Who wants it most? Who will hold their nerve?

21 Apr

So, play-offs it is. Hopefully. Not a typo. A 1-1 draw for Brentford with Cardiff City last night, combined with Watford picking up an absolutely crucial win at Norwich City, means the gap to second place in The Championship is now ten points with four games to play. Maths keeps that dream alive but, realistically, it is now time to regroup and rediscover our goal scoring form before a tenth bite at the end of season cherry. An unbeaten run now stretching to eight games with only five goals against (and two of those came in the second half switch off at Derby back in mid-March) suggests all is not as rotten in the Garden of Eden as many would have you believe. However, the inability to turn wins into draws over the course of the season – only Millwall have more than our 15 – is putting paid to any aspiration of going up via the direct route. That is, of course, assuming there is no last minute wobble combined with a surge from 7th (seventh) placed Reading. As we’ve been saying all year, this one is going to run until game 46. If nothing else, just look at what happened to Nottingham Forest last season when Swansea City stole up the blind side to beat them in a photo finish on the line. A seemingly unassailable position falling apart at the death.

As for the Cardiff game, Brentford began with the same starting XI for the third successive game. Ivan Toney and Marcus Forss at one end ; Christian Norgaard alongside Pontus and Ethan at the other. Again, we started brightly and built the pressure. Again there were chances. Again, we couldn’t convert. Marcus with the two clearest opportunities and both of which hindsight will suggest could have been taken differently. The second in particular crying out for Bryan Mbeumo to tap into the net from close range. Instead, the young Finn twisting his body to stretch for the ball and only managing to guide it over. Ivan Toney also came close after intercepting a slack backpass but Alex Smithies in goal for the Bluebirds pulled off a smart save to deny the Championship’s leading goalscorer a chance to add to his haul.

The Bees come close

0-0 as the players went in for their cup of tea and orange quarters. They emerged in much the same vein as they had ended the opening period. On top and pushing. Brentford being Brentford its never easy. Ethan Pinnock adjudged to have handled in the box just prior to the hour and Kieffer Moore making no mistake from the spot. A well placed penalty giving our visitors the lead. 

It didn’t last long, thankfully. The impressive Tariqe Fosu shooting from distance for Smithies to allow it straight through his hands just four minutes later. Get in. 1-1. The pressure continued. Chances followed with Sergi Canos coming closest. His own attempt to emulate Fosu moving wickedly through the air with ‘goal’ written all over it, only to be denied by the ball cannoning off the chest of Smithies. The ‘keeper with hands nowhere near it but thankful to see it bounce clear. Close but no cigar. Despite dominating possession (don’t even start…) further goals proved as hard to come by as positive support for the European Super League. Our own hopes of going up in second place dissolving as quickly as the fledgling cash machine.

Positives? Look, I am a glass half full type. No apologies for that. What’s the point otherwise? Life is tough enough without heaping further misery or negativity on oneself. On our day we are on fire and, for now, we are keeping things super tight at the back. The play-offs themselves are all about not losing and we’re very, very good at that aspect. The only thing that counts is getting over the line. 

At the moment we’re not playing as well as we are used to – no question. The key absences and enforced restructure playing a huge part in that although as was proven against Preston this set up can still find the net. Indeed, last night could have seen more goals had we found the rub of the green. I can’t cry over that but I will take comfort from the fact that this advance towards the play-offs is the opposite of last time out.

Then, we were always playing catch up on automatic. Impossibly so. We had a wonderful run of form, building game after game, to put us in contention before it dissolved in the final two defeats against Stoke City and Barnsley. The chance of automatic in our hands at the death only to see it surrendered in such tepid form after that wonderful late surge to even put ourselves in with a chance. Our hopes built up into a wonderful fairy tale ending to life at Griffin Park before being so cruelly denied. There was an almost resigned inevitability about what would come next and, of course, whilst we got one over Swansea City in the semis, the final at the W place was as frustrating as the end to the regular campaign. 

This time around we are the hard team to beat. Brentford have only lost 7(seven) games all season. Nobody has a better record on that front. The wins may not always come but get the ball to Ivan and the goals flow. Get Josh and Rico back (one can dream) and our attacking edge goes up tenfold.

So, for me, there are two choices. Petulant stropping, gnashing of teeth and wailing. Shouting ‘Frank Out’ and blaming him for all our perceived woes. Cursing the campaign as a disaster and writing our team off as though it was already dead and buried. 

Or… back our boys for the last 7(seven) games. Making sure that we first get over the play-off line and then see where we ago from there. Try telling Derby County or Birmingham City that football life is bad. Our situation is ten times better than their plight. I’ve no doubt Wayne Rooney and Harlee Dean would trade positions with us in a heartbeat if such a thing were possible. I’ll keep on backing our team and our head coach for promotion until that chance is gone. For now, it remains very much on even if it will require us going through that dreaded end of season lottery. 

Yes, it IS frustrating. I was convinced automatic was in our hands. It still could be but we are now relying on Watford failing to pick up a single win against Millwall or Swansea City. Likewise, us winning four games in a row (including that penultimate game with the Hornets). Much as I am an optimist I am also a realist. Football is full of surprises, that’s for sure, but one of this magnitude at this late stage would seem unlikely. The again, pressure does strange things. A win for the Bees at Bournemouth on Saturday lunchtime combined with Millwall beating Watford makes it interesting. Both results are possible although the broader sequence of fixtures still make it unlikely. There’s no way Watford will drop that many points. For us to win all four will also need something huge.

Last night saw two ‘must win’ games. For us and for Norwich City. Neither happened and clearly the Canaries don’t want win the title. Farke out. Or should that be Farke off? In all seriousness, they’ve been great. Watford have been on fire in recent months. Both are going up. The only question being who wins the league, who gets the second automatic slot and then who wins at the W place. That’s all that counts now. That’s all we should be focussing on. For Brentford, automatic relies on maths. Promotion relies on us pulling together and getting over the line at the tenth attempt. 

I can already see Ivan walking up to the penalty spot in the 89th minute…. 

Is it coming to this once more….? (The place rather than the hats)

Nick Bruzon   


9 Responses to “Who wants it most? Who will hold their nerve?”

  1. Brighton Bee April 21, 2021 at 7:48 am #

    A great summation Nick but as I said last week, you are more forgiving than me. I am totally frustrated by our performances in the last 12 games. Sure, we are unbeaten in eight but how many of we actually won? As I’ve said before on your pages, I don’t blame TF entirely as I think the Owner and the D of F have handed him a poisoned chalice with their apparent inability or reluctance to strengthen in January, thereby restricting TF’s options. Of course there may be a lot going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about and let’s not forget we have a new ground to pay for but the increasingly poor performances are a real worry going into the play offs. I was discussing our play off chances over the pub last night and one of my mates has a theory that in most of the previous 9 failed play off campaigns we had been highly fancied to go up. This time around, we are currently so poor that nobody will give us a chance – so really we are nailed on to win it! It’s a theory, let’s hope it comes true!

  2. Rod Davidson April 21, 2021 at 8:18 am #

    Yes Nick – sad, but all too true.
    The defence is solid looking and the passing tempo is higher so let’s keep hoping.
    Sergi looked good when he came on while Bryan Mbueno lacked confidence.
    Bryan has been nailed into the side – presumably because of his stats – could it possibly be that if BM came on as a sub rather than start, he could once again be the player we know he can be.
    Sergi’s recent cameos deserve preference don’t they ?
    Sergi’s been revitalised, now let’s do the same for Bryan.

    • Max April 21, 2021 at 8:53 am #

      Quite agree

  3. Max April 21, 2021 at 8:51 am #

    Quite agree nick .glass half full .we are still punching above our weight. You sack the manager when you are 4th from bottom not 4th from top ,the game last night and many times recently was decided by us not finishing easy chances ,much better to call it fine lines than criticise individual Players ,also supporters can’t just expect mr benham to spend his cash .I do think that Bryan needs a rest and Rasmussen looks petrified at times and you could end up destroying a promising career or two if you don’t remove them from the firing line ,it’s a time for men at the moment ,also maybe Ivan needs a bit of a rest before the play offs. Just a thought but I wonder if we are practicing penalties as it appears we can get a draw against anybody !!!

  4. David Carney April 21, 2021 at 9:44 am #

    So be it. The play off en route to the PL.
    The main difference in the play offs is that if any team plays for a draw they will stay put in the Championship.
    We all know Brentford find it difficult when the opposition plays for a draw, but as soon as a team needs to play for a win the game is more open – hence the good cup results his season.
    So, in an open game of two sides playing to win, I would put money on Brentford any day.
    The contributors to our posts just over analyse so much, searching for problems, magnifying them and then trying too blame someone.
    If anyone for one moment realised the speed and angle a ball moves, the closeness of opposition and very short time to see the ball and react they might think the dumb comments they make about easy chances that the Brentford forwards are regularly accused of missing.
    Every player at Brentford has football skills least ten times better than the those criticising them, so I will stick with TF, the Directors of Football and Brentford.
    I also believe the critics are the same people that were adamant when brentford won promotion from League 1 that Brentford would struggle in the Championship.
    Oh, they are so predictable and so tedious.

    • hobbo April 21, 2021 at 1:42 pm #

      Once again David im with you ,look at what we had and what we have now there is absolutely no comparison .Now a well run football club, if Benham and his Dofs still think TFs the man so be it.

  5. Ben Parkhouse April 21, 2021 at 11:31 am #

    It’s good to get a glass half full view Nick versus the boring and repetitive “Frank Out” brigade. Ultimately I don’t think we have little choice than to cross all fingers that we get promoted. Our latest set of accounts makes for difficult reading and our wage bill to turnover ratio makes continuing our approach (even with the windfall of player sales) unsustainable to actually continue us in the Championship (let alone Premier league). My biggest frustration is that this is the weakest league I’ve seen since we’ve been in it… next season Sheff U, Fulham and WBA will make it a lot more challenging to get out of it… with 17 pts from 14 games a real opportunity missed.

    Maybe the pressure is now off and we can be the dull predicable team that grinds out a winning play off run. If not I suspect another period of rebuilding and expectations next season of achieving mid table.

  6. Red Rose Bee April 21, 2021 at 1:25 pm #

    As long as the parachute payment racket persists,a club like Brentford will find it very hard to get into the Prem. Any reasonably sane Bees fan would think being 4th in the Championship is a remarkable achievement,given the size of squad,injuries,finances etc.Winning the play offs is eminently achievable .Time to support not undermine the club.

  7. AUSSIE BEE 53 April 21, 2021 at 10:53 pm #

    I think you are wrong on one point, we have been above average in turning wins into draws.
    Max was right, look at how Birmingham have gone since sacking the manager when in a similar position about 4 seasons back. I haven’t completely discarded automatic yet but if it’s playoffs I hope we avoid Bournemouth I thought they were the best team we played in the first half and are now back to their best.

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