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A poor man’s Hans Gruber and a drum. Trip to the Palace reminds us what we’ve missed.

22 Aug

Brentford ahead of Manchester City. Not my words, Carol. Those of crisps star Gary Lineker on TV’s Match Of The Day last night (definitely not this morning on ‘catch up’ after falling asleep on the sofa). This, following a 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace. As eventful a game as one could imagine from the scoreline with both teams feeling aggrieved not to have taken all three points by the time referee Martin Atkinson called a halt to proceedings. Thomas Frank would take the applause from the travelling support as his, our, team, remain unbeaten in the Premier League. The current table seeing us sitting in fourth place with only Liverpool, Brighton and Everton ahead. Today’s fixtures will, no doubt, alter the balance of this fledgling ladder but, as it stands, there can be no complaints. Two games. Four points. None conceded. Champions League spot occupied. Don’t @ me. The stats don’t lie. As Shakira almost once sang.

Full Time. Thomas takes the applause and praises the fans

Where to start? Support levels were stonking. From both teams. Brentford loud, louder and ending it loudest. Palace, with a frenzied welcome of flag waving that transformed into huge vocals which the silent Arsenal visitors we had last week could only dream of.

All this, before resorting to that most heinous of football crimes. A drum. Oh for crying out loud, a f*&king drum. Still, as one observer put things, it was the only thing they could beat.

A drum. Pass the bucket

On pitch, Palace started at 100mph. The team looking to make up for lost time after last weekend and almost getting off the mark within minutes – only the frame of the goal keeping David Raya’s sheets clean when, by all rights, they should have been left aswell and truly blemished from close in. Conor Gallagher the man coming close but, in truth, it was the best opportunity they had and symptomatic of their game. No cutting edge when fast paced attack reached the final third. Benteke also with a good chance whilst Sergi played  Wilfried Zaha like a second hand fiddle.  The Ivorian resorting to a second half hissy fit that left him well and truly rattled. He wasn’t alone though. 

See also:  the chap in the supermarket end sporting the turtle neck jumper, blazer and slacks. He looked like the murderer in an episode of Midsomer Murders. It was the librarian wot did it. Or, perhaps, the classic Hollywood ‘late 80s’ English criminal. A poor man’s Hans Gruber who seemed somewhat perturbed by the fact that the Brentford fans were making noise. It all ended with him being invited to leave early into the second half before an eventual, calmer, return.  

Ahh, McClane…

As for Brentford, Bryan Mbeumo came closest. Hitting the Crystal Palace bar from a first half free kick whilst Ivan Toney and Frank Onyeka also had chances. Good chances. Sergi and Bryan linking up wonderfully down the right all game. Frank the Tank bossing midfield. Ajer travelling out of defence with all the comfort of a man who the ball tied ti his foot. Rock solid along side Ethan and Pontus when called upon. And when they were beaten, David Raya was there. If he’d been a virtual passenger against Arsenal, this time round he was well and truly needed. A fingertip save from James McArthur the other real moment of danger from the home side but our man was equal to it.

In the end though, we’ve left feeling almost disappointed. It was a game Brentford could have won. Perhaps should have. Yet credit to our opponents. The pace at this level is relentless. Lightning fast. Reflexes need to be that bit quicker and the fact we are, to date, holding our own is nothing to be sniffed at. This team has been prepared to compete over the last few seasons ans now we are here. Now we are doing it. So far. 

Special note for referee Martin Atkinson. It was as hard fought and physical a game as we’ve had in a while. Challenges flying in and he did everything possible to let the game flow. Even to the detriment of the players with the trainers coming onto the field a number of times. This was something Jurgen Klopp would talk about after Liverpool beat Burnley at lunchtime, saying that “it’s like we’re going 10 to 15 years backwards.” with officials now encouraged not to penalise ‘trivial’ things in order to let games flow. 

I’m all for an open game but there were a number of decisions and fouls, for both teams, where the decision making process seemed to be one where the ref simply chose not to see. Balance needs to be struck. Nobody wants the stop-start cardathons of Keith Stroud on a bad day, but there is also a level of physicality which if let unchecked will end up seeing somebody hurt. Perhaps its as much frustration after seeing a number of calls that, obviously, should have gone our way either not given or awarded to the hosts. At least we’ve not had VAR getting in the way. Yet. Time will tell how things play out on those fronts. 

Next up in the league for Brentford, a trip to Aston Villa. A chance to reunite with Dean Smith, Ezri Konsa and perhaps Ollie Watkins. We’ve sold 2,400 for that one. So far. If it was noisy at the Palace, there’s sure to be a party in the Park. Confidence is high and excitement levels even higher. Perhaps we might even make it out of ‘last spot’ in the Match of the Day running order. With Manchester City kicking off before us and playing Arsenal, we’ll need to win to retain our place ahead of them. Hey, one can fantasise. Only 36 games to go….. 

Until then, we’ve a chance to reflect on just how good it was being able to travel. Going on the road once more. Being part of the massed ranks of travelling fans. A moment that has, for so long, felt a million miles away from being possible. A chance to travel with friend and family. To see familiar faces and jumpers. Yet it has happened . And it was amazing. H getting into the atmosphere like a duck to water.

Now bring on the Villa so we can do it all again.

Nick Bruzon

One Flying Ant does not make Flying Ant Day. Can we deliver another kick up the Arsenal?

21 Aug

Arsenal despatched. Victory for Brentford over the hapless Gunners was only last week yet already it seems a lifetime ago. Eight days later and now we have the chance to do it all again. This time, a much stiffer challenge in the road trip to Crystal Palace. A short hop to Selhurst Park and the question of whether the Bees can recapture that spot at the top of the Premier League which was held for a tantalisingly brief period at the start of the weekend. Hey, the table doesn’t lie and it was enough to see Thomas Frank secure the League Managers Association award for performance of the week. Yet with Liverpool hosting Burnley at 12.30pm, we could find ourselves going in to this one 3 points off the top (a situation which would also see number 26 and his team rooted to the foot of the table).

Award winning

Look. We’ve done the Arsenal game to death. They were about as uncohesive a unit as one could ever see. An impotent shadow of their former selves. A team in big trouble with Chelsea and Manchester City up next. That’s their problem though. You can only beat who is in front of you and Brentford were magnificent. Calm. Confident. Dangerous. Clinicial.

Sergi’s goal a stunner. Oh, the smile that lit up Lionel Road as that one was celebrated. Absolutely priceless. How much egg on how many faces? Christian Norgaard doubling the lead as an Arsenal defence which would have struggled to mop up the floor, let alone a ball into the box, stepped aside to let him through. It could have been more. Frankly, who cares. The win was all that matters.

Yet as the old saying goes, one flying ant does not make flying ant day.  Brentford? Check. Slough? Check. Boston Manor? Check. At least three seperate sightings before you can be happy we’ve reached the most celebrated day in the Heaxapodal calendar. Before we can get too carried away. Everything from last week has now been and gone. Fun though it was.

Instead, we have the memories and confidence to push us on against Crystal Palace in the search for that second win. In the battle to oust Liverpool from the place at the top of the Premier League which they will presumably be occupying when we begin our own game.  

Oh, and that award for Thomas. I have to be honest, I wasn’t sure if somebody was trolling Leeds United by presenting him with a mini-whiteboard but a trawl back through the archives shows this is their standard. Fair enough. Let’s just hope that there isn’t a ‘Curse of the LMA performance of the week award’.

Thomas Frank’s whiteboard was the gift that kept on giving.

Thankfully, there are no new injuries and the squad remains as it is, albeit with the possibility that Tariqe Fosu may return. Prepare for incoming floods from certain quarters. The BBC report that Palace will again be without captain Luka Milivojevic but, regardless, one can only assume they will be chomping at the bit to make up for lost time. The thankless task of a trip to Stamford Bridge to open proceedings hardly an ideal one for new manager Patrick Vieira. Chelsea considered real contenders for the title by many respected pundits. And also Ian Moose. Now they will be back amidst what is sure to be a raucous atmosphere at Selhurst Park. 

Whilst the result is, as ever, impossible to predict we can at least rest easy in the fact that the Bees faithful will do what Arsenal failed at so miserably. Namely, making some/any noise. The home support sure to be given a run for their money by the 2000 or so from West London.

I can’t wait to get back on the road. I’ve not seen Brentford away since Luton Town in the sleet back in February 2020. About as soul destroying a defeat as could be imagined and one which ended with the ultimate indignity of Jan Zamburek’s shirt being stolen from the dressing room and ending up on ebay. Apparently. Just a few weeks later, Lockdown restrictions started to kick in and we’ve not travelled since. At least, until Wembley. Remind me what happened…..

Roll on 3pm. See you there.

Last Friday was immense. Now, time to move on…

Nick Bruzon

Still under the radar ? Time for a last first.

19 Aug

Almost a week later, there aren’t enough words to describe just how incredible that first week of Premier League football felt. Brentford magnificent. Arsenal awful. Manchester United party poopers. Crystal Palace, like Leeds, ceremonial lambs to the slaughter lining up away to genuine title contenders. Then again, such is the vibe at Lionel Road you could say the same about Arsenal. Nobody has a positive word to say about a performance that saw them out played, out thought and out muscled by Thomas Frank’s rampant swarm of Bees. Their supporters taking the library on the road as the vociferous home crowd ripped the roof off the Brentford Community Stadium and took us, however, briefly, to the top of the table.

Ok, so Manchester United destroyed that dream in little over 12 hours but what a feeling to wake up to on Saturday morning. There we were as headline makers in all the papers. Brentford at the top of the table with as many pictures of Woody as there were of goal scorers Sergi Canos and Christian Norgaard. It was quite the surreal way to end the most spine-tingling day and night. For once, this bus stop in Hounslow the very epicentre of the global football world. And then Leeds United forgot to pack their defence. Or, rather, the Red Devils went on the sort of hot streak that does beg the question about what could happen to us at some point this season. You can’t win them all, that’s for sure.

Headlines and heroes on Saturday morning

You can be damn sure we’ll be giving it out best at the weekend though. Brentford’s second top flight fixture sees the short trip to South East London. Crystal Palace licking their wounds after being mauled by Chelsea. New boss Patrick Viera mad keen to start his first home game with a win. The Bees faithful just wishing kick off was right now, such is the good feeling around TW8. Such is the excitement and enthusiasm surrounding just about anything to do with the club. How Thomas Frank gets the balance between over confidence, getting carried away and just playing our free flowing football will be one of the key tactical cards to be played. Sergi and Bryan were rampant on Friday. Ivan everywhere. See also: Vitaly. Ethan Pinnock a rock at the back when called upon. Even David Raya had his wits about him despite Arsenal being so second best that he had nothing much to do for the opening 85 minutes. Had he failed to pull of that save it would have been itchy bum time for sure. But he did, quite wonderfully, and it wasn’t. Instead, tears of joy and a well, well deserved win.

Now, though, time to move on. Crystal Palace await and tickets are in hand. Mostly. Errr… The away stand is sold out and it promises to be as raucous as Friday night. If not moreso given the opposition are sure to make some noise too. Their ground as compact as Griffin Park once was. We had a pub in every corner. The Eagles have a supermarket at one end. All four stands bang on top of the pitch, unlike the behemoth running tracks and wide perimeters found at so many newer stadia. Albeit, the Selhurst Park capacity is double that of our former home. Its going to be tasty, that’s for sure.

most tickets have been posted out

The ‘my work’ derby, a reference so niche only about three people will get it (one of whom is me) is almost upon us. For the rest of us, its quite simply Brentford’s first ever away game in the Premier League.

Granted, these ‘first ever’ references will need to stop soon or we’ll be entering West Ham territory. The 1966 World Cup winners saw just about anything to do with their being gifted the Olympic Stadium deemed: first ever insert missing words  at their new home: game lost. half and half scarf worn. Season ticket holder arriving to find their seat didn’t exist.

See also: last ever  insert missing words at the Boleyn Ground as the media love in with Upton Park reached as sickening an over saturation point as repeats of Mrs. Brown’s Boys: away coach attacked. Bubble blown.  So bad its amazing film made  (being Final Score, of course).

Instead, let’s just focus on the game in hand. We’ve done the first / new thing. Now its time to keep on doing our well worn ‘under the radar’ act. Certainly, neither Arsenal or the pundits knew quite what to expect. Here’s hoping the same applies at Crystal Palace on Saturday. 

I can’t wait for this one. See you there. 

Have the Bees finally emerged from under the radar?

Nick Bruzon

Christmas present from Crystal Palace helps Brentford draw with 12 man Cardiff.

27 Dec

A fair point, lucky to get away with it or robbed? Brentford and Cardiff City shared the spoils in 2-2 Boxing Day draw that sprang to life late in the second half but, prior to that, had been a game which felt as stodgy and bloated as a third helping of sprouts and Christmas pudding. Only the presence of Crystal Palace loanee Sullay Kaikai managing to save the day.

And talking of Christmas puddings (oh, the crowbarring…) referee Simon Hooper was giving out no gifts (the penalty to Cardiff for their opener, aside) as he enraged the Griffin Park faithful, management and players – with Harlee Dean being awarded a yellow card for his (correct) protests at yet another stonewall penalty being turned down.

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Harlee tells the ref what we all think and saw – c/o Beesplayer highlights (below)

It was as shocking a display of refereeing as one could hope to see. Consistently poor decision making as appeals for three nailed on spotkicks were waved away by the man in the middle. But it wasn’t just him.

The assistant on the Braemar Road side  proving absolutely no use in telling him what we could all see. Their existence on the pitch proving pointless which, ironically, was how Brentford were almost left after Cardiff had retaken the lead with minutes on the clock.

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Pointless officials almost left the Bees , erm, empty handed

One point for the visitors would have been harsh, let alone all three. They’d taken the lead in the first half with the one penalty that Mr Hooper saw fit to award, for the most innocuous of innocuous ‘challenges’ (please note: yours, and everybody else’s definition of the word ‘challenge may vary).

Yet if the Bees had been robbed we were hardly making a fight of hauling ourselves back into it. Turgid, apathetic, lazy. Every manner of ’too much Christmas dinner’ related cliche. Any of these would have been an apt description of a team that not so much failed to get going as failed to make it out onto the pitch.

With Cardiff opting to go for muscle , brawn and height there is enough talent in this team to have kept it on the deck and run rings around them. Instead, it was tedium in football form. Bounced off the challenge and as many sideways and backwards passes as attempts to take it forward dominated our play. The first half was, frankly, as entertaining as a Christmas cracker joke.

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Answers on a postcard…

An hour in, substitutions . And good ones. McEachran for Sawyers and Sullay Kaikai for Lasse Vibe. Neither had played well whilst, for whatever reasons, the form of our great Dane seems to have long gone off the boil. How he is still justifying a starting berth is confusing to many but, with the new look team in place, things did step up.

With an added positive substitution of Philipp Hofmann coming on for Bjelland, the Bees began to push. And push. The penalty appeals aside, it was surely going to be matter of time.

And then it happened. Visiting ‘keeper Brian Murphy could no longer hold off the red hoardes as, despite a number of fine saves, he finally saw his net bulge courtesy of a quite magnificent effort from Sullay Kaikai. That’s one to hit rewind for again and again once the official highlights come out (until then, we have the Sky variant available).

Mark Burridge now on hand for ‘official’ comms

But with the Bees pressing for a late winner, we were caught short. Kenneth Zohore beating the last man when played on side and, with a generous shove chucked into the mix, was able to fire the Bluebirds into an 89th minute 2-1 lead.

With fans trooping out early for the pub, and City gloating, it was dead in the water, wasn’t it? Those who stayed were rewarded for their faith. That man Kaikai popping up again to head home John Egan’s cross and salvage a point for the Bees.

We should have won this. We could have lost it. Don’t let the anti-performance of the referee or our late surge disguise the fact that we were so desperately poor for huge swathes of this game. But for the Crystal Palace man we’d have had few complaints, barring the referee, at coming away empty handed.

A team just can’t rely on arbitrary decision making from the man in the middle to determine their fate. Cardiff offered nothing beyond grunt yet even that was too sophisticated for the Bees in the opening hour.

The record books will show a point earned and, in the longer term, we’ll have few complaints. Yet I do wonder why Dean’s teams are so inconsistent and such late starters?  Why can’t we play for 90 minutes? See also : Birmingham City . Why do we just fail to turn up at times? See also: Barnsley, Norwich City and Fulham.

I’ve no issue losing but the consistency, or lack off, is perplexing. We just don’t know which Brentford we’re going to get. Here’s hoping that when we play Norwich City on New Year’s Eve it’ll be the one that humped Reading 4-1 or Preston 5-0 way back in September.

Not the Brentford who got turned over 5-0 at Carrow Road earlier this month.

On Dec 31st, we find out. See you there.

Nick Bruzon

A great deadline day. And how often do we say that?

1 Sep

So that’s that. The transfer window has slammed shut (TM) and Brentford could, arguably, be said to be stronger coming out of it than we are going in to it (somebody should use that one). Winger Sullay Kaikai comes in on loan  from Crystal Palace whilst left back Rico Henry joins former Walsall team mate Romaine Sawyers, signing on a massive five year contract. Newcastle United, Leicester City and Hull remain disappointed (at least from a Bees perspective) as our out door barely even creaked

To read the rest of this article, season 2016/17 is now available for download on e-book in the retrospective: Welcome Home, King Jota (Brentford FC season review 2016/17)

Priced at just £1.99, all sales are being donated to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust.

Likewise any sales from the previous titles – Celebrating like they’d won the FA Cup (2013/14), Tales from the football village (2014/15) and Ready. Steady. Go Again. (2015/16) – are also now going to the BFCCST.

Containing the least bad of the blogs from May 16 to May 17, you can pick it up, here. Its all for a great cause and,hey, you may even enjoy it…..

Sullay Kaikai

Sullay Kaikai on ‘official’ – now THAT’s a signing photo

 

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Ryan Woods signs his extension – is that really a contract?

 

Nick Bruzon