Success for Gibraltar in FA Cup. Defeat for Brentford at home to Notts County.

7 Jan

Brentford 0 Notts County 1. A result that it sure to cause a few rumblings on the Richter scale of FA Cup shocks. None moreso than because it means Gibraltar, currently placed 205th in the FIFA World Rankings, have representation in the fourth round. Size and reputation counted for nothing with talismanic Gibraltarian International Liam Walker proving key to the Magpies’ cause. He came on at the death to ensure County broke Brentford hearts and condemn the Bees to defeat despite throwing the proverbial kitchen sink at the visitors. A shame it hadn’t happened 90 minutes earlier.

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There had been so much optimism before kick off

I’ve seen Liam in action twice this season and neither appearance has been a happy time for the Brentford. The first being the occasion of a World Cup qualifier at the end of August. Despite his best efforts – very much the star performer for Gibraltar in that one – Belgium finished it by taking their visitors beyond brackets and close to double figures with a 9-0 win in Liège.

It was the same day Maxime Colin and Jota joined Harlee Dean in the triple transfer to Birmingham City. Fortunately, things would eventually settle down for the Bees on that front and form would return, quite spectacularly. Not so much for the Blues. Equally spectacularly.

On Saturday, the boot was on the other foot. It was the away team, again inspired by Walker, who came away with a result that the bookmakers had failed to anticipate. It was the home team – picked by Dean Smith – with a performance that was dialed in against one of spirit, fight and a desire to win that the Bees had failed to anticipate. They’ll have been dancing in the streets of Gibraltar last night.

That, or Sax II.

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Yet it proves, yet again, what happens when you underestimate the opposition. See also: Walsall at home in the third round two seasons ago. As expected, changes were made but there was enough first team experience in the starting XI and on the bench to have done better. Much better. It was an opportunity for players to step up, seize the opportunity and shine. Sadly, the only ones to do that were Notts County.

All the talk in the media would be of Jon Stead’s goal. True, it was very special. Yet it should have been as much about Notts County putting in a complete and consistent team performance. From the moment of kick off to the Walker inspired denouement. The Magpies showed it in spades. The Bees looked second best.

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All over at full time – Walker the winner.

Dean Smith would use his post match interviews to declare, “It was probably not what we deserved”, adding “I thought we had the lion’s share of possession and bossed the game for large periods. I certainly didn’t think we deserved to lose.”

As has been said oh so many times, that’s just not how football works. I’ve got huge respect for Dean but he’s wrong on this one. Chances count for nothing. Neither do possession stats. Balls in the back of the net are the only thing that matters as a means of measuring progress to the fourth round on paper.

For the record, the game ended with possession of 53%- 47% in our favour. Less a Lion’s share and more a narrow margin. The goal charts ended 1-0 in Notts’ favour. Equally narrow but that’s all they needed.

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At least Buzz and Buzzette got their hands on the cup

I suppose we can concentrate on the league. And that IS a good thing from some respects. IF we are going to go for it. The gap to the bottom three surely already too huge whilst the play-offs are just six points away. A concerted surge towards the top and this will be nothing more than a statistic in the record books. At least, for our top brass.

Yet for the fans, the FA Cup is still huge. And the chance for a run in this oldest of tournaments is always something to get supporters salivating. Tin foil trophies had been made in the morning. Some long journies undertaken to get to Griffin Park.

We had the ability to win it but too often the Bees looked out of shape. Captain Josh McEachran unable to lift his team. With Lasse Vibe and Andreas Bjelland missing (in the the club shop), Ryan Woods missing (in the pub, but on the soft drinks) and Nico Yennaris just missing, we lacked our solid spine. Players had the chance to make a name for themselves. They didn’t take it.

On the flip side, Emiliano Marcondes, making his debut, showed those first flashes of the potential we have all read so much about. Indeed, but for that Walker inspired backs-to-the-wall performance in the final few moments, things could have been different when the Dane’s header came back off the post.

But with County looking solid as The Rock, not even the wonderful Alan Judge could make a difference. He looked sharp, fit and fast as he made a long overdue and thrilling return to the side. There was no challenge shirked and one moment of genius to free fellow substitute Ollie Watkins that had the crowd on their feet, anticipating a goal. Sadly, it wasn’t to be.

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Alan Judge in full flow – very much a sight for sore eyes

We’ve lost in the Cup before. We’ll do it again. The saddest thing about Saturday was that lessons of the past should have been learned. Yet when the club hadn’t even put FA patches on the first team shirts, perhaps our longevity in this tournament was pre-ordained.

At home, our own third round ritual of making the tinfoil trophy ended with it the replica cup being consigned to, then retrieved from, the dustbin. “Daddy. Do we have to throw it away? Can’t we keep it for next year?” asked HB. Not even I’m that mean and so it was duly salvaged. With optimism like that, it’s tough to be overly despondent this morning. It’s just a shame we’ll have to wait 365 days to feel it once again.

All that remains to be said is congratulations to Notts County, Liam Walker and Gibraltar. The FA Cup loves to throw up a story and with the Magpies in wonderful league form too, could this be the year they are the underdogs to make a run towards Wembley?  The year that Gibraltar, whose previous international ‘highlights’ include conceeding the faster ever International goal (Christian Benteke in 8.1 seconds in the opposite fixture with Belgium) and equalising against minnows Scotland in a Euro 2016 qualifier at Hampden Park, make that next step up on the World stage?

That’s my one consolation from this one. And I’m clinging to it.

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A solitary Gibraltarian flag held aloft at Griffin Park

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Another Brentford cup run consigned to the wastebin of Griffin Park history

Nick Bruzon

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10 Responses to “Success for Gibraltar in FA Cup. Defeat for Brentford at home to Notts County.”

  1. Mark Hardy January 7, 2018 at 9:36 am #

    Incisive as always Nick.
    But… ‘I suppose we can concentrate on the league….’? Would you REALLY want to see ANY current Bees team line up against the Man.Citys, Chelseas and Liverpools on most of their showings this year?
    Personally, I think we remain just an average Championship team right now…. No more.

    • nickbruzon January 7, 2018 at 9:49 am #

      I think pretty much anybody in the country would struggle against those three at present. But I get your point. Who knows what would happen should we do it (although, realistically, I think its a leap too far – if only because we’d need the play-offs to get there…. gulp!!)

  2. Bernard Quackenbush (@BernardQuack) January 7, 2018 at 11:14 am #

    I wasnt there yesterday, but the team Dean picked was exactly the same XI I would have picked. We needed to give 1 or 2 players a break and this was the perfect opportunity to let those who I am sure have been asking Dean constantly why they arent in the team, a run out to show him that he has been mistaken in team selection. The defence was pretty strong. The much lauded McEachran pulling the strings in midfield, with a very strong 4 in front of him and Maupay up front to make a claim for Lasse’s place.

    It was a strong team and a team that should have been more than capable against a side from 2 divisions lower. I do not believe that we disrespected the competition as that team was more than capable against the opposition.

    My observations from yesterday are based on reports from Twitter from very reliable and fairminded sources. I gathered the biggest disappointment was mceachran. I have never quite understood why Josh is so revered by a large number, particularly by some on ER. Although he occasionally delivers a killer pass (like most in the team), for me he gives the ball away way too much, far more than anyone else. I only see him as an impact sub as I dont feel you can play him and Woods in the same team. By all accounts Maupay was pretty awful too yesterday. He has struggled since joining us and has clearly suffered badly after that miss at Cardiff. Maybe with MacLeod, Judge & Emiliano all now in the reckoning, its time for Ollie to be played down the middle

  3. hobbo January 7, 2018 at 5:12 pm #

    Good luck to County but the better footballing team lost yesterday, story of the Bees season so far i’m afraid?

  4. Iain January 7, 2018 at 7:55 pm #

    Haven’t been commenting here before but do often have a read. Thanks for taking the time Nick and also thanks to those making regular comments, nice to read the various opinions. Will add some of my own here after yesterday’s disappointment!

    Yesterday was a kind of clumsy performance, our play was not at all fluid, with many mistakes. We played the better football, their keeper made a couple of fine saves and luck didn’t do us any favours – but Notts County are a decent team and we can’t complain.

    Following the recent FA Cup fashion we made many changes, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised if the quality of our play was lower. Never really sure what a coach expects to learn with so many changes at once, would seem to be a better opportunity to see how 2 or 3 different players would fit into the system?

    The priority for the season is of course to avoid relegation and provided we don’t have an absolute disaster in the second half of the season we should avoid that (early 1993 often comes to mind though). So I’m with those disappointed with the loss of status for the FA Cup and the shrug of acceptance about losing at home to Division 2 opposition. We should’ve showed Notts County and the Cup more respect.

    Regarding the players and Josh McEachran first. On this occasion I differ on the assessment, as I thought he had a decent game, with our best passing – but he also probably did more tackling than in any game I’ve seen. Hardly Ryan Woods level tackling but he was improved.

    Our defence particularly looked like four individuals who have never played together before, which wasn’t really the case except Ilias Chatzitheodoridis.

    Sorry to say when I know he’s so popular but Josh Clarke did not play well at all, losing possession and very poor passing on numerous occasions. I was surprised he was kept on actually.

    Barbet has certainly shown better passing ability. Look at the opportunity gifted Notts County for their goal – although it did take a great strike to finish it.

    Another good performance from Mepham, he stood out for me and we really have a wonderful talent on our hands. Future Premier League quality!

    MacLeod looks like he can be a great player, even if he didn’t stand out yesterday Abbas went off. I hope he gets more game time and avoids injury, then I believe we’ll see much better quality.

    Certainly would not criticise Marcondes, a decent enough debut and on another day he’d definitely have got a goal, was a bit unfortunate with the header. Hope he gets some game time and as separately commented, maybe try up front?

    Maupay is a real concern. Works hard, plenty of running but once again offers no real threat. Unfortunately another great opportunity not taken when the ball came across the box.

    Wonderful to see Alan Judge return and he looked good when he came on. If he gets back to his previous form then it’ll be interesting who’ll make way for him.

    Finally, we’re at that time of the year again and very soon the rumours will heat up. I’m most worried right now about keeping Woods, Vibe, Yennaris & Sawyers. Missed them all yesterday, hope it’s just for the one game and they’re all still here come February!

  5. David Carney. January 7, 2018 at 9:49 pm #

    So many words, most of which totally miss the point.
    The FA Cup is the one football competition in the World where results consistently defy logic and form. At the weekend there were about one third of all FA Cup results that based upon form, logic, and any analytical criteria should have been different. This is probably a reasonably similar statistic to the many years of history of the FA Cup – so why are so many people surprised and why then embark upon a round of random criticism of various personalities in many of the above comments.
    Brentford lost a game that is an irritation to all concerned- owner, management, players and supporters, but it changes nothing in the overall scheme of things for the 2017/18 season. Reputations have not been destroyed, people have not been fired, sponsors have not fled and supporters are still supporters.
    Better a loss to Notts County this week and a win over Bolton next week – after all Championship results are the all that really matters in the long term.

    • nickbruzon January 8, 2018 at 7:30 am #

      In your opinion, David. Many of us love the FA Cup and giving a good account of ourselves in the tournament would have been a huge fillip for fans

      • David Carney. January 8, 2018 at 10:55 pm #

        I also love the FA Cup, but it is a sideshow. Also, the attendance numbers for the match certainly demonstrate that many regulars were not there, presumably because they were not very interested. Get to round 5 and beyond and everyone is interested because by then a dream may become a reality.

  6. aussiebee53 January 8, 2018 at 5:42 am #

    Nick, Glad you kept the tinfoil trophy, it could be needed at the end of the season. I recall the last time we picked up silverware when we piped Brum to the old league two title Peterborough got one about twice as big two weeks later by winning the play-off final.

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