Just when it couldn’t get any more exciting……

22 Apr

What an afternoon. If Fulham last week was huge then this one was monumental. Magnificent Brentford beating QPR 2-1 in a terrific derby day victory gained against the toughest of opponents – referee Mr. Madley and his assistants. Yet let the inconsistency and poor decision making of the officials take nothing away from a Bees team who were simply immense. With a raucous Griffin Park crowd urging them on, Dean Smith’s team have now moved to within ONE point of the play offs as those around us all fell to draw or defeat. One. point. Even, say it quietly, Birmingham City did us a favour of sorts in beating Sheffield United 2-1. With Sunderland now formally relegated and the Blues getting a bit of clear air (for now) our trip to bottom three Barnsley on Saturday gains even more significance than it already had.

Sunday morning. Where to start? Having slept on it, I’m still thrilled by Dean’s team selection but also the way they played. There was only one team in this over the first half as the rampant Bees poured forward in wave after wave. Sergio Canos and, particularly, Romaine Sawyers were magnificent. Flo Jo displaying a turn of speed that left his opponent for dead on more than one occasion. The move that freed an electric Ollie Watkins for the penalty (more to come) was as spell binding a display of one-touch pass and move football as we could ever hope to see. Absolutely delicious.

To do that on the training ground would be one thing. But at full tilt, in a blood and thunder local derby, something completely different. It looked incredible live. To see that exchange of passes once more on video shows just how dazzling it was.

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Sergi and Romaine – a rare moment of ‘slow it down’

I’m so pleased for Romaine, in particular. He came in for obscene levels of criticism at the start of his Griffin Park career but what a way to win the haters around. What a way to keep your mental focus and prove the doubters wrong. To demonstrate just what you can do with a football. Do check out the Sky highlights package (up now on their site), until the full fat Mark Burridge version can be added after mid-day to see our man in action. I’ve still got a stupid smile on my face now just thinking about it. Hmm, perhaps better go and watch that just once more.

The first goal was only ever going to come to Brentford. QPR were left standing in the blocks as The Bees went for this one from the off. Wave after wave of attacks were somehow repelled until Sergi Canos fired home from close in on the quarter hour mark. The visitor’s inability to deal with a corner kick proving their downfall. The story of the afternoon, really, as they were second to everything for such long swathes of the game. Clearances missed, passes made directly into touch and seemingly simple balls miscontrolled. At one point Luke Freeman was left with his head in his hands by the Braemar Road touchlines after spectacularly failing to trap a high ball forward and gifting a throw on to Brentford.

One goal up and the Bees continued pushing. As half time approached we had the aforementioned moment of magnificence from Romaine. With Ollie Watkins clean through and a goal all but assured, goalkeeper Matt Ingram came charging off his line and ploughed through our man. Penalty !! But no red card. Instead, after a protracted period of medical emergency that ended with all players deemed fit enough to continue, referee Andrew Madley showed yellow. Ingram was allowed to stay on and promptly saved the spot kick. To compound the felony , the visitors went down the other end and with their first meaning fun attack, equalised. You couldn’t make it up. QPR’s Sylla leaving a black mark on our copy book.

So. The penalty. Should it have been a red? Absolutely in my eyes. There was no attempt to play the ball but a cynical assault on a player bearing down on goal with the net in his sights. The crowd were incensed and understandably so. Perhaps the injury period allowed time for the ref to draw the sting from the event. A sympathy yellow for a player who was clearly unable to carry on and, like Ollie Watkins, was subbed before the second period had begun.

Now it is true that the rules surrounding such an incident have been relaxed. Previously, had a penalty been awarded in such a circumstance then a red card would have been awarded by default. Likewise, followed by suspension. However, this ‘triple’ punishment was first reclassified back in 2016 following an 18 month review and, instead, the rules tweaked to say that only deliberate fouls warrant a red. The yellow would be shown if the referee deemed that it had been accident.

I’m sorry but this was no accident. There was no chance whatsoever of stopping that ball, such was the way the QPR defence had been split open like an overly ripe watermelon by Romaine’s tracer bullet of a pass. Watkins was home clear and running at full tilt. Ingram committed to come off his line and through the player. Even Ian Holloway would admit after the match that, “The penalty save was huge. Should he have been sent off? I think he should but he then stood up, probably concussed, and made a wonderful save”

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An accident? Hmmmm. Sky TV cameras capture the moment

Madley got this one wrong. Very wrong. But then that was the story of his afternoon. Those yellow cards he did show handed out at random. There was no consistency. No boundaries set and, most importantly, no protection of the players. The Bees in particular on the receiving end of several studs up and scything challenges that themselves could have been candidates for ‘straight red’. Alex Baptiste, I’m looking at you.

1-1 at half time and if ever there was a candidate for Dean’s oft repeated lines that ‘We deserved to win’ then here it was. Brentford had been rampant yet somehow scores were level. The second half began at a much more sedate pace (relatively) with players readjusting and substitutions having been made. The pattern of the game being broken up by an even more robust approach form the hoops. Eventually, class told. Florian Jozefzoon proving the telling factor as he made room in the box and fired home.

From there the lead was never going to be a surrendered. Whilst Rangers did try to turn up the pressure, I only recall one save of note from Daniel Bentley in the second half. The defence were otherwise rock solid, dealing with high balls and corners as though they were stealing candy from a baby. It felt tense at times. In reality, the players were the epitome of confidence.

A word also for the crowd. What an atmosphere. What passion. What noise. For all Griffin Park is small and old, having everybody so close to the pitch DOES make a huge difference. Moreso in a game such as this against our staunchest of rivals. With all the history, a visit from QPR is always the one we look for when the fixtures are announced. When the game comes around, it is always the one where the noise is the most voluminous (is that even a word?). Loud. The QPR players knew they were in a game. Jake Bidwell, especially. He looked a beaten man in the second half. A resigned shrug to the Braemar Road crowd before his eventual substitution.

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Home supporters jump up to express consternation to Mr Madley and Alex Baptiste – again.

What next? We’re eighth. One point off sixth placed Derby County with two games to go. The trip to Barnsley and then the visit from Hull City. Derby do have that game in hand but its a visit from a Cardiff City team locked in a desperate battle for the second ‘automatic’ place behind Fulham. Should the Bluebirds do us a huge favour on Tuesday night – something that will have the double whammy bonus of railroading The Cottagers – then Saturday becomes even bigger. If that were possible.

Even Middlesbrough in fifth can still be caught, such is the proximity of the teams from positions 5-9. This has all the hallmarks of 2014/15. We were reliant on favours, and our own results, then. We’re in the same position now. The difference being that under Mark Warburton we’d spent large chunks of the season in the play-off zone. WE slipped out after bit of a late wobble results wise before recomposing oursleves nad having results go our way on the final day. Thanks, Derby! To fall short then, having been in control, could have been all kinds of demoralising.

This time around, it is a perfectly timed run. A play-off push that, and please correct me if I’m wrong, has so far not seen us in the top six at any point this campaign. What a way it would be to finish the season – hitting the top six for the first time on game 46. Or, preferably, game 45 on Saturday. At Barnsley. Themselves up to their necks in a relegation scrap.

As a side note to that, there would be no irony lost on anyone if it turned out to be those Brentford players that Birmingham City didn’t sign who helped keep them safe, rather than the ones they did. No doubt Harlee Dean will be cheering on his old team mates although, perhaps, just wishing they were ten times better.

Let it never be said football doesn’t keep us intrigued.

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Even Harry was kept on the edge of his seat until the end of this one.

Nick Bruzon

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7 Responses to “Just when it couldn’t get any more exciting……”

  1. oldbeesfan April 22, 2018 at 8:00 am #

    That was a great read Nick , thank you .
    I just want to add my two-penneth and say that for those of a certain age (remember 1967) a win against QPR is the sweetest win of the season . To take the Bees within touching distance of the playoffs makes it even sweeter , now for the final push.
    Up the Bees

    • Peterwot April 22, 2018 at 8:17 am #

      Enjoyed the report. Great win despite more odd decisions from the ref. The last time I saw the ground packed was in 1952 when we played Sheffield Wednesday on Good Friday with 35,000 squeezed somehow into GP!

  2. Rob April 22, 2018 at 8:17 am #

    Exciting stuff! Atmosphere was electric yesterday, bees were brilliant in the 1st half until that penalty (totally agree with you, as nailed on a red as you’re likely to see as he dived at Watkins feet after Ollie had poked it past him) then the angst and disappointment took over and thought to myself ‘here we go again. Fortunately this half of the season we are a different animal and carried on to get what only can be described as just desserts.
    Ref started the game well up to and including woods elbow on their midfielder. After that he started to bottle decisions and I was incensed by the decision not to send the keeper off. The Ref had been standing there with a yellow in his hand for ages and I think that’s why Canos came over to the BRS irate.
    Secondly, I thought Romaine looked a little tired today, not getting around as well as he has done in the last few games. That said he still produces moments of quality on the ball and we are stronger with him on the pitch. Yet still there were people in the crowd with a much more negative perception on him. I can’t believe it. Yes he started his Bees career a little slower than the other three but he’s now an important player for us. People must have a blinkered view of things. It’s ok to criticise, constructively, but you have to be fair and your opinions have to be relevant to the now, not to what was formulated in the past.

    Great result, great day….here’s to another 450 mins of football 😉

  3. simonsapper April 22, 2018 at 9:46 am #

    Nick, that’s got to be one of your best: thank you. Just before he was subbed, one wag in the Paddock shouted “Shoulda stayed Jake.” The wry smile on his face was priceless!

  4. Pandiani April 22, 2018 at 9:53 am #

    Nice article Nick.

    Now I know we Brummies aren’t top of your Christmas card list but if Trump & Kim can become best buddies, surely you can let bygones be bygones & return the favour by beating Barnsley?

    We’ll all then go into full Bees mode for when you beat Villa in the play-offs.

    Deal?!!

    • nickbruzon April 22, 2018 at 9:57 am #

      Many thanks. And given how this crazy season has gone, we’ll be going full tilt for three points. Anything else that spins off from that, should we get the win, I’ll be absolving myself from…. 😉

  5. aussiebee53 April 23, 2018 at 2:25 am #

    Heady times indeed Nick. & in words once favoured by Martin Allan ‘ onwards & upwards’
    Whilst I agree with the general concences that Ingram should have seen red, something needed to be done about the old rule and the actual infringement needs to be treated on its merits regardless of a penalty being awarded.
    I recall a few seasons back when Tony Craig misjudged the bounce of the ball turned around and went straight into the back of x bee Clayten Donaldson of Birmingham who had slipped in behind him . Penalty yes but a straight red for something that would not have warranted a yellow at the half-way line was to me a clear indication that the rule needed amending and if the price to pay is that a referee may from time to time be overly generous in his assessment of wether a player was making a genuine effort to win the ball, I for one am happy to pay it.
    coyb

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