The morning after the night before. No, it wasn’t a dream. Brentford really did beat Leeds United 2-0 and, whilst producing another performance of two halves, this time it was different. Wonderfully different.
Ordinarily the Last Word gets written having slept on things. Last night saw immediate thoughts penned upon the return home and prior to bed, such was the excitement at the way Brentford had outplayed the opposition. Whilst I stand by that post-match column, indeed if anything our attacking prowess in the first half was probably understated, we do also need to look more at the other end of the pitch.
Scoring goals is what ultimately wins football matches. That we only (and that word is used in the loosest sense) managed it twice is as much down to the performance of Rob Green between the sticks for Leeds. The likes of Sergi, Lasse and Romaine were magnificent as they pulled the strings and took the game to the visitors. From the off. It was as pleasing a first half of football as one could hope to see and the only disappointment, if we can be overly critical, was Brentford being contained to a ‘mere’ two goal lead.
Yet equally, we need to note the way Brentford played in the second half. As mentioned, it was a performance of two halves but that is meant in a positive way. If the first was non-stop attack, having taken that lead the second was as much about nullifying the opposition, trying to pick them off on the break and maintaining our advantage.
And for this, we need to pay due credit to our defence. All of them. The post match article noted the magnificence of Harlee Dean and the prowess of Dan Bentley when called upon. However, such was the excitement surrounding the win, the goals and the first half its almost as if these were taken for granted.
The pair of them have already been cited on these pages as being contenders for player of the season. Last night was further evidence as to why. Praise for Harlee on social media was unanimous whilst the Beesplayer team, including a return to Griffin Park for Sam Saunders, named him as their man of the match. Personally, I stand by my vote for Romaine in this one but it was a very tight call.
On that note, it was interesting to read Harlee’s own comments on his team mate, which you can find in full on Brentford ‘official’. Amongst other praise heaped at the midfielder’s feet he noted that, “He’s one of the most intelligent players I’ve played football with…I know his demeanour may look a little bit laid back, but he’s never out of position, never lazy. People have the wrong perception of him and he’s slowly changing it. He’s one of the best players in the team.”
As for Dan Bentley, do we just accept his brilliance as the norm these days? He rarely, if ever, puts a foot wrong and last night was yet another example. It already feels as if he’s been here for ever whilst I recall at least three solid, solid saves that helped ensure there were no heart in mouth moments as we reached the closing stages.
Remember the worry many of us felt when it appeared clear over the summer that David Button was on his way? Nobody could deny how his own game had progressed at Griffin Park yet to see his own performance last night as Fulham went down 4-2 at Derby was a perfect demonstration of the gap between who we had and who we have. Whilst, ordinarily, I wouldn’t direct anybody towards Fulham, in this instance their own highlights reel is worth a watch.
Josh Clarke made the absence of Maxime Colin look like an irrelevance. Don’t under estimate the Frenchman’s talent or the just how ably Josh filled in for him. Rico Henry again showed how the stats computer identified him as a transfer target ( I do wonder if ‘former Dean Smith player’ is one of the variables currently programmed into it) whilst Yoann Barbet gave a further demonstration of the centre back talent at Dean’s disposal. With two full internationals in Andreas Bjelland (Denmark) and John Egan (Republic of Ireland) waiting to recover from injury to try and reclaim their places, I don’t envy anyone having to keep those four happy.
It’s no wonder Dean persisted with the ultimately doomed three centre back experiment for so long and the summer transfer window could be an interesting one. Given our propensity to sell when the price is right, are two out of four really going to be happy spending so much time on the bench? Hey, its a lovely problem to have.
In all of this, we’ve not mentioned Nico or Ryan, both of whom limped off early with injury. Here’s hoping this was nothing more than precautionary with a third game in eight days upon us at the weekend. Whilst the eyes are naturally drawn to the excitement of a Sergi or Jota , lets not forget what a solid yet often understated job this pair do in the middle of the park.
So often this season Ryan Woods has had to cover the space of two or three men as the midfield struggled to fully flow whilst who could forget the stick Nico came in for from many of our keyboard warriors at the start of his Griffin Park career? That seems a long, long time ago now and is testament to his self-belief, perseverance and talent.
So yes, it was an incredible first half. It was one of those that will go down in memory. Yet, as importantly, perhaps the relaxed looking, comfortable and totally in control second period is the one we should really be purring about now that the dust has settled on that result.
I have no doubt it was anything but relaxed for the players , who gave their all. But at no point did it feel as though Leeds were in with a chance of taking anything out of this.
Whichever part of this performance you celebrate. Whichever player was your vote for man of the match. Whichever way you look at it. This was as complete a team performance over ninety minutes as one could hope for.
Very well played, team. Spot on from Dean.
Smith, that is.
On a day that started with the B-team scoring 7(seven) goals, it ended with the first team in seventh heaven.
Roll on the weekend.