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A good news/bad news kind of start to the day.

23 Sep

Another win for Brentford. Another game unbeaten. Through to the fourth round of the league cup at the expense of a West Bromwich Albion side who may have seen this one as a chance to restore some morale. Instead, the game ended two apiece – three of the goals coming from spot kicks and Marcondes with a sublime overhead kick – before we went through 5-4 in the penalty shootout. The reward for this being a visit from either Fulham or Sheffield Wednesday in next week’s fourth round. That, and the knowledge we’ve already defeated more Premier League sides than all three of those that made the jump up from the Championship last season. Leeds United the only one of those to taste any success (and that in the game of haemorrhaging defences against the hapless Cottagers). What a shame there was nobody allowed in to see it.

Sergi amongst those to feel the Forss

The expected changes to both teams were made. For Brentford it saw a return to goal of David Raya and a start for Marcus Forss, amongst others. Rico Henry, Emiliano and the sublime Sergi Canos also getting another runout from the off (let’s hope they can manage to avoid over exertion) after doing the business against Huddersfield on Saturday. With a strong bench that was well utilised the Bees were as strong as one could have expected. Certainly given the constant procession of midweek games clubs have had no choice but to play given the way the previous campaign was extended. It still makes no sense to even be playing the competition this year but, hey-ho, player burnout is a secondary consideration I suppose.

And if we are playing it, how nice to see Brentford doing so to the best of their available ability. West Brom barely got a look in during the opening half. Canos flashing one just wide and Emiliano hitting the post from distance. Fosu impressing throughout. The hosts with the one moment of danger just before half-time with a free kick awarded on the periphery of Saunders territory. It came to nothing.

Yet if the first half had seen everything but a goal, it all changed after the tea. The hosts took the lead form the spot. Dominic Thompson adjudged to have fouled Hal Robson-Kanu. The Baggies man picking himself up to give his side the lead. It was a lead that lasted less than two minutes and one which was cancelled out in fine style. Apparently.

We say ‘apparently’. Yours truly missed out after “Doing a JJ”. The net rippling off the back of Marcondes’ quite wonderful bicycle kick as this numpty had gone for a ‘splash and dash’ . Regular readers may be aware how back in the days we were allowed into grounds, it was a feat that the Giant Scot with the Pea sized bladder used to pull off with abandon from the Ealing Road terrace (missing goals by having to go for a wee, rather than bicycle kicks). Yet after suffering the same fate for our second on Saturday , has the baton been passed? Cripes. I hope not. 

If for no other reason that having fallen behind again to another Robson-Kanu spot-kick (not seen a worse ‘pen’ decision since Pontus elected for his infamous biro) we were then given our own chance to level things up.

‘That’ BIC

Daddy”, said H (I would imagine, if his teacher is reading) “wee. Go again”. One had to be impressed by the wordplay, if not the ignominy of being banished to the bathroom. I guess if you have to go, you have to go. Sure enough, it worked. Nothing to do with Marcus Forss at all. Like the lucky shirt, magic pants and not shaving, is this a new ‘omen’ to top the lot? Urghh.

Anyway, 2-2 it stayed. David Raya pulling off a flying save relatively late on to preserve the scoreline and justify his place back in the team after injury. The Twitter hate mob seemed out for our captain for the night. Makes a change from the quite bizarre Ivan/Sergi angst being seen in certain social-media quarters. Go figure. Nothing like getting on the team’s back based on nothing more than unfounded rumour. Anyway, if you’re one of those me banging on won’t change it. And if you aren’t, then presumably its nothing more than weird. Cripes. Considering some of the dross we’ve had over the years, the current squad is light years ahead.

Something proven from the full time penalties. Goal followed goal followed goal. Ivan Toney getting things off to a fine start for a Brentford team kicking second. The pressure of following the lead always adding an extra layer of pressure but, If it was there, it didn’t show. Josh Dasilva made it 2-2 with his own ‘Jonny Wilkinson’ style run up. Fosu and Forss were there for three and four. Then, David Raya did his thing. Diangana denied and the stage set. Up stepped Christian Nørgaard and there was no mistake made. West Bromwich Albion denied. The Bees through. A visit from another of last season’s Championship rivals next on the agenda.

We find out tonight whether that will be Fulham or The Owls. Brentford looking forward rather than over their shoulders at what might have been. At what happened last campaign. When pushed on whether this win was seen as revenge, Thomas Frank noted : “That’s the past, this is the future”.

With it, comes a chance to set our own personal best in this tournament. We’ve never reached the fifth round before. That game at Birmingham City being as close as it has got in recent years. Now, we’re all set for another crack.

Before that though, there’s a chance to rest tired limbs over the next few days. Saturday sees the trip across London to face Millwall. I’d love to be going – as much for the pre-match pub crawl as the actual game. Again, an action now denied and one with no end in sight. The latest announcements from the government curtailing any experiments with letting spectators back and meaning it looks like March, at the earliest, before we can even consider attending a game. ‘For the greater good’ and all that but let’s not pretend this isn’t soul destroying. That this isn’t devastating for so many, if not all, clubs on the financial front. That football without fans present and watching on I-follow is an ersatz replacement for the real thing.

I don’t really want to end on a downer. The prospect of Preston had been dangled like a carrot. That’s now been snatched away and for the foreseeable too. Waking up and listening to the radio this morning makes for hard news. We want in. We want normal. We just want to go and watch a game of football.  We aren’t allowed. For crying out loud, wash your hands and wear a mask. Like it or not. Believe it or not. Let’s all just do this . Please. I want to watch football. Not listen to Boris giving the impression of a man making it up as he goes along.

The latest rules invoking a virus busting cut-off at 10pm mean anyone wanting to watch the Arsenal – Liverpool game down the pub on Monday night will be kicked out with the game approaching 85 minutes gone. Small consolation, I suppose. And nothing Arsenal won’t have experienced before with fans streaming out early.

Before 22.00, everything is just fine. Be warned, horror awaits straight after.

Instead, let’s end with the thought of another fine performance. Of our MOTM Marcus Forss scoring. Again. With thoughts of Brentford continuing our winning form. Of taking consolation that, had we gone up last season, we’d have missed out on being physically present for that. 

Here’s to Millwall on Saturday. See you on I-follow.

Nick Bruzon 

The wait is over…

22 Sep

And with that, Saman Ghoddos finally became a Brentford player after the 27 year old attacker signed on a year’s loan from Amiens SC, with the option for a further two year permanent deal. The player put pen to paper and, with it, provided much relief. Not so much because it saw a 16 month pursuit come to an end but more because it meant we could finally retire those ‘Waiting For Ghoddos’ quips made by just about the entire internet in the build up to this one. I say quips. The line had been used so often it had become about as amusing (and tedious) as an episode of Mrs. Browns Boys. He’s gone straight in to training although one would suspect tonight’s trip to West Bromwich Albion in the third round of the league cup might be a leap too far.

The wait is over (sorry, sorry, sorry)

Speaking to ‘official’, Thomas Frank waxed lyrical about Ghoddos. So did Rasmus. Our head coach noting that along with his off the ball play, “He will bring good attacking qualities in the final third. He is good in one-on-one situations, is a good crosser of the ball, and makes very intelligent passes….He also has a personality and style of play that will work well with the group.You can read that piece, along with the thoughts of our top-knotted Co-Director of Football, here.

Imagine, somehow, the deal to take Said Benrahama from Lionel Road fails to transpire. My word, we’d be overflowing with attacking riches. I still can’t see that happening. Stadiums need to be paid for, books balanced and we’ve made no secret of the fact we expect him to leave. Yet, if things did play out differently…..

Like Pontus and Andreas (err), Saman had his moment in the World Cup 2018 sticker book

Still, we’ve not even seen our new man in action yet. The expectation from some fans no doubt huge. Players can take time to adjust. Others hit the ground running. For now, I’m glad we’ve got Bryan and Sergi tearing it up on the drive forward. That Josh Dasilva has picked up where he left off in the middle of the park. Canos in particular looks like he is planning for fun. Freedom of movement and confidence exuding from every pore. Long may that continue.

Whether tonight sees him get another run out or rested will be revealed when the team to play West Bromwich Albion is announced at 6pm. Don’t forget the early kick off if you are looking to follow this one on the ‘player’ option. £10 passes are available via the cup sponsor’s website and can be bought here

A trip to the Hawthorns feels very much like a case of déjà vu. They were one of the many teams we beat in the post Lockdown ‘run-in’ last season as Brentford came oh so close to making that step up. In the end, it was the Baggies that made it. Deservedly so. They got over the line in the final game and rightfully claimed their reward. 

Last time out against West Brom

That said, it has shown how hard the step up is. From going toe to toe with the Bees and Leeds United, they’ve now been on the wrong end of eight goals conceded and nil points as Everton and Leicester City have both feasted at the Slavan Bilić all you can score buffet.

Still, there’s nothing more dangerous than a wounded, err, Throstle and they’ll no doubt be looking to reset the form this evening. A home tie against a lower division ‘team like’… sure to have their eyes wide open and the players waking up this morning dreaming of the fourth round. The publicity seeking nature of the cup sponsor means we already know the reward for victory – a home tie with Fulham or Sheffield Wednesday. Their current ‘thing’ of doing the next round draw before the current one has even begun something designed as much with the intent of generating publicity, outtrage, knee jerk reaction and social media comment aka free advertising. So I won’t. You know their name. 

That’s their choice. We’ve ben treated to all manner of bizarre draws in the past. It’s their hilarious gimic  – something that has become about as amusing (and tedious) as an episode of Mrs. Brow…..

Instead, focus should be on going through. On getting the win. Rather than be distracted by the prospect of a local derby or the chance of a rematch with the final team to face Brentford in front of a Griffin Park full house.

The thought of playing the Cottagers something that will only see all the references to last season and the denouement of ‘that’ run in dragged up again. Oh. Joy. It’ll be like Doncaster Rovers all over. Something. Something. Something. Penalty.

Oh well. As Matthew Benham once said, “It’s become like a zombie that we can’t kill. But what can you do, eh?”. That, in regards tour transfer model but it feels much the same. We bounced back from that in style. I’m fully expecting the same thing to happen this time around. Needless to say, we’ll have the last laugh.

That’s for the future. For now, there’s another game. Could David Raya return? Will any of the new boys feature. Might Marcus Forss start? Could Ivan Toney get the goal he was so close to on Saturday afternoon. Roll on kick off. See you there – in spirit.

Let’s hope tonight is less tedious than…

Nick Bruzon 

Don’t @ me. This isn’t even close to 94-95.

19 Jul

Where do you even start? It could have been dreamland for Brentford but instead we have to fight on. The dream of promotion from the Championship still well alive but one which is now reliant on either West Bromwich Albion dropping more points on Wednesday or us going through the play-offs. In a high pressure game at Stoke City the combination of brutal opposition, terrible refereeing from Geoff Eltringham and hosts set up so intent on smothering us that penetration was nigh on impossible all saw us slip to 1-0 defeat. The usual attacking flair booted out of us by a team boasting more kickers than a French exchange student. If Friday’s win for Huddersfield Town had felt like some cathartic relief from the 25 year pain that has gnawed away since the 94-94 play-off semi-final ( a moment for me which was way worse than ‘that’ penalty) yesterday brought the heartache of the 2002 play-off in Cardiff flooding back.

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You see, they’re also a brand of footwear popular with…

We’ve all seen it. There’s no point in going through even the briefest summary of the highlights beyond saying that our hosts had clearly done their homework. Brentford tried but had no way past. Eltringham and his team missing two blatant penalties (the second especially). Ethan Pinnock coming oh-so close at the death.

Much like the Doncaster game, going through the carcass of this one won’t change a thing. Pawing over the dead duck that was Crewe or Yeovil at Wembley doesn’t help. Nor does whining about the players, the team or their apparent ‘bottling’ it on social media. 

Sure, we’re all hurting. I am, and as much because I’ve followed this team through devastation and lowpoints since the back end of the 70s. My son, too. He only knows  Brentford set to ‘amazing’ mode and was in tears as this one reached a heart breaking conclusion.

Heart breaking as much because of the most incredible way this team have come together over the last few months. The team spirit and desire shown as they’ve caught up with our rivals through nothing more than guts, determination and win after win after win. Eight in a row, to be precise. The excitement and happiness they’ve engendered in a fanbase doing their best, and usually struggling, to get through the awfulness of lockdown. They’ve kept many of us going in a way more incredible than they  probably realise.

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For half an hour, the dream was on…

There’s been some nonsense spouted on social media about their apparent bottling it yesterday. Justified in the guise of: Oh, I’m hurting – I can say what I want. Now shut up and f*ck off.

Yes. We’re ALL hurting. Aghast to have missed out. It was the most amazing opportunity and, you know what, this time it wasn’t able to be taken. Couldn’t be taken. But to even get into that position is an incredible achievement.

To still be well alive with two more bites at the cherry is not to be sneered at or overlooked. 

Of course people are gutted. They have every right to be – it’s the natural emotion at a time like this. Our entire fanbase should be. I am. Beyond belief. But as much because I know how close we’ve come and how hard we’ve worked to even get into that position.

It was always going to be fragile opportunity, given how far off the pack we’d been when this amazing run started. Moreso, when in a game of few chances and bus parking opposition, we needed the help and protection of the officials. Not their failing an eyetest. Now, destiny is out of our hands as quickly as it had got there.

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You can’t blame Stoke for setting up as they needed to

This one feels different though. The season is still alive. We’ve not been relegated or lost a final. We’re still in with a huge chance to get promoted.

If not directly (and I’d hate to picture the scene in the Gilham household this morning, knowing that we are in the hands of West Bromwich Albion not winning when the Loftus Road mob visit on Wednesday) then via the play-offs. In all likelihood, needing to get past Cardiff City or Fulham in the final. Football. A cruel mistress.

For me, there has been no lower point than standing in the paddock, watching the celebrations amongst the Huddersfield Town players and staff back in ’95. I remember it still. Numb. Devastated. Shell-shocked. A glazed feeling washing over me. Not able to move but just stare out across Griffin Park and into space. Something made even worse by our actually coming second that season and the reason, in part, of my loathing Birmingham City so much.

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94-95. The all time kick in the nuts

Yesterday wasn’t that. It wasn’t even ‘that penalty’ levels of awfulness. It was brutal. Devastating. But it’s not the time to be slagging off the players and the team for not winning a game. If that’s your thing and way of coping then fair enough – I can’t argue with that mindset but would also ask this…..

Would you have the balls to say it to their face? To tell Thomas Frank or any of the players that you thought they bottled it. Bottled it. Were a team of bottlers. To actually say those words ? In person?  Hmm. It’s not so easy being a keyboard warrior for real.

That’s me done. @ me all you want. I don’t really care. From this point on I’m only focussing on the game with Barnsley. The thought that, as it stands, we are a possible 90 minutes away from the Premier League. I just wish I could be there on Wednesday night to join in.

As the returning Sergi Canos ( itself, a cause for celebration) noted last night: “Disappointing result but there’s no time to think about it. We are an amazing club as a whole on and off the pitch and we are going to keep fighting until the end. 

THIS IS NOT OVER YET.

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Sergi and his fighting spirit are back

Nick Bruzon

  

Strange times call for strange bedfellows. Paging Brian Guest…..

14 Jul

West Bromwich Albion host Fulham tonight. Brentford entertain Preston tomorrow. Whilst the theoretical chance to go top, midweek, was taken away by Leeds United nabbing an 89th minute winner on Sunday, there is still a very real possibility we could head into the weekend sitting in an automatic position. For that, two things needs to happen. A win for the Bees on Wednesday and, say this quietly, victory for the Cottagers this evening. Even thinking about that feels wrong but for the greater good, lets all crack open a Victoria sponge, pour a large G&T then see what plays out at 5pm.

With The Baggies three points ahead and Fulham two behind, the most realistic chance of either West London side taking an automatic position starts with a win for The Cottagers. Equally, West Bromwich Albion know exactly how much closer to the finish line victory will take them and I can only see them going for it. Regardless of their own ability when the moment arrives, Fulham look awful at the moment. Our own 2-0 win in the first match post lockdown has seen the wheels coming off and they were also swept aside at Leeds United. Games with the good teams seem to be somewhat of a challenge. The only hope here seems to be what looks like a paper thin West Brom defence which, but for goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, should have been down and out rather than taking the draw at Blackburn on Saturday. 

It’s all well and good talking theory but it still relies on a win for Fulham. And in the normal course of events nobody wants that. Do they? Well, perhaps one person does. At this juncture it seems an appropriate time to share something I published at Christmas (in the matchday programme rather than online)…..

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My name is Brian Guest and I support Fulham. Except of course it’s not and I don’t. Yet in this season of peace on Earth and goodwill to all, I’d like to give my own Festive gift to our guests. A confession and, perhaps more importantly, a vital lesson in being extremely careful that the person you are speaking to via the internet is actually who they say they are. Moreso when you outsource your programme content to a third party provider. Based in Liverpool.

Back in January 2017, Fulham ‘official’ put out a tweet looking for supporters to complete a brief Q&A for the ‘My club’ section of their matchday magazine. Anybody interested should contact the aforementioned Merseyside publication house via email. With nothing to lose, a message was sent from an account in the name of a Mr. B. Guest expressing interest.

Quicker than you can say ‘Neutral Stand’ , a reply was received : Hi Brian. If you could answer the attached and return it with a jpeg pic of yourself, we’ll let you know which programme it will go in.

No? Surely not? It couldn’t be that easy, could it? Fearing this too good to be true, I consulted a fellow Bees supporter who we’ll just call ‘Mr. Griffiths ‘ to protect his identity (that should fool them, Tim). We both came to the conclusion that there was nothing to lose and so the next morning a reply was sent. Including the requested picture although, because it had all been too easy so far, why not really push the boat out and use my own pen pic from the Brentford programme column of that season? The one wearing our Spall ‘87-‘88 away shirt.

And then that morning, less than 24 hours after putting the balls in motion, the following response was received:  Thanks Brian. A while off, but you’ll be in the Brentford programme on the last day of the season. Quite apt given they were your first game?

Quite apt? The reaction was one akin to the moment Stuart Dallas hit ‘that’ shot in our 4-1 Championship win at the Cottage. At which point , and after a brief catch up with ‘Tim’, the pair of us had to then maintain a lips sealed silence for the next three months. Not so much to stop Fulham finding out but more to really try and deliver a surprise for our own fans who, on seeing the answers, would hopefully twig. And so come April, with the secret told only to a few the night before, the stage was set.

My word. They bit. Hook, line and sinker. It was printed in full. Even the photo. Space precludes us from sharing the full article but choice extracts included:

First game? 26 April, 1992. Division 3. Away at Brentford. 4-0 down at halftime. At least the second half was 0-0. A baptism of fire. Obviously the score line wasn’t the best (I suppose like saying that the Titanic had stability issues) but what an atmosphere. I’ll never forget it and have been hooked ever since.

First shirt? Unusually enough, I’ve never owned a replica home shirt. That said, I’ve got a soft spot for the 2001 Pizza Hut kit. A perfect symmetry between sponsor and supporter – who doesn’t love a stuffed crust after a game?

Favourite game? Can I cheat and have two? Winning the two-legged Intertoto cup final in 2002 against Bologna. What an honour, what prestige and what a reward as it meant Fulham earned full European qualification for the first time ever.

A game you’d like to forget? Continuing an earlier theme (sorry) but definitely the 1-4 home loss to Brentford in April 2015. Given Fulham’s long top flight status the chance to avenge that first ever game had been a long time coming. Not so much a dish ‘best served cold’ as more one best served up to the river rats.

Favourite goal? Dickson Etuhu vs. Blackpool 3 April 2011 capped a brilliant day for me. A 3-0 win for The Whites whilst, of course, Michael Jackson’s statue was officially unveiled before kick off.

Favourite season? 2009-10 Established in the Premier League under Roy Hodgson, Fulham got all the way to the final of the Europa League beating Juventus along the way. The journey may have ended in defeat but what an incredible season.

Greatest sacrifice to watch the Whites? Giving up two tickets to the World Polo Championship final in California to see Fulham play Bournemouth in August 1998. It was a 0-0 draw . Argentina beat Brazil in the Polo, for the record.

Pre-match ritual? I used to go up to the statue and touch Michael Jackson but these days I cannot leave the house unless I’ve watched an episode of Pointless. It’s not a prematch prediction (LOL) but in honour of the legend that is celebrity fan Richard Osman.

I’d like to thank Mr. Griffiths for his help. Specifically around Dickson Etuhu and the Polo. Most of all, I’d like to thank Fulham. Whilst Mr. Osman may deem a game with the rivals to be an irrelevance, certainly if you believe what you read on social media, for me there’s no finer team to mug in their own backyard. Dallas did Fulham and Maupay had his moment but for me, Clive, it’s all about Brian Guest.

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Brian Guest – thanks, Fulham

Nick Bruzon

Hamer House Of Horror. Killer Bees do it again but now face awful prospect.

12 Jul

Oh. My. Word. Even by current Brentford standards that was just ridiculous. Wayne Rooney’s Derby County swept away 3-1 to make it a magnificent 7 (seven) wins on the spin for The Bees. Saïd Benrahma on fire and Ollie Watkins back to the top of the Championship goal scorer charts after giving us the lead with less than four minutes on the clock. West Bromwich Albion subsequently held 1-1 at Blackburn Rovers, despite taking the lead, and now just three points ahead. Likewise, Leeds United, although they play their game in hand today against Swansea City. That’ll be a Swansea team who know that victory will see them hit the play-off zone. It’s all getting crazy exciting. And that’s before we get to the most bonkers bit of all – Tuesday night will see us all cheering on, err, Fulham… Open brackets: for one game only, not a typo, purely due to longer term potential benefit. Close brackets.

First things first, Brentford. It was a day of miracles. Not least our family managing to avoid the scores all day long until our return home at 8pm. Phones off. Wine opened. Game successfully recorded. Sit back on the couch and let enjoyment begin. But enough about studio pundit Sam Saunders and the returning Sergi Canos. 

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Sergi was back

Within moments, any stress had melted away. Ollie Watkins popping up at the back post with the wine still breathing. 1-0 Brentford. Derby left floundering as the Bees sliced them apart. The neighbours presumably thinking we’d lost the plot. Screaming our heads off and dancing around the front room like a bunch of loons. Game on. What a start. What Manager of the month curse?      

It was shortly after that I chose to remind Mrs. Bruzon of the game at Pride Park a few years back where we’d been 1-0 up, missed chance after chance before being pegged back at the death. Lightning doesn’t strike twice though. Does it….?

So of course, Jason Knight chose to level things and serve up a plate with some words, a knife and a fork. Hey, it’s not easy being a numpty on the couch . Words were well and truly eaten. Washed down with the obligatory ‘goal sweet’ (one Starmix per person per goal, regardless of which team scores).

Still, 1-1 at half time. Brentford looking comfortable. Rooney and (eighteen year old – are we still doing that?) Louie Sibley keeping the hosts alive. Norgaard and the defence snuffing out pretty much anything, as ever. Pontus fired up and putting himself about. Pinnock a rock. Roerslev overlapping down the right in lieu of the benched Henrik Dalsgaard and Rico Henry on the other flank doing his level best to become this season’s unsung hero.

Sam Saunders came on to do his half time thing and then thirty minutes later we all settled down to watch the second period. Oh. wow. One can’t even begin to imagine what Thomas did with his white board at half time. Brentford went ballistic. Derby were obliterated. The Bees starting at 100mph once more with man of the moment Said Benrahma restoring the lead as quickly as Ollie had done first time around.

His shot from distance going at, through and past former Bee Ben Hamer. It had no right to go in but, frankly, at this stage of the campaign we’ll take any gifts offered. The shake of the head from Derby manager Phillip Cocu said it all. As did the smile on the face of Saïd. It was as awful a moment for the home side as it was enjoyable for us. A real horror show of a moment but you don’t score goals without taking shots. Sometimes they go in.

Hamer had another spillage soon after, somehow flapping it just past the back stick, before he was beaten by a strike of ridiculous quality from the Algerian wideman. Stepping in from the left wing, Saïd curled it from outside the box and into the top corner on the far side. Hamer diving but not even getting close to it. Cocu would later bemoan the space offered to Benrahma by the two defenders nearest him but the form he is in at present, you wouldn’t bet against him doing that with blindfold on. It was a quite special goal from the man who continues to exceed even his own incredible standards.

Little over an hour gone. 3-1 up and in complete cruise control. The final 25 minutes passed in a blur of red wine and wotsits. The bench was used to full effect although there was to be no return to action for Sergi Canos. Yet. Who knows what the visit of Preston may bring on Wednesday evening.

And what a match that promises to be. The beauty about watching yesterday’s game on an 8 hour time delay meant the West Bromwich Albion result was already in the bag before we even hit play. So huddled around the laptop there was a scroll upwards through the results for the big reveal. Charlton.. Derby…. Barnsley…. Blackburn….. YESSSSSS!!! Oh my. 1-1. More screaming. The police knocking on the door having received a report from the neighbours. Not literally but nothing would have surprised me, given the reaction at that moment ! Oh.. My… Can we be manager of the month every week, please ?

All of which means that the Baggies are three points ahead of us but with inferior goal difference and on level games. Three left to play. Fulham visit the Hawthorns on Tuesday evening, knowing that any aspirations they have for ‘automatic’ are 100% reliant on their winning that one.

Which means if they do, and then we beat play-off chasing Preston on Wednesday, we’ll finish the day in second place. At the least. Leeds still have to host Swansea today and then aren’t in action again until their home banker with Barnsley on Thursday. They’re still as good as up but, put simply, wins for Swansea, Fulham and Brentford will see us top on Wednesday night. 

I appreciate one shouldn’t be looking too far ahead. Thomas Frank has been adamant about that as he attempts to keep his players’ feet on the ground. Yet, at the same time, one has to dream. It’s what football fans do. We look at the next game. We look at what other results may do. And if it means that we need to wish Fulham well for one night only, then let’s at least be ready for that awful prospect. Crack open the Victoria sponge, pour yourself a G&T and dig Thriller out of the record collection. See you next Tuesday for that horror show.

All that’s to come. I don’t want have to consider the prospect overly. Perhaps taking a leaf out of Thomas’ book is the way to go. Just check the result at full time. Besides, any emotional investment in foam fingers counts for nothing if we don’t do it in what is a huge challenge against Preston. Perhaps that’s where the focus really needs to be.

For now, though, let’s pause to reflect on where we have got to. How close we are to what would be a quite incredible conclusion to the season. At are very least, we are guaranteed a play-off place. A few more results in our favour, combined with this quite scintillating form continuing, and  who knows what may happen……  

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Brentford ‘official’ Twitter capture the moment at full time

Nick Bruzon

Different day. Same hope. All to play for with just five games left.

7 Jul

Tuesday, I think. If the days had been merging in to one when lockdown started, football is now following suit with the games coming thick and fast. Brentford host Charlton Athletic this evening with another chance to further close the gap on West Bromwich Albion and Leeds United at the top. Behind us, something has to give as Fulham visit Nottingham Forest in the 5pm kick off. Strap yourselves in – we go again. Again.

Anybody who has been watching this team know just how well Brentford are playing at present. Five successive wins have been earned alongside an equal number of clean sheets. It was three against Wigan and could have been double that. See also : Reading away. We’ve beaten the teams at the top and played with a spring in the step. Peter Gilham mounting a furious one-man campaign to simulate the entire crowd.

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Peter does his thing against Wigan

We know all this, of course, but it doesn’t make it any less impressive. At the same time, it is a run that needs to be kept going if there is any genuine aspiration of catching up with the top two. The gap is five points with five to play. That’s on West Bromwich Albion. Perennial chokers Leeds United are six ahead – surely not even they can throw it this time. Can they….?

With the Baggies next two home games against play-off chasing Wayne Rooney’s Derby County and Fulham, sandwiching a trip to Blackburn, there are no immediate ‘gimmes’ on their fixture card. Just look at what the Rams did to Nottingham Forest on Saturday in their own pursuit of the top six. Thanks, Wayne.

Then again, look what the Kaiser Chiefs did to the NHS in between that game and ours –  Ricky Wilson and co popping up on I-follow for a quite unexpected rendition of ‘Happy birthday’. Sometimes, even the best intentions (and you can’t end the wonderful work the NHS do or any of the praise they receive) can turn into the bizarre.

On the plus side, at least it provided a break from Snoop Dogg promoting a food delivery service. Does he really need the money?

INSERT - NHS KC

Unexpected

West Brom play the day after us once more and so we all know the price of victory and the potential state of the table at 8.15pm this evening. But nobody is taking anything for granted, that’s for sure.

Charlton Athletic may have released top scorer Lyle Taylor (who had refused to play for fear of putting a ‘life-changing’ move at risk) but they are still very dangerous opponents. Relegation had been beckoning for a team who, prior to last minute defeat against Millwall, picked up 7(seven) points out of a possible 9 from their own restart. They are now clear of the bottom three but will be looking to make that secure. Moreso given as Wigan are not guaranteed to go down, despite the 12 point fine waiting in the wings should they survive naturally. 

You can absolutely bet they will be caged tigers rather than tame pussycats rolling over to have their tummies tickled. We have the quality, of course, but going in to this one with anything less than sheer belief and realisation that there is a huge job to do will be fatal.

Thankfully, we have Thomas Frank at the helm. A man full of confidence but with his feet firmly on the ground. An absolute awareness of what needs to be done on our side combined with a realisation of just how futile it is to stare at the table. Permutations count for nothing. Other results are out of our hands. He’ll focus on nothing more than the immediate. Leave the analysis to the supporters. That’s how it should be.

At the same time, Thomas knows the wealth of talent at his disposal. Just how well his side are playing. That the goals can come from anywhere. The last few games have seen Marcondes, Mbeumo, DaSilva and Valencia get on the list along with Championship top scorer Ollie Watkins and the mercurial Saïd Benrahma. The Algerian’s own hat-trick against Wigan saw his quite magnificent second goal astound even his most ardent admirers. Did he mean it? Was it a misdirected cross? Frankly, who cares ? It was a goal we’ll never forget and will no doubt see him with even more of a spring in his step when things start in earnest once more this evening.

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Saïd (in pre-lockdown mode)

There’s not much else to say beyond enjoy the game. It will be about as exciting as they come. A top v bottom clash where empty stadia are, normally, a great leveller. Where form goes out the window. Where every point is vital. Form may lean towards a home banker but I’ve got a feeling Charlton are going to make this much harder than the table suggests. At the same time, I can’t wait to see how we go.

Roll on 6pm. With the spirit in the camp sky high, this one could be an absolute cracker !

Nick Bruzon

Ifs. Buts. Maybes. Possibilities. Permutations.

4 Jul

Brentford v Wigan Athletic. Blackburn v Leeds United. West Bromwich Albion v Hull City. Those are the big three games, on paper, as we head into the latest round of Championship fixtures. With just six to play, victory at Griffin Park this afternoon will take us within just a couple of points of West Brom (who don’t play until tomorrow). Their own return to winning ways at Hillsborough during the week keeping them safe in ‘automatic’. For now. Yet although the Bees are the ones in form, let’s not forget about the team directly behind us. There’s also the small matter of Nottingham Forest who travel to Frank Lampard’s former club, Wayne Rooney’s Derby County, at lunchtime for a game where their own victory would see the Tricky Trees leapfrog the Bees. Even if just for a few hours.

Rooney caravan

Wayne Rooney – Lockdown has been tough on all of us

It would be fair to say that phase II of the Championship has been quite bizarre. A behind closed doors campaign played out in front of flags, banners and cardboard cutouts rather than fans. Games streamed back to back on TV and I-follow as everybody rushes to complete the season in as ‘normal’ as possible a style. That’s before we even get to the quite depressing situation playing out at Wigan where, if the current stories on social media about their ownership, betting irregularities and the subsequent administration are true (the thread is here), could and should lead to some extremely tough questions for Rick Parry and the EFL. Most of which will, no doubt, be swerved. One has to feel for their supporters for whom missing out on a trip to Griffin Park is probably the least of their worries.

Yet other things have remained the same. Leeds United falling apart. Again. Fulham playing in an empty and soulless stadium. Brentford on fire as our record reads: Played three. Won three. Goals for: six. Goals Against: NONE. We’ve beaten the (then) third placed team and table toppers in our opening fixtures, with the team looking stronger than ever. 

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Ollie leaves the scoreboard hanging as he silences the away ‘fans’ last week

That’s not to rest on any laurels, of course. Cliché alert. Cliché alert. Cliché aler…. You’re only as good as your last result whilst Thomas Frank has been very much advocating a policy of taking each game as it comes. Making it very public that he is only concentrating on the next training session or the next game. Which is exactly the right thing to say and do. Even if for us supporters it is very much different….

Our own fixture list and those of our rivals have been sliced, diced and analysed. Where might Leeds United drop points? (everywhere, presumably). Might we be grateful to Fulham taking points at Nottingham Forest or West Bromwich Albion in the coming weeks? What would Peter Gilham say or do if a win for the Loftus Road team at The Hawthorns in the final game of the season were to do us the ultimate favour?

Ifs. Buts. Maybes. Possibilities. Permutations. These are all part of football’s rich tapestry. The pre and post match debate that simply adds even more to it’s allure. That makes it so compelling. Of which going to the game is only one, albeit significant, part.

I love the live action. Of being part of the sellout crowds we’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy. But I love as much the interaction with my fellow fans in the build up to the games. The travel together. The drowning our sorrows or celebrations afterwards. The point we start to look ahead or when, as I believe Harlee Dean calls it,  We go again.” Although, to be fair, that phrase is usually preceded by some combination of: “Supporters deserved more. Apologies to the fans. Not good enough today.”

Harlee Birmingham tweet

Come on. He did say it a lot.

So whilst we may all indulge in fantasy or thoughts of what may come, Thomas Frank has his troops grounded. And that’s just the way to be at present. Don’t get distracted by the noise, the furore or the stress. Leave that to supporters to enjoy/endure (delete as applicable) all of that. Which given the sad state of affairs at Wigan Athletic is the perfect approach. 

If football was tough enough to predict at the best of times, their going into administration – something being linked to stories of bets on them being relegated placed by sources close to the current owners – is about as wild a psychological card as one could ever play. Will their players be demoralised? Devastated? Dead in the water? 

Or will they come out all guns blazing? Points to prove? Supporter morale to uphold? Relegation now staring them down the barrel with the 12 point deduction only to be applied once their final place in the table has been declared. Go down and it takes hold next season. Stay up and it comes into effect now, to see what then happens to the table.

I take no pleasure from any of this. I’m certainly not close enough to comment on any more than I read but, at face value, it all sounds about as shonky as things come. Moreso, with ‘that’ Rick Parry video now doing the rounds. Their fans are furious and it’s easy to understand why. What effect this has on their players remains to be seen but we find out at 3pm today.

Stay safe and crank up the I-Follow. All being well, Mark Burridge has been able to get his hands on some new tech after the mid-week meltdown at Reading. I’m still not sure how he held it together but top marks for effort and reaction to impending disaster just twenty minutes before kick-off. Here’s hoping he has a quieter afternoon, off pitch. Here’s hoping he has an even noisier one on it !

ENJOY.. LET’S DO THIS !!! 

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Goal sweets at the ready….

Nick Bruzon

When you phone in a performance, look what happens…

1 Jul

Brutal. Brilliant. Together. Brentford blitzed Reading 3-0 where, but for the last line of defence, it could easily have been more. The hosts not getting a look in as the gap to ‘automatic’ closed further. West Bromwich Albion sit a mere two points ahead of us heading into their own game at Sheffield Wednesday tonight whilst Leeds United limped to a 1-1 draw with Luton Town. Most generous hosts. 

With the stress over getting the I-Follow on the TV dissipating ten minutes in (it worked, far too easily, when I’d tried previously so was obviously going to fail when it came to a ‘live’ game) there was nothing more to do than sit back, pop a beer and ready the ‘goal sweets’. It wasn’t long before that bag of Haribo ‘Starmix’ saw a Tuesday evening debut. The Reading defence breached by Bryan Mbeumo after the Bees had been banging on the door all game.

With the BMW finally starting a game together for the first time since lockdown, it was Ethan Pinnock who provided the assist. A corner being headed back for the wide man to steer home. Get in. It felt as though it had been coming but pressure, possession and stats count for naff all if you can’t take the chances when you create them. All the shots on goal are deemed meaningless if you can’t keep it tight at the other end. A lesson so ably demonstrated by Leeds United later in the evening as their 75% ball retention and 23 shots to their opponents’ 3 could only result in a 1-1 with bottom club Luton Town.

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Football on the big screen. Goal sweets in hand

Half time came and went. A first foray into I-Follow deemed what could well be described as a successful one after those initial teething troubles. Whether we could say the same for Mark Burridge and Mick Cabbie in the commentary box is a matter of debate. And that’s not meant as a critique of their skills.

Rather, that they did quite wonderfully holding it all together after a tech failure just prior to kick off meant the dynamic duo were obliged to commentate via mobile phone. It was like taking a step back in time an early 80s UEFA Cup match coming at you from close to the Iron Curtain, with commentary being delivered ‘down the line’.  

Bonus points to Mark for his use of the early evening ‘For those of you just coming in late or from work’. With the unique sound that can only come from phone commentary, shut your eyes and it could have been World Cup Argentina ’78. As @the_mattfinish on Twitter would also compare : Motson’s commentary of the Platini goal had this same crackly greatness.

But whilst Thomas Frank’s boys may be playing with the same confidence as World Champions, 1-0 at half time was still only 1-0. As we saw against West Bromwich Albion on Friday night, we rarely have things our own way all game and, sure enough, Reading matched the Baggies by coming for us in the second period.

However, the Bees were also able to ensure a repeat with another clean sheet being earned. Pontus Jansson with the one notable clearance to keep on lockdown at the back whilst the attackers did their thing at the other end.

First, Josh Dasilva. The midfielder following up his own shot to beat the home defence to the ball and double our lead just after the hour. What a man and what a performance. With Christian Norgaard equally strong, and named man of the match at full time, the Bees looked solid throughout. More importantly, 2-0 and any pressure off. For the supporters if nothing else. Brentford back in in the driving seat. Reading nothing more than passengers. Shares in Haribo going through the roof. 

With Thomas Frank taking full advantage of his expanded substitution allowance, changes were made. They allowed the team to push up (Brentford) and yet another late goal for the Bees rounded things off in style. This time, Joel Valencia the man as he lashed home an absolute beauty from distance with the clock entering Jota time. 3-0. Game over, man. Game over. Brentford clear in third. West Brom within touching distance. 

A further bonus then delivered later in the evening as the scoreline from Elland Road came in. It was a result that barely anyone saw coming. Yours truly especially. All gifts gratefully accepted though and whilst one would suspect that Leeds United are all but up (not even they’ll choke this) there’s always the morale boost of watching them wobble. Of being able to sing that Joy Division song.

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Fail to take the chance ; pay the price… The BBC stats tell a sorry tale for Leeds

Fulham finally got back to winning ways but still sit behind us. Nottingham Forest play tonight so have the chance to overtake them with a win at home to Bristol City. Things really are that tight now. Every win counts. Every notch on the goal difference chart could prove vital. Brentford have the momentum but we have to keep it going. Of course the supporters are going to look ahead to what ifs and those permutations when ‘x’ beats ‘y’.

That’s part of being a football fan. Thomas Frank seems to be taking a much more grounded approach and is focussing on nothing more than the next training session and the next game. Acknowledging at full time that whatever is coming next is always the biggest one. It is not about yesterday or tomorrow but ‘now’.

And that is home to Wigan Athletic. Like the Royals, they are currently languishing mid-table. Does the fact they have nothing to play for beyond pride bode well or is a side under no pressure perhaps the most dangerous of all? Roll on Saturday when we can find out. 

That’s for then. For now, we can reflect on a job very well done. It wasn’t so much that Reading were awful but Brentford were, quite simply, awesome.  We’ve put ourselves into a position where defeat or a draw for the Baggies tonight will see the Bees go second should we manage to pick up maximum points against Wigan.  

Perhaps even Thomas Frank may have half an ear on proceedings at Hillsborough this evening. I know I will…

 

Nick Bruzon

How the week could play out. Who gets the elbow and who gets clear air?

29 Jun

Here we go. Brentford travel to Reading on Tuesday night, knowing a win will take us to within touching distance of second place West Bromwich Albion. With Fulham the ones falling apart at Elland Road on Saturday afternoon, a 3-0 win for Leeds United saw the gap to the third place Bees stretched out to 8 points. Surely not even they can blow that with 7 (seven) games to play? Funnier things have happened but perhaps the current shape of the table means it is the Baggies game at Sheffield Wednesday, on Wednesday, where we need that additional level of external interest.

Any decision about whether Brentford fans should be cheering Fulham or hoping for the draw was  taken out of our hands almost immediately. Aleksander Mitrovic was lucky to avoid straight red just minutes in to the game (and will surely be summoned by the FA to explain his use of the elbow today) and it went downhill from there. Goal followed goal with the Cottagers left floundering and Leeds looking strong as, to be fair. The only pleasure to be taken was seeing who had replaced Osama Bin Laden in their sea of cardboard cutout supporters – Joe Exotic, amongst others. 

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An ‘accident’ or deliberate brutality? Either way, the ref missed it

But with Fulham in a slump and their goal threat looking like he’ll be snuffed out, Brentford have an excellent chance to keep up the momentum that saw us head up to third place after Friday night’s fine win over West Bromwich Albion. Put simply, a win at Reading on Tuesday night will see us move just two points behind the second placed team. They then travel to Hillsborough the following night for a game that will be as significant as ours.

A trip to Reading won’t be easy. Let’s not rest on any laurels that come with those two fine wins that have kickstarted our return to Championship action in fine style. Sure, Brentford have played some wonderful football and looked solid at the back but this one has all the potential to be a giant potato skin. The unknowns of a team resting safely mid-table and under no pressure to stay alive or win are well documented.

Thankfully, we have Thomas Frank at the helm. A man who oozes confidence and common sense in equal measure. He’ll have his boys grounded and the possibility of an extra boost that may even see Bryan Mbeumo starting a game once more. Emiliano Marcondes is currently bursting with self-belief whilst David Raya and his back four have looked solid as a rock.

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David Raya – rock solid

As for West Brom, might Sheffield Wednesday be an even tougher challenge for them than Reading are for us? The Owls put a massive dent in Bristol City’s promotion aspirations yesterday and might even fancy themselves for a late surge towards the top six.

Poor Lee Johnson. His hopes of using the play-offs to kick lumps out of Said Benrahma now becoming nothing more than something he’ll need to use FIFA 20 to accomplish. All being well the beleaguered Bristol City boss will see the opportunity taken out of his hands by our own achieving of ‘automatic’.

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The full time score at Ashton Gate, c/o Quest TV.

Cripes. This is getting exciting. With Fulham on the slide and West Brom on the ropes, could we see things move even further in our favour? This week is full of ifs, buts and maybes. Focus has to be on our own game with anything else a bonus. The trip to the Madjeski is always a horrible one – so near yet so far, taking as long to reach the out of town car park from the station as it does to get to Reading from West London.

I’d still love to be given the opportunity to make the shlep down there but, sadly, social distancing laws mean it is a case of having to watch the EFL streaming service. Hands tied and voices gagged – metaphorically speaking – rather than screaming on the players in person.

Instead, it’ll be our TV that takes the abuse and the frustration. But enough about trying to make I-follow work.

Reading hashtag

Reading – have previously beaten us. In the game of embarrassing hashtags

The other result that may have gone unnoticed at the weekend and, perhaps, offers further hope was Luton Town staying alive with an incredible 1-0 win at Swansea City. Incredible, given the Hatters’ struggles with relegation and their hosts proximity to the top six. Yet as we discovered at Kenilworth Road, underestimate anybody at your peril. Our own 7(seven) – 0 win earlier in the season counted for nothing when we were outmuscled 2-1 in a horrible game just prior to Lockdown. 

Whilst nobody really expects Leeds Untied to drop points tomorrow, perhaps we may have half an eye on what plays out at Elland Road. Just in case. I mean, it’s not as though they have any reputation for falling apart at the critical moment……. 

Nick Bruzon

Busting every sinew to make the abnormal seem normal

27 Jun

No pressure Fulham and Leeds United. Brilliant Brentford battered Bilic’s Baggies – (c) The Middlesex Chronicle big book of 80’s aliteration – at a packed (sounding) Griffin Park last night to move within five points of table topping West Bromwich Albion. With the second and fourth placed teams due to play this lunchtime, something has to give in our way as the Bees continue this dogged pursuit of promotion. At a time that others are starting to fall apart around us, Thomas Frank saw his team make it three wins on the spin, unbeaten since March and 8 goals for whilst none conceded over that period. Ethan Pinnock was a colossus at the back. Ollie Watkins proving he still has the golden touch up front. Peter Gilham giving it his all on the tannoy – his dulcet tones reverberating all around TW8. Screams of Brreeennttfffoooorrdddddd drifting over the neighbourhood. His one man mission to make Griffin Park sound as loud as ever leaving our man-with-the-mic hoarse at full-time.

If it wasn’t the same match day experience for those of us mere mortals usually allowed inside the stadium, the club did the very best to make it feel as normal as possible in the circumstances. The compact nature of our home allowing us to fill the ground with supporter banners and flags to quite wonderful effect. A sea of faces filling the paddock as the 3D effect of the banners gave the look of a large crowd to those of us watching on TV i.e. everybody except those few whose names had appeared on a guest list of journalistic credentials that was nigh on impossible to gain access to. And I did try. Ian Moose would have had more luck walking in to a McDonalds to buy a Big Mac at the moment than Joe Public did of busting in to Griffin Park.   

But with Sky getting better and better at the ‘fake crowd’ noise, to the point of club specific chants, appropriate cheers and the usual boos for Keith Stroud  ( perhaps I made that last one up  – our man in the middle once again belying his reputation) it wasn’t as odd watching it on TV as it should have been. Moreso when we were lucky enough to spend the evening camped out with friends in their back garden that nestles in the shadow of the ‘away end’. Whilst the West Brom supporters may have been so loud they sounded like Aldershot, PG more than made up for it on the home side.

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You’re so loud you sound like Aldershot…

If anything, his bellowing was even more ferocious than usual. There was no breaking his stride. No deviation from the norm. He gave it everything with all the regular stylings. The prematch music remained the same. Likewise at full time with another three points in the bag, thanks to our 1-0 win. Even down to his “Have a safe journey home tonight”. There’s no one there and he don’t care. He could have been the last man on earth and I get the feeling he’d have carried on as though there was nothing untoward.

Honestly, it was life affirming. If ever you wanted to describe to somebody what it feels like to support Brentford. To show them true passion and utter devotion to a team.  If ever there was a living embodiment of a club, our club, then it is Peter. And last night it was demonstrated more than ever. 

As it happens, H and I popped out for some fresh air some time after the game had finished. Who should we bump in to but PG himself. From a safe distance, of course. My word the grin and the croakiness said it all. The enjoyment in what had played out before clear. We’d heard every scream from the garden – including the goal announcement 30 seconds before seeing Ollie guide the winner home on TV with little more than a quarter hour gone. We’d felt every moment. Now we had the quite perfect denouement to a quite wonderful evening. 

Honestly, being trapped outside a locked stadium is not the way to watch a game. We were lucky enough to be sitting within a few yards of the goal. Just the slight problem of a twenty foot fence separating us from seeing the action. The TV coverage is definitely improving and, all being well, it won’t be long until we are allowed back in to the ground. The players are, I am sure, as keen as the fans to have full houses. The full time celebrations showed what it meant to them. Imagine doing that with our usual sell out crowd roaring them on? 

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Close but no cigar. Never has a few yards felt more like a few miles

For now, it remains a case of locked doors. Of wall to wall TV coverage. Of having crept to within touching distance of Leeds Untied and West Brom.

Dare I say it, but could a win for Fulham be the best outcome today? Or a draw? Leeds are five points ahead. We’d need two wins to overtake them, obv. Should the gap become six then it would still be the same, given the huge goal difference in our favour over everybody else in the division. Perhaps it is best just to focus on ourselves. We can’t influence that game and have our own trip to mid-table Reading on Tuesday night. With the games coming thick and fast, perhaps we’ll see a few changes coming on that front. Could Bryan Mbeumo start? His own recovery from the positive Corona virus test confirmed by his place on the bench last night.

Still, all that’s to come. We were immense last night. It was weird to watch but magnificent at the same time. Our club is incredible. Busting every sinew to make the abnormal seem normal. We’re beating our rivals on the pitch. Looks like we’re doing the same off it. Just 7(seven) games to go. Can we close the gap? Roll on Tuesday when we find out ….

And if Leeds could fall apart, again, that would also be appreciated.

Nick Bruzon