Monday, 31 January 2022

TLFG: 31 January - 6 February 2022

Welcome one and all to this week's TLFG.

I'm going to start this piece on a sombre note as I reflect on the news that young West Ham fan Isla Caton died at the start of the week.

The seven-year-old had been fighting neuroblastoma cancer for several years and her parents had kept everyone updated on her progress on social media.

Sadly last month they broke the news that treatment was no longer working and they would spend the remaining time filling her life with fun experiences.

On Tuesday morning her time came to an end and it genuinely upset me.

Young West Ham fan Isla Caton passed away this week

I never met her and had no connection whatsoever but I followed her story and it touched me greatly.

The fact I have two daughters in the same sort of age bracket and one reminds me a little of her probably has something to do with it.

Despite being down about it all week, it's been so heartening to see fans of various clubs showing solidarity with the family, not least West Ham's most bitter rivals Millwall who paid their respects during their game against West Brom on Saturday.

Neuroblastoma is a very challenging condition that only affects children - Bradley Lowery and Frankie Sherwood, young football fans from the north-east, also suffered with it.

Although it is painful to follow their stories, it can also be inspirational and it caused me to become a blood platelet donor.

In her final weeks, Isla was often pictured with a black eye as her platelet level had dropped too low and a transfusion would improve things.

When I found out that I could help up to 12 children like her with just one donation, I couldn't sign up quick enough!

Donating takes about an hour and the only pain occurs when the needle goes into your arm - easy.

You then lie back, watch a video or listen to a podcast and get plied with food and drink until it's time to go home.

During the donation process, all your red blood gets put back in so the recovery time is way quicker than regular blood donation and you can do it every two weeks if you have the time.

Give it some thought - you could really change people's lives.

RIP Isla


                                                             THE WEEK AHEAD

The highlights of the next few days include games in the FA Cup, EFL, 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
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 31 January

Isthmian League Cup Third Round
Carshalton Athletic v Merstham @745pm - also known as the Velocity Trophy, these two Surrey clubs provide the entertainment at the beginning of the week as they go in search of this bit of silverware

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Tuesday 1 February

Championship
Millwall v Preston North End @745pm - after a quiet start to the week, things really pick up on Tuesday with this second-tier match at The Den. The Lions enjoyed a 2-0 win over promotion chasers West Brom on Saturday to leave them just a point behind PNE in midtable. Like many recent Preston sides, this one is hard to beat and they're second only to Derby in the amount of games they've drawn this season. It's got another draw written all over it. Tickets are available

League One
AFC Wimbledon v Cheltenham Town @745pm - talking of draw specialists, these two are top of that table in the third tier with 11 apiece so far. As a result they're both hovering above the relegation zone so I wouldn't expect a classic. Tickets are available

National League South
Dartford v Ebbsfleet United @745pm - postponed from Boxing Day because of Covid, these two local rivals meet for a big derby at Princes Park. To spice things up even further, they're both in the top five and going for promotion. Matches at Dartford rarely sell out but buying a ticket in advance wouldn't be a bad idea on this occasion

Southern League Premier Division South
Harrow Borough v Hayes & Yeading United @745pm - if you're on the west side of town then this other postponed derby could well be for you. Both of these sides were pushing for promotion a couple of months ago but Harrow's form has fallen away. However, the visitors are still well in contention for the title so will start as favourites despite Boro putting six past Truro on Saturday

Combined Counties League Division 1
Hilltop v FC Deportivo Galicia @745pm - for fans of the 10th tier, this game should produce a few goals. Currently top and sixth respectively, the pair have scored 160 league goals between them so far this season so a 0-0 is out of the question!

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Wednesday 2 February

FA Women's Super League Cup Semi-Final
Chelsea v Manchester United @7pm - this cup only launched in 2011 and the Blues have won the last two. Manchester United's women's side are also fairly new so don't have any pedigree of note in this competition. At the time of writing, the clubs sit second and third in the Super League and both made smooth progress in the FA Cup this weekend. The winners will play either Manchester City or Spurs in the final at AFC Wimbledon's ground in March. Tickets are available

Isthmian League Cup Third Round
Kingstonian v Worthing @745pm - if you're after some men's football, the best option of the night is to be found a short distance away from Kingsmeadow at Corinthian Casuals' ground. Arguably the tie of the round, the seventh placed K's host leaders Worthing who make their second trip to the United Business Group Stadium in a matter of days 

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Friday 4 February

Premier League 2
Arsenal v Chelsea @7pm - the weekend gets underway with this eye-catching U23 fixture at Boreham Wood's ground. Currently fourth and 11th in the 14-team division, the hosts should start as favourites. These games are often free entry but check with the club on the day to confirm all the details

SCEFL Premier Division
Glebe v Erith & Belvedere @745pm - there's also a fine non-league alternative in Chislehurst where two of the top four will look to take three points in an attempt to stay in touch with leaders Chatham who are starting to look like champions already 

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Saturday 5 February

FA Cup Fourth Round
Chelsea v Plymouth Argyle @1230pm - the Premier League sides return from their winter break and come straight back to some cup football. Last season's beaten finalists Chelsea drew non-league Chesterfield in the previous round and now have a third-tier side at home. The clubs haven't played since 1989 when the Blues won 1-0 at Home Park in a league match - it's seems almost unthinkable that the mighty west London club weren't always in the top tier. Very few tickets are available
Crystal Palace v Hartlepool United @3pm - since making the final in 2016, Palace have bowed out in the Third Round three times. In League Two Hartlepool, they should find very beatable opponents and a place in the Fifth Round is all but assured. Apparently all available tickets have gone but some more could go on sale this week so check with the club for updates
Tottenham Hotspur v Brighton & Hove Albion @8pm - the day's play finishes with this interesting all-Premier League tie at the THS. On paper, Spurs should win but a very tough-to-beat Brighton side are more than a match for anyone at the moment and this could go to penalties. Tickets are available

League One
Charlton Athletic v AFC Wimbledon @3pm - the late kick-off at Tottenham means you can combine it with a huge selection of other games earlier in the day and this derby should be well worth 90 minutes of your time. The Addicks have had a week off following their win over Fleetwood, their first three points in a while, and will come into this on the back of Monday's big game against Portsmouth. The sides last met in August in the EFL Cup and it was the Dons who won 1-0. Tickets are available

League Two
Leyton Orient v Colchester United @3pm - Saturday's defeat at Mansfield left Orient 10 points adrift of the play-off places. I think most would concede that that gap is too big to bridge for the current side and if they fail to beat this poor Colchester outfit, then they probably won't deserve to. Tickets are available
Sutton United v Bristol Rovers @3pm - what can you say about Sutton? After another week of back-to-back victories that have seen them make the EFL Trophy Semi-Finals and a hold their place in the top four, the sky's the limit at the moment. Rovers are down in midtable but knocked the U's out of the FA Cup in December so know what it takes to beat them. Tickets are available

National League South
Dartford v Welling United @3pm - it's a huge week for the Darts as they play derbies against both Ebbsfleet and the Wings. Whilst the former should be close, the Wings are in the bottom three, winless in four and should be beaten

Isthmian League South Central
Hanwell Town v Marlow @3pm - although there are a handful of seventh tier matches taking place, none of them really grab me therefore I've decided to swiftly move on. In the eighth we have a clash of two of the top five. Aside from hoovering up thousands of new followers on social media recently, the Geordies have been doing rather well in the league. If results go their way, they could well end the week in second

CCL Premier Division South
Walton & Hersham v Beckenham Town @3pm - this match between the current top two looks like box-office stuff to me. Currently three points apart, the Becks have three games in hand on the Swans and will arrive on level points if they win their midweek game against AFC Croydon Athletic. Although down in the ninth tier, W&H have drummed up some impressive crowds for some big games this season and this doesn't come much bigger

FA Women's Super League
Arsenal v Manchester United @1230pm - if you fancy an early start, there's a very decent women's game taking place at Boreham Wood's ground. The Gunners are currently top and could temporarily go seven points clear if they beat United. Tickets are available

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Sunday 6 February

FA Women's Super League
Chelsea v Manchester City @1230pm - it's a big weekend in the WSL with four of the biggest clubs playing each other. The Blues have already beaten City twice with ease this season but the Mancunian club were without many of their star players because of injury. They're now far stronger and looked impressive as they demolished Nottingham Forest 8-0 in the FA Cup on Saturday. If Chelsea drop points here, the title race could well be over. Tickets are available
Tottenham Hotspur v Brighton & Hove Albion @2pm - in an exact mirror of the men's game on Saturday night, this one is tricky to call. Spurs are in the top four and should win but the Seagulls can pull out a big performance every so often as they showed by drawing with Chelsea last weekend. Tickets are available

Isthmian League South Central
Sutton Common Rovers v Guernsey @3pm - there's a random bit of men's action at Imperial Fields on Sunday as the Green Lions fly over from the Channel Islands. Both sides are in the bottom four at the moment although Guernsey have played fewer games than anyone else as Covid restrictions prevented travel



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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