What an afternoon. What a game. How Brentford emerged from that with nothing is one we’re still chewing over hours after the referee blew the final whistle. How Newcastle United got away with all three points remains a mystery after a backs to the wall second half which saw the Bees do everything but add to Lasse Vibe’s equaliser. They won’t care though – and why should they? Balls in the back of the net and points in the bag are all that counts. And with Dean Smith choosing to keep Scott Hogan on the bench (Hello? Operator? Can I have the number for West Ham please?) there were more talking points than just the on pitch action.
First things first, well played Newcastle United. The defended like champions whilst Dwight Gayle’s first half opener was absolutely top class. We’ve bigged him up on these pages all season but here was yet another demonstration of why.
Cutting in from the left touchline he had no right whatsoever to shoot from that angle, let alone beat a keeper of Daniel Bentley’s quality from there. But what a finish – power and precision. It hurts to lose, really hurts, yet at the same time one can only extend the hand of sportsmanship to admire that finish (one to check on the video highlights).
Yet with the danger man going off injured after less than half an hour, Brentford woke up. The brand of cagey-sideways-backwards football made way for a more pressing form. A trend continued in the second half where, despite kicking ‘the wrong way’ (sneaky, sneaky from Newcastle at the toss) we came out like the proverbial express train.
Vibe’s equaliser after a goalmouth melee more than justified as the Bees continued to apply pressure on what was, being honest, a very solid side but one ultimately made to look quite average relative to the Bees. Certainly, on the day. Griffin Park erupted as he stabbed it home and then the atmosphere built as the Bees went again.
Ooohh. Vibe off the inside of the post almost gave us the lead – the ball somehow staying out with the home fans already cheering – before Daryl Murphy rose between two defenders to nod home a cross in a rare Newcastle break upfield. With stonewall penalties being denied (again) it looked all up for the Bees.
Yet in an incredible 9 (nine) minutes of added time for injuries and stoppages mercurial midfielder Jota almost gave the consummate demonstration of his party piece. Weaving around the box and shrugging off defenders, he eventually found enough space to unleash a thunderbolt . Kudos to Newcastle custodian Karl Darlow, flinging himself to his right to deny the talismanic Spaniard with a quite magnificent save.
Jota in the last minute? Sadly not this time. There would have been scenes had he done it. And that’s just on the gantry where Mark Burridge would likely have self-combusted.
And there, it finished. Heads held high for Brentford yet Newcastle took all there points back to the North-East. With Brighton losing at Preston ( no surprise to regular readers given who had previewed them on Football Focus this morning…), the Magpies end the day at the top of the Championship table.
That’s the good stuff. The weird stuff surrounds Scott Hogan. After that buttock ‘injury’ that caused him to miss the FA Cup, he was declared fully fit by Dean Smith on Thursday. Indeed, our head coach had gone one better by telling us he was available and adding “I fully expect him to want to score a hat-trick against Newcastle United and show people who may question his Premier League credentials that he can do it.”
So how do we then get to a situation where he ends the day as an unused substitute?
I’ve no issue with him not coming onto the pitch today. Absolutely I’d have loved to see him involved – especially in a game where we were pushing for a winner. Yet given the sums of money being talked up and a potential transfer still hanging in the air, the risk of getting hurt was too great. Something demonstrated by the visitors who lost three players (include substitute Vernon Anita) to injury.
But if that was the worry, as intimated in the post match interviews, then why name him on the bench at all? Either start him or give the place to somebody who might have had chance of making it onto the pitch.
We’re not stupid. We know he’s going at some point. That’s football. Maybe I’m being too simplistic but the second he was named as as substitute (and that’s with the utmost respect to Lasse Vibe who had a GREAT game) there was no chance we’d see him in action.
Why limit your options? Why not call one of the B-team back from Germany if the decision had been made on Friday ? That, something you can hear about in Billy Reeves’ post match interview.
As for those penalties, or lack of, well Dean was on the mark here when talking to the BBC man as he told Billy, “Normal service was resumed in non-penalties for Brentford football club….. You have one careful what you say but a big club against a smaller club – there were three defies”. And you can listen to that one, here.
Well played Brentford. Yet again, an example of close but no cigar. Had we gone for it from the off then who knows? Had the ref done us a favour for once then who knows? Had Jota pulled that last minute moment of magic out of the bag then who knows?
Yet this time, defeat feels like a victory. Ok, we’ve got no points but I’m so proud of how our boys played for huge swathes of this one. Beautiful passing football and wonderful periods of domination.
So often we’ve said that balls in the back of the net are the only stat that counts. That remains true yet, at the same time, this really feels different today.
Positive vibes? He was brilliant today.
Bad luck, Brentford. Now let’s go and stuff Wigan next weekend.