As the fixture list kicks in, there’s a wonderful opportunity to be grabbed.

26 Dec

Thank goodness for football today. However you celebrated yesterday, the pressure is now off. Gifts have been bought, meals cooked and kitchen cleaned. Kind of. Still, that’s a problem for later. This afternoon we’ve got one of several opportunities to catch Brentford in TV action over the coming weeks as we play host to Swansea City in the live Sky game. A wonderful opportunity for supporters displaced by the festive period, I suppose, but no substitute for actually being at Griffin Park. The game sees our Bees sitting in the play-off zone and the Swans just outside by virtue of goal difference. Both teams knowing that a mere two points separate them from third placed Sheffield Wednesday. With Brentford flying, the mood is one of excitement. We annihilated Fulham last time out at home and can probably feel justified in thinking we may have come away from West Bromwich Albion with more. It promises to be a Christmas cracker (urghh, went there). But can we land a knockout blow on Boxing Day? (sorry).

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Full time celebrations last time out at home

The performance at West Bromwich Albion sounded immense. Talking to one fan in The Griffin yesterday lunchtime, he told me that if anything the highlights underplayed how dominant we were in that opening period. Of course, the score is what counts and both teams managed a goal apiece. However, things might have been very interesting had we gone in leading and a penalty been awarded for the wonderful diving save pulled off by defender Kyle Bartley immediately after we’d taken the lead. Instead, the officials waved play on rather than handball and the hosts did what they do – ruthless counter and subsequent equaliser. Credit to them – you can only play what the officials give. 

The Baggies are looking so, so strong and sit where they are on merit. Top of the table. Yet so do Brentford, just a few places below them. Whilst those around us have started to wobble – Swansea City being the prime example, only just recently pulling themselves out of a dreadful slump after starting at 100mph –  we’ve only got stronger. No better is this illustrated than at centre back. Despite the absence of both Julian Jeanvier and Pontus Jansson at various points recently, the addition of Ethan Pinnock to that holy trinity of defensive solidity has meant that whichever pairing Thomas Frank has started with have looked as comfortable as it comes.

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Could Pontus be back today?

The midfield trio have done the unthinkable of both replacing Romaine Sawyers and ousting Kamo to the bench. Faith in the system, the manager and his players now being well rewarded as Nørgaard, Jensen and Dasilva  pull the strings. Locking out the opposition and feeding Mbeumo and Benrahma . Those two ably supported down the flanks by flying full backs Rico and Henrik, with Ollie leading his chase for the golden boot up top. Yet it is in goal where we have perhaps our most unsung of all the current 11 heroes. The arrival of David Raya has seen the decision to sell Daniel Bentley to Bristol City more than justified. 

I was a huge fan of Bentley’s, and it’s good to see him doing well at Ashton Gate, but for Brentford things have stepped up a level. David is big, strong, quick off his line and has great distribution. He exudes confidence and there’s no fear of those random moments, flappy fingers or miscommunications with the back four that we’ve all seen so many times in the past. Our Championship goals against figure is only bettered by Leeds United (we’re 18 to their 15) and whilst this stats has been quoted on these pages before, it bears repeating. Everything starts from the back. Keep the goals out and that’s half the job done. Especially when you have the attacking options that Thomas then has available to him in his starting XI.

That’s the back slapping stuff. Now, we‘ve got another match to focus on. Yes, we have the ability to do it but congestion at the top of the table really means you need to keep winning to keep your place. Slip up on the pitch and you’ll fall down off it. Blink and you miss. I love this division so much. Anybody can beat anybody. This is not the case of  the Premier League where the wining team is usually telegraphed well in advance. Here, we’ve got to go for it and keep on going. The relentless holiday period sees trips to Bristol City and Millwall before the visit from QPR in early January. That’s before you even look at the FA Cup options.

Like today’s game with Swansea, you’ll be able to follow most of those on Sky. Certainly the Bristol game (red button) and QPR ( full fat coverage at lunchtime) but why would you? Given the choice, I mean.

Money, travel and time are the obvious factors against but if you’ve got any ability to go then let’s make it happen. These are all games that are going to be absolutely critical to our season. A glut of matches where the 12 points on offer over the next 17 (I think) days could have real bearing on our promotion campaign. Somebody has to slip up at some point. The big question being if Brentford can take advantage.

Roll on 3pm when we find out. See you there.

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Here’s to more of this today….

Nick Bruzon

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