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We’re second, everyone….

21 Feb

Twitter was left reeling on Saturday with the shocking revelation that a season is determined by the result of one game. Football authorities were desperately thumbing through the rule books to see if the car crash performance dialled in by Brentford at Coventry City was sufficient to declare our promotion campaign dead, wiping all previous results off the board. Mathematicians have spent the last 24hours  trying to establish just how the 4-1 tonking administered to Swansea City by Huddersfield Town has kept us second. If anything, with a marginally improved goal difference on the now fourth placed Swans. It’s almost as if…. and kids please stop me if this is going too fast here, the teams that go up and down discover their fates by tallying up the total number of points earned over a full 46 games. As somebody once said, the table doesn’t lie. Whilst Norwich City have some clear air once more, things remain as tight as ever with 15 games to go. 17 if you are Swansea.

Stop. Seriously, stop. We all acknowledge that yesterday was horrific, awful, dreadful, woeful etc etc etc . There aren’t sufficient words to describe how hard it was to sit through. Our previously untouchable superstars looking a shadow of their former selves. Coming off the back of those recent defeats, it’s easy to understand why some of those that follow Brentford are getting anxious. Getting stressed. Hitting the big red button marked ‘social media meltdown’. Cripes, it was about as sloppy and lethargic a performance as I’ve seen in a long, long time. Words were exchanged on these pages and on Twitter at full time – I absolutely stand by them ; we were horrific. A colander like defence and a second goal that was about as self-inflicted as they come. At a time we should have been shooting at Coventry we shot ourselves in the foot. 

Meltdown incoming….

To a man, we were awful. Ivan Toney is out for a couple of games. Pontus on the grass but not close to a start. Rico Henry now looks as though he’ll be joining him on the sidelines for a few weeks, at least. Christian Norgaard still missing although hopefully his return will be imminent. Can he play left back? Solving that one is going to take all manner of juggling now. Three CB? Sergi sitting in the wing back role ? Fin Stevens getting a shot? This was always the risk of no recognised cover although you could say the same on the other flank where yesterday was a less than rip roaring success. Equally, players don’t grow on trees and we don’t have buckets of cash sloshing around to spend with abandon in an attempt to try and predict what might happen once the transfer window closes. Which club does at this level and even moreso this season with revenue streams decimated by Corona? Now, the strain of this rapid fire season means we have the dual challenges of injuries to overcome and form to rediscover.

Yet, yet, yet. We ARE up there. We’re second, everyone. Deploy fishing rod emoji. Swansea City have to win their two games in hand to bring about the doomsday scenario our excitable keyboard warriors were sh*tting themselves over before the Huddersfield game when they had three on us but, even if they do, it doesn’t mean the season is suddenly over. 

The wailing and gnashing of teeth from those unable to differentiate between a bad performance and a bad season was incessant. The fact that we are, somehow, still in ‘automatic’ a fact that seemed to cause even more irritation than the meagre offerings served up at St. Andrew’s. Our actually nudging a touch further ahead of Swansea after Huddersfield laced up their own shooting boots a further thorn in the side of those whom, it almost seemed, were desperate for us to be overtaken. Just so they could further justify their own impotent rage and say “I told you so”. 

I want Brentford to win. I want our fans happy. I’d love Thomas to turn around and explain how he picks his team and his tactics based on social media based insight from the armchair collective. But he won’t because that’s not how football works. Just as a season isn’t decided by one, two or three results. 

We were sh*t, no question. But it is how the team react now that is what counts. How we adjust to further absences and pick ourselves up once more. How we avoid a repeat of this week and ensure what is now a definite blip stays as such rather than becomes anything more severe. Something that will be forgotten about in the grander scheme as results play out and we plough through the fixture list.

Slag off the players and the head coach if you want. It won’t change a thing. If it makes you feel better then I’m pleased for you. There are 15 games to go and we won’t win them all. We might even lose a couple more at some point but until full time at Bristol City on 8th May, the shape of the final table remains a great unknown. Get used to it. Nobody has ever been promoted from the Championship after game 30. I tell you something though, I’d love it if we come second. Absolutely love it. For what it’s worth, and if anybody is still reading, I’m absolutely convinced we will.

Nick Bruzon

Brentford pointless after car crash of a no-show.

20 Feb

Wow. Just wow. There are no-shows, and there are no-shows. Then there was that. A next level no-show from Thomas Frank’s team with Coventry City taking just about as easy a three points as they could ever be offered. Brentford, generous visitors to St. Andrew’s and allowing our hosts 90 minutes to enjoy lunch at the all you can score buffet. In the end our hosts took advantage just twice but it could have been double that. Or more. Our second place in the Championship remaining by virtue of nothing more than goal difference but Swansea City must be salivating now with a massive three games in hand. A win at Huddersfield Town this afternoon (at the time of writing it is, amazingly, 1—0 to the hosts) will see them overtake us with an additional two games to play. Norwich City will, I am sure, also be looking to extend their own lead at the top in the game against Rotherham United at Carrow Road.

Full credit to Coventry City, btw. They fought and scraped for everything. Kept pushing to the last. Outplayed a changed Brentford line up in every position. One can understand Thomas needing to use games for rotation but the new look line up weren’t even close to coming second. Ben Wilson in the Coventry goal having just about as easy a game as they come. Ninety minutes to catch up on some sleep. Brentford, on the other hand, pointless. Before, during and after. Ghoddos anonymous. Mbeumo overweight. Canos out of sorts and out of touch. Forss not getting a look in. Dasilva and Dalsgaard on the bench. Toney not even making the squad. Let’s hope that was nothing serious.

We ended the game with changes having been made but Rico Henry looking like he may have sustained significant damage and a second goal conceded that came straight from the textbook of schoolboy defending. A woeful clearance from Raya, under no pressure whatsoever, selling his team short. Coventry being given all the time and space to pick their moment and double the lead ten minutes into the second half. A second goal for Tyler Walker to complement his penalty in the opening period. It had looked an innocuous decision awarded against Rico but the general consensus was that it was the right one. Walker squeezing it through and under Raya after 19 minutes to shock us, briefly, into life.

The resuscitation was a short one. A game crying out for change before half time continued the same way and the ultimate price was then paid after the defensive horror show that allowed the lead to be doubled. Brentford declared dead on the table but limping through the motions for another half hour or so. Offering up about as flaccid a performance as we’ve had the misfortune to sit through in a while. It was Stoke City away levels of bad. Second half against Preston awful. Horrific. An insult to the word performance. 

Play this rather than watching the highlights – its the same

You get the gist. Whatever the results from Huddersfield and Norwich, we’ve been about as bad as it is possible to be. Knackered? Perhaps. Mentally drained? Maybe. But enough about the fans. I’m sure the players are feeling it too and I’m equally sure that Sheffield on Wednesday can’t be anywhere near this woeful. It would be impossible to be so. Even with Ian Moose up front, the England Supporters band across the back four and Mrs. Brown filling the defensive midfield berth.

The obvious concern being that this is now three defeats on the spin. LLL. A blip could become a car crash. Barnsley was poor, QPR better (for a while) but this was off the cliff levels of bad. Man of the match probably going to referee Steve Martin, simply for his bringing proceedings to a close. The one bit of pleasure to take this afternoon. Thomas, frankly that wasn’t good enough today. Nowhere near. No guts. No desire. No clue.

On the other hand, if there can be any positive, at least we’re having the bumps now. Better to get them out the system now with 15 still to play than in the final few games of the campaign. We’ve got Ivan Toney to return. Likewise Christian Norgaard and Emiliano Marcondes. The former can’t be back soon enough. The later hopefully to provide some much needed flare. There was good news with Pontus being declared back on the grass although I can’t imagine his return being in the next few days or even weeks.

No amount of post mortem will find any genuine good from today, though. I’m not even going to try. I have eyes. What is important now is where we go from here. Wednesday night demands the mother of all reactions. Fingers crossed it comes. 

In the meantime, if Huddersfield and Rotherham would like to do us a favour then that would be good. 

Nick Bruzon

Ivan not terrible. We hope.

18 Oct

Another win under the belt. Brentford chalked up a routine 2-0 over Coventry City that takes us to within two points of the p***-*ff positions in the embryonic table. At the half way mark to it having officially ‘taken shape’. The Bees are up to tenth and Ivan Toney has more than hit his groove. Another brace yesterday taking him top of the Championship goal scorer charts. With a tough run of fixtures coming up between now and Tuesday week – Sheffield Wednesday on, err, Wednesday, staying on the road to Stoke and then hosting Norwich City – we’ll have a much better idea of just how well Thomas Frank’s 20/21 incarnation of the team are adapting to Championship life. More importantly, with Toney being subbed off after suffering a shoulder injury, let’s hope its a case of Ivan not terrible when the teams for the game at Hillsborough are announced.

Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves though. First things first, the Coventry game. As feels like it is going to be the case for the next few months – at the very least – it was another one where we had to watch on i-follow.

The couch and the wide angle camera – where there was as much of the empty stand on our screen as there was pitch – making the best of the bad job inflicted on us by Corona virus. That said, would it hurt to zoom in a little bit?  Perhaps its just our tv and my shoddy eyesight but I was struggling to identify the players at times. Sergi’s new look hair (or lack of) not helping. Was this the result of a training ground prank / dare that went wrong?

Official published this one – where’s the hair, Sergi?

What we could see looked good. Domination in the first half and the combination of heavy touches, desperate defence and fine goalkeeping (Pontus must be cursing) keeping things level as Brentford took the game to our guests. At one point the stats read 12 shots, 4 on target and 6 corners to the Bees compared with 0, 0 and 0 for the equivalent from Coventry.  Bryan Mbeumo will perhaps rue one chance where he seemed to be clear before getting closed out whilst Ivan Toney has Sky Blues’ ‘keeper Marko Maroši on his toes early doors.

But we all know the old adage about balls in the back of the net being the only thing that counts. Just look back to the season opener at Birmingham City.  With no goal coming and Coventry finding their feet late on, it had all the trade marks of being a classic 0-1 Brentford reverse as the players came in for their half-time cuppas. 

Oh me of little faith. Boom. Another blistering start and there was to be no escape for the visitors this time. No repeat of the second-half debacle we’d seen last time out. Instead, Ivan Toney opened proceedings within a minute of the restart. Marcondes finding Bryan Mbeumo whose ball forward – seemingly neither cross nor shot exactly( if only there were a phrase for that)  – was diverted home by the free-scoring frontman. 1-0 and pressure off. 

Little less than ten minutes later, that lead was doubled. Marcondes instrumental again. This time getting the assist as his cross found the head of Toney who made no mistake from six yards out. The floodgates were starting to open. Sit back, pop another beer and enjoy the rout.

Sadly not. Coventry were made of firmer stuff and, once more, grew into it. Instead we had to be happy with holding on for a clean sheet and sweating on our players’ fitness. Rico Henry went down for a while whilst Toney was subbed off. His replacement the quite wonderful Marcus Forss but with our new man adjusting so quickly to Championship life, his presence will be vital over the coming weeks. Thankfully, Tomas Frank would confirm to Billy Reeves at full time that the injury was not serious but we’ll no doubt be waiting on further news ahead of the trip to Sheffield,  Wednesday.

Vitaly Janelt also came on for a debut and impressed from the off. With Matthias Jensen having his best game in a Brentford shirt for a while, it offers hope that the absence of Christian Norgaard is one which whilst not ideal by any stretch, could be absorbed.

I’m a happy man today. 2-0 is 2-0. It could have been more and we still look a little rusty in places. Yet Ollie Watkins’ loss has not become the on-pitch disaster it could have been. Perhaps some of us are scarred by remembering the attempts to replace Dean Holdsworth with Murray Jones, Philipp Hofmann picking up for Andre Gray or just the car crash that was Nick Proschwitz. Instead we have cash in the bank and goals flying in. The statisticians at the GPG produced an inserting graph (not a typo) last night – 

What a way to illustrate how quickly Ivan has taken to life at this level. Ahead of Ollie and level with Neal Maupay, having played a game less than our much loved king of shithousery.

This is one game. But, as ever with Brentford, we take time to adjust. To find our feet. Look at how last season started compared to how it ended. In general, I mean, rather than those very last knockings. Move along, nothing to see there ! Once we hit our form, the Bees were unstoppable. At least until the game at Stoke City. Something something something p***-*ffs.  

We are gelling. We are winning. We’ve still got a league cup quarter-final to host, too. Let’s not forget the valuable wins picked up in that competition. Sheffield Wednesday away is as tough as it gets. Their own form has actually been better than ours, with only that 12 point deduction keeping them bottom of the table. They’re reeling in those around them already and will no doubt be desperate to get into ‘positive’ points as soon as possible. 

But we’ll be as keen to keep the goals coming. For David Raya to retain the ‘golden gloves’ he won last year. To get closer to the teams at the top of the table. I can’t wait for this one. If only to see how well we fare against a team whose home has been a less than happy hunting ground in recent seasons. Bring it on. 

Nick Bruzon