Tuesday, 25 December 2018

TLFG: 24 December 2018 - 6 January 2019

Welcome one and all to TLFG's Christmas and New Year Special.

Apologies for the late publication again but two young kids, a wife with shingles, an annoying cold of my own and shift work take up quite a bit of time.

This annual bumper edition covers the next two weeks taking you all the way through to FA Cup Third Round weekend on 5-6 January.

This time of year is absolutely jam packed with games many of which are big local derbies.

At non-league level there does seem to be quite a bit less action, especially on Boxing Day and New Year's Day but there's still plenty to entertain you including the return of Dulwich Hamlet to Champion Hill.

On Boxing Day it should be possible to do a 'groundhop triple' and see three games but it will depend largely on whether you can get your hands on a ticket for Watford v Chelsea in the evening.

Failing that, doing a 'double' should be very easy. With games kicking off at 1100, 1200 and 1230 getting to a 3pm game shouldn't be any trouble at all.

There's a nice west London combo of Fulham v Wolves and QPR v Ipswich - tickets are still available for both.

TRAVEL ADVISORY
One thing to bear in mind over the Christmas and New Year period is how much public transport will be available.

The London Underground will be running a decent amount of trains and there will be plenty of buses but National Rail services shut down completely on Boxing Day.

As a result, going by rail to the games at Crystal Palace and AFC Wimbledon will be tricky as will some of the bigger non-league games at Boreham Wood, Dulwich Hamlet and Sutton United.

There will also be an impact on journeys to watch Watford and Millwall but there are Tube stations within a 15-20 minute walk of both stadiums.

As a general rule, always double check your travel plans before setting out as things can change quite a bit at this time of year.

Lastly, many thanks this week to Will O and Chris T for their donations to TLFG's coffee drinking fund - it's much appreciated as I work on this well into the night.

Have a great festive period and enjoy your football watching.


THE WEEKS AHEAD
The highlights of the next two weeks include action in the Premier League, EFL, FA Cup, FA Vase and most of our local non-league competitions. There are also some eye-catching U23 matches.

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.

MATCH MAP 24-28 DECEMBER
Boxing Day fixtures - magenta pin
Friday fixtures - black pin



MATCH MAP 29-30 DECEMBER
Saturday fixtures - blue pin
Sunday fixtures - orange pin




MATCH MAP 31 DECEMBER-4 JANUARY
New Year's Day fixtures - green pin
Wednesday fixtures - magenta pin
Friday fixtures - black pin



MATCH MAP 5-6 JANUARY
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.

Wednesday 26 December



Premier League

Fulham v Wolverhampton Wanderers @1230pm - the Cottagers picked up a useful point at Newcastle on Saturday but remained bottom. Wolves saw their recent good run ended by league leaders Liverpool on Friday but stayed in the top 10. It's going to be tough for Fulham but you'd expect them to be eyeing this one to pick up something
Crystal Palace v Cardiff City @3pm - the Eagles were the stars of the weekend with their win at Manchester City being described by many as the shock of the season so far. The victory lifted them six points clear of the relegation zone and a win here against fellow strugglers Cardiff could give them some real breathing space
Tottenham Hotspur v AFC Bournemouth @3pm - there's a top eight clash at Wembley to look forward to on Wednesday. After a brief wobble, the Cherries got back to winning ways against Brighton on Saturday whilst Spurs thrashed Everton on Sunday. Bournemouth have only ever played Tottenham six times in the league, all of them since coming up in 2015, and they have a pretty poor record of one draw, five defeats, scored two and conceded 17 - there looks like being only one winner
Watford v Chelsea @730pm - it's a bumper day of top flight football in London on Boxing Day with this derby concluding proceedings. The Hornets' win at West Ham over the weekend moved them into the top seven meaning this is arguably the game of the day. The Blues have totally dominated the head-to-head in this fixture in recent years but got stuffed 4-1 at Vicarage Road last season. With two defeats from five, Chelsea are also far from fallible so this could be close

Championship
Millwall v Reading @3pm - there's a big relegation six-pointer at The Den between two sides in the bottom four. Neither side have won in their last five. The Royals appointed Portuguese manager Jose Gomes on Saturday so they'll no doubt be looking to impress in his first full game in charge. When the sides last met in October, Reading won 3-1
Queens Park Rangers v Ipswich Town @3pm - Rangers head into Christmas in high spirits after ending their 84-year-wait for an away win at Nottingham Forest. Captain Toni Leistner came up with the only goal to end the hoodoo on Saturday and lift QPR into the top 10. Although bottom, Ipswich have picked up four points from their last two games and are improving under Paul Lambert and could be dangerous

League One
AFC Wimbledon v Plymouth Argyle @3pm - the Dons enjoyed a crucial win over play-off challengers Wycombe on Saturday but stayed rooted to the foot of the table. The visit of the Pilgrims is an even bigger game as they're right down there with Wimbledon and a win would lift them off the bottom and could even take them out of the relegation zone. Plymouth are also one of the biggest sides in the division and will bring sizeable support

National League
Boreham Wood v Barnet @1pm - some of the best derbies of the day are to be found at non-league level with the NL fixture computer throwing up some real crackers. These two north London clubs whose grounds are just four miles apart have actually never played each other in a league game. The Wood have climbed rapidly up the divisions over the last few years - a huge achievement for what is still a relatively small club. Barnet have regularly yo-yoed between the fourth and fifth tiers and will arrive at Meadow Park two points and two places below The Wood
Dagenham & Redbridge v Leyton Orient @1pm - the game of the day at this level must be this east London derby at Victoria Road. The vast majority of games between these two took place in League One and League Two as both were until recently EFL sides. Although still way down the table, the Daggers will fancy their chances against the league leaders because they're in better form.With 13 points from their last five matches, they should be more than a match for anyone
Sutton United v Bromley @3pm - we've got derbies in the north and east and this one sees the south covered too. The sides only met last weekend in the FA Trophy (Bromley won 2-1) and will play again on New Year's Day. In the league, Sutton are challenging for promotion again whilst the Ravens were struggling but got a much needed win over Maidenhead on Saturday to push clear of the bottom four

National League South
Dulwich Hamlet v Eastbourne Borough @3pm - one of the biggest stories of the day will be written in SE22 where Dulwich make their return to Champion Hill after nearly a year in exile. Forced out by the owners of the ground early last year, the Hamlet have been groundsharing at Tooting & Mitcham since. With a deal now done, Gavin Rose's side head back to the famous old ground which once hosted Olympic football in 1948. They'll be hoping the familiar surroundings will improve their performance on the pitch as they're winless in five. Eastbourne aren't doing much better so could be there for the taking. If you do want to go, 400 tickets are left and they'll be on sale from 12pm - first come, first served
Wealdstone v Slough Town @1pm - there's a midtable clash between two sides on the west side of town. Slough aren't a London club but reside just beyond the M25 to the north of Windsor so don't have to travel far. The sides have been averaging crowds of around 900 this season so there should be a decent turnout for this one.
Welling United v Dartford @1pm - a sizeable crowd is pretty much guaranteed at Park View Road where we have a proper south-east London derby. Not only this but both sides are in the top six and pushing hard for promotion

Evo-Stik League Premier Division South
Harrow Borough v Hendon @1pm - once you drop below the sixth tier, the amount of matches taking place tails off sharply which from memory is a change from previous years. The pick of the games in the seventh tier is this north-west London derby between two sides who were groundsharing until 2016. At the time of writing both are in the top seven and playing some great stuff. You should also consider this one as matches between the two often produce a ridiculous amount of goals - the clubs have played eight times in all competitions since Boxing Day 2015, scoring 45 times

Bostik League North
Grays Athletic v Aveley @1pm - the match of the day in the eighth tier is between these two Essex rivals who groundshare. Aveley's new Parkside ground has received a number of plaudits since opening so is well worth checking out. The two are also in the top six

Thurlow Nunn Division 1 South
Fire United v Lopes Tavares @11am - there's nothing at all in the ninth tier but there are a couple of early kick-offs in this division allowing you to do a good bit of groundhopping. These two are struggling near the foot of the table and groundshare so there's plenty at stake

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Thursday 27 December

A  bit further afield
Southampton v West Ham United @745pm - there's nothing on in London on Thursday but at the time of writing there were a handful of tickets left for this game down in Hampshire. Bear in mind that if you're thinking of going by train, there's a strike on South Western Railway that day which means there will be a reduced service on the most direct line to Southampton and there are only two trains back after the game

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Friday 28 December

Southern Counties East League Division 1
Sporting Club Thamesmead v Welling Town @745pm - there's a groundshare derby in south-east London on Friday night where 'visitors' Welling are currently top of the division

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Saturday 29 December

Premier League

Fulham v Huddersfield Town @3pm - as the year approaches it's end, Craven Cottage prepares to host one of its biggest games of the year. These two are currently the bottom two in the division and fighting for their lives
Tottenham Hotspur v Wolverhampton Wanderers @3pm - up at Wembley Spurs will be looking to extend their winning run to five matches. Wolves are no mugs and are eyeing a top six place themselves - with the national stadium limited to a 51,000 capacity for Tottenham games, this one has already sold out
Watford v Newcastle United @3pm - a couple of wins have put the Hornets back into the top seven and they should start as favourites here as Newcastle aren't in great form and have only won on two of their last 10 visits

Championship
Queens Park Rangers v Reading @3pm - QPR's last home game of the year sees them take on the Royals in the battle for hooped supremacy. Despite being fairly local rivals, the biggest bone of contention between fans is who are the real hoops as both wear an almost identical kit. On paper Rangers should win but Reading have a new manager in post so they might be a bit better than of late
Millwall v Nottingham Forest @3pm - if the Lions can beat Reading on Boxing Day, then another three points here could put them well clear of the relegation zone. However, Forest are pushing for a play-off place and should be tough opponents

League One
AFC Wimbledon v Blackpool @3pm - after their huge Boxing Day game against fellow strugglers Plymouth, the Dons welcome promotion chasing Blackpool. Although the Lancashire club need the points to keep up with the top six, they may well have half an eye on their huge FA Cup clash against Arsenal next weekend

National League
Dagenham & Redbridge v Barnet @3pm - of the three games in this division in London on Saturday, this derby is definitely the best on offer. After their terrible start to the season, the Daggers are now up in midtable and have become the form team of the division in the process. The Bees are on level points so hopefully they should put on a good show

National League South
Welling United v Concord Rangers @3pm - at the time of writing these two are both in the top five so this Kent v Essex clash should be well worth a watch
Dulwich Hamlet v Slough Town @3pm - if you miss out on the Hamlet's homecoming on Wednesday then this match should also see a big crowd

Bostik League Premier Division
Haringey Borough v Merstham @3pm - after just coming up from the eighth tier, Haringey have become the surprise package of the season and find themselves five points clear at the top at Christmas after a sensational run. Merstham are having a decent campaign and could make the play-offs themselves

Bostik League South Central
Hanwell Town v Hayes & Yeading United @3pm - at Reynolds Field the Magpies have a local derby to enjoy against the leaders who have scored a whopping 60 goals in just 15 games!


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Sunday 30 December

Premier League
Crystal Palace v Chelsea @12pm - there's a cracking London derby in the offing at Selhurst Park on Sunday lunchtime which should have a bearing on both ends of the table

Bostik League South Central
Phoenix Sports v VCD Athletic @2pm - tickets for the match above will be next to impossible to find but this non-league option should make a reasonable alternative for the hardened football addicts among you. These sides play at grounds which lie a stone's throw apart - a derby it most definitely is

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Tuesday 1 January

Premier League
Arsenal v Fulham @3pm - the new year begins with a London derby at the Emirates where the hosts should pick up a fairly comfortable three points but you never know...

Championship
Brentford v Norwich City @3pm - the Bees are struggling at the moment and it won't get any easier as the title chasing Canaries pay a visit to Griffin Park

League One
Charlton Athletic v Walsall @3pm - the Addicks will be looking to crack into the top two over the Christmas period and three points should be achievable against the midtable Saddlers

National League
All the great derbies of Boxing Day are reversed on New Year's Day so it should be a cracking afternoon of action in the NL with Barnet v Boreham Wood, Bromley v Sutton United and Leyton Orient v Dagenham & Redbridge

National League South
It's the same in the sixth tier where we get to see Dartford host Welling United and Hampton & Richmond & Borough take on title contenders Woking - however, the Cards host Watford in the FA Cup at the weekend so might be tempted to rest a few players

Bostik League Premier Division
Wingate & Finchley v Haringey Borough @3pm - there's a north London derby at Summers Lane where Wingate welcome the league leaders

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Wednesday 2 January

Premier League
Chelsea v Southampton @745pm - the Blues welcome the rapidly improving Saints to Stamford Bridge for a game they must win to keep their place in the top four
West Ham United v Brighton & Hove Albion @745pm - the game above is sold out but this midtable clash at the London Stadium seems to have plenty of availability

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Friday 4 January

Premier League 2
Fulham v Middlesbrough @1pm - if you're around all day then you could kick things off with this U23 match at lunchtime

Essex Senior League
Barkingside v Tower Hamlets @745pm - and you could finish it off with this ESL game in Ilford between two east London clubs

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Saturday 5 January

FA Cup Third Round
The third round marks a hugely important stage in this famous old cup competition as it sees all the Championship and Premier League clubs enter the draw. On paper there are some pretty spectacular mismatches but consequently the chances of getting cheap tickets improve massively with most ties having plenty of availability. The games at Chelsea, Crystal Palace, West Ham United and Brentford are all on sale to non-members so fill your boots!

League One
Charlton Athletic v Sunderland @3pm - if the cup's not your thing, then this huge game between two former Premier League teams who are both going for promotion may well float your boat instead

National League
Leyton Orient v Salford City @3pm - there's not much doubt about the big game of the day at this level as the top two, at the time of writing, do battle at Brisbane Road

National League South
Wealdstone v Dartford @3pm - there should be a healthy crowd at Grosvenor Vale as the Stones welcome these promotion hopefuls from Kent

Evo-Stik League Premier Division South
Harrow Borough v Metropolitan Police @3pm - at the time of writing these two are both in the top five which is quite an achievement given the clubs' relatively small fanbases. Consequently there might not big a big turnout for this but the football should be decent enough

FA Vase Fourth Round
This national knockout competition for clubs in the ninth to eleventh tiers is down to its last 32 and three London clubs are still involved. The final is at Wembley in May so it's starting to get pretty serious
Chertsey Town v AFC St Austell @3pm - although the draw is still regionalised along north and south lines at this stage, Cornish club St Austell still have a lengthy journey ahead of them. Currently fourth in the South West Peninsula League, they actually play a level below Chertsey who top the Combined Counties League so they should start as favourites
Cray Valley PM v Baffins Milton Rovers @3pm - the hosts are among the title contenders in the Southern Counties East League at the moment and play a team from Portsmouth of a very similar ranking in the parallel Wessex League. The fourth round is also the furthest CVPM have ever been in this prestigious competition

FA Women's Championship
Crystal Palace v Millwall Lionesses @730pm - with Bromley playing a National League game on the same pitch at 3pm, this women's derby match a couple of hours later means you can watch two games at Hayes Lane on Saturday. In fact you should be able to combine it with a whole host of other matches if you're looking for a 'double'

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Sunday 6 January

FA Cup Third Round
As above, there are another reasonable selection of ties on Sunday with reduced-price tickets available for all of them. If you've never been to Fulham, Millwall or QPR, now's your chance

Bostik League South East
Cray Wanderers v Three Bridges @3pm - there also a non-league option too as Cray, the oldest club in London, will look to beat opponents from Sussex and move even further clear at the top

FA Women's Super League
There are a number of women's games in London on Sunday with the pick of the fixtures being the derby between West Ham United and current league leaders Arsenal at 1230pm


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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