Sunday 30 July 2023

TLFG: 31 July - 6 August 2023

Welcome one and all to the final TLFG of pre-season.

For many, the some the season has already begun and by the weekend only Premier League and Isthmian League clubs will be without competitive football - that all begins the following weekend.

How has your week been?

Mine came to an incredibly wet end as I watched Actonians take on a full strength Watford squad from two divisions above them in torrential rain at Gunnersbury Park.

As I mentioned last week, the gulf in ability and resource between divisions in the women's game is massive and it showed here. 

One of the biggest crowds of the week will be for the Game4Ukraine on Saturday

Still with several recognised first-team players on holiday, the hosts put out a side largely consisting of reserve team players and very young trialists and they found it hard to string anything meaningful together against their well-drilled opponents.

This is as hard as it's likely to get probably all season so hopefully things will become a bit more competitive in their remaining friendlies which begin with a trip to Luton Town, who play a level below, on Thursday night.

My next match should be Celtic v Athletic Bilbao in Glasgow on Tuesday. I'm heading up on Monday and hope to enjoy a few days in the Scottish city.

Many thanks for all the questions again this week, keep them coming.

Right, I need to finish my packing - have a great one!


There are matches taking place every day this week bar Thursday so you'll need to find something else to do that night or head out of town and watch that Actonians game I mentioned above.

Aside from all the various leagues which get underway this weekend, this season's FA Cup sees its opening round being played too.

With ties on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, you've got no excuse not to begin your 'Road to Wembley' groundhop.

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.

Monday fixtures - yellow pin
Tuesday fixtures - green pin
Wednesday fixtures - turquoise pin
Friday fixtures - black pin

Saturday fixtures - blue pin
Sunday fixtures - orange pin

In the following section, I list 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 July

Essex Senior League
Ilford v Sporting Bengal United @745pm - the hosts made a disappointing start to their campaign on Saturday, losing 3-1 at home to Halstead Town who they finished on level points with in lower midtable last season. SBU won promotion back to this level after winning the play-offs last season and began with a very decent away win at Great Wakering Rovers who were an Isthmian League side in 2022/23


Tuesday 1 August

Bromley v Crystal Palace XI @745pm - the Ravens gave a good account of themselves during a tight 2-1 defeat to League Two side Crawley Town on Saturday, their only defeat of pre-season so far. Their warm-up matches conclude with this game against a young Palace side. Tickets are £15
Welling United v Luton Town XI @7pm - after losing their first four friendlies, the Wings finally managed a 3-2 win at Isthmian League club Beckenham Town on Saturday. With the Hatters playing Wolves the next day, this is also likely to be a young Luton squad. Tickets are £10
Hanwell Town v QPR U21 @7pm - a crowd of over 600 saw the Geordies beat Brentford's second string 3-0 on Saturday. Next up is a squad from their nearest EFL club. QPR's first team ended pre-season with a disgraceful 5-0 defeat at Oxford United on Saturday so it wouldn't surprise me to see Gareth Ainsworth send a few of his 'senior' players to take part in this one but don't count on it. Tickets are £7
Walton & Hersham v Fulham U21 @745pm - the Swans won the play-offs in May to make it up to the seventh tier. Sensationally, it was their third promotion in a row so they really are a club to keep an eye on this season. The Cottagers' first team will have just got back from a tour of America and will be preparing for their friendly against German opposition on Saturday but more on that below. Tickets will be available on the gate for £5

Essex Senior League
Frenford v Woodford Town @745pm - the hosts won promotion to the ninth tier for the first time in their history last season and this will be their first home game at this level. Sadly they lost their opener at Little Oakley 2-0 and it's unlikely to get much easier here against what must be one of the contenders for the title.

ECL Division 1 South
Newbury Forest v Clapton CFC @745pm - after winning the Middlesex County League, CCFC now find themselves in the 10th tier for the first time. Playing at the oldest ground in London and with almost certainly the largest fanbase in the division, they will be well worth a visit this season. On Saturday they drew 0-0 at Wormley Rovers who finished third in 2022/23. On Tuesday night they find themselves making the short trip north to play Newbury Forest at Oakside which is located right next to Barkingside Tube station

A bit further afield
Bishop's Stortford v Leyton Orient @745pm - the O's complete pre-season with a trip to Hertfordshire to play last season's Isthmian League champions. The hosts have had the misfortune of being allocated a place in the National League North in 2023/24 despite being just outside London, meaning they will find themselves facing journeys to the likes of Blyth Spartans, Darlington and South Shields. Tickets are £10 on the gate

Wednesday 2 August

Emirates Cup
Arsenal v Monaco @6pm - probably the biggest game of the summer so far, the Emirates Cup returns on Wednesday. This competition began back in 2007 and used to feature four teams and be played over a weekend - it was arguably the highlight of pre-season in London. However, since 2019 it has just been one match between Arsenal and a visiting team. Monaco finished sixth in Ligue 1 last season and finished third in this tournament back in 2014 when Valencia won it. Tickets have sold out

SSML Premier
London Lions v Crawley Green @8pm - the hosts are about to commence the season in a different division for the fourth campaign running. They had been set to begin this one in the CCL Premier North but agreed a swap with Ardley United who were unhappy with their allocation. Crawley Green finished in midtable last year as did London Lions so it should be pretty even

Essex Senior League
Romford v Buckhurst Hill @745pm - after this weekend's first round of games, Romford find themselves top after demolishing Saffron Walden 5-1 on Friday. Buckhurst Hill narrowly lost 1-0 to Barking so this will be their second visit to Mayesbrook Park in four days

ECL Division 1 South
May & Baker v Cannons Wood @745pm - in the 10th tier, there's a groundshare derby between the sides who share Parkside with Aveley. M&B lost their first game 3-0 at home to Barkingside on Friday whilst this will be Cannons Wood's opener

Friday 4 August

FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round
Probably the world's most famous club knockout competition gets underway on Friday with two ties in the London area. Clubs at this level really benefit from the prize money on offer with the winners collecting a cheque for £1,125 and the losers £375

Edgware & Kingsbury v Waltham Abbey @745pm - the hosts achieved a very creditable sixth-placed finish in the ninth tier last season and they'll surely want to push for the play-offs this time round. On Friday they welcome a side who finished midtable in the level above and will hope to pull off one of the first cupsets of the season
Woodford Town v Hertford Town @745pm - it's a very similar story at Ashtons where another ninth tier club play host to one from the eighth. Woodford managed to finish third in the Essex Senior League and pose a real threat to Hertford


Saturday 5 August

The biggest crowd of the day could well come at Stamford Bridge where a hugely impressive list of ex-pros and celebrities take to the field to raise money for people in need in war-torn Ukraine. The match kicks off at 6pm and can therefore be combined with several others earlier in the day. Tickets can be bought for around £30 - full details on the event's website

Brentford v Lille @4pm - the Bees return from their American tour to play this final friendly at the GTech. Brentford had the best season in their history in 2022/23, finishing ninth in the Premier League. With star striker Ivan Toney suspended until January for betting offences, it will be interesting to see how they fare this season and against one of the top clubs in France here. Tickets for Brentford home games are very hard to get because of their small capacity so this is a rare opportunity to visit if you're not a member. Most tickets are £15
Crystal Palace v Lyon @530pm - it's also incredibly hard to get tickets to watch the Eagles without membership so this friendly also gives the casual visitor the chance to tick Selhurst Park off their list. Roy Hodgson returned in the latter stages of last season to steer Palace to Premier League safety and they'll hope to more than hold their own again under his leadership this time. However, star player Wilfried Zaha finally left the club to join Turkish giants Galatasaray last week and his will be big shoes to fill. Lyon are one of the biggest clubs in France and have won Ligue 1 seven times since the turn of the century but it's been a while since their last major success. The late kick-off means it can be combined with the FA Cup tie Balham are hosting in nearby Thornton Heath. Tickets are £14
Fulham v 1899 Hoffenheim @1pm - the Cottagers are another one of our local sides to have spent most of pre-season on tour in America but they're back for this one. Craven Cottage is often voted as the best ground to go to by visitors to London but like many top-flight clubs, it's very hard to get a ticket without membership. Hoffenheim finished 12th in the German league last season and should provide a good test. Tickets are £15

Watford v QPR @3pm - with the warm-ups complete, the EFL gets underway in earnest this weekend and we've got this derby to kick things off locally. Both sides had very disappointing seasons last year. The Hornets came down from the Premier League and despite having access to parachute payments, only finished 11th and went through three managers in the process. The R's came flying out of the traps under new boss Michael Beale and were top in October before he controversially moved to former club Rangers in Scotland. The wheels then fell off and his replacement Neil Critchley only lasted until the spring when club legend Gareth Ainsworth took over. Results barely improved but a stunning win at eventual champions Burnley shortly before the end of the season helped to keep them up. Neither side have had a great pre-season so it could go either way. Tickets are available

League One
Charlton Athletic v Leyton Orient @3pm - talking of derbies, there's arguably an even more interesting one at the Valley where the Addicks welcome the newly promoted O's. Although Charlton didn't challenge for the play-offs, the second half of their season under new boss Dean Holden saw them improve significantly and they finished 10th. As already mentioned, Leyton Orient had a great campaign and won the League Two title. However, a number of their best players have left the club over the summer including player of the season Lawrence Vigouroux who joined Burnley. Tickets are available

League Two
Sutton United v Notts County @3pm - the U's made their League Two debut in 2021/22 and did superbly well to finish eighth and make the EFL Trophy Final, last season wasn't quite as impressive they ended up in 14th. Pre-season hasn't been hugely successful and some observers have predicted it could be a year where they slide a bit further. Notts County are back in the EFL after suffering relegation in 2019. They did it after coming through an epic battle with big spending Wrexham which saw them ultimately have to settle for second and a dramatic win in the play-offs over Chesterfield. Tickets are available

National League
Barnet v Hartlepool United @3pm - the National League also starts this weekend. The Bees made it to the play-offs last season but lost over two legs to local rivals Boreham Wood. They'll hope for at least a repeat of that this time and they begin with a challenging fixture against a Hartlepool side who finished second bottom in League Two last season to suffer relegation back to the ranks of non-league
Wealdstone v York City @3pm - as one of the smaller teams in the division, the Stones did really well to not only survive again but finish 13th whilst former EFL clubs like Scunthorpe, Torquay and Yeovil all got relegated. York, another former EFL club, missed relegation by just three points so the hosts should fancy their chances

National League South
Dartford v Bath City @3pm - the Darts finished as runners-up to local rivals Ebbsfleet United last season but it was third placed Oxford City who prevailed in the play-offs and went up. Bath managed a midtable finish last season but recorded a decent 0-0 draw on their last visit to Princes Park just before Christmas

Southern League Premier South
Harrow Borough v AFC Totton @3pm - for some reason the seventh tier Southern League starts this weekend but the parallel Isthmian League doesn't. Anyway, back to this game. Harrow ended the season in the relegation zone but received a surprise reprieve when Metropolitan Police took voluntary relegation. Having already begun preparations for life in the eighth tier, which included hiring a relatively inexperienced new manager from the ninth tier, everyone involved found themselves a bit surprised by the new scenario. Pre-season has been reasonably successful but the visit of the Stags who won promotion from Division 1 South after winning the title, could be tough

FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round
Redbridge v New Salamis @3pm - there are loads of ties in London on Saturday featuring sides in the eighth and ninth tiers and it's really hard to single any out. I've gone for this one as it features two sides in the Isthmian North. Redbridge finished as runners-up in the Essex Senior League and won promotion via the play-offs to join their opponents at the higher level. It will be very interesting to see how they get on
Sutton Common Rovers v Burgess Hill Town @3pm - there's another all eighth-tier tie at Church Road, a ground they share with AFC Whyteleafe. Both these sides narrowly avoided relegation from their parallel divisions of the Isthmian League last season so it should be close
Wembley v Bearsted @3pm - if they've been drawn at home and you want attempt the 'Road to Wembley' and watch a match in every round, then you've really got to start at Vale Farm. The Lions finished ninth in the CCL Premier North and Bearsted came 13th in the SCEFL Premier with only four points less so this should also be competitive


Sunday 6 August

FA Community Shield
Arsenal v Manchester City @4pm - the traditional curtain raiser to the new season between the Premier League champions and FA Cup winners takes place at Wembley on Sunday. With City winning both competitions last season, the Gunners will fill in as runners-up in the league. Unsurprisingly, it has sold out

Tottenham Hotspur v Shakhtar Donetsk @2pm - the fundraising for Ukraine continues on Sunday afternoon but with a more serious friendly between two proper teams. If you haven't been before, the superb THS is well worth a visit and tickets don't go on sale to non-members very often. Remaining tickets for this appear to be £25

FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round
AFC Croydon Athletic v Sutton Athletic @3pm - the Rams have had a decent pre-season following their takeover by Wilfried Zaha and Stormzy. This important cup match will be the first competitive game since they became owners and it comes against a team from a parallel ninth-tier division
Welling Town v Cobham @2pm - there's a similar match-up in south-east London where the Boots go in search of their first win at their new home, the ground they share with Phoenix Sports. Cobham play in the parallel Combined Counties League and this will be their first match of the season

Women's friendly
Fulham v QPR @230pm - the pick of the women's games on Sunday is definitely this West London derby which is being played at the Cottagers' training ground in Motspur Park. The R's play a level above Fulham so should be marginal favourites

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.

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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