ago. On paper it shouldn't really be a contest but the Wood are more than a match for anyone - they have played Tranmere six times over the last three seasons and only lost twice - but will the Wembley stage prove to be too much? To clarify - the winners get promoted to League Two so there's loads at stake

Combined Counties League Cup Final
Knaphill v Worcester Park @3pm - there's some silverware on offer at Bedfont Sports where Premier Division Knaphill start as favourites against Division 1 champions Worcester Park

FA Women's Super League 1
Arsenal v Manchester City @1215pm - with landlords Boreham Wood in action at Wembley, Arsenal's women entertain the current league leaders in what will be a very tough game for the second Saturday running

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Sunday 13 May

Premier League
Crystal Palace v West Bromwich Albion @3pm - like many other games, by the time this kicks-off it could have become a dead rubber. Palace are already safe but if midweek results go their way then the Baggies could find themselves in with a chance of pulling off one of the most remarkable escapes in Premier League history. Much will hinge on the Swansea v Southampton game on Tuesday
Tottenham Hotspur v Leicester City @3pm - as above, the significance of this game will depend on how Spurs and Chelsea fare in midweek. If Tottenham better Chelsea's result on Wednesday then a top-four place will be theirs and then this match will decide where in the top four they finish - second spot is still theoretically within their grasp
West Ham United v Everton @3pm - last up we have a definite dead rubber between Sam Allardyce's old club and his latest one. Both sides are safe in midtable - the Toffees will be looking to keep hold of eighth whilst the Hammers could climb towards the top half with a win

National League South play-off final
Hampton & Richmond Borough v Braintree Town @3pm - if you'd prefer a non-league option then this should be a great game. With a place in the fifth tier up for grabs, these two will no doubt give it their all in front of a big crowd at the Beveree which many fans class as being among their favourite grounds in London - especially if the sun's out. If you do want to go please be aware that this match has been made all-ticket which means you must buy one in advance - no tickets will be available on the day

FA Women's Super League 2
Millwall Lionesses v Doncaster Rovers Belles @3pm - third placed Millwall welcome the current leaders and title favourites from Yorkshire



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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