Sunday, 25 November 2018

TLFG: 26 November - 2 December 2018

Welcome to TLFG.

For any who might be new to this blog or haven't read it for a while let me re-cap - my wife had a baby a few weeks ago and the amount of content in TLFG has been scaled back. However, it is gradually increasing as domestic life settles down.

This week the daily digest makes its return in a slightly briefer form than usual as the blog almost returns to normal service.

Family life and my work schedule is still hectic - I'm writing this at 2am on Sunday morning during a relatively quiet hour or two but a restive baby is starting to stir in the background.

I haven't been to a match since Non-League Day six weeks ago in which time QPR and Harrow Borough have both continued to impress - perhaps I should stay away - but I'm champing at the bit to get out there and see a game.

I am off work this Saturday and QPR v Hull is a possibility - I might even take my eldest daughter to her first game at Loftus Road but it's something I'm nervous about.

Has anyone else had the experience of taking a young child to a game and them absolutely hating it or at best been bored to tears?

I have and it becomes pretty miserable for all involved. The child hates it and you spend your time trying to entertain/bribe them for 75+ minutes and you wonder why you bothered.

What is the right age for a first game?

My friend's four-year-old joined me for QPR v Preston in 2009 when Adel Taarabt scored one of the finest goals I've ever seen and orchestrated a barnstorming 4-0 win but my young companion lost interest after 20 minutes and it ruined my enjoyment of one of the finest Rangers performances there's been in the 35 years I've been following them.

'Two Men In Search...' pay a visit to Cray Wanderers for their latest vlog

I'd love to take my daughter along regularly and bond with her over the shared love of our local team but I really doubt it will happen.

Should she be playing the game more or watching it regularly on TV before I take her or should I just let her grow up a bit more? I was nearly nine before I went to a game but then no-one in my family really watched football so it could have been different if they had.

Anyway, enough of my personal quandaries - I'm happy to say that a new vlog from our friends at 'Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game' is now available.

In it they visit Cray Wanderers who are the oldest team in London. They currently groundshare with Bromley but have ambitious plans to build a stadium of their own soon. They're also currently top of the eighth tier Bostik League South East and pushing hard for promotion so it's a good time to get along and watch them if you haven't been already.

Thanks to all those who have sent their best wishes and many thanks to those who have donated to TLFG's coffee drinking fund since I last wrote - much appreciated.

Apologies again for the shorter version this week but I hope it proves to be better than nothing.

As always, have a great week and enjoy your football watching.


THE WEEK AHEAD
The highlights of the next few days include action in the Champions League, Europa League, Premier League, EFL, FA Cup, FA Trophy, FA Vase and most of our local non-league competitions and the Women's Super League.

As always, please make sure you check with clubs before you travel just in case a game has been called off or the venue or kick-off time has changed - this is highly possible for some of the lower non-league clubs. 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 26 November

Bostik League Premier Division
Carshalton Athletic v Dorking Wanderers @745pm - the Robins enjoyed a solid win over Walton Casuals on Saturday to move into the first round proper of the FA Trophy. They'll be joined in the draw by Wanderers who are currently top of the Bostik League and enjoying a fine season

U23 Development Matches
There are two games in the Professional Development League on Monday but the matches featuring Crystal Palace and Millwall are at the clubs' respective training grounds so you probably won't be able to get in but check on the day what the final details are

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Tuesday 27 November

Championship
Brentford v Sheffield United @745pm - after seeing manager Dean Smith leave for Aston Villa last month, the Bees' form has fallen apart. With four defeats from their last five Brentford are looking shaky and the visit of promotion chasing United isn't going to make things any easier

National League
Leyton Orient v Aldershot Town @745pm - the O's increased their lead at the top to three points after winning 2-0 at title rivals Wrexham on Saturday. They should win again here

FA Trophy Third Qualifying Round Replays
Dartford v Eastbourne Borough @745pm - after drawing 1-1 on Saturday these two NLS sides will have another go on Tuesday. The draw for the first round proper will have been made by then so the winners will know who'll they play next
Wingate & Finchley v Chippenham Town @745pm - Wingate did well to earn a replay at a team playing one division above them. The north London club should fancy their chances back on home soil

A bit further afield
Sparta Prague U23 v Feyenoord U23 - there's some Premier League International Cup action at Aldershot Town's ground on Tuesday. If you've not been here before, it's about a 45-minute train ride to this Hampshire town from Waterloo and then only a short walk to the ground

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Wednesday 28 November

Champions League
Tottenham Hotspur v Inter Milan @8pm - with only one victory from their first four group games, a win here is absolutely essential for Spurs. Like Tottenham, Inter are third in their league and will be no pushovers

Championship
Millwall v Birmingham City @745pm - if a trip to Wembley and the finery of Europe's elite is not for you, then head to Bermondsey to see the Lions continue their battle against the drop

FA Trophy Third Qualifying Round Replay
Dulwich Hamlet v Welling United @745pm - after drawing 1-1 on Saturday these two south London rivals from the NLS get the chance to lock horns again in one of Dulwich's last games at Imperial Fields

London Senior Cup Second Round
Metropolitan Police v Brentford B @745pm - I've written many times on here how I wish more of our local pro clubs would field development sides in the county cups as they used to do and as many clubs in other cities do. So hats off to the Bees who have entered an XI in the London and Middlesex cups this season

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Thursday 29 November

Europa League
Chelsea v PAOK Salonika @8pm - the Blues welcome the current Greek league leaders to Stamford Bridge on Thursday knowing only a draw will see them win the group. When they last met in September, Chelsea won 1-0 so they should triumph again here

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Friday 30 November

Essex Senior League
Tower Hamlets v Clapton @745pm - bring November to a close with this east London derby at Mile End Stadium

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Saturday 1 December

Premier League
Crystal Palace v Burnley @3pm - the Eagles picked up a priceless and very impressive point at Manchester United on Saturday to keep them just above the relegation zone. Last season's success story Burnley are really struggling to recapture the form which got them into Europe and are just alongside Palace in the battle to avoid the drop. This is a huge game for both and tickets are on sale to non-members

Championship
Queens Park Rangers v Hull City @3pm - the only EFL game in London this weekend sees Steve McClaren's in-form QPR side entertain the struggling Tigers who are finding it hard to adjust to life in the second tier since falling out of the Premier League in 2017

FA Cup Second Round
Charlton Athletic v Doncaster Rovers @3pm - two of the League One play-off contenders meet in the latest round of the FA Cup with the prospect of a big Third Round tie against one of the Premier League giants dangling in front of them

National League
Leyton Orient v Gateshead @3pm - the match of the day in this division sees the leaders, at the time of writing, entertain one of the other promotion contenders
Bromley v Wrexham @3pm - the Ravens welcome the Dragons all the way from north Wales who are pushing for the title themselves

National League South
Dulwich Hamlet v Torquay United @3pm - if the Hamlet lose their midweek FA Trophy replay against Welling, then this will be their last game at Imperial Fields before their long-awaited return to Champion Hill on Boxing Day. A big crowd is expected for the visit of the former League One Gulls

Bostik League Premier Division
Kingstonian v Haringey Borough @3pm - after a sluggish start the K's have turned things round and a run of only one defeat in seven has seen them jump to second in the table. Haringey are back in ninth but have made far more headlines this season for their fine FA Cup run which saw them lose narrowly to AFC Wimbledon in a live TV game a couple of weeks back

Evo-Stik League Premier Division South
Hendon v Merthyr Town @3pm - despite a three game winless run the Greens are still a top five club and could push into the top three with a win over fourth-placed Merthyr who face a long trip up from Wales

Bostik League North
Grays Athletic v Heybridge Swifts @3pm - at Parkside we've got an Essex derby between the sides in fifth and sixth

FA Vase Third Round - this national knockout competition for teams in the ninth to 11th tiers with its final at Wembley in May is now down to its last 64 teams. The winners of each tie receive £1,125 and the losers £375
Redbridge v Chertsey Town @3pm - with the Wembley Arch starting to just appear on the horizon, things are beginning to get serious for the remaining clubs. As far as I'm aware, there are only seven TLFG clubs left in and two of them meet at Oakside here. Whilst the hosts are having a pretty unremarkable season in the Essex Senior League, Chertsey are four points clear at the top of the Combined Counties League which should in theory make them one of the favourites to win the whole thing
Erith Town v Windsor @3pm - with all our other local clubs playing away, this is the only other tie in the London area. This is a repeat of the second round tie from last season which the visitors won 2-1. Both are currently in midtable in their respective ninth-tier leagues so it should be close again
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Sunday 2 December

Premier League
Chelsea v Fulham @12pm - it's a huge day of football in London with this west London derby kicking off the action at noon. After 13 games, the Blues finally saw their unbeaten start to the season end at Wembley against Spurs on Saturday whilst the Cottagers arrested their terrible losing run with a 3-2 win over Southampton as new boss Claudio Ranieri, formerly of Chelsea, took charge for the first time. I expect a spirited performance from the visitors but they'll still do well to draw
Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur @205pm - with that delicious starter out of the way, the north London derby makes up the main course shortly after. Arsenal got back to winning ways at Bournemouth so come into this just three points behind Spurs - it's anybody's

FA Cup Second Round
Barnet v Stockport County @2pm - with tickets hard to come by for both of the above, your next best option is this cup tie at The Hive. Although playing opposition from a division below them, Barnet could get one of their biggest crowds of the season on Sunday. This is because Stockport were a second tier side until as recently as 2002 and still attract average crowds of around 3,000 in the sixth tier today

FA Women's Super League
Chelsea v Reading @2pm - last season's double winners made a very iffy start but have turned things around and have made it back up to third. Still eight points adrift of leaders Arsenal, they'll need to beat fifth placed Reading to keep their already slim title hopes alive

A bit further afield
Slough Town v Gillingham @2pm - a little way beyond TLFG's western boundary, just past Heathrow we have this FA Cup Second Round tie. Slough always used to be one of the local non-league powerhouses as I was growing up and after a very rocky few years without a ground of their own, they're now back in the town with a smart new stadium and up in the sixth tier. They pulled off a cupset to beat FA Cup giantkillers par excellence Sutton United in the last round so will fancy their chances against the League One Gills. A few tickets are still on sale but are only available in person from the stadium and will probably be long gone by matchday

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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