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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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Goals mean wins see. No matter how they come.

14 Mar

There’s not much you can say after that. Cardiff City beat Brentford 3-1 in a game that was as much a victory for the much derided tactics of manager Neil Warnock as it was for his players’ ability to find the back of the net. With Aston Villa being thumped at home by QPR (how?) and Wolves finally getting back to winning ways, the top two are going to require a horrific stumble to be caught. But at least there was something for us to smile about at the bottom end of the table. A point for Barnsley in their ‘game in hand’ along with victory for Hull City has increased the pressure on this month’s Birmingham City manager Garry Monk and his team.

We can only start with Brentford where there’s not much more to be said. If you weren’t there then you’ll have likely caught it on TV (unless you were busy swooning over Sam Saunders in the pundit’s chair). The Bees came flying out of the blocks at 100mph. Neal Maupay with a wonderful chance to have opened the scoring whilst most people were still taking their seats before finding the back of the net for 1-0 with little more than five minutes on the clock. Cardiff a goal down and on the ropes. Brentford continuing to spread the ball amongst them as they couldn’t cope with our free flowing football. Surely a second goal was only a matter of moments away?

And on twenty-five minutes it came. To the visitors.  Sol Bamba with a quite wonderfully taken turn and volley that left man of the match Dan Bentley beaten all ends up. It was a finish one can only doff the hat to, no matter how begrudgingly that feels, yet it was one that  let the visitors back into the game. From that point on, they started to really make their presence felt.

Hooooofffff” went the crowd as every ball was humped forward out of the back. “Crunnccch” went the challenge as Warnock’s team made themselves known in the most agricultural of styles. There was no real help from a referee and his assistants who seemed set to random mode. I don’t envy them their role but they need to do it properly if they step up to the challenge. Dean Smith seemed incensed by some of the decision making and inconsistency at full time. As were the crowd throughout a second half that saw Sergi quite perplexed (that’s the polite word) with the officials on more than on occasion.

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Sergi saying what we were all thinking

But for all that the men in the middle didn’t help, a goal on the stroke of half time gave the visitors a lead which they would never surrender, whatever the cost. Football very much coming second to the three points. They fought us in the penalty box. The fought us in the middle. They fought with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. A style of football that ended up being little more than scraping and spoiling. Despite our own 67% of possession, they mopped up everything and made sure there was no way through. With a third goal sealing the deal just shy of the hour, there was no way back for the Bees. The clock was carefully run down and it ended 3-1 to the visitors

It was a triumph for Warnock and his team. You can’t deny them their current run or the win that their methodology presented. 7(seven) points clear of third placed Aston Villa suggest they are doing something very much right in terms of getting the results. At the same time, for all Dean was rightly frustrated at full-time, perhaps this was a beneficial lesson in the long term. Our ability to play against the more ‘robust’ teams in the division has been questioned before. The first twenty minutes, with the Bees at full flow against a team we dictated the pattern of the game to, were quite beautiful to watch. The final seventy had a painful inevitability.

Next up for the Bees, the visit of Middlesbrough. Whilst they are looking to consolidate their sixth place, if Brentford are to have any chance of reeling in that 8 point gap then Dean was quite clear about how it needs to be done. Every game is going to be a cup final for us,” he said at full time. “If we want to hang onto the coat-tails of those above us we have to make sure we win games, starting on Saturday”. It’ll be a tough one that’s for sure and if for no other reason than our failure to beat Boro’ since paths crossed in the Championship. Six defeats (including two play-off semis) and a draw are the best we have to show. But what a time to break that record Saturday is. What a chance to show that although we struggled against a Warnock team, we’ve learned from this and can do it against a Tony Pulis side.

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View from the Braemar – the Bees were outmuscled last night

I’ve woken up this morning feeling disappointed and frustrated more than anything else. I’m still immensely proud of what our team have achieved and one has to remember that Cardiff City are where they are for a reason. At the end of the day (Clive), and as one visiting supporter noted last night on Twitter: “Goals mean wins see“. I can’t argue with that.

Besides, looking to the lower end of the table a gap really is starting to form in the relegation zone. Barnsley’s draw with Norwich City last night sees them open up a three-point lead over Birmingham City. When you factor in the Blues’ inability to score and wonderful propensity to concede, the goal difference is so significant as to effectively make that difference four.

They entertain (sorry, that’s surely a breach of trades descriptions) they host Hull City on Saturday. With the Tigers running out 3-0 victors at Ipswich Town last night, they are surely safe. Three more points would all but secure this and what a time to get them.

I can’t wait for the weekend. The atmosphere is going to be huge at Griffin Park where it really is a case of win or bust in the race for the play offs.

See you there.

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The gap is starting to grow

Nick Bruzon

 

Will the Burton (wagon) wheels finally come off as Brentford visit? Can Monk save Birmingham?

6 Mar

This is getting exciting. Brentford travel to Burton Albion tonight for a game where victory could propel us back to the fringes of the play-off race. With 9th placed Preston entertaining Bristol City in 6th , Fulham hosting Sheffield United and Middlesbrough (7th) travelling to Birmingham City, something has to give from the teams above us. Even if it would take that most unlikely of events, a victory for the Blues, to help our cause. To be fair, on current form even a goal for Birmingham would be a major achievement. But with Garry Monk officially at the helm (more on that later) who knows what might happen?

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Monk surveys his new domain. The goalmouth, devoid of action (plus ca change)

Still, this is all pointless conjecture if we can’t fulfil out part of that bargain. The gap between Brentford and Bristol City is 7(seven) points although we do have tonight’s game in hand. But with the Cardiff City game having been rearranged for next Tuesday and the Sky cameras, the trip to Burton marks a run of four matches in 12 days . Twelve days that by the end will determine if the play-offs are nothing more than a pipe dream or, alternatively, whether the famous words of Rasmus Ankersen might come true.

Back in September 2015 he told the Brentford fans’ forum : “ It is not an option to not be in the Premier League. It has to happen in the next three years…. At the moment there is no Plan B. we’ll be in the Premier League in three years.”

Well, that opportunity comes to an end at the denouement of the current campaign and they are words I’ve never forgotten. They are words that often get quoted on these pages but still remain fresh in the mind (and not just because they’ll be in the Millwall programme on Saturday – although through legitimate reasons rather than any ‘Brian Guest’ style interloping). Quite simply – it was as bold a claim as we’ve ever heard.

Being quite honest, there have been times over the last few campaigns when there’s been more chance of laughing at an episode of Mrs. Brown’s Boys or Len Goodman’s Partners In Ryme than Brentford reaching the Premier League.

That same fans forum featured Marinus Dijkhuizen sitting alongside our top brass (move along, nothing to see here) whilst Dean Smith has seen his own tenure have a couple of wobbles along the way. March 2016 (and the admission we were in a relegation battle) and the start of this campaign (four points from the first eight games) being just a few of those moments when it has been much easier to fear the worst than to show some blind faith.

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Mrs Brown. Never. Forget.

That’s football. So often the glass half empty. Even when it is Dom Perignon being quaffed compared to the lukewarm Fosters we’ve been more accustomed to drinking over the years (Terry Butcher, anyone?). Yet this run of games (Burton and Millwall away, followed by Middlesbrough and Cardiff City at Griffin Park) could see our co-director starting to earn himself a place in Brentford folklore if his prediction comes true. Nostra-rasmus?

There are more Bees going to Burton tonight than went to Leeds United recently. That’s great. They’ll be sure to make some noise in the compact confines of the Pirelli stadium. The mini run starts here and with a good run of results going our way over the next 12 days, along with a few favours tonight, who knows what might happen when we emerge on the other side? One things for sure, I can’t wait to find out.

Elsewhere, Birmingham City have appointed Garry Monk ahead of their game with Middlesbrough tonight. Twitter was awash with photographs yesterday, as Monk was officially ‘unveiled’ (if only they’d had the balls to remove a drape, museum style) to the watching media. Yet there he was, along with Pep Clotet, pulling out all his best poses. Man at C&A, wistful stare into the middle distance, cheesy smile and the obligatory shirt picture all put in an appearance as @BCFC came awfully close to jumping the Twitter shark.

Their proclamation that : It’s just another manic Monkday... was only a hashtag away from joining the Twitter hall of infamy that will be forever topped by our own #trophyfriends (or #bignewambitions, or…).

Just one of the many posts as @BCFC went into Monk overload. Steve who now?

Can he turn things around? Will he arrest a slide towards League One which, given the club’s reported wage bill alone, would be disastrous for a club of this historical stature? It’s not going to be an easy start with promotion chasing Middlesbrough the vistors and with 11 games left, time really is running out.

If our own mini run over the next twelve days is huge then theirs, with a trip to Cardiff City and a relegation six pointer with Hull, could be of equal importance. Get that wrong and the chance of league games against Accrington Stanley and Mansfield next season will be one step closer to reality.

Still, that’s their problem. For Brentford, it’s all about Burton Albion and a game agasint a team who will be fighting for their very Championship survival. This might not be pretty, even if memories of that incredible 5-3 win on the road are still more than vivid. Personally, I’d settle for a gritty 1-0, a clean bill of health and no bookings. If only football was that easy to predict.

Then again, if Rasmus can do it…

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What an afternoon that was…

Nick Bruzon

Snow day for Brentford still sees carnage at Birmingham City. Again.

4 Mar

So Brentford need to ‘go again’ with Cardiff City. The wintry conditions in the preceding few days putting paid to any chance of the game going ahead. And whilst hindsight may be a wonderful thing as things thawed rapidly on Saturday, making the call early was the correct decision. Moreso given the icy blast that was still blowing through TW8 at the weekend. Yet, with two away trips to come this week (Burton Albion on Tuesday and Millwall, Saturday) perhaps a day off was a blessing in disguise. Even without our game there was still plenty to keep us entertained in the Championship – starting and ending with Birmingham City who went down at Nottingham Forest.

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Griffin Park was among the places caught in the snowy conditions this week.

Positives for the Blues were that they scored their first goal in five games. Unfortunately, their opponents managed it twice, consigning the division’s lowest scorers to another defeat. Five in a row. Anti-manager of the month form for Steve Cotterill who despite embarking on a post-match Kevin Keegan style ‘I’d love it’ rant on BBC Radio, was consequently sacked. It is a decision which leaves Birmingham City looking for their fourth manager of the season and the club firmly locked in the bottom three. With a visit from Middlesbrough next up, it certainly won’t get any easier for whomever comes in next.

Garry Monk is hot favourite. His name being added to the mix over the last few days was something which proved the catalyst for Cotterill’s frustration. “If that’s been going on behind my back, it’s best for them to get on with it”, he told BBC WM 95.6FM. Gordon Strachan and Mark Warburton are names that have also been bandied about.

The latter’s selection, if it somehow happened, would certainly make things interesting for ‘BeeTheDJ’ (or at least, at full time)  – assuming our club paths crossed next season. The respective directions that Birmingham and Brentford are currently heading, could conceivably see a two division gap between us for 2018/19.

It finished 5-0. It finished loud…

Then again, the knee jerk actions of a board whose hiring and firing policy could be written on the back of a fag packet mean nobody is safe for any amount of time. Even if the Bees and the Blues are both in the Championship next time around, there’s no guarantee that whomever inherits the manager’s office will still be there when we play each other once more.

Since the incredible decision to jettison Gary Rowett with the team on the fringe of the play-off race back in December 2016, they’ve been through more incompetent henchmen than a Bond Villain. Think Max Zorin in his zeppelin, finger poised over the ‘eject’ button.  There was the disastrous Gianfranco Zola period, Harry Redknapp (but only after he’d splurged the the transfer budget and wage bill – mostly towards us), three games for Lee Carsley and then Cotterill’s ill-fated period at the helm. Talk about self-inflicted suicide.

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Max Zorin – any excuse

Our own model – in terms of management and spending – proving to be the infinitely stronger tactic. A fourth, successive Championship top ten finish, with the possibility of a second play-off challenge, is more than on the cards. Contrast this to a team who despite their huge reputation and even bigger spending, have finished below us every year since our paths re-crossed at this level

Brentford fans had been quick to request the likes of ‘Price Tag’, Money’ and ‘I need a dollar’ as pre-kick off song selection for our recent game with The Blues. What had happened over the summer still so very fresh in our minds. As such, there was no irony lost yesterday in Joe Lolley and Matty Cash getting the Nottingham Forest goals that would ultimately prove the final nail in the Birmingham coffin. Certainly, this this latest incarnation.

Can they pull themselves out of this downward spiral? Barnsley above them have a game in hand, are already two points better off and have infinitely better goal difference. Likewise, Hull City (who entertain Millwall on Tuesday) are starting to see a bit of clear air. Burton, one point below them, also have a game in hand but are the bookies favourites, along with seemingly doomed Sunderland and the Blues.

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The current relegation prices. For research purposes.

Still, that’s their problem. The only downside out of all this for the Bees being our own trip to Burton on Tuesday. Whilst the table suggests this will be a formality, a team with their backs to the wall and staring into the abyss always have that potential to come out all guns blazing. They really are entering ‘do or die’ territory now as games start to run out. Whether the target is one of still harbouring play-off aspirations or consolidating another top ten finish, then these are the sort of games that need to be won.

To even be talking like this is, I still think, incredible. And as much in the show of faith invested by the club in our players and staff. We all know the horror start that the Bees had. Four points and in the bottom three after eight games. A wealth of experience and talent sold. Yet we’ve put out heads down, not panicked and built on the base of shrewd acquisition, experience and belief in our own process. The evidence has been tangible.

I’m gutted that yesterday’s game was cancelled. I’d love to have seen how we went against Cardiff City. Yet, perhaps it has also given us a chance to take stock. Both on and off the pitch. To look at what is happening around us. With the first shovel due to be planted at Lionel Road on March 19th, it’s fair to say things are looking positive!

Moreso, compared to some of our divisional rivals.

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Until next time, Cardiff….

Nick Bruzon

Bees miss out to Leeds but still have it all to play for. Sunday could be huge, though.

25 Feb

Leeds United 1 Brentford 0. With other results going the way of the chasing pack, the Bees were unable to capitalise on an opportunity to narrow the gap to sixth place and so remain four points shy, in tenth place. Yet our own next game could be as much impacted by a Sunday lunchtime encounter between Cardiff City and Bristol City. Victory for the Bluebirds will put them to within a mere six points of a table topping Wolves team who slipped up again yesterday.

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There was no way through this time. Sadly.

Some of us came. They saw. Leeds conquered. What can you really add about a game where only a relative handful of away fans were there to report back? Needing a second mortgage to attend a football match will do that to you. Information was further limited by Brentford ‘official’ noting on Twitter that: “Apologies for the lack of updates so far, you’d have thought at £44 a ticket, the wifi might work …

For the record, the key incidents seem to be a solitary goal that had an apparent element of offside. A possible penalty not given against Neal Maupay. A red card missed against Ezgjan Alioski, which had Dean in fighting form at Full Time.

He told iFollow that the player threw his arm at Yoann Barbet, adding: “How that can be just a yellow card I don’t know. At times today, the officials could have come off the pitch and the game could have been refereed by the Elland Road crowd.

Tough words indeed. Here’s hoping Dean has kept the right side of league sanction for speaking his mind and saying what he thought so clearly. It was a game that not unusually, Dean didn’t think we deserved to lose.  He also cited the quality of the pitch,  specifically specifically the long grass, although also acknowledged our shortcomings when summarising that, “On our second-half performance we didn’t deserve to win anything but we didn’t deserve to lose the game”.

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So perhaps a draw would have been a fair result? Certainly the stats bear that out although as we’ve said so many times about possession and shots relative to finding the back of the net….

You can read, and subscribers see, Dean’s comments in full on Brentford ‘official’ They’re up there now and you can find them here.

Leeds United also took to Twitter after this one. If we’d been guilty of moaning about their wi-fi there can be no complaints about their own Full Time hi-jinks. Moreso , given Tuesday night’s fun at Griffin Park. If you can’t take it then don’t give it.

The highlights, all 1.01 of them, are on Sky now. Don’t expect any of the controversial decisions or close ups of the pitch though. Will update these pages with the Mark Burridge version, once that goes live after mid-day. Hopefully there’ll be a little more meat to pick off the bones of this one then.

That said, catching up with our commentator par-excellence this morning his own considered opinion on this one is that it was: “A tight, dull and cagey affair. The game changed on another poor performance from Oliver Langford, who IMHO should have shown Alioski a red for his swinging arm on Barbet, followed by an goal that is clearly offside. We were well on top at this time.

Having said that our response was poor, we looked weary, the subs seemed to have a negative impact and we looked a if a long week have taken its toll. We need to start digging out points when we are below par in games like these. I’m sure lessons will have been learned from yesterday and we need to win on Saturday against Cardiff to get back on track.

Next up, Cardiff City. If results went Brentford’s way, then equally they are suddenly in much better place than a week or so back. Wolves have hit the skids (DDL in their last three) as the gap between the runaway leaders and the rest has started to narrow. Cardiff are now 9 points off with this lunchtime’s game in hand at home to Bristol City to come. Victory there will not only help their own automatic/title aspirations whilst also give a boost to those just outside the play off zone, where The Robins occupy the final berth.

The downside to this being that a morale boosting win for Neil Warnock’s men will set them up very nicely for next weekend. Yet if Brentford are to have any hope of our own dreams coming true, we need to keep pace with our rivals and then beat whomever comes up next. And if that means hoping for a Cardiff win today, then c’est la vie.

As one final thought, spare a thought for Birmingham City. No, please. With other results going any way but theirs, The Blues own capitulation at home to Barnsley saw them overtaken by the Tykes in the relegation six-pointer at St. Andrews.

Just when they thought things couldn’t get any worse after Tuesday night, they have. The Blues now join Sunderland and Burton in the bottom three.

There’s nothing much more to say. Leeds may have beaten us but every cloud….

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Nick Bruzon

Can anything top Tuesday ? Is your overdraft facility ready? Bring on Leeds United.

24 Feb

Brentford travel to Leeds United on Saturday afternoon, supporters still buoyant after Tuesday night’s trashing of Birmingham City whilst looking at a Championship table that sees us in tenth place. Just four points outside the play-off zone following the rest of the mid-week fixtures being played out and then Sheffield United going down at Hull City last night . For the record, a result that sees us not only keep pace with that top pack but also sees the Tigers leapfrog the Blues at the trapdoor end of the table.

It really is a bit of an odd one today. In the nicest sense. Tuesday against Birmingham City was one of those real ‘I was there moments’. The club have bigged up their ‘Brentford nights’ campaign and what a way to bring that to a (regular) season’s climax. I’ve got a feeling there may be mention in next Saturday’s programme column (for the Cardiff City game) although in the meantime, if you’d like to read more…… 😉 , there’s the post-game article here.

Tuesday night saw (and heard) a game like no other.

Now, it almost feels a bit ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show.’ Just a bit. Specifically due to the horrific £39 away ticket price being charged by Leeds. A subject which has very much been the talking point amongst supporters these last few days. Billy (Grant) of Beesotted has written a voluminous, passionate and essential piece of reading on the subject. For those who haven’t, somehow, seen this as yet then you can find it here.

Even more terrifying, those wanting to make an 11th hour trip to Elland Road can ‘pay on the day’  but are going to have to shell out an incredible £44 (forty-four pounds) for the privilege of cheering on the Bees.

Forty. Four. Pounds. Just, wow. This is all kind of wrong yet there’s not much I can say on this that hasn’t been said already. At a time when even the Premier League have embraced the ‘Twenty’s Plenty’ campaign for away fans (in no small part due to the FSF, of which Billy is a board member) then surely the League have to take some sort of action to stop visiting supporters being priced out?

It’s no wonder only 500 advance tickets have been sold for this one. The fact that the Beesotted team and the chairman of BIAS (Adam Hobbs) are amongst those publically boycotting today’s game tells you all you need to know about feelings on this. Twenty’s plenty.

Thirty’s dirty. Fourty’s naughty. Fourty Four is taking the f’in piss and would require an appointment with the bank manager.

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Well said, Beesotted !!

That said, hats off to those making the trip today. Here’s hoping they are in as loud a voice as on Tuesday night (and overdraft facilities have room to spare).  If the atmosphere is even half of what it was, then it promises to be a special one. Whilst I’ve a feeling that the presence of more Brentford old boys lining up against us won’t generate the same level of, erm, excitement it’s still nice to get one over any of your former heroes. With Adam Forsahw and Stuart Dallas both due to start for Leeds, here’s hoping we show them what they’ve missed out on.

Yet at the same time, there’s nothing but respect in what this pair achieved at Griffin Park. And with apologies for repeating myself, there’ll always be ‘that goal’ at Fulham. Feelings towards Adam and Stuart would seem to be the polar opposite from Tuesday night’s fun and games.

View from the stand - Stuart Dallas celebrates doing that thing.....

Stuart Dallas – one of THE Brentford moments

As for the game itself, it’s a tough one to call. Leeds United are displaying form that is erratic as their choice of club crest whilst our last road trip saw a comprehensive defeat of a Sunderland team for whom the phrase ‘dead man walking’ would seem an appropriate one. Then there was Tuesday against Birmingham. Five goals for. None conceeded. Morale is currently through the roof and singing voices are in fine form.

Will Brentford make it three in a row? Is there any chance we can come close to the level of performance against Birmingham City? With Neal Maupay now scoring for pleasure, Ryan Woods putting in a gargantuan performance mid-week, Alan Judge fit, Ollie Watkins on fire and the promise of Sergi Canos to return then who knows what might happen ?

Roll on this afternoon when we find out. Even if, for most of us, it will be c/o Simon Ratcliffe, Ciaran Brett and , of course, Mark Burridge holding it all together with his  ever eloquent commentary.

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The Bees celebrate the fourth on Tuesday. Or was it the fifth?

Nick Bruzon

Three points, five goals and ten times better. Magnificent Bees have a night to remember.

20 Feb

What can you say? What? Can? You? Say? For once, I’m lost for words after one of the most exciting and passionate games ever seen under lights at Griffin Park. After all the talk, all the build up, all the back story and all the blag it was Brentford who ended it three points, five goals and ten times better than an utterly abject Birmingham City team. The only real question of the night being how The Bees missed out on brackets. A 5-0 demolition of our old boys being the very least warranted by as one sided a performance as you could ever hope to see. Indeed, but for a 30 second period immediately after the second half began there was only ever one team in this.

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Alan Judge doing his thing once more

We don’t do match reports on these pages. Never have done. At least, not in any detail. I’m lazy. I’m not a journalist and, quite frankly, it’s ‘the other stuff’ that goes into a game which is what captivates. And my, wasn’t this the consummate example?

We all know what happened in the summer. Our idol, Jota, left Brentford for Birmingham City. Le magnifique Maxime Colin left Brentford. For Birmingham City. Harlee Dean, having already had the captaincy taken away from him, left Brentford. For Birmingham City. He, of all players, hurt the most. Not so much his sale but the method of departure and those subsequent comments about his new squad being ten times better than the one he had left behind.

Football fans don’t forget. Ever. Just ask Martin Rowlands. And sure enough those words came back to haunt Harlee tonight. You knew something special was in the air when, on walking into the ground, the first song heard from #BeeTheDJ was Jessie J – Price Tag . “Money money money” blasted out over the speakers as Big Bee Radio demonstrated a wonderful sense of humour you can only get at a club like ours. At a place where everybody knows everyone. Where the bond between players and fans is like no other. Where our heroes still walk the same streets we do on their way in and out of Griffin Park.

And then the game began. David Stockdale in the Birmingham goal culpable for the first as he could only help an Ollie Watkins shot from distance into the net for 1-0. Flo Jo doubled the lead before half time as chants of “Harlee, what’s the score? Harlee, Harlee what’s the score?” began to ring around Griffin Park. Neal Maupay, who must have run Ollie close for man of the match, made it 3-0 and then 4-0 with less than an hour on the clock. His second courtesy of another howler from Stockdale who had an evening to forget.

It was only the goalkeeper’s decision to start playing at this point that stopped it getting even worse for The Blues. Pulling off a couple of magnificent saves, combined with our own profligacy as the game threatened to enter testimonial levels of showboating, the scoring stopped for almost half an hour.

There were contrasting faces in the Director’s Box. Sour from the visitors. Ecstatic from our own board and guests. Louder and louder songs directed towards Harlee. Daniel Bentley amongst those unable to suppress schoolboy levels of smirking every time the chants rang out. This couldn’t go on, surely? It couldn’t get any better, could it?

Jota’s arrival had barely registered. He picked up the odd pantomime boo but it was nothing compared to the unhappiest of returns for Harlee. Still, at least he could take consolation in it only being four. Until Ollie popped up to make it five. And that’s how it ended. Stunning. Just stunning.

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The Bees celebrate the fourth. Or was it the fifth?

Yet just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, there was Brentford Official to change the ‘win music’. Kool and The Gang /Celebrate demoted. Instead, the ultimate of trolling. Daydream Believer. The chants of ‘Cheer up Harlee Dean’ which had being doing the round most of the game, cranked up to the loudest yet. Simply beautiful and, whilst I’ve seen comments suggesting we’re better than this, it captured the mood of the supporters quite magnificently.

I’ve never seen the place stay full for so long at full time. The crowd staying behind to cheer the players on a thoroughly deserved lap of honour. Birmingham City slinking back into the dressing room, unobserved.

Brentford were, to a man, magnificent. Dalsgaard’s cross for the third goal a thing of beauty. Maupay’s build up play delicious and he was thoroughly deserving of his brace. Even Daniel Bentley pulled off a quite wonderful save late on to preserve his goal’s virginity. Emiliano Marcondes delighting the crowd with a short, but very sweet, cameo role late on.

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Emiliano impressed late on

It was a strange night. It was always going to be. No moreso than Peter Gilham finally getting Jota’s name right. After three season’s worth of Hoe-ta, he picked his moment to call him correctly.

That was just brilliant. Brentford are now a mere 3 points outside the play offs. We’re 20 points better off than a Birmingham City team who sit worryingly close to the League One drop zone. Harlee Dean may have joined The Blues to leave The Championship.

He just probably didn’t expect to do it in this direction.

All together now – Brentford official seize the moment. Beautifully

Nick Bruzon

Bring it on. West London’s biggest game in years has more than just a result to play for.

19 Feb

Tuesday night in West London and there’s one of the biggest football showdowns to have been seen in years. Whilst the casual observer might think its all about Chelsea v Barcelona in the Champion’s League, they’d be wrong. Of Course. Instead, we’ve the quite delicious treat of Brentford v Birmingham City. More importantly, the return of not just Maxime Colin, not just Jota (the real one rather than the Wolves version) but also former skipper Harlee Dean. Forget Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi visiting Stamford Bridge. The emotional significance of this trio returning, along with the circumstances of their deadline day departure, have been lost on nobody.

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We felt the same way too

“The football industry is a volatile one and I think my departure was the best move for all concerned” Not my words but those of Jota upon his £6.8million (allegedly) sale to the St. Andrews outfit.

“We’ve got quality in that squad. I’ve been in teams where we’ve finished fifth in this league and missed out on promotion by play offs. And this squad is ten times better than that. Its just about getting the balance right.” Not my words but those of Harlee Dean after a Birmingham supporter’s ‘Blues Cruise’ back in late October.

We all know the scoop. On the one hand, a Brentford squad containing the likes of: David Button, Jake Bidwell, Number 26, Nico Yennaris, Sam Saunders, Moses Odubajo, Stuart Dallas, Alan Judge, Jon Toral, Jota, Alex Pritchard, Andre Gray, Scott Hogan. That’s before you add the experience provided by the likes of Dougie, Macca, King Kev and Toumani.

On the other, a Birmingham City squad who are now just 2 points outside the relegation zone and 17 (seventeen, why not) behind Brentford. A win for the Bees will put us 20 clear. That’s twice ten times better. What better incentive could there be for us to really go for it?

Whatever happened back in the summer has happened. I can’t deny any less how I felt back then although how great to see how the Bees have gone on to bigger and better things. The squad has come together in the most wonderful way to stick a metaphorical two fingers up to the Midlanders. Yet at the same time, I can’t forget the wonder of Jota at his very best.

Those goals against Derby. Against QPR. Leaving Jake Bidwell flat on his backside. The infamous Burridgegasm at Blackburn. Even if those memories do still feel slightly tarnished for now, you can’t deny how, on his day, Jota was just about the most skillful and exciting player many of us ever had the privilege of watching.  Name me somebody who wouldn’t want him or Maxime in the squad and I’ll show you a liar.

Mark Burridge and Jota’s infamous moment

As for Harlee, I feel for him. Genuinely. What a way to shoot yourself in the foot with that ill-fated quote. What a way to make Dean Smith’s team talk the simplest he’ll ever need to give. What a way to wind up the crowd.

Despite the red cards, ad-hoc positional awareness and own goals, you can’t deny Harlee was Brentford through and through. He gave his all. Not just on the pitch but off it, too, where he was so famously an unsung hero after a car accident outside Griffin Park. Where he was a total hero to my son and always made time to chat with the young fans. Try explaining to a four year old why his idol has left to join ‘the naughty team’.

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The smile says its all (apologies again for the sticky fingers)

He was there as we held the Champions of Europe, Chelsea, in the FA Cup. It was Harlee who scored at Wembley in the play-off final against Yeovil following ‘that penalty’. He was the man to help shore up the ten man Bees at Leyton Orient the day we celebrated like we’d won the FA Cup. He was a Championship regular – almost pulling off an unlikely ascension to the Premier League and eventually showed his true potential ending last season as our Player of the Year.

Then he opened his mouth and, with it, undid all the positivity with a moment as significant in our history as Martin Rowlands ‘kissing the badge’.

No doubt, he’ll have a point to prove. No doubt, so will we. Expect it to be lively. Very. Expect the songs to be loud. Expect the Terrace wags to have their fill on #BeeTheDJ before kick off. And not just for Harlee.  From my perspective, any of the following would be good :

Pink Floyd – Money

The Doors  – Love Me Two Times (although that may need five plays)

Oasis – Don’t Look Back In Anger

Aerosmith – Big Ten Inch Record

Dusty Springfield – I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten

Herb Alpert  – Spanish Flea

Blake Shelton – Ten Times Crazier

The flipside is that Birmingham City will be as up for it as we are. Their season has reached a place where, with two thirds gone, they are in very real danger of slithering into League One. Of demonstrating that throwing money at a problem doesn’t necessarily make it go away.

Every point will be vital and they’ll be doing everything possible to get at least one. Picking up all three will necessitate being able to shoot at goal, something they’ve struggled with this campaign. Saturday’s home defeat to Millwall saw them manage just one shot on target whilst, with a mere 22 netbusters, they are the division’s most goal shy team.

So if you haven’t got a ticket yet, what are you waiting for? Sure, Chelsea – Barcelona , in the armchair, might be the comfortable option. It might have some of the World’s biggest names.It might have huge global viewing figures. But it won’t have the passion that this one does and it certainly hasn’t got the sub-plot.

I’ve had this date in the diary for a long, long time. And I can’t wait.

See you there.

Harlee

Nick Bruzon

Black Cats roll over to have their tummies tickled. Birmingham City are on the way down (to Brentford). Plus FA Cup oddity.

18 Feb

Is everybody back from Sunderland yet? A 2-0 win for Brentford at the Stadium of Light on Saturday was the perfect way to bounce back from a mini blip that had seen The Bees pick up 1 point from the previous three games (although fully deserving of all 9, if Dean Smith’s post-match press conferences were to be believed). Yet this time it was Chris Coleman using his time with the media to put the black cat amongst the pigeons. The former Fulham man opining about the Bees that: “I don’t think they’ll ever get promoted, I could be wrong, because they don’t have the finances but, if they keep doing what they do, they won’t be relegated either. Elsewhere, I woke to news of Manchester United drawing Brighton in the FA Cup. Somehow….

First up, the Sunderland manager. West London’s Premier Journalist Tom Moore ran a story last night that included Coleman’s claim – a statement worthy of Steve Evans at his finest. We’ve all been here and done this so many times yet it never fails to amuse. The suggestion that playing your way to the top isn’t possible without gargantuan levels of spending. Little Brentford. Teams like Brentford. Even Sky Sports haven’t bothered to update our crest on their graphics package – and we’re two thirds of the way through the campaign. The awful ‘cluttered clipart’ crest still hanging around like a bad smell. Every time you think it’s gone, it comes back. Had it been around 65 million years ago, one can only suspect it would have survived the asteroid .

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Curse that clipart graphic.

But enough of dinosaurs. Instead, Chris Coleman. Whatever his thoughts, we are seeing more and more that you can’t put a price on shrewd and innovative acquisition. On bringing the right people into the right set up. Look at how the Bees have continued to flourish season on season. Look at Birmingham City for the closest possible parallel to what happens when you just lump cash at it.

We’ve all had our doubts about the Brentford model over the years. Myself included. This summer in particular felt like a particular low point. Yet we’ve picked ourselves up and gone again.

Neal Maupay, now pretty much guaranteed a long run with the departure of Lasse Vibe, scored his eighth goal of the season with the cheekiest of back heeled efforts to go top of our scoring charts. This, after Kamo had opened the scoring with less than a quarter hour gone. Firing home hard and low from outside the box, he broke his Brentford duck and has given Dean Smith a real selection poser from the visit of Birmingham on Tuesday.  Brentford sit 10th in the Championship for the fourth successive season and with 42 points still available, there’s still a chance at the play-offs.

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Neal celebrates another goal.

Tom’s story also sparked the clickbait-gate debate on Social media once more. You can read that one here – the story rather than the clickbait chat. Personally, I’ve said my piece on that in these pages previously. The likes of Here Is The City and Football League World don’t even warrant a read these days, such is the eventual anti-climax that follows upon selecting one of their ‘stories’.

These publications so often tempt the reader with what transpires to be worse transfer news than the demise of the Letraset ‘action’ range.  News Now is littered with headlines which lead to nothing more than the regurgitation of the same footballer’s twitter feed we all have access to. Is the need for ‘hits’ and internet traffic THAT desperate?

On a totally unrelated note, I did enjoy Alan Judge’s retort to Coleman on the Social media platform last night. A simple but deliciously sweet: Yeah but we won’t be goin down. Certainly it makes a wonderful difference to the usual ‘we go again’.

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Letraset Action Transfers – a sadly missed treat from the 70s

That said, even Brentford official have been guilty of it in the past. I’ll never forget the moment back in November 1991 when the club proudly announced that we’d be signing a Division One (now Premier League) player. The excitement. The calls to 0898 121108 (at 33p a minute). The tension. Who would it be? Gary Lineker? Lee Chapman? Gazza? Gary McAllister? With the greatest respect to the legend that he is, the return of Bob Booker was hardly one to have supporters dancing in the streets of Raith when he was revealed.

Getting back to events at Sunderland, you have to feel for a team who were in the Premier League last season and are now on a fast track to League One along with Burton and Birmingham City. Talking this morning to one Bees insider (a man with his finger very much on the pulse of relevance) his considered opinion was that Black Cats are doomed, describing them as a shadow of the team that played at Griffin Park for the 3-3 back in October. Something that is desperate to see, especially given they’ve such great fans too.

Yet as we’ve seen with the likes of Wolves and Southampton (who played alongside us in League One) or Newcastle and Leeds United, former glories count for nothing. Having a huge stadium and great fans mean naff all if you can’t get the spending right, keep the team motivated or perform on the pitch.

With the greatest respect, that’s their issue. Not ours. Brentford are safe and looking upwards. Barring a remarkable reversal of fortune, Sunderland can start programming Birmingham, Accrington Stanley and Luton into the Satnav for 2018/19.

Who are they? Sunderland might be about to find out.

This weekend has also seen the FA Cup fifth round ties taking place. It really has been a TV overload with Sheffield Wednesday – Swansea providing a low key start before things kicked off on Saturday. Manchester United got past Huddersfield despite some dubious use of VAR. One does have to wonder how hard it is to get watching a TV replay wrong. Yet here we went. Again.

If VAR was confusing, it was nothing compared to waking up on Sunday to news that the draw for the sixth round had already taken place. This, despite a quarter of the ties yet to have taken place. Is nothing sacred anymore? Like semi-finals at Wembley and virtual reserve teams taking the field of play (although that didn’t work out too well for Tottenham at Rochdale on Sunday evening), it’s yet another subtle erosion of the gilt from this famous old trophy. We still love it, of course, yet I can’t help feel the FA are allowing their tournament to become tarnished. Even if squad selection isn’t in their hands, other factors most certainly are.

Still, for me its all about looking forward. About getting ready for that Birmingham City game. This is one we’ve all had in the diary since the transfer window slammed shut. If ever there was time to avoid the whiff of slippage then it is now.  #BeeTheDJ selections are being lined up and the vocal chords loosened. Victory for Brentford will take us to the 50 point mark, 20 better than our old boys at St. Andrews. That’ll be twice ten times better.

See you on Tuesday, Harlee. Forget Chelsea v Barcelona in the Champion’s League. Griffin Park is very much going to be the place for a blood and thunder encounter. It’s going to be a lively one, that’s for sure, and I can’t wait. Bring it on.

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Nick Bruzon

How times change. What a way to end the year.

30 Dec

How times change. The last time Brentford played Sheffield Wednesday (September’s game at Hillsborough) we came back on the wrong end of a 2-1 defeat and ended the night sitting in the bottom 3 of the Championship table. Our hosts meanwhile, using the victory to climb into the play off zone. The Bees had acquired a mere 3 points from the opening 7(seven) games as we struggled to adjust to that triple sale of Jota, Harlee and Maxime Colin to Harry Redknapp’s Birmingham City. It was a period that even saw the statistical horror of Dean Smith having picked up less points than Marinus Dijkhuizen (8) at the same stage of the 2015/16 season. Things weren’t pretty. Moreso given our subsequent game with Reading which saw an early lead squandered in a tame draw that kept the Bees in the basement – only Bolton and Birmingham below them.

That was then. This is now. Suddenly, things clicked. Dean got his boys firing and the Championship is a much brighter looking place. A win today against the now managerless Owls could see us move to within 4 points of the play-off zone. Confidence is high following a run of just 2 defeats in our last 17 league games. Moreso, coming off the back of successive wins at Norwich (Oh, Romaine Sawyers. I’m still dreaming of THAT pass) and the Boxing Day knockout of Aston Villa.

Will who now? Sergi was on fire agasint Villa, despite the torrential downpour

Will who, now? Sergi was on fire against Villa, despite the torrential rain

That one in particular, as satisfying for the way we outplayed our opponents as much as the sour grapes (before and after) from manager Steve Bruce aswell as the self-entitlement from an element of the Villa fans.

Yes. You used to be good. You did win something, once. But that was then and this is now. Brentford are the progressive club, adapting to their circumstances. The likes of Villa, Birmingham and, to a lesser extent today’s visitors, amongst those who have experienced the good times and now finding things much tougher to adjust to when the boot is on the other foot.

We went into the Christmas period off the back of that awful draw with Barnsley. The 0-0 at Griffin Park was not a good game in any respect. That said, it WAS another point. The table doesn’t lie (whatever you may hear from much wiser people than yours truly) and we are where we are for a reason. Despite some wonderful play when we are on fire, failure to punish slack opposition or hang on to leads HAS hurt us.

Yet, at the same time, despite continued sales over the last few years (and some very tasty acquisitions, it must also be said) we have this wonderful knack of building team spirit and a squad which can more than compete on its day. We already have Emiliano Marcondes to come in, Lewis Macleod inching his way back into the team and Alan Judge on the bench following a 16 month recovery from that horrific leg break. There’s even the prospect of Konstantin Kerschbaumer to make a Toumani Diagouraga-esque second coming after a period out on loan. One has to live in hope…..

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Could we see scenes like this once more?

So I go into the game today fuelled with optimism. Excitement approaching peak levels. I have to be honest, I didn’t see us ending the calendar year like this after that Reading result back in mid-September. Yet now we are in a position where Brentford are the ones with a tentative glance being made towards the upper reaches of the table. With a squad that have picked themselves up after a shaky start to show some quite wonderful form. And with big spending Birmingham City now nailed to the bottom of the table. Barring a statistical miracle today, they’ll end the year in the relegation zone.

We may have lost Jota and Maxime. Harlee may think his new squad is ten times better than that which made the play offs under Mark Warburton. But I know where I’d rather be right now. A chance to go in to the top ten of the Championship with the right result and then a home FA Cup tie next weekend.

No doubt Sheffield Wednesday will be out to stop us in our tracks. The Owls will have more than a point to prove and, let’s not forget, caretaker boss Lee Bullen saw his team romp to a 3-0 win at Nottingham Forest last time out. This is by no means the stroll in the park that recent form may suggest. Brentford can do it today, no doubt. But blind optimism can be a dangerous thing if you are expecting a win – just look at Aston Villa. Dean and his team still need to be on their A-game.

Will we do it? Roll on 3pm to find out. See you there. I can’t wait for this one.

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More of the same from Boxing Day would be great. Apart from the rain

Nick Bruzon