Sunday, 23 February 2020

TLFG: 24 February - 1 March 2020

Greetings one and all and welcome to the latest edition of TLFG as we supposedly move into the spring.

How has your week been?

Last time I mentioned how I had an ambitious plan to see a game on Saturday and I managed to do it.

About a month ago I travelled to Paris to see a match, this weekend I went all the way down to Cornwall to watch Harrow Borough play at Truro City - which is 17 miles further from London than the French capital as the crow flies.

Given the way non-league football is regionalised to minimise travel, by a quirk of fate Harrow have found themselves in a league where they have to travel huge distances because they're right next to the geographical dividing line between leagues.

Harrow Borough made the long trip to Treyew Road on Saturday
Since the fixtures came out in the summer, this was the match many Harrow fans were looking for as it would provide the chance to go to the ever popular tourist destination of Cornwall.

Some made weekends of it but not me - I left home at 0715 and went by train from Paddington all the way down.

Fares on this line can often be extortionate if left to the last minute and with the bad February weather putting the match in some doubt, most chose other methods of transport.

Luckily, as a First Group employee I got a free ride - one of the big perks of working in a sometimes very challenging environment.

Thankfully the trip was smooth and I got into Truro at about 1230pm.

Rather than go straight to the ground, I headed into the town centre to visit the cathedral which is this small city's biggest landmark.

I had a good look round (free entry) and enjoyed a pasty in the forecourt outside before heading to the match.

Despite the bad weather, the pitch was in reasonable condition probably largely down to the fact that the ground is situated on top of a hill, improving natural drainage - the climb from the town was considerable so if you have walking difficulties, get a cab.

Boro have a small fanbase but a decent turnout of 15-20 (about 10% of a normal home attendance) made the trip.

Playing with the wind, the visitors more than matched the table-topping hosts and even had the audacity to take the lead.

However, Truro equalised almost immediately with a penalty to make it 1-1 at the interval.

Harrow go close on otherwise tough afternoon in Cornwall
The second period was a different story and with strong gusts pinning them back, Harrow barely got out of their half and shipped three fairly soft goals to lose 4-1.

Although this was of course disappointing, I didn't expect to get anything out of the game and I came away happy to have just made the trip, ticked the ground off my list and largely enjoyed my day.

The day was also improved by seeing former QPR manager Neil Warnock, a Cornish resident, also in attendance and he hung out by one of the corner flags for most of the game.

My return train made a few extra stops on the way back, picking up what appeared to be Cambridge United's media team at Plymouth after their match - something which provided some interesting eavesdropping material as they discussed various football topics and personalities.

I eventually got home at about 2215 some 15 hours after setting out - there aren't too many longer away days in English football but it was thoroughly rewarding and I can't wait for the next one.

Anyway, I think that's it from me. Enjoy your week - there are some big games including our first major cup final of the season.

Lastly, many thanks to Richard H from Washington DC, USA who donated to TLFG's coffee-drinking fund. He claims to have become a Brentford fan after reading TLFG and going to a game back in 2017. Have you adopted a team as a result of this blog? Let me know. 

THE WEEK AHEAD
The highlights of the next few days include games in the Champions League, Europa League, Premier League, EFL Cup, EFL, National League and loads of other matches in our local non-league competitions. 

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 - blue 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 24 February

Premier League Cup
Charlton Athletic v Reading @1pm - the week begins with some U23 football at Dartford's ground. This competition is coming to the end of the group stage and these two sides are already through. However, whoever wins this will top the group

Middlesex Premier Cup Quarter-Finals
This knockout competition for clubs in the 10th and 11th tiers sees two of its quarter-finals being played on Monday night. St Panteleimon entertain Cricklewood Wanderers at Rayners Lane's ground and Pitshanger Dynamo take on FC Deportivo Galicia at Hanwell Town UPDATE - St Panteleimon's match has been moved to Tuesday night

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Tuesday 25 February

Champions League
Chelsea v Bayern Munich @8pm - the level of football ratchets up considerably on Tuesday as the German league leaders head to Stamford Bridge for the first leg of this last 16 tie. Bayern won all of their group games and scored an average of four goals in each one. They are also top of the form table in the Bundesliga and beat Paderborn 3-2 on Friday night. The Blues, on the other hand, haven't been great in recent weeks but ended their winless run with a morale boosting victory over Spurs on Saturday - it's going to be tough. Tickets are not available

Championship
Queens Park Rangers v Derby County @745pm - elsewhere in west London, you'll have no trouble getting a ticket for this second-tier game. The sides are neck-and-neck in midtable and have seemingly little to play for. Both sides recorded commendable draws in their latest matches against promotion contenders Nottingham Forest and Fulham respectively. Probably the most notable thing about this match is that it will mark Wayne Rooney's 501st appearance in English league football if he is selected by the visitors. Tickets are available to non-members

National League
Barnet v Dagenham & Redbridge @745pm - the hosts have had some terrible problems with their pitch of late with several games getting postponed and last week's match against Harrogate abandoned half way through. If they can get the match on then it could be significant. Not only is it a crosstown derby but the Bees are only two points off the play-off places whereas Dagenham are scrapping for every point they can get to stay out of the relegation zone

National League South
Wealdstone v Chelmsford City @745pm - the Stones found themselves six points clear at the top on Saturday evening after yet another win. After a torrid run, Chelmsford have garnered four points from their last two but their usual run to the play-offs now looks like a distant dream. Another home win looks like a pretty safe bet

London Senior Cup Qaurter-Final
AFC Wimbledon U23 v Brentford B @2pm - if you're at a loose end on Tuesday afternoon you might fancy this match at Kingsmeadow. Both clubs' second XIs have been entered in this competition this year with the Bees youngsters hoping to win it after making last year's final. I believe tickets are £5 on the gate

Middlesex Senior Cup Semi-Final
Bedfont Sports v Broadfields United @745pm - there are some sizeable sides in this competition so these two have done well to make it to the last four. The hosts play a level above the visitors so should start as favourites. The winners will face Wealdstone or cup holders Brentford B in the final

CCL Premier Division
CB Hounslow United v Hanworth Villa @745pm - in the ninth tier we've got a local derby which is also a bottom of the table clash. Both are level on 18 points, some six points adrift of the team above them. A defeat for the hosts will be disastrous as Hanworth have five games in hand

Women's FA Cup Fifth Round
Crystal Palace v Brighton & Hove Albion @745pm - the hosts are trying to create a bit of a buzz around this match as if it were a clash between the two men's teams who are big rivals. It's unlikely to get that intense but a home tie in the quarter-finals against Birmingham City is on offer for the winners
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Wednesday 26 February

Championship
Fulham v Swansea City @745pm - now winless in three, the Cottagers are stuttering at an unfortunate moment. If they'd taken maximum points from those very winnable games, they'd be sitting pretty in second and looking good for automatic promotion. Thankfully for them, the second tier is incredibly unpredictable and so-called good teams often drop points without warning meaning Fulham are still third. The Swans were also contenders but with only one win in five, they're down in ninth and look unlikely to mount a serious challenge to return to the top flight. Tickets are available to non-members
Millwall v Birmingham City @745pm - over in Bermondsey we've got the Gary Rowett derby to look forward to as the Lions boss faces one of his old clubs. After drawing with Fulham and winning at Preston, Millwall suffered the ignominy of defeat at lowly Wigan on Saturday to leave them with probably only a slim chance of making the play-offs. Birmingham are about as midtable as it's possible to be but they're on a good run and could be dangerous. Tickets are available to non-members

Isthmian League Premier Division
Kingstonian v Corinthian Casuals @745pm - the best non-league option takes place in Tolworth where the K's entertain CCs who they groundshare with. Kingstonian had a good shot at making the play-offs because of a number of games in hand but they've drawn six of their last seven games to fade into midtable obscurity. Casuals have been poor all season and are struggling to break out of the bottom three but a win here would see them do that

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Thursday 27 February

Europa League
Arsenal v Olympiakos @8pm - after winning the first leg 1-0 in Athens last week, the Gunners are in a strong position to progress to the last 16. The Greek giants are currently top of their domestic league and face a huge top of the table clash against PAOK on Sunday in the run up to this game. Arsenal have to play Everton. Tickets are not available to non-members

FA Youth Cup Quarter-Final
Chelsea v Millwall @7pm - normally a last eight tie in this U18 competition would be well worth considering but not on this occasion. Controversially, the Blues have given Millwall an allocation of only 1,000 tickets, which have been snapped up, and restricted home sales to season-ticket holders and members only

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Friday 28 February

Premier League 2
Arsenal v Manchester City @7pm - if you've never been to the Emirates Stadium before, now's your chance. Tickets for this U23 game will go on sale to non-members on Tuesday 25 February at 11am for only £4. If you want to go, you must buy in advance as none will be available on the night

ECL Division 1 South
May & Baker v Fire United @745pm - if you'd prefer a non-league option then you'll need to head east to Aveley where M&B have become the top club from TLFG's catchment area in this division. Fire United have had a shocker on and off the field and are bottom

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Saturday 29 February

Premier League
West Ham United v Southampton @3pm - it's looking pretty bleak for Hammers fans right now. Down in the bottom three and on a lengthy winless run, it's hard to know where their next point is coming from. On Monday night they play the all-conquering league leaders Liverpool so there's virtually no chance of anything there. However, on Saturday they welcome the midtable Saints who they must hope to take something off. After a couple of defeats, the Hampshire club picked up a hugely important win over a struggling Aston Villa side to move 10 points clear of the relegation zone - almost certainly guaranteeing their place in the top flight for another season. One note of cheer for West Ham - it would appear they are a bit of a bogey team for Southampton having won six of the last 10 against them. Tickets are available to non-members
Watford v Liverpool @530pm - after an initial improvement in results under new boss Nigel Pearson, the wins have dried up and the Hornets are back in the bottom two. They are firmly in touch with the other strugglers and have a game against Manchester United on Sunday which could change the look of the table significantly if they pull off a shock result. Whatever happens at Old Trafford, getting anything out of this match against the leaders will be incredibly tough. Tickets are not available

Championship
Fulham v Preston North End @3pm - there's a decent selection of second-tier games on Saturday with this match between two of the top six (at the time of writing) looking like the best on offer. Whatever happens in midweek, the Cottagers will still be among the play-off places when this kicks off but it could be a different story for PNE who have very ticky trip to leaders West Brom on Tuesday. Tickets are available to non-members
Millwall v Bristol City @3pm - after the midweek game against Birmingham, Gary Rowett's side next welcome the Robins who are having their usual wobble as we approach the most important part of the season. With three defeats from their last five games, the West Country side have slipped out of the play-off places and badly need three points to get back on track. Tickets are available to non-members
Queens Park Rangers v Birmingham City @3pm - I've written about both sides already so there's not much more to add. Over the last 20-odd years, Loftus Road hasn't been a happy hunting ground for the Blues with only three wins in 10 attempts. but they did come out on top in a seven-goal thriller there last year. Rangers went 4-0 down before pulling it back to 4-3 and then missing a penalty at the death - a miss which seemed to destroy Nakhi Wells' confidence for the rest of the season and played a part in the departure of boss Steve McClaren. Tickets are available to non-members

FA Trophy Quarter-Final
Barnet v Halesowen Town @3pm - the Bees have made it to the last eight of this national knockout competition for clubs in the fifth to eighth tiers. The final is at Wembley, a stadium you can see from the local Tube station as you make your way home. Barnet have only made it to the final once, way back in 1972 when they lost to Stafford Rangers. Halesowen play three levels below them and therefore represent an excellent chance to progress to the last four

National League
Boreham Wood v Hartlepool United @3pm - the Wood picked up a hugely impressive 1-0 win over Yeovil on Saturday to win their David v Goliath contest and move into the top three. They have a winnable midweek game at Aldershot before hosting an upwardly mobile Hartlepool side who have an eye on the play-offs themselves
Bromley v Sutton United @ - the Ravens' decline continued on Saturday as they lost at home to lowly Wrexham. Although still very much in touch with the other play-off contenders, their form has completely deserted them. On Saturday, they welcome fellow Londoners Sutton for a derby. The U's have drawn four games in a row and despite being in 15th, they're still in real danger of going down as only three points separate the teams between themselves and 21st

National League South
Dartford v Wealdstone @3pm - the leaders travel to Princes Park to take on a much improved Darts side who kept themselves in the play-off places with a win over Eastbourne Borough on Saturday. The two last played each other on the opening day at Grosvenor Vale where the Stones won 4-1
Dulwich Hamlet v Tonbridge Angels @3pm - the biggest crowd in the division will probably be found at Champion Hill for this relegation six-pointer. Like the division above, lots of teams find themselves just above the relegation zone and these two are in this category
Hampton & Richmond Borough v Chelmsford City @3pm - the Beavers won at Maidstone on Saturday to stay on the heels of Dartford as they look to unseat them from the play-off spots. Chelmsford have arrested their losing streak but still look vulnerable and will start as second favourites
Welling United v Havant & Waterlooville @3pm - the Wings have improved a lot under their new boss and have moved seven points clear of the relegation zone. Havant look pretty certain to book a play-off place but the higher you can finish the easier the post-season so they could still do with the win

Isthmian League Premier Division
Carshalton Athletic v Horsham @3pm - the game of the day in the seventh tier would appear to be this top-six clash at Colston Avenue. The Robins have played more games than those around them so they can't afford to drop too many points. The reverse fixture back in October ended in a 2-2 draw

Isthmian League South Central
Tooting & Mitcham United v Bracknell Town @3pm -  in the eighth tier the Terrors have slipped out of the play-off places but have two games in hand so they still have a chance. Bracknell are just above them and also have some games in hand meaning that this is an incredibly important game for both as they look to break into the top five

CCL Premier Division
Abbey Rangers v Ascot United @3pm - my pick of the day in the ninth tier is another top-six clash down in Addlestone where Abbey welcome the league leaders. The Berkshire club have a four-point lead at the top and need another win to keep Spelthorne Sports at bay

ECL Division 1 South
Lopes Tavares v White Ensign @3pm - the hosts were top for a long time but have fallen down the table as they haven't played very much recently. In the meantime they've been replaced by White Ensign. LT have the games in hand to put them back on top but they've got to win this or their title bid could be in serious jeopardy

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Sunday 1 March


Carabao Cup Final
Aston Villa v Manchester City @430pm - the season's first major piece of silverware is up for grabs at Wembley on Sunday. Relegation-fighting Villa are 10-1 outsiders to win as City are, on paper, so much better than them. Of the big clubs, the Mancunians take this competition seriously, they are the current holders and have won four of the last six finals. Villa also have an excellent history in this competition with five wins from eight final appearances but they haven't claimed this honour since 1996. Tickets are sold by the clubs - the last time I looked, some were available in the City end if you had a previous purchasing history

Premier League
Tottenham Hotspur v Wolverhampton Wanderers @2pm - Spurs received quite a bit of criticism for their performance against Chelsea on Saturday and they are open to losing their place in the top five from a number of contenders. Wolves are one of those clubs because they are hard to beat - only Liverpool have lost fewer games this season. However, they draw far too many - only Arsenal have drawn more. Given Tottenham's current lack of strikers, this looks like being another one where the points are shared. Tickets are not on sale to non-members

Isthmian League Premier Division
Cray Wanderers v Merstham @3pm - can't get a ticket for either of the above? All is not lost as there's a great non-league option at Bromley's ground where London's oldest club entertain Merstham. Cray are very much in the hunt for a play-off place whereas their opponents from Surrey need points to avoid the drop. Before the match, the club will also be re-signing George Taylor who last played for them in 1938. It is the 100-year-old's wish to kick a ball one more time and Cray are making it happen. I know some TLFG readers from Finland have told me they're going to this one so why don't you join them?


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.

6 comments:

  1. Hope your away day was fun - it sounds it! I've just realised that I've never been to Griffin Park, so it's this season or never. Funds are very tight at the moment, what would be the cheapest way to get to a game there, do you think?

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    1. Most league games are on the verge of selling out. Wigan might be your best bet for some Championship action, otherwise the B team are playing Glasgow Rangers U23 on March 10th (19:30) free entry

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    2. Thanks Keith, that sounds perfect - exactly on my budget too!

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  2. Hey, nice blog men!
    Do you think its possible to attend the game of Crays Wanderes when my flight goes 19:55 from London Standsted ? Thanks for answering!
    Greetings from a german :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi. I've stopped receiving alerts to tell me that people are leaving comments so I totally missed your question. Did you make it? I think it would have been hard.

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    ReplyDelete