There are games of two halves and then there was that. Bees baked in Wales.

18 Feb

A day that started with such promise. An afternoon that saw us forty-five minutes away from an FA Cup quarter final. An evening that ended with a press of the self-destruct button the likes of which Brentford haven’t seen since, well, the trip to Hull or more pertinently, the opening twenty minutes of the home game with (erm) Swansea City. And it was the Swans who once more provided the catalyst to our undoing as Ollie Watkin’s magnificent opener was rendered meaningless by three second half goals and a red card for Ezri Konsa in little over a quarter hour phase. It ended 4-1 to Swansea. It could have been five but for a very delayed call from the linesman. What can you say? Beyond me having to console five year old HB after his own pre-match prediction of 3-4 was thrown back into his face in as dramatic a style as one could ever see.

It’s a fair bet we’ve all caught the game by now. The free to air broadcast on BBC Wales meaning that anybody who wasn’t able to travel on the resultant free coaches would have had ample opportunity to watch it live. It was the consummate example of that old cliche about football being a game of two halves. With the opening salvo from Swansea snuffed out at little more cost than a yellow card for Yoann Barbet, the Bees got going. In style.

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Swansea had come forward early but made little progress

With the exception of Luke Daniels retaining his FA Cup place, Thomas Frank named the same team that tore Aston Villa apart for fun on Wednesday evening. It was a decision that was proven correct as we went for it. Swansea City barely had a look in as slick passing and wonderful interplay from the attacking quartet of Said, Sergi, Neal and Ollie suggested a goal was inevitable. When it came, on the half hour, it was beautiful. Benrahma breaking forward at pace, feeding the ball forward to Maupay on his right. The Frenchman then provided the same to the overlapping Watkins who burst into the box and fired it across the face of goal high into the far side of the net.

Yesssss !!! 1-0. We’re on our way. The fans erupted. Tinfoil trophies (of which there were plenty in evidence) thrust high into the sky. Strangers hugging strangers and the dream was on. Swansea looked dead on their feet. Impotent. A flaccid reminder of the team who had obliterated us in that opening twenty minute spell at Griffin Park back in December when they’d raced into a three goal lead without reply. Half time came with optimism high, the fans in wonderful voice and a chorus of boos rising around The Liberty stadium from the home contingent. Surely this was it? Surely….?

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Yesss!!! 1-0. Ollie Watkins you beauty.

What happened at half-time will, forever, remain as unfathomable a mystery as Stonhenge, the Pyramids and Ian Moose’s narcissism. Brentford gave the appearance of a team who had forgotten how to play football. Graham Potter in the home dressing room, presumably, delivering the mother of all team talks. Either way, it was a different Swansea City who emerged.

They were level within five minutes from a free-kick awarded in the most dangerous part of Saunders territory. Daniels unable to reach the ball as it fizzed past him, hit the post but rather than bounce clear hit the back of his head as he was still diving and pinged back into the goal for 1-1. It was a hammer blow. It should have been a warning that we were now very much in a game. Alas, it got worse.

An immediate goalmouth scramble aside, there was little further response from, or respite for, Brentford. Daniel James gave the home side a 2-1 lead shortly after with a quite remarkable effort. Picking up the ball just outside our box, he ran full length and full tilt up field. The acceleration was incredible, even running wide at one point with three players left trailing in his wake, before turning back inside and leaving Luke Daniels, caught in no mans land, for dead. Hats doffed to James for pulling this one off. It was brutal. With it, any remaining psychological stuffing that had been left after the unfortunate o.g. was truly knocked out of us.

Minutes later that man James broke clear once more. This time, he was stopped. But at the expense of a red card for Ezri Konsa as the defender took the last desperate measure available to him in order to try and preserve the narrow deficit. Referee Stuart Atwell has no choice but to show the red card. It was a challenge that, at least, succeeded in the aim of keeping our opponents at bay. For five minutes.  Sergi Canos, again filling in at wing back, was played twice by Bersant Celina who also danced past Julian Jeanvier before slotting home for 3-1. Urghh.

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Even the scoreboard was trolling us

With the attacking threat of Benrahma and Canos removed just moments later as the substitutes came on, the game was effectively dead. If it hadn’t been already. If Thomas had gone almost full strength with his starting XI, the bench offered little in big game experience or match saving nous. Whilst most of these young players will have their time, throwing them in to a game that was only being kept alive on life-support was never going to change anything. And , sadly, it didn’t. 3-1 became 4-1 became 3-1 as the linesman eventually intervened. It made little difference with Swansea grabbing the fourth goal that their second half domination suggested would come as the game limped towards full time.

Even then, Neal Maupay had a chance to restore some pride. His decision to chip the ‘keeper when put through, not quite coming off as the beaten Bees saw it loop over the bar. He made a call. He tried his luck. It didn’t happen. Boo-hoo. The subsequent highlighting of this by the BBC in a standalone video clip entitled , “How did he miss this? Watch Maupay’s terrible effort for Brentford” as cheap, unnecessary and out of context a feature as Ian Moose talking about that Cardiff game last season. No recognition of his quite incredible form this campaign or when it actually happened, with the players physically and emotionally drained after an absolute pummelling. 

Likewise, no mention of what he was clearly feeling as he ran to the Brentford fans at full time to hand over his FA Cup shirt to one lucky supporter. Poor show, BBC. Keep up the wonderful work, Neal.

It was an awful experience to be part of. The second half, I mean. I had tears to cope with at full time from a distraught HB who managed to compose himself and eventually clap his heroes off, despite the clear upset he felt. Looking around, he wasn’t alone. The club’s magnanimous gesture of laying on the coaches and cheap tickets felt very much secondary at that juncture.

I’m gutted this morning. Even now after trying to sleep on it. Swansea ran the second half show ; we handed them the tickets. The dream of the cup quarter-finals disappearing as quickly as it came. HB’s tin foil trophy stuffed into a dustbin on the way home.

Talking to supporters after the game, there seemed to be very much an expectation that this column was going to be used to ‘put the boot in’ today. But I just can’t do it. To coin that well worn of parental phrases, it not so much that I’m angry as disappointed in you. The chance was there and we couldn’t take it. Instead, to collapse in a combination of errors, bad luck, subsequent no-show and of course, the pace of Daniel James has left me feeling broken. A numb feeling in the pit of the stomach that will pass with time but at the moment feels far, far too raw.

I’m just hoping HB uses his half-term break to sleep in. About a week should do it….

Nick Bruzon 

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11 Responses to “There are games of two halves and then there was that. Bees baked in Wales.”

  1. Brighton Bee February 18, 2019 at 8:31 am #

    Spot on as usual Nick. A truely shocking second half performance after what was a very promising and dominant first half showing. I am sure others will have a say on just what went wrong but the thing I would like to raise is the quality on our bench. Bentley aside, it’s worrying that we have so little proven quality in reserve to bring on in such an important game.

    • nickbruzon February 18, 2019 at 9:38 am #

      There is a huge part in the challenge we face when set up in this way. Were’ set up with a small squad and immense faith in the B-Team. When the injuries start to bite, we are left in a position where we need to show that faith. It can’t be done en-masse though – sadly

  2. Bernard Quackenbush (@BernardQuack) February 18, 2019 at 8:48 am #

    The question I was left wandering as i was driving home, other than where the hell am I in the pitch dark, was why did we capitulate like that? A big reason was of course Swansea’s own second half performance, but the passes were going astray, we were getting no width, then the Canos experiment (sounds like the name of a Fall LP) was truly found out. Frank was equally frustrated & received a yellow card for his protestations. Its something we need to look at but with a threadbare squad our options are very limited.

    Maybe yesterday was a sign of things to come and with little to play for now, it could well be time to start bringing some of the B team into the first team squad. Sorensen being the first, to cover Konsa’s suspension.

    A word on VAR. I thought we had gone 4-1 behind, but VAR came into play and the goal was disallowed. Yet no indication at the actual game what on earth was going on. All of a sudden it was back to 3-1 and no indication why. When there is a greater use of VAR the authorities need to remember there is a paying public inside the ground and they should be kept fully informed what is going on.

    All in all, Brentford in a big big match, looking back there was only ever going to be one outcome! No matter who is in the team or what colour shirt we wear we pretty much always come up short on the big occasion.

    • nickbruzon February 18, 2019 at 9:36 am #

      Thanks BQ. AS on the button as ever although where I would beg to differ is the VAR point. Actually, because it wasn’t even in use. Watching MOTD upon my return to TW8, the commentary team specifically noted that it was’t there. Instead, the per-turning of the goal was simply down to a very late call from the lino… Go figure.

  3. Jeff33 February 18, 2019 at 9:13 am #

    An excellent and fair report.
    Brentford’s first half performance was one of the most dominant I can recall at the Liberty for a couple of seasons. Matching many and surpassing that of the best, including top six teams we played in the Premier League, with one exception … finishing. We know what that is like, having ripped up reams only to end up losing can be heartbreaking.
    On our performance; we have seen it before, long periods where we looked out for the count only to click into a higher gear and seem like a different team. We have also seen the pace of several players come to the fore in the second half when the opposition tires or loses concentration.
    While gutting for you, given our injuries and the use of our under 23 squad players, it was an amazing win for us.

    • nickbruzon February 18, 2019 at 9:39 am #

      Thanks very much. Can’t take anything away from Swansea. You wanted it and boy did that show in the second half. The only other consolation I can take now being that perhaps you can concentrate on the cup and Thomas Frank will have a point to prove when our paths eventually cross for the rearranged league fixture

  4. Max February 18, 2019 at 9:40 am #

    Bees have had a lot of hard games in a short space of time and even in first half looked tired .this team and it’s manager need to learn that defending is as important as attacking especially away from home .

  5. Chobham Bee February 18, 2019 at 11:17 am #

    As always an interesting read. It’s so hard to fathom as to why the 2 halves were so different especially when you consider how dominant we were in the first half. We were obviously a little unlucky with the Swansea first goal whereby it hit the post and then rebounded onto Luke Daniels and into the net. I just don’t know what we were doing or thinking for the Swansea second goal whereby we were in a great position with a free kick and we loose possession. It’s obviously a great goal from Daniel James, but where was the cover. I am pretty sure that we normally have the likes of Moses Odubajo or Rico Henry when available providing the cover a little deeper should we get hit on the break from free kicks around the penalty area or corners. I just think we lost a little bit of discipline after letting in the first goal and then went a little gun-ho trying to regain the lead. We now need to move on from the disappointment of the manner of defeat at Swansea and pick-up the necessary points to ensure our status in the Championship for next season. Our squad is looking a little threadbare especially with Konsa now missing for 3 games (I think), this concerns me greatly. We need Dalgaard and Rico Henry back urgently to reinforce the defence. I would play Dalsgaard in the back three replacing Konsa during his suspension. During the Barnet game at GP Sorensen played on the lefthand side of the back three, I therefore assume that he is a predominately a left footed player and hence why I would opt for Dalsgaard, plus he has the greater experience at this time. We very much need to somehow improve our options on the bench. Not sure whether there is any clause in the loan agreement with Burton Albion to recall Josh Clarke or even to recall Reece Cole from Macclesfield? I also agree with the comments of Max, we have a number of hard games coming up in a short space of time and defending is as important as attacking especially away from home. I know we were down to 10 ten players when Swansea scored their third, however, the challenges by our defender’s were just not good enough. Here is hoping for 3 points on Saturday against Hull. Come on you Bees!

  6. Paul Fletcher February 18, 2019 at 12:36 pm #

    A very accurate (unfortunately) , summary of events yesterday.
    I am still struggling to understand how we managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory!
    We were so dominant in the first half I was actually disappointed only going in 1 up but such was our dominance I consoled myself all would be well.
    Well how wrong was I , as we collapsed like a house of cards. Stupid tackles (Konsa) , a ridiculous free kick ,poor passing (Barbet) and non existent tackling (Canos & Barbet ) all played their part as Swansea and their crowd couldn’t believe their luck at the way we imploded.
    We spurned a wonderful chance yesterday make no mistake about it.Swansea had numerous absentees and their club is not in a good place right now .
    We play some good football of that their is no doubt but are brittle very brittle.
    The game is not only played on the grass but between he ears also and that is our Achilles heel as has been proved on numerous occasions.
    I had hoped our 30 year wait for a quarter final was over.I was lucky enough to see us at Anfield but won’t be around if it’s another 30 years !!
    Gutted !!

  7. Spanish Bee February 18, 2019 at 4:08 pm #

    Dear HB,

    I’m sure your Dad is really proud of you for applauding the players off at the end of the game, even though you were really upset about the way we lost. It shows that you really are a true Bees supporter.

    I have been watching the Bees on and off (I have travelled a lot) since 1955/56 and your Dad will tell you that we have had some very difficult times in the past, even worse than yesterday. Provided that we have got boys like you supporting us our future will be much brighter than our past. Brentford is a great club.

    All the best.

    • nickbruzon February 20, 2019 at 8:42 pm #

      Thank you so much, SB. Really appreciate your words. We had a good chat about it afterwards and a normal smile is now returning our HB’s face 🙂 Plenty to look forward to, as you say.

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