Sunday, 17 March 2019

TLFG: 18-24 March 2019

Greetings one and all - I hope you're well.

I'll keep this pretty brief as I'm on early shifts at work and I'm well past my bedtime!

The main thing to note about the week ahead is that it's an international break which means there are no Premier League or Championship games - in fact there's only one EFL game at AFC Wimbledon.

With games a little bit thin on the ground, I've included a few more than usual from outside London or from lower levels - you can find them all on the match maps.

The main match of the week is England's Euro 2020 qualifier against the Czech Republic at Wembley whilst over in N17 on Sunday, Tottenham Hotspur host the first test event at their new stadium - sadly getting tickets for both events will now be very difficult or probably quite expensive as the first is sold out and the second must be close, with any available tickets going to members and season-ticket holders only.

With all the big teams having the week off, it's a great time to check out a non-league game and/or a women's match - Chelsea's Women's Champions League quarter-final against PSG being a particular highlight on Thursday.

On a personal note I got to go and see QPR play Rotherham United on Wednesday.

The Millers are battling relegation, hadn't won away all season and hadn't won at Loftus Road since 1951 but on Wednesday night they created a bit of history and did just that as they ran out 2-1 winners courtesy of a 94th-minute goal.

TLFG reader Moran M gets to meet his hero Tomer Hemed on a visit to QPR
It was one of the worst games of football I have ever seen - with both teams playing highly uninspiring stuff. How we got three goals (one of which was a cracker) I'll probably never know.

Thankfully Rangers recovered from 2-0 down to get a very useful point at Hull City on Saturday to partially sweep the awful midweek result somewhat under the carpet.

The best thing about the Rotherham game was getting to meet long-term TLFG reader Moran M from Israel who came on a multi-game tour last season and was back for another one this year.

With trips to various clubs up and down the divisions during his stay, it was a bit of an embarrassment to see him visit W12 for this one.

However, QPR's on-loan striker Tomer Hemed is one of Moran's favourite players and after I advised him to make a banner to catch his attention, the Israeli international came over for a quick chat and a photo after the game - so what could have been a night to forget, ended up being quite the opposite.

As mentioned last week, nominations and voting are now open for the 'Football Blogging Awards'.

This is something I've never got involved in and I'm not even sure which category this blog would fall into but I got an email from the organisers giving me the info so I might as well give it a go so if you could put a vote my way I'd really appreciate it.



There are many fine blogs including other local writers like 'The Cold End' and 'Two Men In Search of The Beautiful Game' who have made a huge contribution over the last few years.

Lastly this week, many thanks to Chris H who donated to TLFG's lung cancer fighting fund this week. I really really appreciate it and thanks also for your kind words.

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. 

As always - enjoy your football and have a great week.


THE WEEK AHEAD
The highlights of the next few days include some international football plus some action in the EFL and loads of games in our local non-league competitions 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 March

Essex Senior League
Barkingside v Redbridge @745pm - the week begins with a bit of a grudge match at Cricklefield where the 'Side entertain the club who effectively evicted them from their own ground a few years ago (they sold them the lease and then the rent got too high for them to stay). Now groundsharing at Ilford, this is very much a local derby. Barkingside are bottom but have this game in hand which if drawn will see them climb above Leyton Athletic in the battle to avoid the wooden spoon - they certainly shouldn't be lacking any motivation

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Tuesday 19 March

National League
Barnet v Harrogate Town @745pm - back-to-back draws against Halifax and Hartlepool have left the Bees precariously perched just above the relegation zone but they have four games in hand on all those around them which makes their position a little false. This match is one of those games but it's a tough one. Harrogate were one of the early season pacesetters and although probably out of title contention, are very much in the race for the play-offs and are one of the form teams of the division

A bit further afield
Just beyond the M25 you can catch some seventh-tier football as Beaconsfield Town entertain Welsh club Merthyr Town in an Evo-Stik League game. Over at Hemel Hempstead Town's ground it's also the Herts Senior Centenary Trophy Final between Belstone and London Lions 
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Wednesday 20 March

Essex Senior League
Sporting Bengal United v Ilford @745pm - these two east London clubs sit snugly in the top 10 and apart from maintaining position, have little to play for as the leaders are so far clear. If you're a visitor to London, Sporting Bengal play at the Mile End Stadium and are one of the capital's most centrally located non-league clubs as a result

Herts Senior County League Premier Division
New Salamis v Sandridge Rovers @745pm - with not a huge amount on I thought I'd give this 11th-tier match a mention. Being played at Enfield Town's ground, this is a top-four clash. New Salamis are third and still have a shot at the title

A bit further afield
Hitchin Town v Coalville Town @745pm - a short journey north into deepest Hertfordshire will bring you to Top Field where the hosts entertain promotion chasing Coalville in this seventh-tier Evo-Stik League game
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Thursday 21 March

Women's Champions League Quarter-Final First Leg
Chelsea v Paris Saint-Germain @705pm - women's football tops the bill on Thursday with this hugely important European tie. French clubs have dominated this competition since 2010 with Lyon making the final seven times (winning five) and PSG twice. Both clubs have made it to this year's quarter-finals too. Thankfully for Chelsea they've drawn the 'weaker' of the two with PSG currently second domestically. The Blues won the English double last season and made it through to the FA Cup semi-finals on Sunday. However, they still aren't quite the side they were so this could be quite a challenge. Adult tickets are £6

A bit further afield
The other main match of the night is the England U21 friendly against Poland at Bristol City's Ashton Gate. It's over 100 miles from London but the trains take less than two hours and the last direct one to Paddington leaves Temple Meads at 2235. Adult tickets are £15

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Friday 22 March

Euro 2020 qualifier
England v Czech Republic @745pm - the Three Lions begin their qualifying campaign at Wembley against the Czechs who are, according to the Fifa rankings, the next best team in the group. With Bulgaria, Montenegro and Kosovo also in Group A it should be England's to win but there might be one or two tricky away games which should be negotiated carefully. Although it took a while, this game has now sold out which shows how Gareth Southgate's team have been able to re-engage with the English fans after a very successful 2018

Professional Development League
If you're coming into London for the England game you could make a real day of it and combine that match with an U23 fixture earlier in the day. Millwall, QPR and Watford all have games and to top it all they're all being played at their main stadiums - all three also play near stations with direct links to Wembley too

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Saturday 23 March

League One
AFC Wimbledon v Gillingham @1215pm  - the Dons looked certainties for relegation but they've picked up 10 points from their last four games to put themselves only three points adrift of safety. They've beaten some good sides in the process too. The Gills are only five points above them so are no great shakes but there is an element of a derby about this as they only have to travel from Kent - it's a big game for both teams. This is the only EFL game in London on Saturday and tickets are available

National League
Boreham Wood v Aldershot Town @3pm - one of the smallest teams in the division, The Wood did really well to make the play-off final last year. This year it's been a different story and they find themselves six points above the relegation zone with eight games to go. The Shots have been in the bottom four for a while and with four defeats on the bounce look almost certain to go down. If they win here, things will start to become very uncomfortable for the hosts
Dagenham & Redbridge v Dover Athletic @3pm - the Daggers were in terrible trouble at the start of the season but with their financial problems now behind them, Peter Taylor has managed to stabilise them in midtable. Dover also seemed destined for the drop but they've fought hard to keep their heads above water and will be hungry to pick up something here UPDATE: This match has now been moved to 26th March

National League South
Dartford v Hampton & Richmond Borough @3pm - the Darts are pushing hard for promotion again. They came agonisingly close last year and will be desperate to put that heartache behind them. The title is out of their reach so a play-off place is the best they can hope for but even that isn't a foregone conclusion. Boro have had a disappointing season of transition after seeing boss Alan Dowson leave for Woking but they seem to have done enough to stay up
Wealdstone v Chippenham Town @3pm - if Dartford do slip up, the Stones are one of the teams hoping to nip in and nick one of those play-off places. There or thereabouts all season, Bobby Wilkinson's side haven't quite been able to crack the top seven but with Billericay on the slide, there is a chance of making it. Visitors Chippenham are down in 11th and have almost certainly left themselves with too much to do

Bostik League Premier Division
Corinthian Casuals v Dorking Wanderers @3pm - these two contested a thrilling play-off final a couple of years ago which Wanderers eventually won on penalties. Thankfully Casuals only had to wait another year to enjoy promotion and joined them in the Bostik League's top tier. This season the visitors, after a fairly average start, have grown to become a formidable team and have opened up an almost insurmountable 13-point lead at the top. The hosts, however, need points to avoid the drop but cheered on by a passionate following they should have at least half a chance

Bostik League South Central Division
Hayes & Yeading United v Bracknell Town @3pm - there's no question about which is the game of the week in the eighth tier as the top two meet at the SkyEx. However with H&YU 14 points clear at the top, it's surely just a case of dotting the i's and crossing the t's as far as their title bid is concerned. Whatever happens, there should be plenty of goals - the clubs have banged in a whopping 200 between them in the league this season!

Southern Counties East League Premier Division
Croydon v K Sports @3pm - it's been a really tough season for the Trams. Currently 10 points adrift at the bottom you'd think things couldn't get much worse. Ten days ago thieves ransacked their clubhouse, stealing loads of valuables and causing lots of damage. Financially the club were struggling anyway so this was the last thing they needed. They're asking for donations or simply for more people to come down and watch their games so if you're free, get yourself along to the Croydon Arena for this one

Combined Counties League Division 1
Bedfont & Feltham v Farnham Town @3pm - B&F are in a three-way fight for the title with Sheerwater and Frimley Green as we head into the last six games of the season. Farnham are fourth and mathematically also in with a shout so this should be a significant game for all concerned

A bit further afield
With it being an international break, I've added several League One and League Two games to the match map - all of them are less than an hour's journey by train from London. Luton Town's game against Doncaster Rovers is the pick of the matches
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Sunday 24 March

U18 Premier League
Tottenham Hotspur v Southampton @3pm - ladies and gentlemen the moment we've all been waiting for - the first test event at Tottenham's new stadium! It seems to have been a long time coming but this Sunday is the day. Unsurprisingly tickets aren't available to non-members as the capacity is being limited to 30,000

FA Women's Championship
Charlton Athletic v Manchester United @2pm - the only game in the London area you'll be able to get into is this women's second-tier match but it should be a cracker as it features the recently created Manchester United side who are second and Charlton who are third - the top two go up. Loads to play for!  

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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