Sunday 28 April 2019

TLFG: 29 April - 6 May 2019

Greetings and welcome to the latest edition of TLFG.

This week saw the conclusion of the regular season of most of our local non-league competitions.

As a result, the amount of games taking place this week has fallen dramatically. As a result I've included a few games below the 10th tier and a few from just outside London. I've also extended this week's guide to include the Bank Holiday on Monday.

It's also worth noting that given it's now play-off season in many leagues, the fixtures will be decided as the week progresses so check towards the end to see what games have been added for the weekend.

Aside from the big games in the Premier League and concluding fixtures in the EFL, it's also the Women's FA Cup Final at Wembley.

Manchester City and West Ham United will do battle for the honours this year and I'll be there again as I look to get my daughter hooked on the beautiful game - I fear she's humouring me at the moment but I'm not giving up yet.

West Ham United are going to Wembley - get your tickets now
Tickets are only £15 for adults and free for kids so it's a good day out. You get the pick of the seats too, we're going in Club Wembley for that price - you don't get the food but you get the plush seats and good view.

Elsewhere, QPR continued their limp to the end of the season with another defeat - this time at home to Nottingham Forest. It's been a very disappointing year but we've survived. With much greater financial restrictions next season, it could be really tough.

Harrow Borough surpassed all my expectations to end their debut season in the Southern League in seventh place. This was secured with a stunning 6-0 win at Salisbury on the final day - a result which no-one saw coming and cost the hosts home advantage in the play-offs. Combined with their 9-1 win over Staines on Monday, it was quite an end to the campaign for Boro.

Whether Steve Baker's side will stay in that division or get moved back to the Bostik League is unclear but if they do stay where they are, there could be even more travel than this year with Truro City almost certainly joining the division after relegation.

Get your tickets now - 20% off with discount code 'tlfg''
Many congratulations to Leyton Orient who clinched the National League title with a draw against Braintree on Saturday. The east London club now have their eyes on completing a rare non-league double as they prepare for the FA Trophy Final at Wembley on 19 May - tickets are available now if you want to be there (I'm going to that one too, albeit in the Chertsey end).

Also to mark your card for later in the month - I'm pleased to report the return of the London Festival of Football Writing.

It takes place between 21-25 May and features some great speakers and events - what's more you can get 20% off your ticket or festival pass price by quoting the discount code 'tlfg' when booking online.

Lastly this week, many thanks to all those who have donated to TLFG's lung cancer fighting fund this week. I really really appreciate it and thanks for all 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 highlights of the next few days include some crucial games in the Champions League, Europa League, Premier League, EFL, the Women's FA Cup and there are play-off games in many of 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.

Monday fixtures - yellow pin
Tuesday fixtures - green pin
Wednesday fixtures - magenta pin
Thursday fixtures - purple pin
Friday fixtures - black pin

Saturday fixtures - blue pin
Sunday fixtures - orange pin
Monday fixtures - yellow pin

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 29 April

Premier League 2
There are a couple of U23 games at the start of the week with the evening game between West Ham United and Everton at the London Stadium being the standout fixture as it gives you the chance to see a game at the ground for only £5. I'm not certain if tickets will be available on arrival or when the cut off time for buying online is so buy one ASAP if you do want to go

A bit further afield
If you head north into Hertfordshire you'll come to Top Field the home of Hitchin Town who are hosting Hemel Hempstead Town in this year's Herts Charity Cup Final at 745pm


Tuesday 30 April

Champions League Semi-Final First Leg
Tottenham Hotspur v Ajax @8pm - arguably the match of the week takes place on Tuesday at the recently opened Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. It will provide a fitting venue for this hugely important game. Spurs have won European silverware on three occasions but never the Champions League and this marks a huge moment in their history. Dutch club Ajax have a far more illustrious record, being crowned champions of Europe on four occasions but it's been 24 years since they last did it. In theory Spurs should win but with victories over Real Madrid and Juventus in previous rounds, Ajax won't fear them - tickets are sold out

Millwall v Bristol City @745pm - your next best option is this second tier match which is of huge importance to the visitors. The Lions drew with Stoke on Saturday to secure their place in the Championship for another season whilst City lost a crucial game against play-off rivals Derby. This means the Robins are four points adrift of sixth with two games to play - a win is therefore essential for them as their goal difference is the weakest of those around them. Tickets are available

Combined Counties League Premier Division
Chertsey Town v Abbey Rangers @745pm - the hosts won the league a while back but because of their sensational run to next month's FA Vase final at Wembley, they've still got one final league game to play. Although nothing hinges on it, it's against their very local rivals Abbey (from Addlestone) who have already secured a third-place finish so it should be a decent night

A bit further afield
It's Bostik League South Central play-off semi-final night on Tuesday with both games taking place just outside TLFG's catchment area. Bracknell Town and Cheshunt host games with both grounds easy to get to by car and train

Wednesday 1 May

Evo-Stik League Premier Division South play-off semi-final

Metropolitan Police v Salisbury @745pm - the Met have been one of the surprise packages of the season. One of a handful of clubs shunted unceremoniously from the Bostik League to Evo-Stik League in the FA's restructure last summer, many at Imber Court were left very unhappy and long-serving manager Jim Cooper left the club. Despite the lengthy journeys to Dorset, Devon, Somerset and even Wales, the tiny club have had a superb season and finished third to set up this huge play-off game against one of the giants of the division. If all had gone according to plan, Steve Claridge's Salisbury side would've have been hosting this match but a shock 6-0 home defeat by Harrow Borough in their final match saw them slip down the table, surrendering home advantage in the process. Both league matches between the two ended in draws so it couldn't be much closer

Bostik League North Division play-off semi-final
Aveley v Heybridge Swifts @745pm - the Millers' fine Parkside ground hosts another important game on Wednesday night between these two Essex clubs. Aveley finished as runners-up and won both regular season games against Heybridge but the matches were close and produced eight goals so let's hope for another competitive game here


Thursday 2 May

Europa League semi-final first leg
Arsenal v Valencia @8pm - if anyone knows how to win the Europa League it's Arsenal boss Unai Emery who won it three years running while at Sevilla. Their run to the semi-finals has been pretty smooth but the quality of oppositon, bar Napoli, hasn't been that challenging. Valencia are currently sixth in the Spanish league and should be no pushovers but the Gunners will still be expected to progress. Tickets are only available to members

Bostik League Premier Division play-off semi-finals
Carshalton Athletic v Merstham @745pm - a crucial final day win over Bishop's Stortford not only booked Carshalton's place in the play-offs, it also saw them grab a second-place finish - no mean feat for a club who got promoted last season. Back-to-back promotions are now on the cards but because of last summer's FA restructure they still need to win three more games to go up (this semi-final, the final and a 'Super Play-Off Final' against one of the other play-off winners in the seventh tier). Merstham have been hanging around the top five for a while so it was no surprise they made it but it is still a great achievement for a club who only draw average crowds of 188. Looking at the league table, the visitors should be the underdogs but they won both matches against Carshalton during the season so shouldn't be too worried
Haringey Borough v Tonbridge Angels @745pm - north London club Haringey have been another one of the surprise teams of the season. Also promoted to the seventh tier at the beginning of the season, they established a lead at the top for some time and grabbed headlines by making the first round of the FA Cup and hosting AFC Wimbledon in a live game on TV (they lost 1-0). A few bad results saw them slip to second where they remained until the final day - sadly a loss at champions Dorking Wanderers saw them have to settle for third but I'm sure anyone involved with the club would have happily taken that at the start of the season. With only one win from their final five games, Tonbridge have limped into the play-offs and that doesn't usually bode well

Friday 3 May

Spartan South Midlands League Division 1
Enfield Borough v Winslow United @745pm - at the time of writing, the only match I know of on Friday is this dead rubber in the SSML. Winslow have already finished third while the Panthers can move up one place to ninth if they win

A bit further afield
If you're up for a Friday night trip to the seaside then head down to Lancing (near Brighton) where Horsham take on Ashford United in the Bostik League South East Division play-off final

Saturday 4 May

Premier League
West Ham United v Southampton @3pm - the Hammers welcome the Saints for their final home game. The match is all about pride and finishing position as neither are in any danger of winning anything or getting relegated. The hosts can still manage a top 10 finish but probably only if they win here. Southampton will just be out to enjoy themselves now that their top-flight status has been secured. Tickets are available

League One
Charlton Athletic v Rochdale @530pm - the Addicks have already booked their place in the play-offs but a win here could see them gain home advantage for the all-important second leg of their semi-final. The two teams above them both have a midweek game in hand which if won will make this match a bit of a non-event as Charlton will stay in fifth whatever and Rochdale have nothing to play for. Tickets are available

Women's FA Cup Final
Manchester City v West Ham United @530pm - last year's final between Arsenal and Chelsea drew a record crowd of over 40,000 to Wembley but I think these two will struggle to match that. Firstly, the railway between Manchester and London is undergoing engineering work and West Ham's men are playing at home at 3pm. On paper it should be Manchester City's to lose - although not as dominant as their male counterparts, they are 24 points ahead of the Hammers in the league and scored 10 against them over their two league games. Tickets are only £15 for adults and free for kids - I'm going and thoroughly recommend you do too especially if you have any daughters who you want to inspire to get into football

Anagram Records Trophy Final
Catholic United v Clapton CFC @1pm - there are a number of minor cup finals on Saturday but I've highlighted this one as it's likely to get the biggest and liveliest crowd. The match is being played at Redbridge FC right next to Barkingside Tube station so it should be easy to get to. Catholic United are currently fifth in the Essex Olympian League so should start as favourites as they play a level above Middlesex County League side Clapton CFC. However, the Tons have hundreds of fans (they had 804 at their 12th-tier match on Saturday) who generate a fantastic atmosphere which could be to their advantage. Also, given the early kick-off, this can easily be combined with the Women's Cup Final at Wembley later in the afternoon

Tooting & Mitcham United v Tooting Bec @3pm - if you fancy some free football then head down to Imperial Fields for this derby. The clubs will be groundsharing next season but I believe the main reason this is being played is as a warm up for Tooting & Mitcham's Surrey Senior Cup Final appearance on Tuesday

A bit further afield
It's the final day of the season in League One and League Two and a number of games are taking place within a 90-minute train ride of London. I've included all of the ones which have ticket availability to non-members on the match maps. There are quite a few with a lot riding on them with the matches at Southend, Wycombe, MK Dons and Swindon all catching the eye.

Also, to the west of London on the way to Reading, Bracknell Town host Cheshunt in the Bostik League South Central play-off final.

Sunday 5 May

Premier League
Chelsea v Watford @2pm - the day's top flight action gets underway at Stamford Bridge where the Blues will still be looking to make sure of a top-four finish. Watford are still mathematically in the hunt for seventh but it looks unlikely after their loss to Wolves - their attention is now likely to be focused on the FA Cup final two weeks later so this could be an easier game for Chelsea than it might have been. Only hospitality tickets are now available
Arsenal v Brighton & Hove Albion @430pm - this match, of huge significance at either end of the table, looks more interesting. The Gunners, like Chelsea, will still be trying to get the last few points they need for a Champions League place whilst Brighton are still looking to get one or two points to avoid the drop. Currently four points clear of Cardiff with two games to go, it's looking promising but they won't be expecting to get anything here. Tickets are only on sale to members

Brentford v Preston North End @1230pm - the Bees bring their season to a close with this game against PNE. With both teams sitting snugly in midtable, there's nothing to play for so we could get an enjoyable and open game - although this Preston side don't have a great reputation for that kind of football. Their solid placings are a credit to all involved at both clubs who have some of the smallest budgets in the division. If you're only in London for a short time or will be leaving soon, the 2019/20 season will be Brentford's last at their very popular Griffin Park ground so visit it while you've still got the chance. Tickets are available

National League South play-off semi-final
Welling United v Chelmsford City @3pm - after an impressive third-place finish The Wings have made it straight into play-off semi-finals. Chelmsford were supposed to have contested a play-off 'quarter-final' to get this far but received a bye after Concord Rangers were excluded from the post-season for having a grandstand that was too small to be able to be promoted. Welling last played Chelmsford less than two weeks ago and beat them 2-0 so they should fancy their chances in this one-legged semi-final

A bit further afield
Just beyond London's south-western border you come to the commuter town of Woking. The Cards finished as runners-up to Torquay United and qualified directly for the National League South play-off semi-finals. On Sunday they take on Wealdstone who surged into the play-offs on the final day and then cruised past Bath City in the quarter-finals on Wednesday. The form is definitely with the Stones but it would still be quite an upset if they won. On the other side of London in deepest Essex there's a mouthwatering derby in the Bostik League North play-off final. Maldon & Tiptree host Heybridge Swifts whose ground is just 1.5 miles away across the River Chelmer. For the record, there's also a pretty meaningless Championship game in Berkshire where Reading host Birmingham City at 1230pm


Monday 6 May

Evo-Stik League Premier Division South Play-Off Final
Metropolitan Police v Poole Town @3pm - the Met won a thrilling play-off semi on Wednesday against Salisbury. The 3-2 victory put the Surrey club into Monday's final against Poole who caused an upset by beating runners-up Taunton in their semi-final. Whoever wins goes into a Super Play-Off Final against the winner of the Bostik League Premier Division play-offs and then promotion to the National League South will be achieved if they win that

A bit further afield
Thursday night was a bit of a disaster for London sides in the Bostik League as both Haringey and Carshalton lost which means this year's Premier Division play-off final will be between Tonbridge Angels and Merstham. The winners will meet Met Police or Poole in the Super Play-Off mentioned above

Play-off games which are still to be decided could also be added on this day - there are also several minor cup finals just outside London and the details of these are on the match map

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.

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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