As Blades go top, will Brentford enjoy more success at Preston?

28 Oct

There’s been a lot going on this week and that’s before a ball has even been kicked : all fine at Loftus road whilst Harlee seems to have forgotten his history and manners in Birmingham. But relax. The latest round of Championship action can now take place, having kicked off last night with Sheffield United winning at Leeds to go to the top of the table. It was a largely one way performance and a deserved win for the Blades. Yet whilst we’ll look a bit further at that shortly, our main focus has to be, as ever, on Brentford and our trip to Preston North End.

It would be fair to say that, after a somewhat rocky start Dean Smith’s Bees are beginning to find their feet. The squad has settled down after a frenetic summer of activity which culminated in that last minute triple cash in to Harry Redknapp (a man currently residing in the ‘where are they now?’ files). Yet with the uncertainty done, spleens vented and players returning from injury things are starting to get back to normal.

Brentford are six unbeaten and have even started to have some of that ‘luck’ whose absence had been frustrating our Head Coach. We’ve 10 points out of the last 18 and will be looking to take the current run of form to 7(seven) games when we play Preston on Saturday afternoon.

There’s more good news for Dean Smith. Specifically, no new injuries. Might he be able to name an unchanged starting XI (following last Saturday’s 3-3 with Sunderland) for the first time this season? Or will Sergi Canos be pushed back into the first team after his substitute’s appearance against the Black Cats?

IMG_1325

A sight for sore eyes last weekend

Having played and scored in the B-team’s 3-1 win over Inter Milan during the week (and count the things right in that sentence) might a first team start be a step too far at present? Moreso with games to come against Birmingham City on Wednesday and then Leeds United next Saturday. We’re all desperate to see Sergi back in action but having already been spannered by injury the last time, up at Aston Villa, caution will surely be the order of the day as he rebuild s match fitness.

With Lewis Macleod also getting B-team minutes under his belt after that long, long recuperation there’s more good news on the horizon for Dean. I’d imagine that Preston will be a trip too far for Lewis, at least now, but the midfield options available in a few weeks time could cause some real selection posers.

Still, all that is then. This is now. Let’s focus on the present. With many Brentford fans already licking their lips at the prospect of our midweek trip to Birmingham following Harlee’s comments on Thursday, keeping our focus today will be imperative. Preston are no slouches and know that a win will take them into the play off zone, potentially as high as fourth place following that defeat for Leeds United last night. This, after finishing just below our own top ten Bees in a more than impressive 11th place last season.

Whilst we’ve had plenty of joy against Preston in recent seasons (including that penalty – for Alan Judge, in League One) past performance is not indicative of current form. “It will be a tough ask for us” said Dean in Thursday’s press conference and he’s not wrong. But he has the options at his disposal to answer that ask. As long as he locks it up at the back.

Some people are on the pitch - Juge's penalty v Preston saw a wonderful denouement

Happier times at the denouement of out promotion campaign

Yoann Barbet and Chris Mepham can both count themselves very unlucky to have lost out in recent weeks. With three first half goals shipped against Sunderland last Saturday, could this be today’s ‘change’? Or has Dean nailed his selection colours to the mast and this is it? At 3pm, we find out.

We couldn’t end today’s column without a brief nod to the Sheffield United connection . Not so much Jack O’Connell and the magnificent Clayton Donaldson (who I STILL miss) or Keith Stroud (who I don’t) but more their form. Like Brentford three seasons ago, The Blades have come up from League One and taken the division by storm. But whereas we missed our chance to go top in the Boxing Day game with Ipswich Town (move along, nothing to see there) there was no fluffing of the lines for United last night.

Their performance against Leeds was fully deserving of their position and whilst things may have shifted around come 5pm, nobody can deny who is currently top of the table. Yet for me (Clive) the telling stat is in that L column. United have lost four games. Brentford have lost 4 games. The difference being the ability to turn draws into victory. The Blades have proved to have the cutting edge in the box, winning their other 10. If we can get that bit right then who know how high we can go?

The draw at Middlesbrough last time we travelled showed just what this side can do. Here’s to more of that spirit this afternoon. Moreso, given Deepdale has been a relatively happy hunting ground for us in recent seasons whilst, for personal reasons, Preston are always a club I’ve followed with particular interest.

Preston letter

Keith never did write back. Or did he…?

To date, my first and only foray into the world of professional football club management. It was an application that would eventually prove fruitless. I never heard back with an interview date and can only assume that, in those pre-internet days the follow up letter got lost somewhere in the Royal Mail. Had the postal service done their job properly, who knows how things might have turned out had  a then struggling North End taken that gamble?

Not well, being my guess.

Nick Bruzon

 

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