Sunday, 30 August 2020

TLFG: 31 August - 6 September 2020

Welcome to the latest edition of TLFG as we move into September - I can't believe it's that time of year already.

How has your week been? Did you get to a game or two?

I've been doing early shifts at work again so going out in the evening has been a non-starter but plenty has been happening at London clubs.

Chelsea saw off Manchester City in the women's FA Community Shield at Wembley prior to Arsenal beating Liverpool to take the honours in the men's game.

The biggest transfer news, certainly from my point of view, saw the move of QPR midfielder Eberechi Eze across town to Crystal Palace, for a package totalling around £20m, where he made a solid start in the Eagles' pre-season win over Charlton Athletic at Selhurst Park.

Chelsea hoovered up Thiago Silva (PSG), Ben Chilwell (Leicester) and Malang Sarr (Nice) whilst Tottenham Hotspur ended the week by signing Matt Doherty from Wolves.

On the non-league front, probably the biggest event of the last seven days was former Manchester United and Juventus star Patrice Evra's decision to play for 11th tier London club Brentham in a friendly against North Greenford United.

It created great publicity for both clubs and brought in some well needed funds for the hosts as a decent crowd descended on Berkeley Fields.

Personally I'd love to see more recently retired pros do the same thing - Peter Crouch hails from the area these two clubs come from and noted on Twitter that Evra had played. Maybe he will be next?

Who would you like to see do a turn in non-league?


THE WEEK AHEAD

The highlights of the next few days include games in the opening round of the FA Cup and the first batch of fixtures in the Combined Counties League, Essex Senior League and Southern Counties East League whilst there are still a few pre-season matches.

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. However, capacity restrictions are currently in place at all grounds because of Covid-19 meaning only clubs from the seventh tier and below can currently admit spectators.

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



WEEKEND MATCH MAP
Saturday fixtures - blue 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.

Tuesday 1 September

Friendlies
In terms of league standing, the best match of the night should be the one at Imber Court between Metropolitan Police and National League side Aldershot Town. Given the Met have successfully hosted a match already, I think that means they should be able to open their ground to 600 people but given they rarely get past 200 then you shouldn't struggle to get in. 

There's further National League representation in north-west London where newly promoted Wealdstone travel to Northwood for a derby. The hosts play three levels below the Stones so will be considerable underdogs. With Wealdstone having sold out their recent friendlies at Bedford Town and Southall, a capacity crowd is not unthinkable here either so you are strongly advised to book in advance online.

FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round
The first competitive matches of the 2020/21 season in London get underway on Tuesday as the country's most illustrious cup competition begins. In more normal times, FA Cup fixtures usually take place on Saturdays with replays in midweek. This year because of Covid-19, the competition is starting on a midweek evening and there will be no replays at all which could make for better games. A total of 368 teams from all over the country begin their FA Cup journey at this point, with bigger clubs joining as the rounds progress. Another effect of the pandemic is the cutting of prize money so the winners of these early matches will only bank £1,125 and the losers £375.

There are 15 ties in the London area on Tuesday so where should you go? For me the most notable include the match at Tithe Farm where Broadfields United begin their groundshare with Rayners Lane by hosting Loxwood. The stadium has been recently redeveloped and boasts some of the best facilities of any non-league club at that level. One of the few eighth-tier clubs to enter the draw at this early stage, Whyteleafe travel to Chislehurst to face SCEFL club Glebe. Whilst up in north London, SSML side New Salamis make their FA Cup debut by playing Colney Heath at Haringey Borough's ground which will be their new home for this campaign.

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Wednesday 2 September

Friendly
The only pre-season game of any note on Wednesday sees Essex clubs Grays Athletic and Billericay Town meet at Parkside, which is another one of non-league's finest new grounds.

FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round
There are a further six matches on Wednesday with a number of clubs playing their first ever ties. Park View, who play at the New River Stadium on White Hart Lane, host Hashtag United who used to play next door at Coles Park but have since left the capital. The visitors have created all kinds of headlines in recent years as they were formed and have grown on social media. They were among the frontrunners in the Essex Senior League last season and will start as favourites as Park View play a level below them. SCEFL club Stansfeld, who groundshare with Glebe, are also making their bow in the competition this season. They face a tricky tie against Kent club Punjab United from the division above. If you want a third tie, there's not too much to choose between the others but Balham are another club to be beginning a new groundshare so their match against Hassocks at AFC Croydon Athletic could be of interest in that respect.

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Friday 4 September

Essex Senior League
With the cup football out of the way, league action begins on Friday night in Barking where West Essex welcome Takeley to a revamped Mayesbrook Park which boasts a brand new 4G pitch.

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Saturday 5 September

Friendlies
With many non-league clubs beginning their league campaigns on Saturday, the amount of pre-season games has reduced a lot but some bigger teams are in action. There's an Essex derby at Bridge Avenue where Hornchurch take on near neighbours and former EFL club Dagenham & Redbridge for what should be a decent game. 

After falling short in the National League play-offs, Boreham Wood will hope for another good season and get their preparations underway by making the short trip to Summers Lane to play Isthmian League club Wingate & Finchley.

There's a groundshare derby at Hayes Lane where Isthmian League club Cray Wanderers host their landlords Bromley at 230pm - tickets are available online.

Also hailing from the National League, Aldershot Town make a trip to the Powerday Stadium to take on Hanwell Town.

In south London there's a decent looking derby between Isthmian League sides Carshalton Athletic and Tooting & Mitcham United - tickets are available online in advance. For previous games at Colston Avenue you had to buy before you arrived because of the limited capacity and for track and trace reasons so it will probably be the same for this one.

DOUBLEHEADERS

Over at Parkside, there's a doubleheader where Aveley play Hythe Town at 1pm before Grays Athletic take on local rivals Tilbury in the annual Stan Veness Cup. As far as I know, you'll have to buy separate tickets for both.  

There's a similar situation in west London where Bedfont Sports entertain Hayes & Yeading United in a friendly at 1215pm before CB Hounslow United get their Combined Counties League campaign underway against Guildford City.

Probably the best value doubleheader is at Mayesbrook Park where Barking play back-to-back friendlies against Enfield Town and Witham Town starting at 3pm. It's £6 a ticket and it will get you access to both games.

Ninth-tier leagues
All of our local ninth and 10th-tier leagues, bar the SSML, get fully underway on Saturday. As a result of Covid-19, all leagues from the seventh tier downwards saw the 2019/20 season declared null and void with many clubs having played over 70% of their fixtures. Consequently, several clubs avoided relegation whilst others missed out on promotion or recording their highest ever finish.

Among those to have a case in feeling hard done by were Spelthorne Sports who were second in the Combined Counties League when the abandonment came. The Sunbury-based club have only been playing at this level for six years so it was disappointing to see things end when they did. On Saturday they welcome Frimley Green who were also in the top four when things came to an abrupt halt.

London's main title challengers in the Essex Senior League were Walthamstow who were third, only three points behind leaders Saffron Walden Town but with three games in hand. Their chances of promotion to the Isthmian League looked very good indeed but they'll have to start all over again with a trip to Mile End to play Sporting Bengal United who ended up in the bottom five.

Among those to enjoy a reprieve from relegation, Erith & Belvedere amassed only 20 points from 28 games in the SCEFL Premier Division but face a very tough opener against Chatham Town who were among the title contenders.

Tenth-tier leagues
Probably the most aggrieved club in the country were and still are Jersey Bulls. The Channel Islands club were playing their first ever season in the English football league system and took the Combined Counties League Division One by storm winning all 27 of their league games before Covid-19 struck. They were 20 points clear, had games in hand on all those in the top five and had already secured promotion with 11 games to go. Sadly it all counted for nothing and they have to begin from scratch with a trip to Bedfont & Feltham who were pushing for promotion themselves. 

Of our local sides, the pick of the clubs in the CCL Division 1 were Walton & Hersham who had a very good chance of joining Jersey Bulls in going up. They begin with a match against Ash United who struggled last season.

Elsewhere in the 10th tier, Frenford return from a year in exile in Basildon to play the first competitive match on their new 4G pitch at their ground in Ilford. Holland are the visitors for an ECL Division 1 South match.

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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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