Monday, 9 August 2021

TLFG: 9-15 August 2021

With my two weeks of holiday coming to an end, I was able to get to another game and visit a ground for the first time.

Despite having the big derby between QPR and Millwall taking place on my doorstep, I just didn't fancy it.

I've been to several of these games, they're usually tense affairs often leading to crowd violence.

It was clear the police felt there would be trouble too as their presence was unlike anything you'd see for any other games at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium with numerous vans and officers, several from the Territorial Support Group, on the streets of W12 from around 10am.

Apart from this, I just couldn't justify the cost of a ticket and thought I'd get better value by 'going non-league'.

Ironically, I found myself speeding past The Den on my way to the game I ended up choosing - the FA Cup tie between Beckenham Town and Colliers Wood United.

Colliers Wood defend a corner during their FA Cup tie at Beckenham

The two Combined Counties League clubs were able to play despite lots of pre-match rain, thanks to a fantastic pitch that looked totally unaffected.

In my preview I suggested the Becks would probably start as favourites and they did have the better of things over the course of the game.

They created numerous half chances but fluffed them all as CWU's keeper was rarely tested.

The moment of the match came midway through the second half when the visitors found themselves being awarded a penalty after a foul in the box.

Sadly for them, it thumped against the woodwork and Beckenham's keeper made a fine save from the rebound.

An injury time free-kick in a dangerous position gave the hosts the chance of a dramatic late win but it came to nothing and the match ended 0-0.

With several goals going in elsewhere in the locality at Crystal Palace, Balham and Croydon my companion for the afternoon Mike suggested we'd picked the wrong game!

Beckenham Town is well worth a visit - a warm welcome on the turnstile, decent food and drink at a reasonable price and, importantly for me, very easy to get to by train as it's round the corner from Eden Park station. 

After paying £6 to watch Squires Gate up in Blackpool last week, it was interesting to see that it was £8 here even though they play at the same level.

London prices must play a part in this but it did seem a bit steep for a ninth-tier club.

In other news, regular readers will know I also run the annual Non-League Day event.

After talks this week with various partners, it looks like we might try our first spring event to give us more chance to prepare - apart from anything else, it will stop us clashing with any FA competitions which often causes problems.

Anyway, that's about it from me. I'm back on late shifts this week so won't get to see a game, I hope you have more joy.

THE WEEK AHEAD

The highlights of the next few days include the return of the Premier League, the opening round of the EFL Cup, games in the EFL itself, most of our local non-league competitions and the first week of games in the FA Women's National League.

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 - turquoise 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 9 August

SCEFL Division 1
SC Thamesmead v Lewisham Borough @745pm - the hosts have made a disappointing start, losing their opening two. Lewisham picked up their first win on Saturday at FC Elmstead so might start as marginal favourites
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Tuesday 10 August

EFL Cup First Round
Millwall v Portsmouth @745pm - after an opening day draw at QPR, the Lions welcome Pompey to The Den for their first home match of the season. The Hampshire club are still in League One but began well with a 1-0 win at Fleetwood. Tickets are on general sale for £20
Charlton Athletic v AFC Wimbledon @745pm - in the other tie of the night, we have a decent south London derby to enjoy. The Addicks started their season with a 0-0 draw against Sheffield Wednesday whilst the Dons notched an impressive 2-1 win at Doncaster. Tickets are a very reasonable £10

FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round
Banstead Athletic v Bearsted @745pm - the rain saw this postponed on Saturday so they'll all try again on Tuesday. Neither side have won a game yet so it should be close
Walthamstow v Crawley Green @745pm - the Stow began their season with an emphatic 5-2 away win at newly promoted White Ensign and they should feel pretty confident of making progress here

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Wednesday 11 August

EFL Cup First Round
Leyton Orient v QPR @745pm - there's another decent derby at Brisbane Road where the League Two O's play host to Rangers of the Championship. As a QPR fan, I know there's been quite a bit of interest in this tie with the initial allocation of away fans' tickets selling out. The omens don't look good for the club from W12 as they've won only two of their last 10 meetings with Orient so a cupset could be on the cards. Tickets are on general sale

FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round
Sporting Bengal United v White Ensign @745pm - based at the Mile End Stadium, United's pitch got waterlogged by the heavy downpours on Saturday so weren't able to play. Both sides play in the Essex Senior League and both have lost their first two league games so it's quite hard to pick a winner

FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round Replays
Romford v Harpenden Town @745pm - the hosts are one of only of a small number of eighth-tier teams who are making an unusually early entry into this year's competition. Groundsharing at Barking's stadium, they should have too much for a team from a level below them
Erith & Belvedere v Tooting & Mitcham United @745pm - the Deres recorded a very creditable 1-1 draw at Imperial Fields on Saturday against the higher-ranked Terrors. Will home advantage give them that little bit extra they need to cause a cupset?
Athletic Newham v Virginia Water @745pm - Newham have caught the eye in pre-season and have made an unbeaten start following their recent promotion to the Essex Senior League. Virginia Water have also just moved leagues from the Hellenic to Combined Counties so play at a similar level. I'm tipping the hosts
Colliers Wood United v Beckenham Town @730pm - CGU went into the original game as underdogs and spent most of it on the defensive. Despite this they had the chance of the match when a penalty came their way but they missed it and it ended 0-0. This could well go to penalties


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Friday 13 August

Premier League
Brentford v Arsenal @8pm - the moment many people have been waiting for is here, the opening match of the new Premier League season. More importantly though, it marks the Bees' first game in the top flight since 1947. To top it all, it's being played at the club's new stadium which many fans still haven't been to. The fact it's also a big derby against the Gunners is just the icing on the cake! Unsurprisingly, the match is sold out

Essex Senior League
Woodford Town v Stansted @745pm - on the other side of town, it's also a hugely important night for all those associated with Woodford as they play the first game at their new stadium. Covid has delayed this occasion so let's hope no-one among the squads gets pinged between now and then. Tickets are £7 on the gate

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Saturday 14 August

Premier League
Chelsea v Crystal Palace @3pm - after a disappointing start to last season under Frank Lampard, they finished off by winning the Champions League under new boss Thomas Tuchel. As a result of this improvement, the Blues are now second favourites to win the title with most bookmakers. Palace, with new manager Patrick Vieira, are again tipped to struggle so getting anything out of this will be a significant achievement. You'll need to be a member to get a ticket or be able to spend hundreds of pounds on a hospitality package
Watford v Aston Villa @3pm - after suffering relegation in 2020, the Hornets have made an instant return and resume Premier League life with this home game. Villa have sold Jack Grealish but have brought in some decent talent with the fee and are 7-1 to finish in the top six. Watford, however, are seen as the club most likely to finish bottom. Tickets are on general sale

Championship
Millwall v Blackburn Rovers @3pm - both of these sides faded in the second half of last season to finish some way off the top six. The Lions picked up a very solid point at QPR on Saturday while Blackburn began with a win over Swansea. Rovers have become a bit of a bogey team for Millwall, losing only one of their last 11 games against them. Tickets are on general sale 

League One
AFC Wimbledon v Bolton Wanderers @3pm - the Dons are another club in a new stadium which many fans have yet to visit so demand for tickets will be high. When I looked there were a number still available but it was unclear whether you needed to be a member, you certainly need to set up a ticket account at the very least

League Two
Leyton Orient v Exeter City @3pm - both sides managed top-half finishes last season, with City narrowly missing the play-offs. If I were a betting man I'd go with the Grecians here as they're unbeaten in eight against the O's. Tickets are on general sale

Friendly
Aldershot Town v Brentford B @1pm - a bit of a random one this but if you're looking for an early kick-off, the Shots have moved this game to Glebe's ground in south-east London. Aldershot coach Anwar Uddin used to be manager of Glebe so that might have something to do with the location

National League South
Dulwich Hamlet v Chippenham Town @3pm - for the second season running, Covid caused the premature end of the season in the sixth tier. However, with fewer games played there was no PPG resolution to the campaign and no-one got promoted or relegated. Prior to the pandemic, neither of these sides were exactly challenging for honours but the Hamlet were still pulling in some of the biggest crowds nationally at this level. A trip to Champion Hill is one of the best you can get at non-league level in London. Tickets are available online and you're advised to buy in advance as the small ground does fill up

Isthmian League Premier Division
Cray Wanderers v Lewes @3pm - it's quite hard to pick a stand-out game in the seventh tier as they're all much of a muchness at this stage of the season so why not head down to Bromley to watch London's oldest club Cray in action? They were fourth at the time of last season's curtailment and are fancied to do well this time. Former fifth-tier club Lewes have had a mixed few years, moving up and down the divisions but are a fine bunch and will hopefully do well this year. Tickets can be bought online but it's not essential

Isthmian League South Central
Staines Town v Chertsey Town @3pm - there's a derby to enjoy at Wheatsheaf Lane. Staines are another side who have enjoyed better times, being a sixth-tier side when I started this blog. Financial issues have plagued the club in recent years as they've dropped to the eighth tier but I get the feeling there's renewed confidence about their prospects. Chertsey found themselves at the wrong end of the Combined Counties League when Dave Anderson took over in early 2018. He went on to keep them up and then win the league and FA Vase in 2018/19 before stepping down. The Curfews were, therefore, a club very much on the up but will Covid end that momentum?

Combined Counties League Premier Division South
Cobham v Jersey Bulls @130pm - the Bulls only began playing competitively at the start of the 2019/20 season which they dominated but had promotion taken away from them by Covid. Last season also ended early but the FA decided to promote them because of their great record. They began life at the higher level last week with their first ever league defeat at Beckenham Town. However, they absolutely demolished Horsham YMCA 10-1 in this weekend's FA Cup tie so it will be interesting to see how they get on at Cobham

Combined Counties League Division 1
London Samurai Rovers v Hillingdon Borough @3pm - with their roots unsurprisingly in London's Japanese community, LSR have just moved up to the 10th tier and begin life at Hanworth Villa's ground with this fixture against another west London club

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Sunday 15 August

Premier League
Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City @430pm - after an unsettling off-season which eventually saw the appointment of Nuno Espirito Santo as manager, Spurs come into the new campaign with the future of star striker Harry Kane still undecided. Such uncertainty would be unfortunate at any time but not when you're preparing to play the reigning league champions and favourites for the title. Despite drawing with Chelsea and beating Arsenal in friendlies this week, it's hard to see the hosts getting anything out of this. Tickets are on sale to members only but they can bring guests

FA Women's National League Southern Premier Division
Hounslow v Ipswich Town @2pm - the hosts took QPR's place in the third tier when the club cut the women's funding a couple of years ago. Since then they've really struggled, with Covid preventing their relegation. A recent 5-0 friendly defeat at home to the lower-ranked Actonians would suggest they still have problems. Ipswich have just been promoted to this level and I'd expect them to win

FA Women's National League Division 1 South East
QPR v Stevenage @2pm - the R's are a club on the up following their somewhat controversial promotion from the fifth tier at the expense of Dulwich Hamlet. They're also starting a new groundshare at Hanwell Town which is really easy to get to by car, Tube (Perivale) or bus so hopefully that'll mean a good attendance
Actonians v Cambridge United @2pm - I'm going to be really torn this season as Actonians, who my daughter plays youth football for, are in the same division as QPR who I've always supported. Nowhere near the big name that Rangers are, Actonians have been playing at this level for longer and are run by a hard-working group of volunteers. The players also pay their own subs so they're doing really well to be one of the most competitive sides in this division. Playing at the Middlesex FA's Rectory Park facility in Northolt, the spectator experience isn't great as there's little cover but I can confirm that the tea bar is very good


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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