Sunday, 24 October 2021

TLFG: 25-31 October 2021

After the thrills of last Sunday's FA Cup draw which paired Harrow Borough with Portsmouth, this week has been fun but a little more sedate.

It took several days for the powers that be to announce that the match would kick off at 3pm on Saturday 6 November - a great relief as I'm on holiday up until the 6th so playing it on the Sunday or Monday would've been very irritating and require more annual leave to be used up.

The good news for overseas readers is that the game has been selected for international broadcast so you can watch the mighty Boro live on their big day as I'm sure you'll have nothing better to do.

My live football watching was conducted at Wembley on Saturday evening as England Women comfortably saw off Northern Ireland 4-0 in a World Cup qualifier.

Tickets are now on sale to non-members - be quick!

It was goalless at half-time despite the Lionesses having 80% of the possession.

A couple of subs early in the second half drastically changed things as Beth Mead with a hat-trick and Beth England with a tap-in scored all four between them.

Qualification for the 2023 event in Australia and New Zealand would seem to be a formality having begun the group stage with three wins and 22 goals with none conceded.

Austria are the main threat and they travel to the Stadium of Light next month for what could be an interesting game.

The more I go to women's football, the more I appreciate it - especially having two young daughters of my own.

It's way more inclusive and accessible than men's football and the tickets are amazingly great value.

I guess I've got to that age where I don't need or want to pay £30+ to be entertained while a mild threat of violence hangs in the air the whole time, including the journey there and back.

Although a good few years ago, my wife got physically assaulted by a fellow QPR fan on her first visit to Loftus Road meaning I'm always on edge whenever I take her, something which is sadly incredibly rare.

She stayed at home when I picked up an award on the pitch with my eldest daughter a couple of years ago - a really proud but tainted moment.

This season I keep hearing or reading about fans, of my own club and others, hurling abuse at disabled supporters which is utterly shameful.

Tickets are now available to see the European champions at the Emirates

A child at QPR's game at Peterborough got hit by a half-full bottle of booze during some goal celebrations on Saturday. I believe another one of our supporters also injured an elderly woman at Fulham last week in another similar act of indiscriminate and mindless, drink-fuelled disorder.

There wasn't even a hint of that among the 23,000 crowd at Wembley yesterday and there was barely a swear word uttered, something that's commonplace in family stands at men's games all over the country. 

Don't get me wrong, there were times when I loved all of the edginess but I'm just not at that stage in my life anymore.

On completely unrelated matters, the clocks change this weekend so the sun will be setting not long after 430pm on Sunday.

It got me thinking that with energy prices so high, should clubs at non-league level be allowed greater leeway to bring their weekend matches forward an hour or two to minimise floodlight use?

Costs are tough enough for clubs to meet after Covid, without floodlights burning an even bigger hole in the budget. 

Just a thought.

From Friday I've got nine days off so I hope to see a game or two during that time.

This week I'm eyeing South Park v Harrow Borough in the FA Trophy on Saturday, which would be a new ground for me, and hopefully Actonians v Kent Football United in the Women's National League on Sunday but that's all subject to being granted permission by her indoors.

Lastly from me, many thanks this week to Marshall D and Kevin O for donating to TLFG's coffee-drinking fund. I really appreciate it.

Have a great week everyone.

THE WEEK AHEAD

The highlights of the next few days include games in the Premier League, EFL, FA Trophy, most of our local non-league competitions and a Women's FA Cup semi-final too.

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 25 October

ECL Division 1 South
Barkingside v Buckhurst Hill @745pm - the week begins with a Central Line derby in east London. This 10th-tier game is full of promise as both sides have games in hand that could lift them into lofty positions if won. The 'Side could push for a place in the top five, whilst the visitors are leaders in waiting. Buckhurst Hill crushed Great Yarmouth Town 5-1 in the FA Vase on Saturday so should start as favourites

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Tuesday 26 October

EFL Cup Fourth Round
Arsenal v Leeds United @745pm - we're down to the last 16 in this competition which is now one of the only realistic sources of silverware for each of these clubs. The Gunners are definitely favourites for this one but neither have a great recent record in the EFL Cup and it's hard to know what quality of side either will field. Tickets are available to those with a previous booking history
Chelsea v Southampton @745pm - the Blues have won this cup five times and come into this match as Premier League leaders after demolishing Norwich 7-0. They also beat the Saints 3-1 at the beginning of October so another home win looks inevitable unless Thomas Tuchel rests a load of players. Only very expensive hospitality packages are available at this stage
QPR v Sunderland @745pm - in the other tie of the night, two EFL teams will do battle for a place in the quarter-finals. The R's are very inconsistent at the moment but play some attractive attacking football and saw off Everton in the last round. The Black Cats were top of League One but two defeats in five, including a shock reverse to Charlton on Saturday, have seen them slip to fourth. Adult tickets are available for £25 

EFL Trophy
AFC Wimbledon v Crystal Palace U21 @745pm - the Dons have been one of the biggest critics of this competition which has seen Premier League academy sides parachuted into it in recent years. They have barely acknowledged matches' existence in the past and made it, on occasion, quite difficult to buy tickets so don't expect a great match experience if you do go. Tickets are £10

National League
Wealdstone v Grimsby Town @745pm - if you drop a couple of levels, you'll almost certainly find a bigger crowd and better game at Grosvenor Vale where the Stones welcome league leaders Grimsby for a huge game. The hosts are struggling for wins and sitting three points above the relegation zone but roared on by some passionate home fans, they should give it a good go. Tickets are £15 

National League South
Dulwich Hamlet v Maidstone United @745pm - there should also be a decent turnout at this clash of two of the biggest clubs in the sixth tier. Dulwich got a record crowd of nearly 3,500 for their last home game and Maidstone regularly get attendances of 2,000+. Both are currently in the top six but Maidstone have started to lose form and could be vulnerable to another defeat. Tickets are £12 and you're advised to buy in advance and get there early as the view isn't great for latecomers

Southern League Premier Division South
Harrow Borough v Gosport Borough @745pm - after being paired with Portsmouth in last weekend's FA Cup draw, Steve Baker's Harrow side have gone from strength to strength, enjoying back-to-back 2-0 wins over Kings Langley and Wimborne Town to climb to eighth in the league. Gosport, Pompey's neighbouring club, were top earlier in the season and are still third but have lost two of their last three. Tickets are £12 and available on the gate

Isthmian League South Central
Chertsey Town v Bracknell Town @745pm - the Curfews' fine FA Cup run came to an end at Southend United in the last round and now they have a number of games in hand. One of them is against co-leaders Bracknell who need to be beaten if Chertsey are to be seriously considered for promotion. Tickets are £9


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Wednesday 27 October

EFL Cup Fourth Round
West Ham United v Manchester City @745pm - the Hammers welcome league champions City to the London Stadium as the Mancunian club go in pursuit of their sixth EFL Cup win in seven years. If Pep Guardiola's side go on to win it again this season, they will become the most successful club in the competition's history win nine wins. West Ham have made it to the final twice but never won. You get the feeling that with the side they currently have, if they win this, they could go on to win the whole thing. Tickets appear to be on sale to non-members

Isthmian League Premier Division
Kingstonian v Horsham @745pm - the K's were top but a tough October has seen them slip to third. These poor league results were preceded by an FA Cup exit to Horsham who have gone on to make the First Round and now face a long trip to Carlisle United. The Sussex club have been pretty poor in the league but have games in hand which makes their position look a little misleading. Tickets are £10

Isthmian League South Central
Bedfont Sports v Thatcham Town @745pm - the hosts are another side to have enjoyed a fine FA Cup run resulting in several games in hand. If they win them, they should be right up there along with the leaders. Thatcham are currently pottering along in midtable but are most famous for winning the FA Vase in 2018. Tickets are £8

Middlesex Senior Cup First Round
St Panteleimon v Brentford B @745pm - after drawing a sizeable crowd to their London Senior Cup tie at Fisher last week, the Bees will hope to pull in the punters again as they travel to one of the top sides in the Combined Counties League. Tickets to watch the Saints at Enfield Town's ground are usually £5

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Thursday 28 October

FA Youth Cup First Round
Hayes & Yeading United v Corinthian Casuals @745pm - a welcome late addition to this week's schedule, this tie in the most prestigious of U18 competitions should keep you well entertained on Thursday
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Friday 29 October

Championship
QPR v Nottingham Forest @745pm - a good cup run and the demands of Sky TV are contributing to a really hectic schedule for Rangers at the moment. It's actually something that QPR's fans are getting understandably quite vexed about, with them not now having a Saturday 3pm kick-off until 18 December - in nine games time! Forest were in total disarray at the start of the season but new boss Steve Cooper has done a great job and they're climbing the league rapidly. However, they got stuffed at home by Fulham this weekend and this might take a bit of wind out of their sails. Overall, though, they've got a really good record against the R's and could well win again. Tickets are on sale to non-members

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Saturday 30 October

Premier League
Watford v Southampton @3pm - the Hornets caused one of the upsets of the season so far by coming from behind to beat Everton 5-2 at Goodison Park on Saturday. It lifted them to 14th, some six points clear of the relegation zone. If they're to stay up, Southampton are the kind of side they really need to be beating at Vicarage Road but the omens aren't great. I was staggered to find that Watford have only chalked up one win from their last 14 games against the Saints so it could take quite an effort to beat them. Tickets are available to non-members but they've almost sold out so be quick
Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United @530pm - the day's top-flight action concludes with this blockbuster fixture between two of the country's biggest clubs. At the time of writing, they're neck-and-neck in the table and not in the top four. In other words they're pretty evenly matched. There have been some absolute classics between these two but historically it's United who've dominated and they're unbeaten in three in N17. Tickets are not available to non-members

Premier League 2
Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United @12pm - the two clubs' U23 sides are also playing earlier in the afternoon just to the north of London at Stevenage's ground. If you're a hardcore fan, someone who can't get a ticket for the later match or a groundhopper looking to do a 'double' then this could be for you. Tickets are £5 and are available through Stevenage's website
Chelsea v Everton @1pm - elsewhere there is also a decent looking U23 game at Kingsmeadow. Tickets are £5 and can be bought online in advance or at the ground on the day 

Championship
Fulham v West Bromwich Albion @1230pm - the Premier League doesn't have a monopoly on big games on Saturday as this hugely important match between the teams in second and third takes place at Craven Cottage. Fulham climbed back into second after thrashing the in-form Nottingham Forest 4-0 at the City Ground on Sunday. The Baggies cruised to a 3-0 win over Bristol City on Saturday ahead of this one. If my research is correct, this part of SW6 is not a happy hunting ground for the club from the West Midlands - their last league win here was in 1967! Tickets are available to non-members but only those with a previous booking history

League One
Charlton Athletic v Doncaster Rovers @3pm - such is the calibre of matches in London on Saturday that the casual fan probably won't be able to get a ticket for anything higher than the third tier. However, don't let that put you off as there are some good options, not least this relegation 'six-pointer' between two of the clubs in the bottom four. The Addicks suffered the heartbreak of missing the play-offs on goal difference last season so for them to be scrapping to stay in the division has come as a bit of a surprise. Doncaster's slide has also come as a bit of a shock as they too were doing well but like Charlton, they saw their manager headhunted by a bigger club towards the end of last season. One major positive for the hosts was their stunning away win at title-chasing Sunderland on Saturday so maybe they've turned a corner. Tickets are available to non-members

League Two
Leyton Orient v Hartlepool United @3pm - the news from our local clubs in the fourth tier has been generally more positive with the O's up in the play-off places until recently. For some reason the wins have dried up and now four successive draws have seen them drop to ninth. This, in turn, has allowed newly promoted Hartlepool to leapfrog them into the top seven after winning three of their last four. This match is the best value option of the day as all tickets are being sold for £5 but there aren't many left so act fast if you want to go
Sutton United v Walsall @3pm - a week ago things were looking pretty great for EFL new boys Sutton who had climbed to fifth after winning at Crawley. Seven days and two defeats later and they're back down to 10th. The week ahead sees them travel to struggling Colchester on Tuesday before the midtable Saddlers visit on Saturday. Although only 14th, the visitors are on a decent unbeaten run thanks to a number of draws so should be no pushovers. Tickets are available to non-members

National League
Dagenham & Redbridge v Chesterfield @3pm - only eight points separate the clubs in the top eight and with a full programme of games in midweek, it's hard to decide what Saturday's featured fifth-tier game should be. I've chosen this match between two former EFL clubs as they're currently fifth and second respectively. By the weekend, they could be level on points. The Daggers were part of our featured National League match last week too and lived up to their billing as they beat Southend 3-0 in front of a big crowd of 3,673 spectators. They should find the Spireites a far tougher proposition, a side they haven't beaten in eight attempts. Tickets

National League South
Dulwich Hamlet v Hampton & Richmond Borough @3pm - it's a big week for the Hamlet as they host two potential promotion rivals. Once again, without knowing how the midweek games pan out, it's hard to write a totally meaningful preview for this. Nonetheless, if everything goes according to plan and they win their games on Tuesday, then my sums suggest a best-case scenario of second versus fourth which should be well worth a couple of hours of anyone's Saturday afternoon. Tickets

FA Trophy Third Round Qualifying
With the FA Cup and FA Vase both well underway, it's the turn of the FA Trophy to really get going as the teams in the seventh tier enter the draw. If you don't know, this is a national knockout competition for sides in the fifth to eighth tiers with its final at Wembley. There are numerous ties across London this weekend, here are my picks: 
Enfield Town v Metropolitan Police @3pm - there's a bit of inter-league action at Donkey Lane where the Isthmian League leaders entertain one of the Southern League's top sides. Despite their relative prowess in the league and other competitions, both sides usually struggle to get beyond the qualifying rounds so it should be tight
Wingate & Finchley v Hornchurch @3pm - the Urchins were at the centre of one of the biggest stories of last season as they won the FA Trophy. The seventh-tier side came in at this stage and had to win nine ties to claim the silverware. Seven of the teams they beat were from higher divisions and included the likes of Darlington, Notts County and Hereford. The defence of their title begins at Wingate who they also beat 4-1 in the early stages of their glorious run. As for this season, the sides are 14th and 15th in the Isthmian Premier so it should be a bit closer this time
Chertsey Town v Worthing @3pm - the Curfews are currently looking to break into the play-off places in the eighth tier and have developed a reputation for being a good cup side having won the FA Vase in 2019 and making it to the Fourth Round Qualifying of the FA Cup this season. They'll need to be at their best for the visit of Worthing who are one of the title favourites in the division above them
Bedfont Sports v Harlow Town @3pm - after their thrilling run in the FA Cup came to an end at the hands of Kidderminster Harriers, Bedfont will hope to keep another cup run going here. A midweek win could lift them into the top six in the Isthmian South Central, a very similar standing to that enjoyed by Harlow in the parallel Southern League Division 1 Central. It should be too close to call but I have a feeling the hosts will have enough
Cray Valley PM v Ashford United @3pm - currently second and third in the Isthmian South East, this should again provide a very close encounter. After playing in the lower tiers for most of their existence, CVPM stepped up to this level in 2019 after winning promotion and finishing as runners-up in the FA Vase to Chertsey. Getting to the Third Round Qualifying is actually the furthest they've ever gone and they did it by winning at AFC Sudbury on penalties - no mean feat considering how well the Suffolk side have done in this season's FA Cup. This is also a club record performance in the competition for the visitors too

SCEFL Premier Division
Erith Town v Sheppey United @3pm - the match of the day in the ninth tier would appear to be this game at Erith Leisure Centre in south-east London where the Dockers will look to hold on to top spot. It would seem like a tough ask in the medium to long term as Glebe and Sheppey who sit just below them, have the games in hand to go top

SCEFL Division 1
Stansfeld v Tooting Bec @3pm - there's absolutely no doubting the MOTD in the 10th tier where the top two in this division go head-to-head. At the moment the sides are level on points but Stansfeld have a game on Tuesday that will move them three points clear if they win. Whatever happens in that game, the visitors will want to take home at least a point to keep their own title ambitions on track as Stansfeld will still have a game in hand

MCFL Premier Division
Kensington Dragons v Clapton CFC @230pm - the Linford Christie Stadium, next to Wormwood Scrubs, has been in the football news this week as QPR's efforts to build their new ground there seem to have hit the buffers. At the moment it plays host to Kensington Dragons who will be welcoming the Tons for what is their 50th competitive game. Entry is free and there is a covered stand so you should be safe from the rain

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Sunday 31 October

Women's FA Cup Semi-Final
Arsenal v Brighton & Hove Albion @445pm - the Gunners return from the international break with this big game against Hope Powell's Seagulls side. What you might be unaware of is that this is the semi-final of last season's Women's FA Cup which got held up by Covid. It's kind of strange because the current Arsenal and Brighton sides are arguably quite a bit better than last season and perhaps wouldn't have made it this far if matches had been played at the correct time but them's the breaks. The match is being played at Boreham Wood's ground and the winners will face Chelsea or Manchester City in the final at Wembley on 5 December. Adult tickets for this semi-final are £8

FA Women's Championship
Watford v Crystal Palace @2pm - in the women's second tier, the Hornets are playing this derby against the Eagles at Vicarage Road. The hosts are having a terrible season and have lost every game to sit bottom. Palace have won two, drawn two and lost two and sit snugly in midtable. Tickets are £12

FA Women's National League Southern Premier Division
London Bees v Portsmouth @2pm - the hosts are the best club in the third tier from the London area but given they're ninth out of 14, that's not saying much. Pompey climbed back up to fourth after a slightly disappointing 3-0 home win over bottom club Hounslow - a side they recently beat 11-0 away from home

FA Women's National League Division 1 South East
QPR v Hashtag United @2pm - get yourself to Hanwell Town's ground on Sunday if you want to assess the merits of current fourth-tier leaders Hashtag. The Essex club, currently playing their games on Canvey Island, are just ahead of county rivals Billericay Town on goal difference. The R's are down in eighth but have three games in hand on most of those above them and made smooth progress in this season's Women's FA Cup on Sunday

London & South East Women's Regional League
New London Lionesses v Dulwich Hamlet @2pm - in terms of attendance, Dulwich are probably the biggest club in this division with 200+ crowds commonplace at Champion Hill. Despite this, they're struggling a bit for form and are down in seventh although they do have a couple of games in hand. The hosts, who play at Northwood, lost their big FA Cup clash against Ashford Town on Sunday and are second in the league. Regardless of all this, the most interesting thing about this match is the rift between the sides which opened up on Twitter at the start of the season when NLL postponed their opening fixture against Dulwich and then went on the hunt for a friendly. As I mentioned last week, TLFG got unwittingly embroiled and blocked as did many others. It's a real shame this happened at they're clearly a good side but trying to promote them has become far more difficult than it needed to be

FA Trophy Third Round Qualifying
Cray Wanderers v Kings Langley @3pm - if women's football isn't for you then you have the option of heading down to Bromley to watch London's oldest men's club in FA Trophy action. It's not a particularly mouthwatering tie as Cray are in the lower reaches of the Isthmian Premier and Kings Langley are second-bottom of the parallel Southern Premier South


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!

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