Sunday 1 September 2019

TLFG: 2-8 September 2019

Pre-season is well and truly over and so is summer as September rolls around again.

Although bright and sunny for most of the day in London, there was definitely a chill in the air as autumn made its presence felt.

The big story in English football this week was the expulsion of Bury from the EFL over their finances or lack of them.

Bolton Wanderers were hours away from joining them until a deal was struck with some new investors to save them.

It is a fate that many clubs in recent years have only just about avoided with my club QPR being one of several to go into administration at one point.

Dan Sullivan takes one for the team as Taunton Town hang on for a draw at Harrow Borough
In fact, it's been reported that the Championship is the most toxic division in the country with expenditure on wages outstripping income at most clubs as they gamble almost everything to get into the promised land of the Premier League - in other words it could easily happen again.

In other news, Non-League Day preparations continued with a few more meetings and after this weekend's FA Vase ties we should now know a lot more of the games taking place in the ninth to 11th tiers.

Although I didn't make it to a midweek game, I did manage to get out to the suburbs to watch a closely contested Southern League game between Harrow Borough and Taunton Town which finished 1-1.

The hosts looked all set to win it at the death when striker Anthony O'Connor got clear on the edge of the box only to be fouled. However, he recovered and kept going only for the ref to award the foul, send off the defender and give a free kick outside the area which was of course missed. I think it's fair to say that the official was not hugely popular after that.

The non-league fixture programme is a bit complex this week as a lot will depend on midweek FA Cup replays. There are also some FA Vase replays too which have further confused things.

As a result I haven't completed the TLFG Daily Digest for the weekend just yet and will tweak things as the week goes along.

 Lastly this week, many thanks to all the readers who have donated to TLFG's lung cancer fighting fund over the last few months. I really really appreciate it and thanks for all your kind words. The page will stay open as the fight goes on!

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

The highlights of the next few days include an England international at Wembley, action in the EFL and EFL Trophy, the next round of the FA Cup, a few FA Vase replays and plenty of games in all our local non-league competitions - there are over 80 matches in total so there's plenty to choose from. 

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.

Tuesday fixtures - green pin
Wednesday fixtures - magenta pin
Friday fixtures - black pin

Saturday fixtures - blue pin
Sunday fixtures - orange 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 2 September

Essex Senior League
Tower Hamlets v Enfield FC @745pm - the only action of the day in London takes place in Mile End where two sides who've made pretty underwhelming starts to the season go in search of a win which will pull them clear of the bottom four. The visitors enjoyed an FA Vase win at Ilford on Saturday so should arrive in good spirits

Tuesday 3 September

EFL Trophy Group Stage
AFC Wimbledon v Brighton & Hove Albion U21 @745pm - the much maligned EFL Trophy gets underway again on Tuesday with the Dons, among its biggest haters, hosting an academy side from Brighton. They think so little about the competition that there is absolutely no mention on their website about ticket availability but you can usually get in for around £10
Leyton Orient v Southend United @745pm - over in east London you should get a better match at Brisbane Road where two fullish sides should go head-to-head in this one. Adult tickets are between £7-11

National League South
Dulwich Hamlet v Maidstone United @745pm - the hosts drew at Dorking Wanderers on Saturday to remain in the top five. Maidstone travelled to league leaders Wealdstone in one of the big games of the day and narrowly lost 2-1 in front of a four-figure crowd. Another big attendance should be expected here
Welling United v Eastbourne Borough @745pm - after making last season's play-offs the Wings have made a stuttering start to this campaign and find themselves in 11th after a 3-0 loss at promotion rivals Concord Rangers on Saturday. Eastbourne recorded a crucial win over fellow strugglers Hampton & Richmond but Welling should be too strong for them

FA Cup Preliminary Round Replays
Hayes & Yeading United v AFC Dunstable @745pm - after drawing the initial game 0-0, Hayes & Yeading as the more senior side should start as favourites here. The winners will get a cheque for £2,890 and a trip to Haywards Heath in the next round
AFC Croydon Athletic v Herne Bay @745pm - the Rams did well to force a 2-2 draw at higher ranked Herne Bay last week and will really fancy their chances of causing a cupset here


Wednesday 4 September

National League
Dagenham & Redbridge v Bromley @745pm - the Daggers managed a point against Chesterfield to remain in midtable. Bromley also drew with AFC Fylde which saw them slip to third but remain unbeaten - an away win looks likely

FA Vase First Qualifying Round Replay
Welling Town v Erith Town @745pm - after fighting out a 2-2 draw on Saturday, these two local rivals will try again in Thamesmead on Wednesday. A trip to Arundel awaits the winners

Spartan South Midlands League Division 1
Lewisham Borough v Forest Hill Park @745pm - elsewhere in south London we have a groundshare derby at the Ladywell Arena. FHP have only played two games so far and consequently sit near the bottom but they should be more than capable of challenging the Boro

Eastern Counties League Division 1 South
Lopes Tavares v Fire United @745pm - there's also a groundshare derby at the Terence McMillan Stadium in Newham. Both sides have only played two so far, the hosts winning both and the visitors losing theirs. Fire United made the non-league headlines last week for seeing their match against May & Baker get abandoned in the 83rd minute because they could only field six players after having three sent off and several others injured, they were losing 6-1 at the time

Friday 6 September

Professional Development League
There are three U23 games on Friday lunchtime and all three are being played at the clubs' main stadiums so it's a great opportunity to groundhop on the cheap. The games at Millwall and QPR kick-off at 1pm whilst Watford play a little later at 2pm (UPDATE - THE WATFORD MATCH HAS BEEN POSTPONED). Tickets for these matches are never more than £5 and it's free at QPR

FA Cup First Qualifying Round
Sutton Common Rovers v Beaconsfield Town @745pm - the next round of the FA Cup gets underway on Friday. SCR have made it past Molesey and Eastbourne Town already to bank well over £5,000 in prize money. Next up are Southern League side Beaconsfield who play two levels above them but they're yet to win a league game this season and look highly vulnerable to an upset

Saturday 7 September

Euro 2020 qualifier
England v Bulgaria @5pm - the Three Lions began their Euro 2020 campaign back in March with back-to-back wins over the Czech Republic and Montenegro. With five goals scored against each opponent, Group A looks like being a walk in the park for England who are already top despite playing fewer games than all the other teams. Bulgaria used to be a decent side when I was a youth, they made the World Cup semi-finals in 1994, but they arrive at Wembley in last place behind minnows Kosovo. There might not be another five goals but it should be comfortable enough for Gareth Southgate's team. Tickets have almost sold out with the only ones left costing £75 or £100 and I'm not sure England or Bulgaria are worth that much!

League Two
Leyton Orient v Swindon Town @3pm - the O's have made an unspectacular return to life in the fourth tier but I'm sure they'll be more than happy with a midtable finish after all the upheaval of the summer. On Saturday they welcome former Premier League club Swindon who have made a solid start to the campaign and currently reside in fifth. Tickets are available from £18

National League
Boreham Wood v Dover Athletic @3pm - with it being an international break, you have an excellent chance to check out some of the capital's non-league clubs. We have several in the fifth tier of varying degrees of quality. The smallest club Boreham Wood are finding things a bit of a struggle. With four defeats from their last five and their relatively meagre attendances down almost 13% so far this season, they will do well to survive. Dover,often promotion challengers, had a disappointing 2018/19 but they appear to be back on form and arrive at Meadow Park as members of the top six
Bromley v Chesterfield @3pm - as recently as 2015 a significant gap of three divisions separated these two clubs but relegations and promotions mean they now compete on a level playing field. In fact, given the start they've both had this time, they could end up two divisions apart next season with Bromley among the title contenders and Chesterfield fighting to avoid their third relegation in four seasons
Sutton United v Notts County @3pm - the visitors, one of the most historic clubs in English football, fell out of the EFL at the end of last season. Like Chesterfield, they've found it hard to adapt to this level but with only one defeat in five, they are keeping their heads above water. Sutton saw very successful and long-serving manager Paul Doswell resign in March and new boss Matt Gray has yet to see his charges recapture the kind of form that has made them promotion contenders in recent years

National League South
Dartford v Dorking Wanderers @3pm - the Darts are another local side to suffer a worrying dip in form. Again they are usually among the strongest teams in this division but they find themselves in the bottom three after nine games. Dorking are new to this level after a couple of quick promotions but have settled well and should start as favourites
Hampton & Richmond Borough v Concord Rangers @3pm - there's a similar theme at the Beveree where a long serving and successful manager left and his replacement has struggled. In Hampton's case it was Alan Dowson who left for Woking ahead of the 2018/19 season and ended up  getting them promoted. Gary McCann took over after many years at Hendon but presided over a unsatisfactory campaign which saw them finish in the lower reaches of the table. He kept his job but the side have made a poor start again and find themselves in the bottom two ahead of this game against a side who should push for a play-off place
Wealdstone v Oxford City @3pm - things are looking far rosier at Grosvenor Vale where Irish manager Dean Brennan is doing a superb job. With eight wins from their opening nine games, the Stones are already five points clear at the top. Another three points seems highly likely here

FA Cup First Qualifying Round
Enfield Town v AFC Rushden & Diamonds @3pm - there are numerous ties all over London on Saturday but this one jumped out immediately. Playing in parallel seventh tier divisions, these two are among the bigger clubs at this level and the visitors are, of course, a re-incarnation of a former third tier side who went bust. With £4,500 up for grabs for the winners of the tie, there's plenty at stake
Whyteleafe v Merstham @3pm - the draw has also thrown up this Surrey derby between two Isthmian League sides. The Leafe play a level below the visitors who made the Premier Division play-offs last season. Despite this, it should still be close
Sutton Athletic v Flackwell Heath @3pm - the hosts have been around since 1898 but this is the first season that they've competed in the FA Cup and what a start they've made. With wins over Deal Town and Ashford Town, the 10th tier club have banked over £5,000 prize money and are now set to play a ninth-tier team from Buckinghamshire. Although Flackwell Heath should win on paper, they're not as good as the Ashford side Sutton routed 6-0 in the previous round so we could get another home win

Sunday 8 September

FA Cup First Qualifying Round
Cray Wanderers v Bedfont Sports @3pm - London's oldest club got their FA Cup campaign underway with a 5-0 thrashing of Hythe Town in the Preliminary Round. Next up are another eighth-tier team so they should fancy their chances of making further progress
Kingstonian v Walton Casuals @3pm - with the K's now groundsharing at Corinthian Casuals they will have to play this on Sunday too. The hosts aren't having a great season but they should win this one as the Stags have lost every league game so far and are in terrible form

FA Women's Super League
Arsenal v West Ham United @230pm - the top flight of women's football kicks-off in London on Sunday with a couple of eye-catching games. Up at Boreham Wood we have this derby between the reigning league champions and last season's beaten FA Cup finalists. Adult tickets are £7 if bought online in advance or £10 on match day
Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur @1230pm - the biggest football crowd of the day in London is likely to come at Stamford Bridge where the Blues have given their women's team the chance to play there. The club also decided to give loads of tickets away for free and consequently only a brunch hospitality package is now available for £60 if you want to go. There are also all kinds of entertainments lined up and a fan zone in a nearby park. Chelsea finished third last season and should start as strong favourites against newly promoted Spurs

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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