Sunday, 28 November 2021

TLFG: 29 November - 5 December 2021

Unbelievably we're almost into December - it seems like yesterday that I was getting scorched on a terrace watching an FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round tie in August.

With snow already falling around the country and causing postponements, winter is defintely here.

I certainly felt its effects on Saturday as I began the day watching Actonians U9s suffer a 6-1 defeat to the mighty Ruislip Rangers at a wind-blasted Rectory Park. 

Although the scoreline was convincing, it was a little flattering with most of the damage done in the second quarter (matches are played in four 10-minute segments) after some squad rotation left them a little vulnerable. 

Despite this setback, the players are developing well and there seems to be a clear starting five which would beat or challenge most sides they play. 

A derby with free entry - what a bargain!

The main success for my daughter on Saturday was her playing the whole match, something I don't think any of her team mates have previously achieved given the squad rotation in place.

Whether this was intentional or an oversight is unknown but it can only have been a good thing in the chilly conditions.

The afternoon was spent at the Powerday Stadium, not far from Rectory Park, watching Hanwell Town take on Enfield Town in the FA Trophy.

Conditions again proved to be tough, with some sleet starting to fall in the second half.

The Geordies play a level below Enfield but more than held their own against one of the Isthmian League's title challengers.

A goal late in each half proved to be enough for the visitors as they delighted their sizeable travelling contingent of fans with a 2-0 win which puts them in the Third Round for the first time since their formation in 2001.

My highlight of the coming week will be leading a group of 32 fans of all ages to Wembley on Sunday to watch the Covid-19 delayed 2020-21 Women's FA Cup Final between Arsenal and Chelsea.

Ticket sales passed 40,000 on Friday meaning we're on course for a record attendance but it could be close so if you're around, come and join me in trying to become a record-breaker!

Before I finish, a very special mention must be made about Clapton CFC who created a huge shock in the Second Round of this season's Women's FA Cup on Sunday.

Playing away to third-tier club Hounslow, four levels above them, they drew 0-0 before winning on penalties in front of several hundred travelling supporters.

Not only that but they've become the first ever seventh-tier club to make it to the Third Round - many congratulations to all involved.

Lastly from me, many thanks this week to regular reader Kevin O for donating to TLFG's coffee-drinking fund. I really 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 Cup, National League, most of our local non-league competitions and the Women's FA Cup 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
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 29 November

Surrey Senior Cup First Round
Walton & Hersham v Leatherhead @745pm - the week gets underway with some county cup action at the Elmbridge Xcel Sports Hub. The hosts play two levels below the Tanners but are currently top of the CCL Premier South with only one league defeat this season. It's a totally different story for Leatherhead who are bottom of the Isthmian Premier and there for the taking
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Tuesday 30 November

EFL Trophy Second Round
Leyton Orient v MK Dons @7pm - with the group stage completed, this competition is now into its knockout phase. The group winners were put in one pot and the runners-up another one before the draw. The O's finished ahead of Charlton, Southampton U21s and Crawley to top their group and set up this clash with MK Dons from the division above. Adult tickets are a very reasonable £5
Sutton United v Stevenage @745pm - having been recently promoted from the National League, this is the U's first time in the competition but they've made a perfect start, winning all group games against Portsmouth, AFC Wimbledon and Crystal Palace U21s. If they continue in that vein, they should also dispatch League Two strugglers Stevenage. Tickets start at £12, perhaps reflecting how seriously they're taking this

London Senior Cup First Round
Haringey Borough v AFC Wimbledon @745pm - at TLFG we applaud all pro clubs who enter sides in county cup competitions and the Dons have been at the forefront of those that have in recent years. This tie instantly brings back memories of the FA Cup First Round tie between the two which was televised live on a Friday night back in 2018. It was a close-run thing which the south London club eventually won 1-0. Haringey aren't quite as good as they were then and have had a slightly disappointing season thus far but a lot will depend on the quality of the side that the Dons decide to field

Southern League Premier South
Hendon v Metropolitan Police @745pm - elsewhere in north London, the Greens welcome a high-flying Met Police squad who will go top if they win this. Hendon could do with the points to move them firmly away from the bottom six but they'll do well to get anything against the most miserly defence in the division. This league is a bit of a strange one - the vast majority of its clubs are in the West Country and other rural counties away from the capital. After an FA restructure a few years ago, five clubs within the M25 got sucked into this league and suddenly found themselves having to travel to places like Cornwall, Devon and Wales rather than Essex, Kent and Sussex. Despite this obvious disadvantage, three of the current top six are from London. However, they're all really struggling to get fans through the gate with not a single one managing to average a crowd of 250 - in part due to the large distances away fans have to travel. This blog is primarily about showcasing what's out there and driving up attendances so give your local Southern League clubs a bit of love if you can - their travel expenses are way more than they really should be for clubs at this level

SSML Premier
Oxhey Jets v New Salamis @730pm - north London club New Salamis are another one of our local sides with title ambitions. Currently third but with five games in hand on leaders Leighton Town, this trip to lower midtable Oxhey should give them a decent opportunity to close the gap to four points

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Wednesday 1 December

Premier League
Watford v Chelsea @730pm - we have a round of Wednesday/Thursday top-flight games to look forward to as a result of Amazon landing some TV rights. Regular Premier League watchers know full well that the Hornets are more than capable of an upset on their day as their 4-1 win over Manchester United showed. However, the table-topping Blues are a significantly different prospect and a draw will be a great result for the hosts. Tickets are sold out
West Ham United v Brighton & Hove Albion @730pm - the Seagulls drew with Leeds on Saturday, a result which sees them end the weekend in ninth. The Hammers made the daunting trip to Manchester City on Sunday and fought hard amid the snow before succumbing to a 2-1 defeat to stay fourth. The table would suggest a win in this one for West Ham but Brighton are one of the division's draw specialists and will be tough to beat. Tickets are on sale to non-members 

Southern League Premier South
Harrow Borough v Farnborough @745pm - after suffering a dip in form after their big FA Cup tie at Portsmouth, the Boro have managed back-to-back away league wins over Merthyr Town and Swindon Supermarine to move back into the top six. At the time of writing, Farnborough are top but have a couple of sides breathing down their necks so a win is needed by both sides as they look to further their promotion ambitions. Harrow won the reverse fixture 3-1 back in September so they know what it takes to beat them

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Thursday 2 December

Premier League
Tottenham Hotspur v Brentford @730pm - the Amazon action continues with a London derby. This match is only the Bees' fourth game against Spurs in the 21st century and they haven't scored in the previous three. Matches between these two have been few and far between over the course of history and Tottenham have won the vast majority of them. Brentford's last win over the club from N17 came way back in 1948 in what was a second-tier match. On current form, it's hard to see past a home win but the west London club did get their first win for a while on Sunday by beating a beleagured Everton side 1-0. Tickets are only available to members

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Friday 3 December

Championship
Fulham v AFC Bournemouth @745pm - one of the matches of the week takes place at Craven Cottage where the division's top two do battle for supremacy. As is always the case in the Championship, even the most dominant teams hit a wobbly patch but unusually it's happened to both of the top sides at the same time. The Cherries have now won only one of their last five to surrender their lead, whilst the Cottagers have now drawn two in a row. Having had a quick look at the records, this part of SW6 is a very happy hunting ground for the Dorset club - they haven't lost a game here since 1992 and have won the last two, scoring eight in the process. Tickets are available to non-members but only a few were left when I last looked so don't delay

ECL Division 1 South
May & Baker v Wivenhoe Town @745pm - your non-league option of the night takes place on the far eastern side of town at Aveley's fine Parkside ground. It's sixth against fifth as they both try to catch the top four who are on the verge of leaving them behind

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Saturday 4 December

Premier League
West Ham United v Chelsea @1230pm - the weekend's action begins with this early kick-off at the London Stadium. With a load of midweek matches being played before this, it's hard to craft a proper preview. Whatever happens, at the time of writing, these sides are London's top two clubs and since moving to Stratford, West Ham have only lost two of their six games against Chelsea. We should get a match to savour. Tickets are on sale to non-members
Watford v Manchester City @530pm - the Hornets are on a horrific run of games at the moment, playing Arsenal, Manchester United, Leicester City, Chelsea and now City. Watford's record in all competitions against the reigning league champions is equally horrific. Since 2013, it reads P13 L13 F6 A49 - the last three games have been particularly bad with none scored and 18 conceded. Claudio Ranieri will have to work some serious magic to get anything out of this one. Watford's website says tickets are available but I couldn't find any

Championship
Millwall v Birmingham City @3pm - a point apart in midtable, these two have had some close-fought battles on and off the pitch over the years. Birmingham's last-minute play-off win over the Lions in 2002 was followed by a riot which injured 47 police officers and more recently, there were similar scenes near London Bridge ahead of a game in 2017. Tickets are readily available but perhaps bear this in mind if you decide to go

FA Cup Second Round
The 40 remaining League One, League Two and non-league clubs face each other for 20 places in the legendary Third Round where they could be paired with one of the biggest clubs in the country and make a potentially transformative sum of money - the stakes are huge, particularly for the smallest clubs. There are only two ties in London over the weekend

AFC Wimbledon v Cheltenham Town @3pm - the original Wimbledon football club famously beat Liverpool to win the FA Cup in 1988, causing one of the greatest upsets in the competition's history. The new club, formed in 2002 after the creation of MK Dons, made it as far as the Fifth Round in 2019. Fellow League One club Cheltenham have also made it to the Fifth Round, although 20 years have gone by since they achieved that. They did, however, make it to the Fourth Round last season where they gallantly lost 3-1 to Manchester City. The clubs haven't met since 2015, but Wimbledon are unbeaten in three against the Robins. Tickets are available
Leyton Orient v Tranmere Rovers @3pm - the O's made it to the semi-finals back in 1978 but that's as good as it's ever got. The last two years have seen First Round exits, including an embarrassing loss at home to non-league Maldon & Tiptree. Perched just outside the play-off places in League Two, this season has been a positive one so they'll hope to get the win they need to make the Third Round for the first time since 2014. Tranmere are just below them in the table and won at Brisbane Road in the league last season so it could well go the distance. Tickets are available

National League
Bromley v Wealdstone @3pm - it's hard to pick a standout match in the fifth tier on Saturday so I've plumped for this crosstown derby as it's likely to produce the biggest crowd and most atmosphere. It's also of some importance at either end of the table with the Ravens up in sixth, needing to keep their play-off hopes on course, and the Stones down in 16th and looking to make certain of their place in the division next season. The hosts haven't lost a league game to Wealdstone for several years so a home win looks most likely. Tickets are available

National League South
Dulwich Hamlet v Ebbsfleet United @3pm - there are four games in the sixth tier but this clash of two of the top five would appear to be the best on offer. Both are in decent form but experienced contrasting fortunes in the FA Trophy on Saturday with Dulwich winning at Brentwood and Ebssfleet surprisingly losing to Cray Wanderers on penalties - a result I did not see coming. Both clubs have another game in midweek which means this could be third versus first by the time kick-off comes around. Access to 99% of non-league games isn't normally a problem with cash taken on the gate but matches at the Hamlet are regularly approaching capacity (c.3,500) if not completely selling out - you are therefore very strongly advised to buy tickets in advance and turn up early as the sightlines are not great for latecomers

Southern League Premier South
Hayes & Yeading United v Metropolitan Police @3pm - the big game in the seventh tier sees two of the top three meet at the SkyEx Community Stadium. As mentioned above, if midweek results go their way, Met Police could be top by the time they arrive for this. In that scenario, H&YU would be five points behind them but with three games in hand - it's a big one!

Isthmian League North
Grays Athletic v Tilbury @3pm - there are several matches between promotion contenders in the eighth tier but I personally prefer the look of this derby between clubs from neighbouring Essex towns by the Thames. The hosts, who play at Aveley's ground, are very much among the play-off pack whereas Tilbury are down in 12th. Hopefully the fight for local bragging rights should produce an entertaining spectacle

Essex Senior League
Walthamstow v Woodford Town @3pm - there's so much to like about this fixture - it's a north-east London derby, the Stow are top of the league and both sides have growing and lively fansbases. However, perhaps the best thing of all is that it's free entry if you make a donation to the local foodbank. It looks like being a cracking afternoon 

SCEFL Division 1
Stansfeld v Croydon @3pm - the hosts are having a season to remember. Currently one point clear at the top with a game in hand and also through to the Third Round of the FA Vase, things are looking really good for the south-east London club. The Trams started their season strongly too and led until a wobbly spell saw them drop down. Now fifth and with improving results, this could be well worth 90 minutes of your time

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Sunday 5 December

Premier League
Tottenham Hotspur v Norwich City @2pm - it's hard to produce a preview when there is a round of midweek games to be played before this but at the time of writing, Spurs have just seen their match at Burnley snowed off which meant they missed their chance to move back into the top six under new boss Antonio Conte. The Canaries are unbeaten in three and right back in the fight to avoid the drop with new manager Dean Smith now at the helm. Tickets are only on sale to members

Championship
QPR v Stoke City @230pm - the R's long run of televised games continues with this Sunday afternoon kick-off. There have been many complaints from season-ticket holders that Sky's scheduling has made things really difficult and with several matches on Mondays, Fridays and Sundays over a two-month period, you can see why. It's also understandable why the broadcaster is picking them - up in the top six, playing a great brand of football, capable of big wins or defeats and scoring in every game (30 in a row now), it all makes for some good telly. At the time of writing, the Potters are just a point and a place behind QPR so it should be entertaining. Tickets are available

Women's FA Cup Final
Arsenal v Chelsea @2pm - about four miles north of Loftus Road, Wembley hosts the Covid-19 delayed 2020-21 Women's FA Cup Final. The line-up is as good as it gets with the current two best teams in the country looking to claim this big bit of silverware. As with the men's competition, Arsenal are the most successful team in the history of the Women's FA Cup with 14 wins since it launched in 1970. A little surprisingly, Chelsea have only won it twice most recently in 2018 when they beat the Gunners 3-1. On current form, this one really is too close to call. Tickets sales have shot up of late with the FA announcing the 40,000 barrier was passed on Friday. The record crowd of 45,423 was achieved in the aforementioned final between the two in 2018 so it could well be beaten. Adult tickets are £20 and kids £2.50 - come along and maybe you'll become a record-breaker

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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