Was this the best performance ever?

23 May

It was during the full time rendition of Hey Jude that I finally went. Bottom lip wobbling and tears streaming down the face. The emotion of everything that had gone before kicking in at the next level. Quite simply, the most incredible afternoon of football experienced as a Brentford fan. A 3-1 win home win over ten man Bournemouth (Special agent Mepham playing his own part to perfection) something where the scoreline alone can’t even begin to scratch the surface of the story. Swansea City now await in the final. Themselves, aggregate winners over a Barnsley side who couldn’t quite catch up in their semi. That’ll be a feisty one on Saturday but its not really a huge topic for now. What played out at Lionel Road was about as a special as it gets. To be part of it a privilege. A performance up there with Leyton Orient away. Burton Albion away. Preston at home – the one where we finally got promoted after the pain of what happened the season before. Oh for a repeat this time around.

It was an afternoon where everyone played their part even prior to kick off. The 4000 Brentford supporters making the place a cauldron of noise as the players warmed up. As the line ups were read out. As the players went back in. Peter Gilham doing his thing. Cripes, I was sounding like Madge Bishop after smoking 40 JPS by the time we made it to The Griffin last night. Can only imagine what his voice must be like now.

Bournemouth, warming up in our corner, left under no illusions as to the reception they were going to face when the game began. A crescendo of cat calling and jeers accompanying their own pre-match prep. Oh, I’ve missed being part of a crowd so indescribably. This little taster of what was to come sending goose bumps up the spine and that was even before Hey, Jude came over the P.A. For once, a ‘studio’ version rather than the rambling live one we were so used to at Griffin Park (“This time, just the ladies”) that, even better, seems to have edited down to cut quickly to the “Naaaa. Na-Na. Na-na-na-naaaahhhhh” . 

Then, our first blow of the day. This had all been going too well. The BBC match reporting revealed that Christian Norgaard had been replaced by Mads Roerslev. Himself, initially pushed to the bench to accommodate the return of Henrik Dalsgaard. True enough, Peter Gilham reading the teams out one last time confirmed we’d be needing an 11th hour rejig. Oh Brentford, it’s never easy. No matter. With Bryan and Emiliano starting this game alongside Sergi and Ivan, our attacking intent was still clearly the focus. Yet if this had us on a momentary backfoot, what happened next is one of those things that will go down in football folklore.

Thomas Frank had talked at length in the build up to this one just how important the crowd would be. We’d seen the videos and one even played out on the big screen. Of course we all knew this and were already doing our bit when, over in front of the main stand he started running down the touchline , gesturing to the supporters to raise the roof. Fair enough, until he turned the corner in front of the West Side. One North stand observer standing next to me said,”He’s going to do it. He’s going all the way.” Sure enough, he did. The crowd feeding off his energy. Thomas pumping them up. Taking fist bumps en-route. Arms whirling like some crazed dervish. Lifting the crowed and getting them whipped up in a manner that Delia Smith could only aspire to. Twelfth man? We were the entire squad.

Thomas turns it up to 11 prior to kick-off

And then it began. Brentford one goal down on aggregate but 90 minutes to turn it around.

And then it began. Brentford two goals down on aggregate but 85 minutes to turn it around.

If Christian Norgaard missing out was as bad as we thought it would be then think again. Danjuma broke at speed as the Bees attacked and with nobody but David Raya back, he had all the time in the world to bear down on goal ,  pick his spot and make no mistake. Crap. This wasn’t in the script. An absolute disaster of a scoreline. A catastrophe of a start. Yet if this was going to silence the crowd and take the wind from the sails, it was a case of anything but. Push up, Brentford? Oh yes. 

With a quarter hour gone (about one minute of actual game time, given the way that Bournemouth and goalkeeper Begovic in particular were time wasting – an injury free opening period seeing an additional ‘6’ awarded ) Brentford were back in it. Lloyd Kelly deemed to have handled Emiliano’s cross and referee Gillet pointed to the spot. I’ve seen them given, Clive. Cue pandemonium. Cue petulance. Cue Ivan Toney eventually being allowed to step up and do that thing he does, once more. Calm as you like and goal 32 for the season was the reward. The ripple of the net sending Lionel Road in to meltdown. An ear splitting wave of noise greeting the finish. 

Whilst I’ve not watched any of the replays as yet, Mark Burridge has shared this today. His own view (and comms) from the gantry. You want goosebumps? Take a look, and listen, to this….

1-1 on the day although a goal down still. Brentford kept going. Bournemouth kept it niggly. Trying to reach Wembley by not allowing a game to take place. The Bees pushed. Chris Mepham stumbled and there was Bryan Mbeumo to whip it off his toes. He rounded our former player and was clean through. A chance to run one-on-one at Begovic much as Danjuma had done to Raya. Except. Except. The sneakiest of rugby style ankle tap tackles followed as his out-stretched hand saw the flying winger felled. The decision was a no brainer. The photograph now doing the rounds to accompany it a work of art. I’ve no idea who took it but kudos. Straight red. No choice.

If a picture paints a thousand words….

Whether Bryan would have scored or Begovic smothered the chance we’ll never know. It doesn’t really matter. Instead, Bournemouth were left to play the final hour, and any possible extra time, with ten men. Frankly, given the performance of Beogvic over the course of the afternoon they were lucky it wasn’t nine. I’m still not sure how he only got one yellow. The time wasting aside, the ‘injury’ he suffered after running into one of his own players was about as cringeworthy and embarrassing as it gets. Still, that was their problem.

Half-time came at about a quarter past six. Brentford had been unable to add any additional goals despite our best efforts, our crowd and our team. Sergi was on fire. Emiliano showing just why he is so highly valued by the coaching staff. Matthias Jensen (and the second half especially) stepping up his game to new heights. Surely a second goal would come after the break? Surely?

Within five minutes, our prayers were answered. Vitaly Janelt scoring a goal that I’m still not sure how it went in. He seems to tackle one of our players, one of theirs, fall over and unleash a blockbuster of a shot all at the same time. Even seeing that on the screen in The Griff later in the evening, it defies logic. But in it went. In it flew. A strike of the most incredible sweetness. The aggregate scores tied. Any pretensions of holding on that Bournemouth may have had sent back in to the dressing room to keep Chris Mepham company. Lionel Road erupting once more. The aforementioned cauldron threatened to bubble over. Bournemouth, a team visibly falling apart in front of us. Piece by piece. Their meltdown as clear as Michael Douglas after he couldn’t get his McDonalds breakfast.

On we went. On we pushed. The Bees with an extra spring in the step. Bournemouth wilting. A punchdrunk boxer desperately hanging on and awaiting that killer blow. Set up Marcus Forss to deliver it. 82 minutes on the clock and boom, it was there. A deadly first time finish from close in. The hunter’s aim was true. The place exploded. The players celebrating in the shadow of the water tower. All except Henrik Dalsgaard who stood in front of the North Stand. A messianic pose. Veins bulging. Mouth screaming. The crowd being egged further on. The intensity etched across his face. The moment one that, in retrospect, I only wish I’d had more than a mobile phone to capture.

Its fuzzy, but….

But that doesn’t matter one jot. What matters being that there were now less than ten minutes for us to hold the lead. What a time to take it. What a response followed. We kept going. We tried again. Bournemouth waiting until the four minutes of added on time to finally threaten. Begovic heading up for a last, desperate gamble. The stress levels were, I’ll admit, there. If it were to happen at that point then….. but it didn’t. The defence remained rock solid. The Cherries not given a sniff from their flurry of corners and set pieces. The final whistle greeted with the most deafening of roars. One to wake the dead. The waves of relief palpable. The hugs and ecstasy clear for all. It was a moment to top them all. 

Our record in the play-offs is about as well documented as they come. Whilst the job is any half-done, the feeling at full time was one of really getting a monkey off the back. To come back in such style. To show such strength of character. For Thomas to get his tactics spot on, despite the blow of losing Norgaard so late. It was just about the perfect performance. To be part of it a true honour. I can only hope those watching in the pubs had as much fun. The next best thing to being there. 

Then Thomas did his thing, again. The full time lap of honour greeted with more photos. More smiles. Yet instead of giving his traditional ‘thumbs up’, this time around he gave something special. “One more to go”…..

One more to go

I’m not an idiot. Swansea City will have enjoyed their own moment equally and be as pumped for the final as we are. Like us, they’re only 90 minutes from the Premier League. It’s going to be one hell of a tense affair on Saturday. Yet having experienced last seasons and then this, any additional motivation we may have needed was delivered in bucketloads yesterday.

Talking to Mark this morning, he nailed it just about perfectly. “Yesterday, Lionel Road became our new home.” 

I can’t wait to move in. I can’t wait to see who we may be inviting around for dinner. Just got the small matter of getting Saturday out the way first…

What else is there to say? Hats off Thomas Frank. As much as anybody, he got it spot on yesterday. From that bonkers lap at the start, through enforced last minute changes, excellent tactics and key substitutions. A top, top performance from that man.

THANK YOU.

Nick Bruzon

10 Responses to “Was this the best performance ever?”

  1. Brighton Bee May 23, 2021 at 7:56 am #

    Great summary Nick. What a day, the cheating and time wasting tactics deployed by Bournemouth were embarrassing to watch. They were at it from the very start. How Begovic stayed on the pitch is a total mystery to me. If he hadn’t already been booked, he surely would have got a second yellow for constant time wasting and feigning injury. A great performance by all on a very emotional day. If anyone wants to take any further joy from Bournemouth’s misery can I suggest those with a Sky Box tune into our local BBC South News programme South Today on Monday night and watch their very biased Sports Reporter explain where it all went wrong – it’s those little bits of joy that make it all worthwhile!!!
    C’mon you Bees

  2. Rod Davidson May 23, 2021 at 8:04 am #

    A very passionate piece well told.
    Well done Nick – Well done Brentford

  3. Max May 23, 2021 at 8:32 am #

    Was this the best performance ever? For guts and togetherness and most importantly Bottle ,yes it was .remember we have achieved this result without Rico, or josh and lost Christian in the warm up. Was this the best performance ever? Yes it was for vindication of the manager who showed what a top top manager he is in everything he did and may have been the difference between the two sides and for sergie who wears shirt like one of us and for bryan who was the motm for me. The Only one question left after yesterday’s game is was asmir begovic urine tested after the game, as the normally mild mannered keeper looked possessed at times. Now on to a difficult final hurdle against our charming honest friends from Swansea and that lovely handsome chap manager that they have .set for some fireworks I would say . C.O.YB

    • hobbo May 23, 2021 at 3:22 pm #

      More of the same from Swansea Max thats for sure, especially from a certain Mr Ayew.

      • Max May 23, 2021 at 9:49 pm #

        Oh yes the man who makes his own nose bleed (eventually) to get defenders into trouble

  4. Esher Bee May 23, 2021 at 10:24 am #

    Great article Nick, as one of the lucky ones to be there it summed up the day for me perfectly. It seems there will only be 4000 tickets for each side at Wembley, how on earth does that work?
    Lost all respect for Bournemouth yesterday, they were a disgrace and only one team was trying to play football.Even their post match comments were whining.Reading the online comments in all the newspaper reports it seems that fans of lots of other teams have had the same experience with them.

  5. ROY BOLTER May 23, 2021 at 10:35 am #

    NOT MUCH MORE I CAN SAY YOU COVERED EVERY EMOTION…ONE MORE DAY (Les Miserables)

  6. Lichfieldbee May 23, 2021 at 10:43 am #

    For the Muff’s last corner of the game Begovic was offside.
    A keeper ruled offside, that’s one the scrapbook, Sky commentators took great pleasure in that

  7. newroadkasualfirm May 24, 2021 at 4:26 am #

    Gosh. I really hope that we can beat Swansea

    • nickbruzon May 24, 2021 at 4:38 am #

      Agreed. It would be amazing. I love your eloquent prose – please keep commenting

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