Monday, 3 January 2022

TLFG: 3-9 January 2022

Happy New Year everyone and welcome to the first TLFG of 2022.

How were the festivities for you? Did you get to many games?

Just prior to Christmas, I was invited by a couple of friends to appear on their QPR podcast where we were joined by R's manager Mark Warburton.

He's very generous with his time and seems to come on three or four times a season - very approachable, he's always keen to field fans' questions and give his point of view.

I asked a couple of questions about U23 and youth players who might be coming through and was told by a friend to ask him what was on his Christmas list, so I obliged and he simply wanted 'a day off'.

Tickets are on sale now

On the eve of the R's match against title challengers Bournemouth on 27 December, a friend of mine went down with Covid and very generously donated his tickets to me.

I took my daughter and another young relative who lives near the stadium but had never been to a game.

There was a big crowd, lots of atmosphere, plenty of action and despite the Cherries winning 1-0, I think he enjoyed it.

Depending on whether I'm needed to do some Omicron-busting overtime, I hope to go to QPR's U23 match against Middlesbrough on Wednesday but I get the feeling I could be required if I don't go down with the virus myself before then.

For me, this week is all about the FA Cup Third Round with a few decent ties taking place in London.

Of the six on offer, there's only one all-Premier League contest and two others featuring non-league sides.

The beauty of seeing games at this stage at the big clubs is that tickets are cheap and in most cases, readily available.

For example, you'll get a ticket with ease for Tottenham v Morecambe, get to visit the magnificent THS and pay a fraction of the normal price.

You'll also have little trouble getting some for West Ham v Leeds but a little surprisingly, Chelsea v Chesterfield is sold out - fair play to Blues fans.

Right, it's rapidly approaching 3am and I need to get to bed!

Have a great week everyone - happy football watching.


THE WEEK AHEAD

The highlights of the next few days include games in the FA Cup, EFL Cup, National League, most of our local non-league competitions and Women's Super League 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 3 January

Isthmian League Premier Division
Carshalton Athletic v Worthing @3pm - the seventh tier Isthmian Premier tops the bill on Monday with the midtable Robins welcoming the increasingly impressive looking league leaders. Worthing are now nine points clear, although that gap could be cut by some of the chasing pack who have games in hand
Cray Wanderers v Enfield Town @3pm - fifth placed Enfield are currently London's main challengers in this division and wins in their two games in hand will put them second. Cray, London's oldest club, are having a disappointing season and are currently in the bottom three
Kingstonian v Lewes @3pm - the K's were top for a while and, although seventh, are still in touch with the leaders thanks to their three games in hand. Former fifth-tier club Lewes are having one of their best seasons of recent years and are third meaning this could be a bit of a cracker
Wingate & Finchley v East Thurrock United @3pm - at the less glamorous end of the table, two of the bottom five will fight it out for three valuable points as they look to make some progress in the right direction

Isthmian League North
Aveley v Romford @3pm - in third, the Millers are currently the main title challengers from TLFG's catchment area. Coming into this match, the Essex side are just three points behind leaders Stowmarket Town but have played more games and therefore simply must beat bottom club Romford to stay in the hunt

Isthmian League South Central
Chertsey Town v Sutton Common Rovers @3pm - boss Kevin McClaren appeared to be leading the Curfews towards a promotion challenge until an unfortunate incident during a game saw him relieved of his duties. Rather than fall apart, the Surrey club have continued to prosper and are now second under former Arsenal player Ian Selley. SCR are in the bottom five and should be beaten

Isthmian League South East
VCD Athletic v Hastings United @3pm - the Vickers recorded an impressive 3-0 win at title-chasing Cray Valley PM on Saturday to move back into the top eight. The result helped top club Hastings extend their lead to four points as they beat Lancing 1-0 in front of over 2,000 fans - not bad for an eighth-tier match!

CCL Premier South
Walton & Hersham v Redhill @3pm - the standout fixture in the ninth tier is the top-two clash in this division. The Swans are currently two points clear with a game in hand on Redhill but third place Jersey and Beckenham back in fifth have the games in hand to make this title race one of the most exciting around

SCEFL Division 1
Stansfeld v Sutton Athletic @3pm - over in Chiselhurst, the top two in this 10th-tier division meet for another mouthwatering contest. The hosts, who groundshare with Glebe, were top for a while and have only slipped to second through a lack of action - they haven't played since the 12 December. Sutton last played on Monday and took top spot after beating FC Elmstead 3-2 in their landlords v tenants groundshare derby

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Tuesday 4 January

EFL Trophy Third Round
Charlton Athletic v MK Dons @7pm - having seen a couple of games fall to Covid, the Addicks returned to league action on Saturday with a 1-0 loss at home to promotion contenders Wycombe. On Tuesday they get back into cup mode against another one of League One's better sides. The bookies have both clubs among the favourites to win this competition so it should be one of the best ties of the round. Most adult tickets for this game are just £5
Sutton United v Colchester United @745pm - the U's are new to this level, taking part in this competition for the first time and taking it pretty seriously. Currently third in League Two, they should see off Colchester who are battling to avoid the drop. Tickets are available

CCL Division 1
Rayners Lane v Hilltop @745pm - a mention should also go to this 10th-tier match between two Middlesex clubs. Hilltop, who are new to this level, have been one of the breakout success stories of the season so far. A side with their roots in the Somali community, they're currently top but only a point ahead of London Lions and third-placed Rayners Lane. With 138 goals from 39 games between them this season, two of the division's highest scorers should hopefully provide an entertaining contest

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Wednesday 5 January

EFL Cup Semi-Final First Leg
Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur @745pm - the latter stages of this cup always seem to creep up on me unawares, presumably because they happen so early in the season. The organisers are guaranteed a big box-office final as four of the biggest teams in the country have made the semi-finals. With perennial winners Manchester City having long gone, we'll also get a new champion too. The first semi-final is this exciting looking derby between two of the capital's top clubs. With Chelsea, relatively speaking, in a bit of a funk at the moment, I fancy a rejuvenated Spurs to prevail over two legs as Antonio Conte looks to get the better of his former employers. Tickets are still available to members, season-ticket holders and their friends so work your contacts if you want to go

Premier League Cup
QPR v Middlesbrough @1pm - if you're at a loose end on Wednesday lunchtime, then get yourself over to Wealdstone's ground in Ruislip for this re-arranged U23 match. We're still at the group stage of this competition with these sides the top two in Group B. Tickets are usually £5 on the gate. 

CCL Division 1
London Lions v Enfield Borough @745pm - depending how things go on Tuesday at Tithe Farm, the hosts might have the chance to go top if they win this 10th tier north London derby 

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Thursday 6 January

EFL Cup Semi-Final First Leg
Arsenal v Liverpool @745pm - a few weeks ago, you'd probably think there could be only one winner here but with the Gunners improving greatly and almost taking a point off Manchester City on Saturday, it's much closer now. Liverpool are the most successful club in the history of the competition with eight wins and four runners-up spots. However, they haven't made the final since 2016 and their last win was 10 years ago. With this season's league title effectively claimed by City already, less fashionable cups like this suddenly become far more interesting so it really is anyone's. Tickets are only available to members and season-ticket holders MATCH OFF

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Friday 7 January

FA Women's Super League
Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur @7pm - the WSL returns from its short winter break with this intriguing game at Kingsmeadow. As a result of a Covid outbreak, the Blues haven't played a league game since their surprise loss at Reading on 11 December which left them four points behind leaders Arsenal. Tottenham have made huge strides this season and are only a point behind in third. This match should give some indication of how much Spurs have closed the gap on the top two - whether they are genuine contenders or simply the best of the rest. Adult tickets are £9 MATCH OFF

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Saturday 8 January

FA Cup Third Round
If you're new to the game in England, Third Round weekend is one of the highlights of the season as all the surviving smaller clubs are given the opportunity to play the some of the giants of the land who enter the draw at this stage
Chelsea v Chesterfield @530pm - if any tie sums up what the FA Cup is all about, it's this one as the non-league Spireites travel to Stamford Bridge to play the reigning European champions. The Blues should win comfortably but they've been humbled in this competition before, losing 4-2 at home to League One side Bradford City in 2015. Chesterfield are currently top of the National League with only one defeat this season so they arrive in good form but surely they can't win here, can they? Unlike many games at this stage, tickets have sold out 
Millwall v Crystal Palace @1245pm - one of the ties of the round, this derby at The Den should be well worth a watch. With the clubs bobbing around the divisions in recent years, the two haven't played since 2013 which should add a bit to the occasion. Games between the two are often tight with six of the last 10 ending in a draw. Playing a division below Palace, the Lions will start as underdogs but in a cup scenario like this anything is possible. At the time of writing, some tickets were available to non-members but they could've gone by now
QPR v Rotherham United @3pm - probably the least interesting tie on paper but when you look a bit closer, the opportunity for a cupset is very good indeed. The R's are fifth in the Championship and playing some good football but their record in the FA Cup this century is pretty woeful with only one appearance in Fifth Round in 2019. The Millers play a level below them but are top of League One with only four defeats this season. Several lower league clubs have won at Loftus Road in recent years so there's no reason Rotherham can't either. Adult tickets are £15
Boreham Wood v AFC Wimbledon @3pm - the Wood have had a fine season, briefly topping the National League and they're still very much in contention. Next up they welcome the Dons to Meadow Park for a really interesting looking tie against the 1988 FA Cup winners. The Hertfordshire club have never made it beyond this round but their form and home advantage against a very average League One side could see them make history. Tickets are available for £15

National League
Bromley v Solihull Moors @3pm - away from the glamour and thrills of the FA Cup, the title race is also pretty exciting in the fifth tier where just five points separate the top seven clubs. All the teams have played a different amount of games so it could be even tighter when it all levels out. Bromley are currently seventh and playing a team just a couple of points behind. With only seven points from their last five games, the south London club could do with a win to keep up with the searing pace

National League South
Dartford v Dulwich Hamlet @3pm - a sizeable attendance should be expected at Princes Park as two of the top six go after the win that will revive their ailing fortunes. Dartford were top for a long time but their slump in form has finally caught up with them and they've sunk to fifth after going winless in three. The Hamlet were thriving, in front of sell-out crowds, and got into the play-off places but now only one win from five sees them just behind the Darts in sixth - it's too close to call

Isthmian League Premier Division
Enfield Town v Lewes @3pm - the standout game in the seventh tier pits two of the top five in the Isthmian Premier against each other. Both have a match before this so if results go their way, it could be third versus second. Lewes won the reverse fixture 4-1 so the Towners will be looking for revenge

Isthmian League North
Grays Athletic v Dereham Town @3pm - in the eighth tier, head east to Aveley's fine Parkside ground which Grays share with their Essex neighbours. At the time of writing these two are both in the top five and looking to make up ground on the top three before they get too far in front

Essex Senior League
Walthamstow v Cockfosters @3pm - there aren't any really big games in the ninth tier on Saturday so I'd recommend you go and check out the 'Stow in E17. With 60 points from 24 games, they're already 12 points clear and arguably the best side in London at this level. Head along to Wadham Lodge with the rest of the Rabble and make up your own mind

CCL Division 1
London Lions v Hilltop @3pm - it's the one we've all been waiting for in the 10th tier where the current top two in this division duel for the lead. Rayners Lane could mess this up if they beat Hilltop in midweek but whatever happens, it should be a good contest. We mentioned above how the visitors have roots in the Somali community, well the hosts are one of the capital's Jewish clubs - it should be a fascinating afternoon

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Sunday 9 January

FA Cup Third Round
West Ham United v Leeds United @2pm - the only all-Premier League tie of the round in London this weekend takes place at London Stadium. The Hammers enjoyed a fine away win at Crystal Palace on Saturday to stay in the top five. Leeds also picked up a priceless win over fellow strugglers Burnley to move eight points clear of the relegation zone. On paper, therefore, this should suggest a home win but much will come down to who wants it more and plays the strongest team. Both have bigger priorities in the league so could drop a few first-teamers. West Ham won at Elland Road earlier in the season and are unbeaten in five against the Yorkshire club. Tickets are available for between £10-30
Tottenham Hotspur v Morecambe @2pm - another tie for cup romantics sees a club from a small Lancashire seaside town head to the big smoke for what could be the match of some of these players' careers. The Shrimps won promotion to League One last season but are finding it tough going in the third tier. They found themselves in the relegation zone on Sunday morning but by teatime had pulled off one of the comebacks of the season in the huge 'six-pointer' against Doncaster, coming back from 3-0 down at half-time to win 4-3. With that huge boost to morale, they head to the hugely impressive THS to try and pull off another shock. Tickets are available at a much-reduced rate
Charlton Athletic v Norwich City @2pm - if you're looking for a more realistic chance of a cupset then it might come at The Valley where a very poor Norwich side could come unstuck against the Addicks. Although two divisions separate the sides, the Canaries are shipping loads of goals at the moment and prop up the Premier League. However, they're only three points adrift of safety so you'd think a cup run could prove to be a distraction and they might rest players. Tickets are available

FA Women's Super League
West Ham United v Manchester United @645pm - there's also a large selection of women's games on Sunday with this WSL game topping the bill. The Hammers started the season brightly but have faded a little recently and are back in seventh. The visitors are currently fourth and could break into the top three if they win and Spurs fail to take three points at Chelsea on Friday. The match is being played at Dagenham & Redbridge and the late kick-off means you can easily combine it with the men's game earlier in the afternoon. Tickets are available MATCH OFF


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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