Sunday 17 December 2023

TLFG: 18-24 December 2023

Greetings one and all and welcome to the penultimate post of 2023.

This week's guide goes up to Christmas Eve although there are no games in London on the 24th - you'll have to head to the Midlands for Wolves v Chelsea if you really want to get your football fix that day.

How has your week of football watching been?

Mine was busier than I expected.

After nearly two years away, I made my long awaited return to Loftus Road for a QPR first-team game.

I was undecided in the run up to the night and had pretty much resolved not to go when my friend Dave came through with a free ticket so off I went.

After 21 months, it was great to be back at Loftus Road

For those of you who don't know, my last match was against Peterborough in March 2022 and it was a pretty awful afternoon.

It wasn't supposed to be that way as I went on the pitch before the game to collect the Supporter of the Year award.

That went smoothly enough but it all went downhill when I returned to that stands and found that I was surrounded by racists who totally ruined everything.

It was particularly bad as I had my nine-year-old daughter with me and she simply told me she didn't want to come back when what was also a dreadful game came to an end.

After nearly 40 years following the club, I was left feeling totally disillusioned and took a lengthy sabbatical.

On Wednesday that ended with a match against Plymouth Argyle.

After three straight wins, confidence was high against side who hadn't won away all season.

Such confidence seemed to be misplaced as the Devon club tore Rangers apart numerous times in the opening quarter of the game but just couldn't score.

Then everything changed when a hefty challenge from the aptly named Dan Scarr on Ilias Chair saw him sent off - something which seemed to surprise most people in the ground.

QPR spent the last 70+ minutes, including injury time, camped in and around Plymouth's area but they just couldn't break through as Argyle gave a defensive masterclass.

With the final whistle approaching I almost didn't want them to concede as their efforts to keep the R's out were so valiant.

It finished 0-0 and although that was disappointing, it didn't really matter as I'd enjoyed my return to HQ.

The racists in the 'posh' seats of South Africa Road from the previous time were nowhere to be found in the Upper Loft and I left with a smile on my face.

When I'll next return I'm not sure - with most tickets still costing in excess of £30, it might take another freebie to tempt me.

One other thing to note about the evening was the large amount of German fans in attendance, most of whom were over with Freiburg to watch their Europa League tie the following day at West Ham.

What was the centre circle at the Boleyn Ground in Upton Park

As a result, there were numerous announcements in German to cater to them - some of them might even have taken part in the half-time game for fans on the pitch but I'd need to confirm that.

Among them was my friend and TLFG reader Christoph B and it was he and many others who I met at Canning Town on Thursday morning to go on a West Ham United walking tour.

After leaving Canning Town, we also went to West Ham itself, Upton Park and finished up in Stratford visiting a number of the most historic sights in the Hammers' history.

With a fine local guide called Rob leading things, we learned all about Thames Ironworks and how they developed into the club we know today.

My 'favourite' bit was visiting the site of the Boleyn Ground in Upton Park which was demolished in 2016 and turned into an estate of smart new flats but a small patch of grass where the centre circle used to be has been preserved and you can stand on it.

On our way back up Green Street, we bizarrely spotted a fox on the roof of one of the terraced houses and with that being the emblem of the Bundesliga side, this was seen as some kind of omen.

Sadly it turned out to be a bad one as their side lost 2-0 but they're still in with a chance of progressing via the play-off round.


This week we've got matches in the Premier League, EFL, National League, FA Trophy and FA Youth Cup as well as all the other non-league and women's competitions which our local clubs compete in.

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
Thursday fixtures - purple 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 18 December

Development Matches
There are a couple of U21 matches topping the bill on Monday with Charlton Athletic getting things underway at 1pm when they play AFC Bournemouth in the Professional Development League at Dartford. Then at 7pm, Crystal Palace welcome West Ham United to Sutton United for a Premier League 2 fixture. Neither game should cost more than £5


Tuesday 19 December

EFL Cup Quarter-Final
Chelsea v Newcastle United @8pm - Stamford Bridge plays host to what is probably the tie of the round. With the Blues well out of the running for the league and not in Europe, this competition probably represents their best chance of success this season. They've made two of the last five finals but haven't won it since 2015 when they beat Tottenham 2-0. Newcastle have more to play for at this point in the season but they haven't won anything for decades and any pot will do. They made the final last season and could well go one better if they get through this. Tickets have sold out but hospitality packages are available from £300

FA Youth Cup Third Round
Watford v Manchester City @7pm - there's also a tie in the country's most prestigious U18 competition too. Taking place at Vicarage Road, the Hornets welcome their counterparts from the mighty City who will start as strong favourites. Tickets

FA Trophy Third Round
Wealdstone v Billericay Town @745pm  - after seeing the original tie postponed twice, the Stones will try again against opposition from two levels below them. Wealdstone famously won the Trophy back in 1985, beating Boston United 2-1 in the final. Essex club Billericay have only ever made it to the quarter-finals. On that occasion in 2018, it was the Stones who knocked them out. In theory, the same thing should happen again here. Tickets

Essex Senior Cup Fourth Round
Walthamstow v Colchester United @745pm - after beating Billericay on penalties in the last round, the 'Stow next face a side from League Two club Colchester. How strong a side the fourth-tier club send out remains to be seen but they comprehensively beat Heybridge Swifts, who sit just above Walthamstow in the league, in the last round. Tickets are £10 on the gate


Wednesday 20 December

Premier League International Cup
There's a mouthwatering night of European U21 action to look forward to on Wednesday with Chelsea entertaining Celtic at Kingsmeadow and Fulham hosting Athletic Bilbao at Motspur Park. Both matches start at 7pm. Given how popular Celtic games can be, I advise buying tickets in advance. The other game should have tickets available on the gate

Isthmian League South East
Erith & Belvedere v Littlehampton Town @745pm - after getting stuffed 5-0 by Ramsgate on Sunday, the Deres stay stuck in the bottom two. With the visitors just two places and three points above them, this is a highly important relegation six-pointer. Tickets are £10 on the gate

Essex Senior League
Woodford Town v Halstead Town @745pm - only managing a 0-0 draw at Hullbridge Sports on Friday, Woodford missed the chance to close in on the top two who also drew this weekend in their respective games. If they win this, they'll close the gap on top club Sporting Bengal United to one point. However, Halstead are a top-six side themselves so will be no pushovers


Thursday 21 December

Premier League
Crystal Palace v Brighton & Hove Albion @8pm - with Christmas closing in we have this random bit of top-flight action between two fierce rivals. Both sides took on one of the big clubs this weekend - the Eagles came back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Manchester City at the Etihad whilst the Seagulls lost at Arsenal. The Sussex club are on a five game unbeaten run at Selhurst Park and the table would suggest they'll make that six games. Tickets are not available to non-members

Friday 22 December

Essex Senior League
Ilford v FC Clacton @745pm - second from bottom with only three wins and now playing away from their Cricklefields home, things are looking pretty dire for the Foxes. Eight points adrift of local rivals Frenford who sit just above them, they've got a lot of ground to make up. On Friday they take on a midtable Clacton side who really must be beaten. This is being played at Barking

ECL Division 1 South
May & Baker v Harlow Town @745pm - the hosts are coasting along nicely enough in midtable but they could face a tough evening here as Harlow are among the title contenders. This is being played at Aveley

Saturday 23 December

Premier League
West Ham United v Manchester United @1230pm - over the last couple of weeks, the Hammers' results have fluctuated wildly. Comfortable home wins over Freiburg and Wolverhampton Wanderers have been sandwiched between thrashings at Fulham and Liverpool. After disappointing results against Bournemouth and Bayern Munich, United picked up a decent point against arch-rivals Liverpool on Sunday. Given these recent results, it's a pretty hard one to call. Tickets
Fulham v Burnley @3pm - probably the most notable thing about this fixture is that it will see Rebecca Welch become the first woman to referee a Premier League game. On current form, the Cottagers should beat relegation threatened Burnley but the Clarets are unbeaten in four against the London club so who knows? Tickets
Tottenham Hotspur v Everton @3pm - although down in 16th, the Toffees are in great form and are only near the relegation zone because of a points deduction. Spurs' form is far more variable and this could be a really entertaining game. The north London club are unbeaten in five against the Goodison Park club. Tickets are only available to members

QPR v Southampton @3pm - after three wins in a row, optimism was starting to grow at Loftus Road. However, after only drawing with the 10 men of Plymouth and losing to relegation rivals Sheffield Wednesday, the uncertainty has returned. Next up, the high-flying Saints pay a visit. Up in fourth, they should provide a very stern test for Marti Cifuentes' side. Tickets

League One
Charlton Athletic v Burton Albion @3pm - unbeaten in five league games, the Addicks are still 11 points adrift of the play-offs as they are drawing too many games. Burton have the worst form in the division and are sliding towards the relegation zone. Tickets

League Two
Sutton United v Mansfield Town @3pm - the U's took the tough decision to part company with boss Matt Gray who guided them into the EFL and took them to the EFL Trophy Final. With only three wins from 21 games, this season has been a disaster and they're seven points adrift of safety at the bottom. Gray's assistant Jason Goodliffe will take charge of this match but with the Stags in fourth, it looks like being another tough afternoon. Tickets

National League
Barnet v Boreham Wood @3pm - going on the basis of their last five games, the Bees are bottom of the National League form table and pretty much out of the title race which is being dominated by Chesterfield. Still third, promotion is a very realistic prospect via the play-offs but they need to keep hold of that top-seven place. On Saturday they play local rivals Boreham Wood in this derby. The Wood made the play-offs last season but are well of the pace this time round and are still in the battle to avoid relegation. Tickets
Bromley v Altrincham @530pm - while Barnet have been dropping points, the Ravens have taken full advantage and are now second. On Saturday they welcome fourth placed Alty for arguably the biggest game of the day in the fifth tier. Tickets

National League South
Hampton & Richmond Borough v Weston-super-Mare @3pm - two of the division's form teams meet for what could be a cracking game. The Beavers have shot up to third in recent weeks after going 12 games unbeaten. During that run they've beaten second placed Torquay and drew 0-0 at top club Yeovil in their last match. Although down in midtable, WSM have won four of their last five so could be tricky opponents. Tickets 

Southern League Premier South
Walton & Hersham v Gosport Borough @3pm - two of the top six in this division should provide you with the game of the day in the seventh tier. The Swans looked like title contenders in the early stages but after 19 games, they're now 11 points behind top club Salisbury. Still very much in the hunt for the play-offs, a win here will strengthen their case. Tickets

Isthmian League South Central
Corinthian Casuals v Ashford Town (Middlesex) @3pm - for some reason there are very few games on in the eighth tier. I've gone for this as it features two sides who are battling the drop. Neither are in the bottom two at the moment but CCs are only two points clear and Ashford are in the bottom five too. Tickets

CCL Premier South
Tooting & Mitcham United v Colliers Wood United @3pm - there aren't any table-topping clashes in the ninth tier so why not check out this south London derby at Imperial Fields. TMU were relegated to this level at the end of last season and they've taken time to adjust. Currently midtable they're doing much better than CWU who are bottom after winning only one of their 20 games

CCL Division 1
Langley v Amersham Town @3pm - groundsharing at Uxbridge, the Merry Makers are now on TLFG's patch. Sixth and well placed for a play-off push, they welcome leaders Amersham to Honeycroft on Saturday. A whopping 16 points clear at the top, the Buckinghamshire side look like champions already

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!

You can contact TLFG through the comments section below, via X/Twitter or even by good old email.

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


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