Monday, 18 February 2019

TLFG: 18-24 February 2019

Greetings one and all and welcome to the latest edition of TLFG.

I was on early shifts all week, starting at 0400 one day so being up writing at after midnight is starting to take its toll with my body-clock not fully adjusted yet.

Despite this, for the second week running I managed to get to a live game and another QPR one at that.

Having been to the two previous FA Cup home games against Leeds United and Portsmouth, I also managed to get a ticket for the visit of Watford.

For the first time in a while, Loftus Road was sold out for the visit of the team currently ranked eighth in the Premier League.

QPR push for an equaliser during their FA Cup Fifth Round tie against Watford
The Hornets as a similar size club who play around 15 miles north of Shepherd's Bush have always been one of QPR's main rivals.

It's not a particularly bitter relationship but it's a competitive one.

I have to look at their current status with begrudging respect - there's no way a club of their size should be holding their own quite so easily but they are and fair play to them.

The match itself was not a classic and it was settled by Watford's only shot on target just before half time when Tom Cleverley's woefully mis-hit shot fell perfectly for Etienne Capoue who fired home instinctively.

There was a lot of huff and puff from QPR throughout the second half but a fine display from veteran goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes and some inaccurate finishing from Rangers made sure it stayed 1-0.

It was disappointing that Watford decided to time waste from the moment they went ahead but overall they did a professional job and never looked rattled despite some fairly concerted pressure from the hosts.

If I were a betting man I would put a few quid on Watford to win the cup this year. I said this before the fifth round draw and although unconvincing on Friday, I've still got a good feeling about them.

In other news, it was good to see one of our local non-league clubs going viral on social media again this week.

Raynes Park Vale were hosting Horley Town in the Combined Counties League when they were awarded a penalty - watch the clip below to find out what happened next!


Lastly this week, many thanks to Kelvin and Jonny S who donated to TLFG's lung cancer fighting fund this week. I really really appreciate it.

To recap, I recently received the news that my Dad has lung cancer. This condition also claimed the lives of my Mum and grandfather so with me powerless to do anything medically to help him, I've decided to ask for all donations to this blog to go to the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation which you can contribute to through the fundraising page I've set up. 

Anyway, enough about me - enjoy your football and keep in touch.


THE WEEK AHEAD
The highlights of the next few days include action in the Europa League, Premier League, EFL and loads of action in our local non-league competitions. There are also some eye-catching U23 matches too.

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 18 February

FA Cup Fifth Round
Chelsea v Manchester United @730pm - the week begins with the final tie of the latest round of FA Cup matches and it is without doubt the biggest. These clubs are currently ranked third and second on the all-time winners list so have great pedigree in this competition. The Blues are the current holders and will be hoping to make the final for a third year in a row. On form a much improved United should win. Remember from this round onwards there are no replays so we'll get a winner one way or the other

Premier League 2
West Ham United v Liverpool @7pm - with tickets long sold out for the match above, your next best option is this U23 game at Dagenham & Redbridge's ground. Precise details are proving hard to get hold of so check with the Hammers on the day but adult tickets shouldn't be more than £5

Essex Senior League
Barkingside v Walthamstow @745pm - although the 'Side have done well to haul themselves off the bottom of the table, it's been three weeks since they last won a game and could badly do with another three points in their pursuit of Southend Manor who lie six points above them. The visitors are fifth and the top London club in this league. They narrowly lost to leaders Stansted on Saturday and should have too much for their hosts on Monday

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Tuesday 19 February

Championship
Queens Park Rangers v West Bromwich Albion @745pm - having played three times last week, QPR's hectic February schedule (eight games in the month) continues with a tough match against the promotion-chasing Baggies. After a purple patch earlier in the season, things have gone a bit sour for Steve McClaren's team who have lost five in a row in the league to go bottom of the division's form table. West Brom are in the top six in the real table and on form so will be incredibly tough to beat but this is the Championship and anything is possible - tickets are available

Friendly
Brentford B v Huddersfield Town @11am - you could spend the whole day watching football in west London with this late morning match against a Terriers' development side at the Bees' training ground getting things underway. Entry to these games are usually free but there are few facilities and no cover. Check whether the public will be admitted before you set off

National League
Sutton United v Barnet @745pm - there are a couple of very decent looking games in the fifth tier on Tuesday with this south v north London derby the better in my view. Sutton were left clinging on to the final play-off spot after suffering a disappointing last-minute defeat to Barrow on Saturday. Barnet meanwhile picked up a fine point at league leaders Solihull Moors but slid worryingly close to the relegation zone in the process. Hopefully it is a false position as their lengthy runs in the FA Cup and FA Trophy have seen them play between four and six league games less than the clubs around them and they should to start pulling away if they win a couple
Boreham Wood v Wrexham @745pm - in the other game it's a real David and Goliath clash as one of the smallest clubs in the division host one of the biggest. In terms of attendance (avg. 763) the Wood are tiny compared to their guests with the Welsh club playing third-tier football not all that long ago. The Dragons are currently second and will go top if they win

Middlesex Senior Cup Semi-Final
Hayes & Yeading United v Harrow Borough @745pm - these two old rivals haven't met that much in recent years as Hayes have moved up and down the divisions. H&YU are currently top of the eighth tier Bostik League South Central, a level below Boro, but have scored more and have a better home record than anyone else in the top eight tiers of English football. The last time I checked, Harrow's games had produced more goals (for and against) than any other team in the top eight tiers so this could be quite a game! Even though Steve Baker's side are the higher ranked club, they are on a poor run and recently saw star striker Dylan Kearney join Sutton United so I'd have them as the underdogs. There is also the prize of a final against either Barnet or Brentford who play each other next week

Spartan South Midlands League Division 1
Harefield United v Hillingdon Borough @745pm - the Hare won 3-1 at Wodson Park on Saturday to stay eight points clear at the top and remain unbeaten in the league this season. On Tuesday they entertain local rivals Hillingdon Borough who narrowly avoided going bust last season after former Crystal Palace player Yannick Bolasie, who began his career at the Middlesex Stadium, helped bail them out 
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Wednesday 20 February

FA Women's Super League
Arsenal v Yeovil Town @730pm - although there are a few men's non-league fixtures, the biggest two matches of the day will almost certainly be in the top flight of the women's game. First up you should get to see the Gunners return to the top when they host a pretty hapless Yeovil side who are currently bottom and in dreadful form, conceding exactly three goals a game. The match is being played at Boreham Wood
Chelsea v Bristol City @730pm - there should be a far more competitive game at Kingsmeadow where it's a case of third versus fifth. If they are to catch Manchester City and Arsenal, the Blues will have to up their goal tally considerably - they've scored less than half than the Gunners have and are well behind City too but they should be in buoyant mood after beating their north London rivals 3-0 in the FA Cup on Sunday

Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division
Hadley v Wembley @745pm - in the ninth tier, Hadley have the chance to return to the top if they beat fellow London club Wembley. The Lions have had a pretty forgettable season but could do with a few more points to make sure of avoiding the drop

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Thursday 21 February

Europa League
Arsenal v BATE Borisov @555pm - the Gunners come into this second leg 1-0 down after losing in Belarus last week. The east European side have dominated their domestic league for years and are gradually improving on the continental stage too, doing well to finish second in Group L behind Chelsea. Unai Emery's side should still have way too much for the visitors and they should be going all out to win as it's the only silverware they've got left to play for. There are a few tickets available for this game via the club's ticket exchange but although it says they're on general sale, you usually have to be a member to use that service. See what you can figure out...
Chelsea v Malmo FF @8pm - the Blues won last week's first leg 2-1 so they should have a more straightforward night. The Swedish club don't begin their domestic league campaign until April so they're still probably not as sharp as they could be. It would be nice to think that the staggered kick-offs would allow you to do a European doubleheader on Thursday night but sadly the distance between the two grounds is too far unless you want to miss part of at least one of them. Tickets for this also appear to be sold out with the cheap prices during the half-term school holidays no doubt proving a big draw for many

FA Women's Championship
Crystal Palace v Lewes @8pm - the only alternative if you want live football is this women's second-tier game between two of the division's strugglers. Lewes have made headlines recently for becoming the first club to pay their women players the same wages as their men

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Friday 22 February

Premier League
West Ham United v Fulham @745pm - get your weekend underway with a derby at the London Stadium. Although winless in four league games, the Hammers are now in the top half and should be fairly confident of avoiding relegation. Historically 38 points are said to be enough to keep you up and they're on 33 with 12 games to go. The same can't be said of the Cottagers who are second from bottom on 17 points so in theory need to win seven of their remaining games to hit that mark. West Ham are very hard to predict, taking points off the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool in recent weeks whilst also managing to lose at League One strugglers AFC Wimbledon. If Fulham are really up for this then they could get something. Tickets are available

Premier League Cup
Fulham v Reading @2pm - if you're really keen, you could enjoy a Fulham doubleheader with their U23's playing this match at the club's training ground a short walk from Motspur Park station. Adult tickets are £3 and are available on the gate

A bit further afield
If neither of the above take your fancy then you'll need to make a trip out to Essex to see a live game. Heybridge Swifts made the Bostik League Division 1 North play-offs last season and are well on course to qualify again - they host local rivals Witham in a game they should win. If you don't have a car then that game will be tricky to get to so I'd recommend heading to Harlow instead for the Essex Senior League game between Woodford Town and Hoddesdon Town. If you really want to put some miles on the clock then there were a few tickets left for the Premier League game between Cardiff City and Watford but without a car it will almost certainly require an overnight stay

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Saturday 23 February

Championship
Brentford v Hull City @3pm  - there are no top-flight teams in action in the capital on Saturday so it's all about the second tier where the Bees have recently become London's top club. QPR had been ahead of them and Millwall for most of the season but their recent terrible form has seen Brentford become top dogs - saying that, all three are in the bottom nine so it's not a great achievement. Sadly for Brentford they got stuffed by Swansea in the FA Cup on Sunday so they could be a little deflated heading into this one. Hull were awful at the beginning of the season but started turning things around in early December and are now in the top half
Millwall v Preston North End @3pm - the Lions beat AFC Wimbledon on Saturday to make it through to the FA Cup quarter-finals where they will be the lowest ranked team left in the competition. Aside from their hugely positive results in the cup, Neil Harris's side are really struggling for wins in the league and are just two points above the relegation zone. Like Hull, Preston made a poor start to their campaign but they're up in the top half too and are more than capable of grinding out a narrow win here

League One
AFC Wimbledon v Charlton Athletic @3pm - arguably the game of the day will come at Kingsmeadow where a capacity crowd will watch a game of importance at each end of the table. The Dons picked up a crucial 1-0 win at Walsall in midweek but remained rooted to the bottom. Charlton drew 0-0 with Blackpool at the weekend to stay fifth but their winless run is now up to four games and other clubs are closing in

National League
Dagenham & Redbridge v Sutton United @3pm - there's only one game on in the fifth tier but it's another derby. The Daggers have improved a lot since being taken over by a new consortium earlier in the season but Peter Taylor's team are still only five points above the relegation zone despite being up in 14th. If they beat Barnet in midweek, Sutton could be in the top four by the time this kicks-off

National League South
Dartford v Woking @3pm - there's also only one game in the sixth tier but it's a big one as two members of the top seven meet at Princes Park. After leaders Torquay lost at Welling United on Saturday, second placed Woking were able to close the gap between them to just one point with a win over Weston-super-Mare. Therefore victory here could put them top. Dartford drew at Slough to keep hold of the last play-off spot and I'm sure they'd settle for a point here

Evo-Stik League Premier Division South
Harrow Borough v Poole Town @3pm - there's quite a bit on in the seventh tier on Saturday but nothing is hugely exciting, certainly from the perspective of league position. This match between the teams in sixth and fifth is probably the most meaningful. Harrow were members of the top five until recently but have just been usurped by Poole. The sides produced a thrilling 3-3 draw in Dorset a month ago so hopefully we'll get some more of the same

Bostik League South Central Division
Hayes & Yeading United v Ware @3pm  - one of the most shocking results of the last week in London if not the whole country was Hayes & Yeading's draw at bottom club Egham Town on Saturday. Given they are the highest scoring team in the country and are seemingly cantering to the title, a cricket score was expected especially by me. At home they are a very different prospect but Ware are a top-six club themselves and would love to be the first team to win at Beaconsfield Road this season

Essex Senior League
West Essex v Stansted @3pm - firmly lodged in midtable, the season is pretty much over for the hosts but they can have a big impact on who ultimately wins the title by how well they perform in this match. Stansted are currently top by four points but nearest challengers Hullbridge have two games in hand which means any dropped points here could be very costly indeed

Anagram Records Trophy
Clapton CFC v Chipperfield Corinthians @2pm - normally I don't cover teams in the 12th tier but it's getting harder and harder to ignore Clapton CFC. Despite being well down the pyramid they draw enormous crowds for the level - a whopping 618 turned out for the visit of league leaders Stonewall on Saturday which the Tons won 5-1. The club were formed primarily by members of the Clapton Ultras last year after they'd had enough of the people running Clapton FC. Although playing three levels below the club they used to follow, the crowds have held up impressively and it's still a fun place to spend a Saturday afternoon with lots of singing and pyro. They play on a pitch at Wadham Lodge next to Walthamstow's ground so they're pretty easy to find

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Sunday 24 February

Carabao Cup Final
Chelsea v Manchester City @430pm - the main event of the week takes place at Wembley on Sunday where the season's first piece of major silverware is up for grabs. Both sides have won this competition five times but it is City who have dominated the event in recent years, winning three of the last five finals. They will start this as strong favourites again, especially when you consider they beat Chelsea 6-0 in last weekend's league match. Chelsea's website gives the impression that tickets are still available but only if you're a member whilst City have sold out

Premier League
Arsenal v Southampton @205pm - there's also an important game at the Emirates where both sides will be desperate for a win. The Gunners could move into the top four if they beat the Saints. However, if the the Hampshire club win then they will almost certainly climb out of the relegation zone so there's a fair bit at stake

A bit further afield
You'll struggle to get a ticket for either of the above so why not make the short journey north to Bedfordshire to watch the big League One clash between leaders Luton Town and Coventry City. The Hatters are in sensational form at the moment and are currently six points clear at the top. Coventry, founding members of the Premier League, are one of the biggest clubs at this level and still have play-off ambitions so a big crowd is expected - there are still a few tickets available for this midday kick-off and I'd advise buying in advance if you do want to go. There are also a couple of non-league games with the most notable being the FA Vase quarter-final between Canterbury City and Biggleswade FC. Sadly Canterbury don't have their own ground and play all their home games at Faversham Town a few miles to the north west


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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