Sunday, 20 February 2022

TLFG: 21-27 February 2022

Greetings one and all from a windswept London.

How was Storm Eunice for you?

There were, very sadly, deaths in the capital and around the country as the weather caused all kinds of problems on Friday.

With trees down, structural damage inflicted and heavy rain falling too, several football matches fell by the wayside on Saturday afternoon.

In Shepherd's Bush, where I am, we got off pretty lightly and I think the wind is actually blowing more consistently as I write this.

Although QPR's match with Hull City did go ahead, my plans to attend a local non-league match to keep my expenditure down were all scuppered so I just stayed on the sofa and dozed while my eldest daughter took advantage and put on 'The Emoji Movie'!

Tickets are on sale for this important match on Sunday

This week has been tiring - a combination of work, lots of Non-League Day (NLD) prep, this blog and all my household/family commitments has left me with very little time to do anything else.

On Thursday I received an invitation to collect my QPR Supporter of the Year trophy.

It was announced that I'd won the award back in May but only now have they been able to put on a presentation because of Covid-19.

Unfortunately, it's going to be during half-time of the Cardiff City game on 5 March when I'm working so I've had to decline.

Thankfully I've had the experience of a pitch presentation several times before and it will give the young lad who beat cancer, who I shared the award with, to take centre stage and enjoy the limelight.

After all the rushing around of the last few days, I've got this week off.

On Tuesday I'm heading to the Premier League's new HQ in Paddington for an NLD planning meeting.

They've allotted us a whopping 90 minutes for the session which is really pleasing as they're usually hugely productive and give the campaign massive impetus.

I also hope to get out and run between several of the non-league clubs of London who will be hosting matches on the 26 March.

It will be my effort to publicise the day and our partnership with Prostate Cancer UK who launched a risk checker this week to try and find the thousands of men who may have gone undiagnosed during the pandemic. Give it a go, it only takes a few seconds and could save your life.

One strange thing about this week is that there is no senior action on Monday.

UPDATE - as a result of an admin error on another website, no matches were showing up on Monday. That has been corrected and we now have a match at Carshalton Athletic. Many thanks to Kev on Twitter for the update

A YANK TRAVELS TO MANC (HESTER)

Next up we have another piece from American groundhopper Marc Derks who recently travelled 'Oop North' to watch Fulham take on Manchester City in the FA Cup. He also managed to get tickets to Old Trafford where Manchester United hosted Middlesbrough.

Here's how he got on: 

Flush with excitement as a newly minted (half) season-ticket holder, I watched the FA Cup Fifth Round draw eagerly.  I was looking to see where two teams might be drawn.

Manchester United are my first and true love. After all, you can change your wife, you can change your house, but you can never change your team.  And Man U have been my beloved since the treble year of 1999. Even so, having recently relocated to London, I rekindled a casual, on-again, off-again dalliance with Fulham to commit to them as my London club.  I’d been keeping an eye on Fulham since the days of Marcus Hannehman (the heavy metal goalkeeper) and watched with interest as Fulham became Fulhamerica owing to the eleven Americans who have pulled on the black and white strip of the first team.

So as Fulham were drawn against Manchester City at the Etihad, a plan was hatched.  I would go!  With the away fans!  In my obsessive attention to refreshing the Fulham website to see when tickets might be made available to season ticket holders, I failed to notice that United had been drawn also at home against Middlesbrough.  As much as Manchester likes to think it is a big town, its public transportation infrastructure is not capable of supporting both teams at home on the same day.  As a result, United would be at home on Friday night, and City on Saturday afternoon. 

The plan became a scheme.  Could I see both games?  I held my breath and kept Metro Bank’s fraud prevention line on speed dial as I ordered from an on-line scalper (tout, for you Brits).  The reviews were good and the price (£60 plus £20 in fees) was high but not outrageous.  I booked a hotel room and a train ride and all the pieces fell into place.  The Fulham ticket (easily ordered as a season ticket holder) came in the mail. A very legit-looking pdf of the Manchester United ticket arrived in my email.  I packed and was ready to go.

Relative to continental Europe, trains are expensive in the UK and London to Manchester is one of the busiest and therefore most expensive rides there is.  It was nearly £100 for the round trip, but the ride took only two hours and was a pretty pleasant way to start the weekend early.  Manchester is not big (especially in relation to the sprawling Old Smoke) and I found my way to the hotel to drop off my bag.

The trams in Manchester are easy to navigate and I soon found myself for just the second time in the shadow of the Theatre of Dreams.  It’s a big stadium seating 76,000 and while the die-hard supporters say it needs updating, it generally looks in good shape.  As is typical of the older stadiums, there are no concourses inside and the concessions cater to vertical slices of the stands. The seats at Old Trafford are tiny and you will be physically well acquainted with your neighbors by the end of the game.  The Middlesbrough fans were raucous and a doubt crept into my head as to whether I would be able to keep up with my Fulham compatriots the next day.

Setting aside the result (which NONE shall discuss), my pilgrimage was a great one.  I saw McTominay and Pogba. Varane and Maguire.  And Ronaldo live for the first time since 2004 when he was a youngster on that amazing Portugal national team.

The next day, I ventured to the blue side of Manchester.  The Etihad, like London Stadium, is pretty far removed from any neighborhoods or developments, but even so, the tram leaves you just a fifteen minute or so walk away. It’s relatively big, at 53,000, and it was packed out on this rainy Saturday afternoon.  The Fulham section was full as well so even if they don’t travel loud, they travel in good numbers.  A few, relatively random, observations from a very partial observer: City is obsessed with Oasis and Oasis is terrible. Seeing 93:20 on so much merchandise hurt my heart. Old Trafford, generally speaking, was much louder than the Etihad, but the Etihad is much more comfortable with very good sightlines.  The concessions are awash.  Neither was anything to write home about.

As for being an away fan among the Fulham support, there were more women and children among the Cottagers than I’ve seen in any group of away fans and certainly more than with the ‘Boro contingent the day before.  I had little trouble keeping up with the singing, but if I had been with the ‘Boro fans at Old Trafford, I’m not sure I could have said the same thing.  There was still plenty of drama, as a fair few Fulham supporters were dragged out by the police and many (many many many) insults were hurled between the two groups of fans.  Still, perhaps my favorite chant by the relatively affluent Fulham support was “We pay your benefits.” Snort.

It probably goes without saying in Manchester that it was cold and rainy. But it was. Cold. And rainy.  Having had my fill of exposure to the elements, I didn’t really dally the next morning in heading back to London.  Neither did anyone else and the train that I caught was full to the brim.  As a result, I paid £50 to sit on my bag in a doorway for the ride back to Euston.  I still would not trade it for anything. I am a groundhopper.

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Lastly from me, many thanks this week to James W from Hertfordshire and Wayne C from Nevada, USA for donating to TLFG's coffee-drinking fund. I really really appreciate it.

THE WEEK AHEAD

The highlights of the next few days include games in the Premier League, EFL, EFL Cup, most of our local non-league competitions and the Women's FA Cup 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
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 21 February

Isthmian League Cup Fourth Round
Carshalton Athletic v Corinthian @745pm - the week begins with this cup tie at Colston Avenue. The Robins play a level above Corinthian so should be expected to win

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Tuesday 22 February

Champions League
Chelsea v Lille @745pm - very unusually there's no senior football of note anywhere in London on Monday which means you'll have to wait until Tuesday to see a match. Top of the bill is this Champions League last 16 first leg match at Stamford Bridge. It sees the reigning European and World champions Chelsea host last season's French league winners.Sadly for the visitors, they're a shadow of the team they were last season and are currently 10th in the Ligue 1 standings. It's hard to see anything other than a home win here. If you know a season-ticket holder or member then there are some tickets left but they will have to buy them for you

League One
Charlton Athletic v MK Dons @745pm - the Addicks' 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Oxford on Saturday was their third defeat in a row and means they still can't quite rule themselves out of the relegation dogfight. MK Dons are just above Oxford in the table and going for automatic promotion too so it looks set to be another tough evening for Johnnie Jackson's side. Tickets are available

League Two
Leyton Orient v Bristol Rovers @745pm - the O's form has plummetted of late so it was possibly a relief to see Saturday's game at Harrogate postponed. It's getting on for three months since they last won a game and their play-off push has now morphed into a fight to stay out of the bottom two who are only five points behind them. Back-to-back wins over Stevenage and Sutton have got Rovers thinking of a play-off spot again and a win here could put them within touching distance of the top seven. Tickets are available

National League
Dagenham & Redbridge v Woking @745pm - another team who could reignite their play-off ambitions are the Daggers. They were top early on in the campaign but inconsistency has cost them as they have dropped to 10th. A win against midtable Woking will put them back into contention for seventh but with Wrexham, Notts County and Grimsby Town all just above them it's going to be tough. Tickets are available

Southern League Premier South
Hayes & Yeading United v Truro City @745pm - with Farnborough having their match postponed on Saturday, H&YU took full advantage as they beat Poole Town 6-1 to return to the top of the league. The title race is beautifully poised with the top four within four points of each other so the run-in should be exciting. Truro have been among the frontrunners in recent seasons but playing all their home games miles away in Plymouth can't have helped and they're down in ninth

Middlesex Premier Cup Semi-Finals
Bedfont & Feltham v British Airways @745pm - there are plenty of other league and county cup games on Tuesday night but I've gone for these as there's a place in a final up for grabs. The first game is a landlords versus tenants clash, right next to Heathrow Airport - meaning you can watch the game and pretend you're hosting Big Jet TV at the same time
Rayners Lane v FC Deportivo Galicia @745pm - with 184 goals from 57 games between them, the two highest-scoring sides in the CCL Division 1 meet for the second time in three days. Let's hope it's less one-sided this time as the Lane won 7-0

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Wednesday 23 February

Premier League
Watford v Crystal Palace @745pm - the Hornets picked up their first win under Roy Hodgson by beating Aston Villa 1-0 at Villa Park. The victory was absolutely crucial but still left them four points adrift of safety. The Eagles narrowly lost at home to Chelsea as their winless run in the league extended to a sixth game. Consequently, both sides could do with a win here. Tickets are available

Championship
Fulham v Peterborough United @745pm - on paper there can be only one winner as leaders Fulham entertain a struggling Posh who are battling to stay off the bottom. But this is the Championship and literally anything can happen. The Cottagers lost at home to Huddersfield on Saturday and are due another wobble. Tickets are available
QPR v Blackpool @745pm - one side who are currently enduring a wobble are QPR. A place in the top two seemed to be theirs for the taking when they crushed Reading 4-0 at the end of January. However, February has not been kind as they suffered FA Cup and league defeats to Peterborough and Barnsley, the bottom two, and failed to beat Middlesbrough, Millwall or Hull City in their other games. The visitors haven't been in great form either but have shown more spirit, holding Fulham to a draw and narrowly losing to Bournemouth. Tickets are available

London Senior Trophy Semi-Final
Lewisham Borough v Tooting Bec @745pm - postponed from last week, these two SCEFL Division 1 sides will do battle for a place in the final against either AFC Cubo or Hilltop who play in the other tie next month

Inter-Services Match
RAF v Army @2pm - if you're looking for something a little different then head to Tithe Farm where Rayners Lane play host to this U23 match on Wednesday afternoon 

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Thursday 24 February

Premier League
Arsenal v Wolverhampton Wanderers @745pm - there's a bit of bonus Premier League action on Thursday night courtesy of Amazon Prime who hold the rights to this match and are responsible for its unorthodox scheduling. By the time this match comes round, it could be sixth versus seventh and as such we should get a pretty intriguing game. However, don't expect it to be high  scoring - recent matches between the two have been close and Wolves are scoring less than a goal a game despite doing so well. Tickets are only available to members

FA Youth Cup Quarter-Final
Chelsea v Blackpool @7pm - if you've never been to Stamford Bridge before and want to do it on the cheap, then this is your chance as the Blues' U18 side welcome their counterparts from Lancashire. Adult tickets are just £5 and appear to only be available in advance with sales closing at 4pm on the day

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Friday 25 February
Arsenal v Liverpool @7pm - get your weekend underway with this eye-catching U23 match at Boreham Wood's ground. The Gunners are currently third in the PL2 and should start as favourites. Matches like this are often free entry but check with the club on the day

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Saturday 26 February

Premier League
Brentford v Newcastle United @3pm - with Newcastle dramatically improving and the Bees going in the other direction, only two points now separate these teams. A hugely important game at the wrong end of the table, it could have significant ramifications for several clubs in their fight to stay up. The sides produced a thrilling 3-3 draw when they last played in November so we'll hopefully get something similar and maybe a Brentford debut for Christian Eriksen. Tickets are only available to members
Crystal Palace v Burnley @3pm - if Palace lose to Watford in midweek then they'll be only five points above the relegation zone. After their convincing win at Brighton, it's conceivable that the Clarets could beat an inconsistent Spurs on Wednesday to make things even tighter at the bottom. Burnley are unbeaten in four against the Eagles and also drew 3-3 on the same November day as Newcastle and Brentford. Tickets are only on sale to members

Championship
Millwall v Sheffield United @3pm - with three wins from their last five games, both sides are in reasonable form. While the Lions have probably left it a little late to get back into play-off contention, the Blades are now back in the top six. The Den is a tough place to go for most teams but this Yorkshire club have won on their last two visits - we could have a decent match on our hands. Tickets are available

League One
AFC Wimbledon v Doncaster Rovers @3pm - the Dons' run of big home games continues with this match against one of their fellow strugglers. Saturday's 4-0 defeat at Bolton means they are now 14 games without a win in all competitions and this match against the side in 23rd is an absolute must win. Although Rovers have lost 10 more games than Wimbledon this season, they are showing signs of improvement and have enjoyed away wins over Lincoln and Sunderland in recent weeks. Tickets are available

League Two
Leyton Orient v Carlisle United @3pm - as mentioned above, the O's form is pretty terrible at the moment but Carlisle's is even worse. When it comes to form, these are the bottom two in the division. It won't be pretty but it could be hugely important. Tickets are available
Sutton United v Scunthorpe United @3pm - sitting just above Orient and Carlisle in the form table, Scunthorpe are also having a season to forget. In the real table that matters, the Iron are bottom and heading for non-league. In other words, promotion-chasing Sutton won't get a much better chance to win. Tickets are available

Women's FA Cup Fifth Round
Chelsea v Leicester City @1pm - if you're looking for a lunchtime kick-off then this cup tie at Kingsmeadow could be for you. The Blues won last season's delayed FA Cup Final at Wembley in December and are well on the way to retaining their title. Leicester are new to the Super League this season but have struggled and should be beaten. Tickets are available

National League
Boreham Wood v Eastleigh @3pm - currently third with games in hand on both of the top two, the Wood are really well placed to challenge for the title. With FA Cup wins over AFC Wimbledon and AFC Bournemouth in recent weeks, confidence must be sky high. Against midtable Eastleigh, complacency is probably going to be their biggest enemy. Also, with Everton at Goodison Park just a few days later, will the players be as committed as normal??? Tickets are available

National League South
Dulwich Hamlet v Braintree Town @3pm - when people look for a first non-league experience in London, I often point them in the direction of The Hamlet. It might not represent a typical afternoon out at the level, but it should be a good one. Often sold out on Saturdays, Champion Hill is one of the most welcoming, lively and colourful grounds in the capital and is well worth trying out. The big crowds are not to everyone's taste and I have friends who support Dulwich who now only go to away games. At the time of writing, the hosts are just about holding on to a play-off spot and should beat a struggling Braintree side. If you do want to go, you're strongly advised to buy tickets in advance and arrive at least 30 minutes before kick-off to get a good view

Southern League Premier South
Harrow Borough v Taunton Town @3pm - all the games in the seventh tier are much of a muchness so I'm recommending this as it's where I plan to be. Aside from a frankly bonkers 6-3 win over Truro three weeks ago, it's been pretty tough going for Boro in 2022. Still 12 points clear of the relegation zone, hopefully they've done enough to stay up but they need a few more wins to be sure. Taunton are fourth, very much in the title race and crushed Harrow 7-1 in the reverse fixture just before Christmas. However, the hosts signed Neymar and Ronaldo's body double last week so it could be a very different story!

Isthmian North
Aveley v Dereham Town @3pm - unbeaten in 11, the Millers are going along really nicely and are currently third just three points behind leaders Stowmarket. Dereham are also in the top six so you'd think they would present a very stern test, but it ended 4-0 to Aveley when they last played

Essex Senior League
Walthamstow v Stansted @3pm - probably the easiest pick of the day, it's first versus second in the ninth tier ESL. Given that The Stow are already 14 points clear, a win here could effectively give them the title. However, Stansted have two games in hand, so if they win then things could get a lot tighter a few weeks down the line. The hosts have been averaging crowds of nearly 300 this season, which is exceptional for this level, and I'd expect a few more to turn up for this one

CCL Division 1
British Airways v Bedfont & Feltham @3pm - again, nothing really stands out in the 10th tier so for the second time this week you have the chance to see these two groundsharers do battle. This time it's the tenants who have 'home' advantage

MCFL Premier Division Cup Semi-Final
Clapton CFC v Cricklewood Wanderers @130pm - there's a double of sorts over at Wadham Lodge where The Tons go for cup glory on the pitch alongside the main stadium where Walthamstow will be playing at 3pm. Although down in the 11th tier they often get lively crowds of 350-400 so are well worth experiencing. With the slight overlap in kick-off times between the two games, you'll have to leave one early or turn up late for the other but with Clapton CFC games being pay what you want, you can't really go wrong  

Surrey South Eastern Combination
AFC Whyteleafe v Earlsfield United @3pm - hands up, I admit being slow to the party on this one as I rarely cover football in the 12th tier. But with some great results and healthy crowds, phoenix club AFC Whyteleafe have become too hard to ignore. Still playing at Church Road, a ground capable of hosting at least seventh-tier football, the Leafe are well worth investigating especially if you're on the south side of town
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Sunday 27 February

EFL Cup Final
Chelsea v Liverpool @430pm - the first major final of the domestic season is upon us and for the first time since 2017, Manchester City will not be involved. The final we do have though is still big box-office stuff with two more of England's biggest clubs taking part. Neither have won this for several years although the Reds are the most successful club in the competition's history with eight wins from their 12 appearances in the final. Any remaining tickets will be for members only

Premier League
West Ham United v Wolverhampton Wanderers @2pm - it looks all set to be a big week for Wolves as they play two of the sides just above them in the table. If they do beat Arsenal and win at the London Stadium, then a top-four place will be very much on the cards. The Hammers are still in with a shout themselves, of course, but they've played 2-3 games more than three sides immediately below them and a Europa League spot looks a more realistic objective at this stage. Tickets are available

Women's FA Cup Fifth Round
Charlton Athletic v Everton @1pm - there's only one tie in London on Sunday and it could provide a cupset as the second-tier Addicks look to get the better of the Toffees who are second from bottom in the Super League and really struggling for form. The match is being played at VCD Athletic's ground and adult tickets are £5

FA Women's Championship
London City Lionesses v Bristol City @2pm - with Liverpool 10 points clear at the top, it looks like everyone else will be fighting for second. LCL, who play at Dartford, currently occupy the runners-up spot while the Robins are just a couple of points behind in fourth


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.

Has this blog been helpful? Donate to TLFG's coffee-drinking fund here  

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