Brentford travel to Reading today, no doubt keen to keep pace with the play-off sides but, as much, demonstrate how far we’ve come since the Royals visited Griffin Park back in August. Four games into the season, and the first match on our relaid pitch, the Bees lost out 3-1. It was a ‘performance’ analysed after the game by then Head Coach Marinus Dijkhuizen saying, “Today the first half was, I think, awful from our side. The second half was not brilliant.”
That was then and, four months later, things have definitely changed for the Bees. Dean Smith, following on from Lee Carsley, has not only steadied the good ship Brentford but now has her making up for lost time and steaming towards the top 6.
If anything, roles have now been reversed. Reading have lost 6 of their last 8 games and even the return of Brian McDermott as manager was insufficient to stop them going down at Wolves, last time out. But, as ever, don’t take anything for granted. This could well be a tough one for the Bees given they’ll be up against a team sure to try and impress a large crowd in front of the new man.
Last time out we held Brighton 0-0 in a game that saw the Bees start slowly before stepping it up in the second half, only to then be denied by the heroics of David Stockdale when we were able to get a shot in. One would hope that starting this one like we finished on Boxing Day will be the way forward.
At the risk of jinxing it, I’m going into this one full of confidence. Brentford have everything in them to win it, IF we play as we can. And with the likes of Jota and Sam Saunders on the bench, Dean Smith has plenty of extra attacking options at his disposal.Then again, with Keith Stroud in charge who knows what might happen….
I’d suspect that Max Colin over Nico Yennaris will be the key decision for Dean Smith to make. I thought Nico had a great game against Brighton, having lost out to the returning Colin for the 4-2 humping of Huddersfield. There’s no doubting the class of the Frenchman but will Dean show loyalty to Nico, much as he did when Jack O’Connell kept his place over Harlee for the Cardiff City game?
It’s a tough call and the decision may be made for him, depending on the state of Max’s groin. But if both players are fit – which way will he go? My guess is that with a glut of games coming up, any injury risk will need to be minimised and so Nico will keep his place, regardless of how well he has done. Then again, I’m just the numpty on the terrace so what do I know?
Off-field, there was great news yesterday with the announcement that Sergi Canós has extended his loan from Liverpool until the end of the season. Nobody could doubt the excitement or ability of the young Spaniard who has nailed down a starting place in recent weeks as his fitness has cranked up.
Sergi really is a prodigious talent and securing his services for the rest of this campaign can only be a good thing for the club. Here’s to seeing him in action today although I fear I may have breached some form of contractual obligation by failing to use the term ‘starlet’, so beloved of our local press (prefacing with Liverpool is optional).
There was a further boost with the news that striker Marco Djuricin is back in training. We’ve had a horrendous run of injuries this season and whilst most are now cleared up, the news that we have a potential return to fitness of a centre forward is only great news. That Alan Judge is our top scorer so far this season is as much down to his own ability as the changes we’ve gone through ‘up top’.
Then again, Judge is a class apart divisionally aswell as at Brentford. Championship top scorer Andre Gray (I’m sure I’ve heard that name somewhere) at Burnley is only two ahead of Alan – on 12 to his 10. Either way, the imminent (one hopes) return of Djuricin along with the extension of Canos only bode well.
For now, though, it’s all about Reading. With 2,400 away tickets sold in advance and more available on the day, it promises to be a huge crowd and a great atmosphere.
See you there.