As home debuts go, this was about as good as it gets. Dean Smith, the new Brentford Head Coach, couldn’t have written a better script had he tried – such was the performance delivered in a 2-0 victory over MK Dons. Bees fans left Griffin Park asking,”Pep who?” as the attacking line up delivered everything it promised.
Indeed the other more pertinent question being asked was. “How the hell was it only 2”? With Brentford having taken a first half lead via the head of Lasse Vibe and the inch perfect cross delivery of Jake Bidwell, the floodgates looked set to open. Alan Judge was next up, drawing a wonderful save from David Martin in the MK Dons when, clean through, he was odds on to score. No matter. The goal would come. Surely?
The same player (whose work in the build up for the opener also needs due credit) hit the post with a stunning free kick that saw Kerschbaumer’s subsequent follow up cleared off the line. But if that was close, Sergi Canos was next up to have a crack.
The Spaniard worked a wonderful chance but thundered his effort of the woodwork with Martin floundering and the goal begging. If the aforementioned Judge, ‘one on one’ put one in mind of the great Clayton Donaldson, this one had the name of Marcello Trotta on everybody’s lips. The Ealing Road crossbar resounded with a thump not heard since ‘that penalty’.
An opening period that also saw Vibe having had a goal denied thanks to the offside flag, left the fans ecstatic but, equally, wondering how MK were (technically) still in it. Moreso, when Vibe hit the bar for a third time as the second half got underway. It was a wonderful strike that deserved better and had supporters fearing it might be one of those days.
For those of us a bit longer in the tooth, it had all the hallmarks of an ‘old school’ Brentford game. Domination, chance after chance, stonewall penalties turned down, woodwork rattled and then Milton Keynes grabbing a scrappy, late equaliser.
Instead, justice was done. Alan Judge, who had done everything but score, finally found the back of the net on seventy minutes. His effort from the edge of the box eluding everybody to roll in past Martin and finally give us the breathing space we’d been gasping for
And that really was it. Pressure off, Brentford played out the final twenty minutes of which the highlight was, absolutely, the return of Jota for a ten-minute cameo at the end.
His presence on the bench, along with Sam Saunders, Andy Gogia and Philipp Hofmann certainly signaled an attacking intent from Dean Smith. Equally pleasing was the presence of Josh McEachran amongst the substitutes, following a late withdrawal for Alan McCormack. Whilst the former Chelsea player didn’t get a run out, this time, Dean Smith’s arrival has been perfectly timed to coincide with the squad returning to peak fitness.
As for the Head Coach? Well, you can’t deny the impact he had. An attacking bench and a team who ‘went for it’ from the off. Even that most awkward of tactics, ‘kicking the wrong way in the first half’ failed to put us off our stride. He was rightly pleased at full time, telling the BBC, “Today’s performance was excellent” although also gave full credit to Lee Carsley for putting the squad in this position.
Even more incredibly, we scored from a short corner. Yes – you read that correctly. A short. Corner.
Judge’s goal coming from a move that began with one of these much-maligned set pieces. As the regular reader knows, “Don’t take it short. They never f**king work”, if the terrace mantra is to be believed. Frankly, there’d be more chance of Chelsea losing at home to Bournemouth than one of these ever succeeding.
Well, we did and we scored. Thanks also to the influence of Sam Saunders – king of the set piece. If this is the Dean Smith effect, the next game can’t come soon enough. Moreso, with the Bees now just one point off sixth placed Cardiff City. Fulham away on Saturday already promised to be as exciting as last season’s game. You can crank that up to 11, now.
And finally, I saw a post on Twitter last night from Matthew Benham after the match. Who knows how football works behind the scenes but this one was a revelation that has come out of leftfield.
I was always a huge fan of Andy as a player and was gutted when Ron Noades let him go to Oxford. Whilst his managerial career could perhaps be described as ‘mixed’ (although I’ll never forget that night against Everton), who knew he had such Griffin Park connection and influence?
Nice work Matthew. Great work Andy.
But most of all, excellent start Dean.