Sunday, 27 September 2020

TLFG: 28 September - 4 October 2020

As September comes to an end, another busy week of football looms.

At the time of writing, debate is raging about the handball rule and whether or not the Premier League should bailout the EFL and National League clubs who are still forbidden from opening their gates to spectators.

Where do you stand on the issue? Should they put their hands in their pockets? Should the government provide the cash or should a limited number of fans simply be let in?

Personally I find it hard to argue why you couldn't let in 800-1,000 fans at National League games. Such attendances would surely provide enough cash to keep sides going, particularly in the North and South divisions where many clubs don't get that many fans anyway.

 Believe it or not, Folkestone striker Ian Draycott missed from here!

With up to 600 fans allowed in the seventh tier, it's pretty much business as usual at that level with very few clubs ever exceeding that number in non-Covid times.

Talking of that level, I saw two Isthmian Premier sides meet in the FA Cup on Wednesday night.

Once again I took some friends who were new or recently returning to non-league football and they loved it - one even travelled all the way from Croydon at short notice.

Wingate & Finchley and Folkestone Invicta provided the entertainment in north London and we got five goals in what turned out to be a pretty one-sided game.

The visitors from Kent were the pre-match favourites and two goals in each half saw them complete a relatively comfortable 4-1 win (something they were to repeat three days later in the league too).

Like my own club Harrow, Wingate really struggle to get new fans through the turnstile but the lure of the FA Cup seemed to draw a few extra out on a cold and wet night.

Talking of wet, the rain was heavy at times and this caused most people, quite understandably, to head for the covered areas of the stadium which are fairly limited.

Despite pleas on the PA system, social distancing went out the window with people packed shoulder to shoulder in the stands and at times on the terraces.

As we head deeper into autumn and winter this is likely to happen far more often and I don't know how clubs get round this issue without reducing attendances.

The week ahead will see more announcements from the National League about whether their opening round of league fixtures will go ahead on Saturday. If they do and by some miracle fans are allowed in, I'll add the matches to the map.

It's all about the FA Cup for me this week and I'll be off to the Rogers Family Stadium to watch Harrow Borough v Cray Valley PM on Saturday.

There are great ties all over the capital that day so make sure you try and get to one.

Thanks as always to those who have donated to TLFG's coffee-drinking fund. Cheers one and all.


THE WEEK AHEAD

The highlights of the next few days include games in the FA Cup, Isthmian League, Southern League and Women's National League. There are also games at higher levels but none of them are open to the public.

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
Monday fixtures - yellow pin
Tuesday fixtures - green pin
Wednesday fixtures - blue 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 28 September

Isthmian League Premier Division
Haringey Borough v Leatherhead @3pm - the week begins with a bit of seventh-tier action on White Hart Lane. The hosts have made a great start to the season, winning both league games and making smooth progress in the FA Cup. The Tanners haven't been quite so fortunate having been knocked out of the cup by lower-division opposition and getting stuffed 7-0 at Bowers & Pitsea on Saturday. Tickets for Haringey games are normally £10 but, as in previous years, you can download a FREE SEASON TICKET which is one of the best deals I've ever heard of

Eastern Counties League Division 1 South
Frenford v Barkingside @745pm - if that's not convenient for you, a 10th-tier derby between two Ilford clubs might be more to your liking. The hosts have recently re-opened their improved ground and are among the division's early frontrunners whilst the 'Side are looking for their second win of the campaign

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Tuesday 29 September

Southern League Premier Division South
Metropolitan Police v Harrow Borough @745pm - there are three games on Tuesday and none of them really stand out. Of the five London clubs in this division, none of them have yet managed to win. With two draws, Metropolitan Police are the only unbeaten side and they host Harrow Borough who have lost both games but they came against two of the biggest clubs. These two have some of the smallest followings in the division so don't expect a big crowd. The stadium, which hosts numerous county cup finals and other interesting matches, is worth a visit though

Isthmian League South Central Division
Ashford Town (Middlesex) v Tooting & Mitcham United @745pm - the game of the night in the eighth tier takes place near Heathrow Airport. Ashford won their opening league game and also began their FA Trophy campaign with a win at Hullbridge Sports on Saturday. The Terrors have had a more faltering start, going out of the FA Cup at the hands of Fisher, losing their first league game but also progressing in the FA Trophy. I'd make Ashford marginal favourites for this one

Essex Senior League
Cockfosters v West Essex @745pm - for me, the pick of the ninth-tier action is to be found at Chalk Lane where an impressive Cockfosters side entertain West Essex. Having won all four of their league games, and banging in 14 goals in the process, the club from the end of the Piccadilly Line sit proudly at the top of the league. Having suffered only one defeat themselves so far, the visitors are also in the top five. It could be a cracker! 
Walthamstow v Hashtag United @745pm - it should also prove to be a lively night at Wadham Lodge where the Stow welcome joint leaders Hashtag who you may have seen winning an FA Cup tie live on the BBC last week. A decent turnout is expected and you can buy tickets in advance

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Wednesday 30 September

Isthmian League Premier Division
Kingstonian v Wingate & Finchley @745pm - sadly for these sides, both have made a disappointing start. The K's have lost both of their league games heavily, albeit against highly fancied opposition, and are also out of the FA Cup. Wingate find themselves in a similar position which may lead some to think this could be a highly important game even at this early stage

Combined Counties League Division 1
Westside v Tooting Bec @745pm - there are games at higher levels than this but I'd skip them in favour of this clash between two potential promotion contenders. Westside only moved up to this level last season and have acquitted themselves well. They moved to a new groundshare with Colliers Wood United over the summer and have won all four of their league games to go top on goal difference. Tooting Bec have also started well with only one defeat, meaning they're also in the top six

Women's National League Division 1 South East
AFC Wimbledon v Kent Football United @745pm - there are also a couple of women's games to enjoy on Wednesday. The Dons opened their season with a win and may well have another one by the time this kicks off. They play their matches at Carshalton Athletic's ground
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Friday 2 October

Essex Senior League
West Essex v Southend Manor @745pm - once again West Essex top the bill on a Friday night. Depending on midweek results, the Barking-based club could be up in the top three. However, if they lose at Cockfosters they could find themselves below the visitors - it should be close
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Saturday 3 October

FA Cup Second Round Qualifying
Saturday is all about the next round of the FA Cup. At this stage teams from the National League South (sixth tier) enter the draw. At the time of writing, no teams from the sixth tier are allowed to admit any spectators so one or two big ties that might have made this week's guide (e.g. Dartford v Slough Town) won't appear. If something changes during the week then I'll try and update this. Given the reduced capacities at most clubs and the increased FA Cup interest, some ties will sell out so I'd advise you to purchase tickets online in advance where this is possible. The winners of each tie receive £3,375, the losers £1,125 so the stakes for some of these small clubs are high.

Update -  the FA have now decided to ban fans of National League South clubs from attending all ties home or away. Therefore, if you want to watch Dulwich or Maidstone you will have to pose as a home fan or neutral - utterly farcical!

Corinthian Casuals v Dulwich Hamlet @3pm - if I didn't have a club still in the draw, then this would be the tie I'd love to get a ticket for. Two great sets of fans, two very unusual kits and a whole load of history behind both sides. The hosts play a level below Dulwich who struggled in the National League South last season but still averaged crowds of over 2,000. It should be a great occasion and will almost certainly sell out. Tickets are likely to go on sale on Monday but that hasn't been confirmed yet
Hendon v Maidstone United @3pm - another game that's likely to hit its 600 capacity is this one at Silver Jubilee Park. Like the match above it sees a seventh-tier side take on one of the biggest clubs from the level above. Buying a ticket in advance is a must 
Walthamstow v Hornchurch @3pm - the lowest ranked London club left in the FA Cup, the Stow face a very tricky game against the Urchins who play two levels above them. Although they haven't been that lucky in the league yet, the club from E17 have won three penalty shoot-outs already this season as they've progressed in various competitions. They're probably going to need quite a bit of good fortune here too. Tickets could well sell out but they aren't available yet so keep checking the club's website for the latest
Hayes & Yeading United v Bognor Regis Town @3pm - there's an all seventh-tier game at the SkyEx Stadium over in west London. H&YU were in great form when the season ended abruptly in March and would almost certainly have made the play-offs. That form hasn't carried over into the new campaign yet but they should have a reasonable chance against Bognor who, although often among the promotion contenders, aren't firing on all cylinders themselves yet
Metropolitan Police v Walton Casuals @3pm - the Met have made the first round twice in recent years and will start as marginal favourites in this tie against one of their local rivals. Casuals have never made it beyond the Third Round Qualifying, so a win here would equal their best performance in the competition
Haringey Borough v Chertsey Town @3pm - Borough made the headlines for all the wrong reasons in the FA Cup last season when their goalkeeper reported being racially abused during a tie with Yeovil Town. Hopefully there'll be nothing like that this time round and although they look like winning on paper, Chertsey have real potential to cause them problems. The reigning FA Vase holders know how to put a successful cup run together and notably upset Leatherhead in the last round 
Harrow Borough v Cray Valley PM @3pm - another seventh-tier side that can't take anything for granted are my own team Harrow. Steve Baker's side bowed at this point last season to a talented Carshalton team who went on to make it to the First Round. Cray Valley finished as runners-up to Chertsey in the last FA Vase final and were on course for back-to-back promotions before Covid-19 kicked in. All in all, the south-east London club look like dangerous opponents
Bedfont Sports v Carshalton Athletic @3pm - talking of Carshalton, the Robins have been drawn away on Saturday and face a trip to the end of Heathrow Airport's runway where Bedfont's ground is located. The visitors looked good in pre-season and are unbeaten. Sports have lost both of their league games so far and will cause quite an upset if they win this 
Hanwell Town v Hartley Wintney @3pm - the Geordies had ambitions of making it into the Isthmian Premier last season and probably would've done if Covid hadn't intervened. Whether they're good enough for that level remains to be seen but if they beat Southern League also-rans Hartley who play a level above them then they'll have made a pretty good case. There's every chance they will as they've won all four games they've played this season 
Barking v Kings Langley @3pm - the Blues have made the Second Round several times but the last time was way back in 1983 when they narrowly lost 2-1 to Plymouth. Now as an eighth-tier team they've done really well to get this far and they'll start as underdogs here against a side from the level above them
Chipstead v East Grinstead Town @3pm - probably the most 'meh' tie of those on offer is this all-eighth tier match. Chipstead are bottom of the Isthmian South Central after losing their opening two games whilst East Grinstead are in the top five of the Isthmian South East - an away win looks likely

Tenth tier

Combined Counties League Division 1
Chessington & Hook United v Jersey Bulls @3pm - if for whatever reason you don't fancy an FA Cup game then you could try this match between two of the early pacesetters in the CCL1. As many readers will know, Jersey had already secured promotion when Covid cut last season short and robbed them of the glory. Thankfully for them, they haven't lost any of that momentum and have won their opening four games to sit joint top. Chessington are also on 12 points but have played a game more. Strangely, the visitors are also playing on Friday night so they could be a bit tired UPDATE - Jersey Bulls are no longer playing in this game and have been replaced by FC Deportivo Galicia

Spartan South Midlands League Division 1
Rayners Lane v St Panteleimon @3pm - these two were among the frontrunners last season and they've started well again, both have 100% records so far. Although it's very early days, this could have quite an impact on the final table

Eleventh tier

Middlesex County League Premier Division
Stonewall v Brentham @3pm - at the time of writing it was unclear if spectators would be allowed in to this game. If they are it will be a groundhopper's dream as it's set to be played at the London Marathon Community facility which lies in the shadow of West Ham's London Stadium. Other sides, most notably Hackney Wick, have tried unsuccessfully to move there so it will be quite a coup if Stonewall can secure it UPDATE - this match is being played behind closed doors

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Sunday 4 October

Women's National League Division 1 South East
Actonians v Enfield Town @2pm - in the fourth tier this match at Rectory Park looks well worth a watch. The other match between Leyton Orient and AFC Wimbledon is likely to be behind closed doors but check with the club nearer the time to be sure


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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