Brentford take on Bolton Wanderers tonight, knowing that a win should all but end any lingering thoughts about a shock relegation whilst, at the same time, dooming our opponents to League 1 (maths aside) should Fulham also emerge triumphant from their game . For one team, the chance to take on the likes of Aston Villa and Newcastle United – certainly on current form. For the other, trips to Northampton Town and Accrington Stanley could be on the cards.
Those are the stark realities between going down or staying up. At least, from a playing perspective. The off field and financial impact is sure to be infinitely greater but, from the supporters perspective, who and where the team is playing has to be well up there as the priority.
This has all been noted several times in recent weeks, of course. Yet to take survival for granted is a foolhardy action and moreso as a 14 point gap had halved over a period that had seen the Bees lose 11 out of 14 competitive fixtures in 2016. Then we beat Nottingham Forest at the weekend and everything seemed back to normal.
Whilst one would assume that the gap is too big now, I’ve supported Brentford far too long take to anything for certain. Season after season, until we are mathematically safe (or promoted – it does happen, sometimes) it becomes a case of gritting teeth and clenching buttocks. So, will we do it this time around?
The short answer is, yes. 9 points (effectively 10) is simply too big a gap. There are 7(seven) teams below us, many of whom need to play each other still. That’s almost a third of the teams in the league. Indeed, a win for the Bees tonight will take us to the same number of points as 12th placed Wolves .
And that’s not me assuming victory is a given. Bolton will no doubt provide very dangerous opposition. This really is ‘win or bust’ for them and so they may aswell just go for it. How often have we seen teams come out all guns blazing when their backs are to the wall ? How often have we seen an almost certain home victory fail to materialise?
Whilst I’d take nothing for granted in this most unusual of seasons, who didn’t honestly expect us to pick up all three points last campaign at home to Bolton and also Millwall? As the Bees entered the denouement of that one,chasing their Premier League promotion slot, both games ended 2-2 when form dictated that no result beyond ‘home win’ was possible.
Can we go one better tonight? With the Bees finally back to winning ways following the weekend win at the City Ground one would hope so. Morale should be high amongst both fans and players whilst the pressure should have eased off somewhat. At least, for Brentford.
Aside from over-confidence, the other point of caution is around injuries. The BBC report that Alan Judge and David Button, the main contenders for our ‘player of the season’, were both “nursing knocks after Saturday’s win at Nottingham Forest but should be fit”.
All being well this is nothing but a cautionary note and both players will be available. I don’t think there’s any team in this league (or higher) who wouldn’t want players of this quality.
The other big name to be missing will be Mark Burridge. Whatever my thoughts on the Bees Player team in his absence, nobody can deny that they over saw a win for Brentford. Rather than lucky shirt, magic pants, Dean Smith’s tactics or any other reasoning, could a return to form simply be down to our commentator par-excellence being off duty for a few games?
Should the Bees secure all three points this evening, there could be more than a fair few ‘cheeky’ posts flying around social media in Mark’s direction.
In all seriousness though, this isn’t going to be easy. Yet, at the same time, Brentford should surely have enough in them to lay any fleeting relegation concerns to rest.