Monday, 7 January 2019

TLFG: 7-13 January 2019

Greetings one and all - Happy New Year and Happy Christmas to any Orthodox Christian readers who might be seeing this today (7 January).

I hope you all had a great festive period and were able to gorge on football just as much as food and drink.

Some of our local clubs had a great time of it, others not so much.

In the Premier League, Tottenham Hotspur had the best time of it with their results meaning they are London's top ranked club. They also thrashed League Two Tranmere 7-0 on Friday to make it into the next round of the FA Cup. At the bottom it's still looking pretty grim for Fulham. Although they drew with Wolves and beat Huddersfield they've since lost to Arsenal and were then humiliated at Craven Cottage by League Two Oldham in one of the shocks of the FA Cup Third Round weekend.

In the Championship, QPR and Brentford both enjoyed an unbeaten festive period but it was lowly Millwall who stole the show by winning all four of their matches to move well clear of the relegation zone and join their divisional rivals in the hat for the fourth round of the cup too.

Charlton Athletic had a less impressive couple of weeks but managed to keep pace with the big clubs and remain in the top four. At the other end AFC Wimbledon are still rooted to the bottom but results are improving and they're still in the FA Cup too.

Leyton Orient are still top of the National League despite suffering a pretty ropey festive period. With only four points from four games, including a derby defeat at Dagenham & Redbridge and a convincing loss at home to title rivals Salford City, the east Londoners remain in pole position.

Hendon clear their lines during their derby defeat to Harrow on Boxing Day

It was great to see the return of Dulwich Hamlet to Champion Hill where sell out crowds of on or around 3,000 have packed out the ground for the three home matches since Boxing Day - a sensational amount of people for a sixth-tier club.

It was also pleasing to see the three local clubs left in the FA Vase all make it through to the last 16 on Saturday. In a cup often dominated by clubs from the north-east, the level of competition could go up considerably in the next round as the draw stops being regionalised. To find out who Abbey Rangers, Chertsey Town and Cray Valley PM get in the next round, check out the draw later today (Monday).

My festive period has been one of the best its been in a while.

Not only are the two clubs I follow doing well but I got to watch three of their games - I also took my five-year-old daughter to all three and she seemed to enjoy herself.

First up I went to the Boxing Day derby between Harrow Borough and Hendon. Usually these tend to be nailbiting thrillers or humiliating defeats but on this occasion it was, relatively speaking, a bit of a stroll with a relatively straightforward 3-1 win chalked up and a place in the top four achieved.

We then went back three days later to watch a far more open game against Kings Langley which Harrow found themselves 4-1 down in at half-time. However, they fought back strongly to 4-3 with 25 minutes to go and could and should have grabbed at least a point but it was a cracking game nonetheless.

Since last Saturday, Harrow have won two more games 5-1 away at Staines Town and 4-3 at home to Metropolitan Police to stay in fourth and become the side whose games have produced more goals than any other club in at least the top seven tiers anywhere in the country. With 106 goals in 23 league games that's an average of 4.6 per match so you know where to go for entertainment!

My third and final game of the festive season saw me make the short trip to Loftus Road to watch QPR for what I'm ashamed to say was the first time this season.

Leeds United were the visitors for an FA Cup tie and with tickets reduced to £15 I took the opportunity to take my daughter to her first QPR match.

With both teams resting a number of players, a really open and in my opinion entertaining match ensued.

Luke Freeman sees his late free-kick hit the woodwork as QPR beat Leeds in the FA Cup

The play shifted from end to end with both keepers kept in regular action and despite having more possession, Leeds were outshot by the R's and ultimately lost 2-1.

Rangers have one of if not the worst Third Round record of any club in the country so my daughter got to witness a bit of history - it's the first time we've won an FA Cup tie without needing a replay since 1997!

I've now got a week off so will be looking forward to taking in Harrow Borough's next game at Met Police on Tuesday night and possibly their trip to Beaconsfield Town on Saturday too but we'll see what happens.

Finally, thanks again to all those who have donated to TLFG's coffee drinking fund over the last few months. I really appreciate it and could well be dipping in tomorrow given it's approaching 2am again as I write this.

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 Premier League, EFL and most of our local non-league competitions. There are also some eye-catching U23 matches and FA Trophy games.

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
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 7 January

Premier League 2
Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool @7pm - the biggest game of the day actually takes place outside London at Stevenage's ground where the U23 sides of two of the biggest clubs in the land do battle. Tickets are £5 for adults and can be bought in advance

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Tuesday 8 January

Carabao Cup Semi-Final First Leg
Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea @8pm - with nine wins between them, two of the most successful clubs in this competition face each other for a place in next month's final at Wembley. Sadly, this match is being played at the national stadium too so the 'big final' experience is somewhat cheapened again. Both sides made smooth progress in the FA Cup over the weekend and arrive in pretty similar form so it should be close. If you are on Tottenham's database, then you can buy one of the few remaining tickets

National League
Bromley v Wrexham @745pm - if you can't make it to that then your next best option is this fifth-tier match where one of last season's FA Trophy finalists play host to one of the NL title contenders

Middlesex Senior Cup Quarter-Final
Wealdstone v Brentford B @745pm - I've regularly said how much I've wanted to see London's pro clubs enter development sides in the local county cups (as they used to do in the past) and it's been very gratifying to see Brentford join the small list of teams that have. After beating Combined Counties League side CB Hounslow United in the last round, they now travel to Grosvenor Vale for what should be a somewhat tougher test against the sixth-tier Stones

Evo-Stik League Premier Division South
Metropolitan Police v Harrow Borough @745pm - two of the division's top five meet for the second time in three days thanks to the postponement of this match earlier in the season. On Saturday the sides produced a seven-goal thriller which Harrow edged 4-3. Borough matches have now produced more goals than that of any other club in the top seven tiers so far this season - a whopping 106 which is an average of 4.6 goals per game. To their credit, the Met have also been incredibly impressive this season. Only three points behind Harrow with games in hand and having enjoyed a run to the First Round of the FA Cup where they ran giantkillers Newport County pretty close, it's been a good few months at Imber Court. Despite all this success both sides struggle to draw crowds so get yourself down to Thames Ditton on Tuesday for what will hopefully be another cracker - I fully intend to be there

Bostik League South Central
Chipstead v Hayes & Yeading United @745pm - when it comes to high scoring teams, west London seems to be the place to be as Harrow's near neighbours H&YU are leading the way when it comes to goals scored. With 71 goals from just 17 games, no-one in the top eight tiers is even close with the seemingly free-scoring Manchester City only managing 56 from their 21 league games this season. Midtable Chipstead come into this on the back of a 3-0 loss to Hayes's title rivals Bracknell and it doesn't look like getting any easier here

Thurlow Nunn League Division 1 South
Hashtag United v Wormley Rovers @745pm - Coles Park seems to be a charmed place this season with both its clubs currently topping their respective divisions. While Haringey Borough continue to impress at the top of the Bostik League, three divisions below it is Hashtag who are taking the plaudits. The side set up by YouTuber Spencer Owen are only in their first season as a competitive non-league club but they're two points clear, getting fine crowds for the tenth tier and should win this one too

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Wednesday 9 January

Checkatrade Trophy Third Round
Chelsea U21 v Peterborough United @7pm - formerly a competition reserved for League One and League Two clubs, development sides from some of the country's bigger teams now enter too. This has got many people's backs up and support for it has waned. This season's competition is now down to its last 16 clubs with Chelsea one of only three development sides left in. League One play-off contenders Peterborough might have higher priorities than this match right now so might not bring a hugely strong team but what do I know? Whatever the case, this match represents a great chance to see a match at Stamford Bridge for only £5

FA Continental Tyres Cup
This women's competition is still in its group stage at the moment. There are two games in London on Wednesday night featuring four of the top five clubs in the country with current Super League leaders Arsenal hosting fourth-placed Birmingham City at Boreham Wood and last season's double winners Chelsea taking on Reading at AFC Wimbledon - both games kick-off at 730pm

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Friday 11 January

Professional Development League

Watford v Colchester United @3pm - end your week/start your weekend with a trip to Summers Lane where the Hornets take on the U's at Wingate & Finchley's ground

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Saturday 12 January

Premier League
West Ham United v Arsenal @1230pm - the day's top-flight action gets underway at lunchtime with this intriguing derby at the London Stadium. On paper the Gunners should win but I always think West Ham have a chance and will rattle the north London outfit. I don't know why I think this as their recent record against Arsenal is dismal with only one win from their last 23 meetings in all competitions. A lot will depend on how 'up for it' West Ham striker Marko Arnautovic is and whether he's fit - on his day he can be an incredible threat to any defence
Crystal Palace v Watford @3pm - next up we have another derby but this time way down in SE25. Both sides saw off lower league opposition in the FA Cup over the weekend and return to the bread and butter of league football here. Palace have only lost one of their last five, a run which includes that spectacular away win at Manchester City, to move six points clear of the relegation zone. Watford are on a similar run of form and have been better overall this season so should start as marginal favourites
Chelsea v Newcastle United @530pm - the day is brought to a close with this teatime game at Stamford Bridge where former Blues boss Rafael Benitez pays a visit with his Magpies team. Although fighting to avoid the drop, they have one of the best away records of any side in the bottom half with only three defeats from 10 games this season. Chelsea have at times struggled to break teams down (they are the lowest scorers in the top six) so this could be a bit of a grind


Championship
Brentford v Stoke City @3pm - following the departure of manager Dean Smith to Aston Villa, the Bees' fortunes declined rapidly but it seems new boss Thomas Frank is gradually shoring things up and they are now unbeaten in five. The Potters ended their 10-year-stay in the Premier League in May and seem to be struggling to adapt to life back in the second tier. Four games without a win, including a draw at Shrewsbury in the FA Cup has put manager Gary Rowett under some pressure so to say they need a win would be an understatement
Millwall v Blackburn Rovers @530pm - the Lions were struggling going into Christmas but have had the festive period of dreams with four wins out of four in the league and cup. As a result they are now six points clear of the relegation zone and in the hat for the Fourth Round of the FA Cup - good times! Rovers are in midtable and showing signs of emerging from a recent bad run with a win over West Brom and a draw at Newcastle in the cup

FA Trophy Second Round
This competition for clubs in the fifth to eighth tiers with its final at Wembley in May is down to its last 32. There are two ties in London on Saturday with National League Barnet entertaining Dorchester Town from two levels below them and Bostik League Carshalton Athletic are also at home to Salisbury. The winners of each tie will get to bank a cheque for £7,000.

National League South
Dartford v St Albans City @3pm - unbeaten in five, City have surged up the table in recent weeks and sit just one point and one place outside the play-off zone. Their latest win took them above the Darts who have fallen out of the top seven after winning only two of their last five
Hampton & Richmond Borough v Dulwich Hamlet @3pm - these two TLFG sides both made it to play-off finals last season so are used to winning. This season has been a bit of a shock to the system with Hampton unable to recapture their form under new boss Gary McCann and the Hamlet finding the step up to this level something of a challenge. Both are keeping their heads above water and should avoid the drop but with only one win between them in their last five games, they're not out of the woods yet

Evo-Stik League Premier Division South
Metropoliatan Police v Hendon @3pm - if it goes really well for the Met against Harrow on Tuesday, they could come into this game as the top London club in this league. Hendon were right up there among the title contenders earlier in the season but they've lost their way of late and are now down in tenth and will struggle to make the play-offs if they don't start putting some wins together soon

Bostik League South Central
Tooting & Mitcham United v Hayes & Yeading United @3pm - I've said all I need to say about H&YU above so you'll know by now that the Terrors have a tough afternoon coming up. However, Tooting aren't doing too badly themselves at the moment with a five-game unbeaten run lifting them into the top seven. Although firmly in contention for a play-off spot, they would appear to be still some way off the levels achieved by their west London opponents and could see that run end here

Combined Counties League Premier Division
Hanworth Villa v Chertsey Town @3pm - the visitors continue to be the team to watch at this level. With only one league defeat they currently top the division and only saw Sutton Common draw level with them on Saturday because they were busy making it through to the last 16 of the FA Vase. Hanworth are having a disappointing season and should be beaten here

Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division
Hadley v Harpenden Town @3pm - another team to keep your eye on in the ninth tier are Hadley who could go top of the SSML if they see off struggling Harpenden

Southern Counties East League Division 1
Welling Town v Stansfeld @3pm - the Boots are new to this level but have pretty much led from the off. With only three defeats this season they are currently seven points clear. The visitors are having a reasonable season down in seventh but pretty much represent the best of the rest such is the buffer between them and the top clubs

Thurlow Nunn League Division 1 South
Hashtag United v Frenford @3pm - in a very similar match to the one above, first plays seventh. Unlike midweek, Hashtag's opponents are from the London area so there should be a bigger crowd

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Sunday 13 January

Premier League
Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United @430pm - the biggest match of the week is saved until last when two Titans of the top flight go head-to-head at Wembley in a game that could be pivotal to both their seasons. With their eyes still just about on the title, Spurs really must win this or they could end the weekend nine points off the pace. For United, back in sixth, their hopes of a top-four finish could effectively be ended with a loss too. If you are on Tottenham's database then you'll be able to get a ticket for this pretty easily as they're opening up the whole stadium and there appear to be plenty left

Premier League 2
West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur @12pm - if you're going to the game above then you could easily combine it with this U23 game earlier in the day. It's being played at Dagenham & Redbridge which is a bit of a schlep from Wembley but you'll still have more than enough time to make it between the two

FA Women's Super League
Arsenal v Chelsea @1230pm - if you can't be bothered going all the way over to Dagenham then this blockbuster women's game at Boreham Wood is much closer to Wembley and again you'll have ample time to get between the two. This match should be more than worth watching on its own and should provide a great introduction to women's football if you never been to a game before


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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