Tag Archives: Birmingham City

The final table. The last words (for now) as Dean makes his thoughts clear.

7 May

What a day. What a night. What a season. A 1-1 draw with Hull City meant Brentford finished in the top ten of the Championship. Again. That’s four times in a row. Brentford finished above Birmingham City and QPR. Again. I’m losing count on that one. Fulham choked their big moment as the Blues turned their form around at St. Andrews to produce one of the results of the season and ensure their own survival. We’ve had the ‘player of the year’ awards whilst enjoyed the relief of Derby County beating Barnsley. A result than meant our own slip up at Oakwell last weekend has subsequently been proven academic in the play-off race.

First up, Griffin Park. The sun was out. The shorts were on. There were more panamas, cravates, pastel shirts and slacks on display than the Riviera. Seeing Billy Reeves chatting to Peter Gilham on the forecourt prior to kick-off, one could almost imagine the conversation taking place on board a yacht in the Med. Such was the effortless sartorial talent on display. The TW8 equivalent of Stewart Granger spending a relaxed half hour with David Niven. Perhaps telling ‘the prawn story’ over a martini.

Griffin Park pre kick off Hull

Peter does his thing pre kickoff. GP bathed in sun

We digress. It was hot. Scorching. Thanks to the legally binding obligation of a Twitter poll, yours truly was forced into donning a pair of hummel shorts for this one. Those magnificent short shorts from the early nineties. To be honest, I’d have worn them anyway. Regardless of the poll results. Anything to distract from the awfulness of the Leo Vegas half time challenge performance. Even if they did leave Mrs. Bruzon aghast and calling me names that can’t be mentioned in a family publication. Even if that photo of Nottingham Forest’s Kenny Burns ‘popping out’ when wearing a similar pair started to do the rounds. Don’t look it up. Nobody needs to see that.

Yet, at the same time, if anyone from the club happens to be reading today (unlikely, let’s be honest) then I can share this nugget of information. People loved them. And by loved, I mean noticed. Hopefully in a good way. Hopefully.

I’m not entirely convinced but they were a talking point. Of sorts. Perhaps one to consider next season for the new kit. So often manufacturers look to recreate that retro shirt but nobody thinks to do the same with the shorts. Whilst that is, to an extent, understandable – nobody wants anything ‘falling out’ on pitch – if they were good enough for Marcus Gayle and Gary Blissett then surely they’re good enough for the current crop of Brentford heroes. Just saying.

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Who wears short shorts? Could, no should, these make a come back?

As for the game itself, what can you say? If anybody can, then I’d really appreciate it. Being honest, it wasn’t one that will live long in the memory. Sergi Canos got an early goal that looked like it might open the floodgates. It didn’t. Instead Hull pulled one back before half time. The intervening break seemed to involve bromide being applied to the half time cuppas instead of sugar, such was the performance dialled in by both sides on re-entering the field of play.

The only highlight being Luke Daniels conceding a penalty from which he then made a quite marvellous save. Nobody wants Daniel Bentley to go anywhere in the close season but it’s nice to know we have a confident shot stopper already waiting in the wings.

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It was so warm Sergi didn’t even wear gloves

The other Bees related activity yesterday was the Player of the year awards night at the Clayton hotel. If ever an event showed the Brentford family at its best then here it was. The players making themselves consumately approachable. Yoann Barbet taking THE honours – hottie of the year and goal of the season. Ryan Woods was named supporters’ player of the year ahead of Romaine Sawyers and Daniel Bentley whilst Romaine also scooped the quite prestigious Player’s player of the year prize. There were some quite touching and emotional speeches off the back of these, with the players – and also head coach Dean Smith – talking in the most positive fashion about next season.

Of course, we all fear the exit door swinging open. That’s football. Yet at the same time, hearing the players speak with such positivity about the future and playing in the Premier League – “hopefully, with Brentford” – makes me wonder if this is now the time. This is the point where the squad stays and we build on what we’ve made to reach this point. Lionel Road is under construction and our form in the latter part of the season has given huge grounds for optimism.

As Dean Smith said in his own speech when talking about the likes of Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday and Birmingham,…”They’re bigger clubs; they’re not better teams…they’ll never have the togetherness we have at Brentford.”

Hear, hear. Well said that man! Are those the words of head coach with no plans to move on? With no desire to join a West Bromwich Albion team that the media – who of course love a rumour – have been linking him these last few weeks. Fingers crossed.

We couldn’t finish up without a word or two in regards to the relegation scrap. In the end, it was Burton Albion and Barnsley who join Sunderland in League One. Credit where it is due, Birmingham City pulled off a quite remarkable feat in humping Fulham 3-1 at St. Andrews to leave their own safety in no doubt.

Whilst I’m still struggling to reconcile myself with Harlee Dean’s words earlier this season – something that will rank alongside Russell Slade and Martin Rowlands in the Griffin Park hall of infamy – it was somewhat ironic that he had a hand in the scoring. I’m not in the ballpark of administering high fives just yet but his part in our own rivals scuppering their promotion dream has not gone unnoticed.

Well played, Birmingham City. Seriously. It takes guts to pull yourself out of a situation like that and to win such a high pressure stakes game by such a margin. Next season could see a very different beast at St. Andrews  – IF they can find their balls once more. And if not, then here’s to our own starting the season on six points.

Still, all that’s for then. We’ve a World cup in the meantime. I’ve got some downtime to look forward to. This nonsense needs a bit of a break. My brain hurts and the ideas well has run dry. Thanks all for reading. Thanks all for your kind words – and also about the matchday programme too. That people actually stop to say hello as a result of these ramblings is so humbling. Yet it shows what a close knit family we have here. Not Norfolk levels of close knit but tight. Everyone knows everyone. And I love it.

Roll on 2018/19 when we can pick up these pages once more.   

Unless something happens in the interim…..

Nick Bruzon

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Who will lose it at the bottom? Can the Bees make it another top ten success?

6 May

Well here we are. One final round of games awaits in the Championship. Brentford entertain Hull City AFC, knowing a win could take us as high as 7(seven)th in the final table. We already know we’ve a trip to Stoke City next season and a possible return to The Valley, if Charlton can do the needful in the League One play-offs. Yet it is at the bottom of the table where the longer term situation is perhaps more interesting. Birmingham City v Fulham is THE big one in the division today and is sure to have Bees’ fans split as to who they’d like to come away with the win. Along with the Blues, the final two relegation spots are predominantly in the hands of Burton, Bolton and Barnsley. And all this is before we get to the end of season ‘player of the year’ dinner and awards. Plus some nonsense on pitch at half time – I really wouldn’t be looking there. Move along; nothing to see.

First up, the visit of Hull. A club, like Wolves, I’ve developed a long standing and unexpected admiration for over the years. Standing up to crackpot owner? Tick. Some of the best kits ever? Tick. Correct use of AFC in their name? Tick. That said, not sure if I can forgive them for Nick Proschwitz but, hey, you can’t have everything.

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Great kits. Great principals

With the sun (and shorts) out, it promises to be a great day. At the time of writing (6.59am) the sky in TW8 is a wonderful clear blue and things are already warming up. The bank holiday awaits and it’s our last time all together for a couple of months. This really promises to be special. Even if we are left wondering whether this is the last time we see some of our heroes in action. Listening to the Beesotted podcast the other day I am curious as to whether it will be a case of farewell Ryan Woods, Andreas Bjelland and Josh McEachran – amongst other potential departures.

Whilst that is a column for another day, it’s mentioned more as a chance to really appreciate these great players. I’m desperate to see the likes of Woodsy and the World Cup’s Andreas back next season of course. Who wouldn’t? By the same virtue I’m also a realist as to how we operate. The last few seasons have taught us that. With the likes of Chris Mepham fast tracking up the football ladder at a rate of knots, the future is still looking good.

We digress. Plus ça change. The club have surprised us at just about every step of the way over the last few seasons. I can’t call what’s going to happen today, let alone further down the track. Let’s just focus on the here and now. Dean Smith wants to finish on a high. As do the fans. I can’t see much change from the side which went down at Barnsley last weekend. If only because it was so out of sorts relative to the last few months that the players themselves will be desperate to prove a point and end with three. Hull City AFC are clear of the relegation pack so can also play pressure free. This could, and should, be a good one. Get those calculators out and prepare to start tracking the goals.

At the bottom, I’m calling Burton and Birmingham City to go down. Blues fans, if you somehow see this then don’t cry. Don’t take it as some personal dig. Whatever some commentators to these pages think, I don’t ‘hate’ your club. Likewise, any perceived negativity is not down to the triple transfer swoop over the summer although, undoubtedly, it has added to a rich tapestry that has been woven over the last 26 years.

That said, Harlee Dean’s ‘ten times better’ comments are most definitely a long term dish that I would take great pleasure in serving up cold at 3pm. If you want to know why there’s such an interest in goings on at St.Andrews, then click here. You probably won’t care. That’s football and I’m not looking for any sympathy after a season spent doing battle with brave keyboard warriors, frustated by their own team’s inadequacy and looking to lash out.

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He said it….. Not me.

Yet given the hand that the fixture list has dealt today, I can’t look beyond League One for The Blues next season. If I’m wrong then will happily hold up my hands tomorrow. Likewise, I’d be genuinely happy if Birmingham do stay up – if only for another chance at six points next season. Ba-doom, Tish !

But I can’t see anything beyond a Fulham win at St. Andrew today. Words which are as distasteful to me as saying Happy Star Wars Day – May the fourth be with you.

With Preston chasing the play-offs, surely that one is a step too far for visitors Burton Albion despite their own impressive run of form in recent weeks. Sadly for Nigel Clough and his team their current streak of WWW is looking like it will be too little, too late. Even though pressure can do funny things, surely that one has to go down as ‘home win’ in the race for the final play-off spot? Doesn’t it…?

Barnsley travel to Derby County today. Derby County, a team who have mastered the art of ‘the choke’ . Who could forget that infamous play-off final against the Loftus road mob? What about the time we reached the Championship play-offs under Mark Warburton. All they needed was a point at home to an impotent Reading side yet somehow self-destructed and went down 3-0. With Barnsley fighting for their lives, that’s where I’m calling the shock (now watch it happen at Preston).

Which takes us to Bolton. Home to Nottingham Forest. Should they win, that takes them level on points with Birmingham. But they need to win well and that’s a BIG ask. The goal difference gap still sees them four behind the Blues yet they are the division’s second lowest scorers having managed just 36 all campaign. The only side having fared worse with the worse in the ‘F’ column being Birmingham who currently have a paltry 35. Compared to our own 61 or the 82 of Champions Wolves, it’s no surprise they both find themselves in such big trouble.

So the heart is ruling the head, here, but with Fulham having to win to have any chance of ‘automatic’ I’m calling four goals as a gap that can be reeled in for Bolton. Even if they need another club to do most of the legwork.

But before you go putting the mortgage on any of this then please bear in mind two things….

Firstly, I’ve not even mentioned Reading. They aren’t safe yet and travel to a Cardiff side that, like Fulham, are also chasing the other promotion slot. Secondly, my predictive skills are notoriously woeful. I’ve called Birmingham and Burton to go down but there’s as much chance of it being Bolton and Reading. Pressure can do strange things.

Instead, I’ll be at Griffin Park cheering on the Bees. Albeit with half a near on the terrace trannie. Purely out of curiosity….

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The BBC table shows just how tight things remain at the bottom

Nick Bruzon

Barnsley deliver a hammer blow as relegation trapdoor still beckons for the other B’s…

29 Apr

Sunday morning and it all feels a bit ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show.’ Not in the same crushing style as the punch to the gut that is an actual play-off defeat or a penalty hitting a crossbar (apparently it happened once, five years ago, but nobody ever mentions that). Yet at the same time, Brentford offered a tantalising glimpse of what might have been before going down 2-0 to a Barnsley team who benefited from what head coach Dean Smith would describe as ‘A spawny goal’ to open proceedings. With Aston Villa and Derby County drawing one apiece, had we been able to turn this one into a victory then The Bees would still been alongside them in the promotion race heading into the final round of Championship matches. Alas, it was not to be and instead we’ll have to content ourselves with aiming for what would still be a staggering 7(seven)th placed finish and the choke off to see who drops into League One – Birmingham City, Burton, Barnsley or Bolton.

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Spawny? Or did he really mean to sneak inside the back stick from there ?

That’s not to be downbeat. Genuinely. That the team had even hauled themselves into this position following a ‘mixed’ start to the campaign is something that should be celebrated. Four points from eight games saw us not so much flirting with relegation as taking her out on a first date although fortunately she would go on to spurn our advances. The triple transfer departure, and moreso the last day style in which it happened, was hardly great for morale either. I’m the first to hold my hands up on that one. Yet soon after, magic started to happen.

The win at Bolton in late September was followed by a run that saw us fail to pick up points in only one more game over the rest of the calendar year. That being the defeat at Cardiff City which led to Ian Moose demonstrating how to make friends and influence people at Griffin Park. Despite the odd hiccup / low par performance along the way, Dean Smith and his team have kept themselves going to make this one of the most exciting seasons on record. Three points yesterday would have kept it alive for another 90 minutes (at least). Yet to come even this close is something we should be applauding. I’m sure over time we all will.

The trick now is, as with every season, how we build on this. Can we keep the squad together? Will new contracts be signed or will the likes of Ollie Watkins, Ryan Woods, Alan Judge, Chris Mepham and Daniel Bentley be on the shopping lists of those fat cats in the Premier League? Or even the Championship. Without a doubt money talks but sometimes, sitting tight can be better for your career. Just look at the Birmingham City three. Ten times better – at going down. The talk about Woodsy joining Sunderland seems almost laughable now when you see how they have fared, too.

Who’d be a club owner? Moreso with a new stadium now well under construction. No doubt there’ll be decision made which surprise us. Decisions made which shock us. That’s all to come though. For now, we’ve still one more game with the visit of Hull City next Sunday. Still one more round of Championship fixtures to see if Harlee Dean’s decision making off the pitch is proven to be as suspect as some of those choices he made on it this time around. After that much trumpeted move, there is a very real chance of the Blues actually going down. Albeit my head says they are safe, despite what the heart thinks.

Their relegation rivals have equally tough games. On paper. Burton are at Preston. Barnsley go to Derby (although we do know how County love a final day choke) whilst Bolton entertain Nottingham Forest. At least The Trotters have home advantage but they are also reliant on having to increase their goal difference.

As we saw yesterday (and the highlights are now available on Sky’s internet site), the biggest of requirements can lead to the most spirited of performances. Hats off to Barnsley. We wanted it. We needed it. But so did they. And perhaps ten times as much. Brentford were fighting for an unexpected bonus. Let’s not forget that we haven’t actually been in the play-off zone at any point this campaign. Brentford were fighting amongst themselves, going by Dan Bentley’s reaction after the second goal went in – understandable having watched this on the highlights. But The Tykes were fighting for their lives. This really was a case of do or die. Whilst it may not have been the prettiest, the hosts did what they had to. And that takes guts.

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Dan and Henrik discuss the second goal

With Burton making it three wins in a row, next Sunday may not be as cut and dried as people think. Of course I’ll be at Brentford v Hull City. Of course I’ll be desperate for three more points to lock in a fourth, successive top ten finish at this level. But I’d be a liar if I was to pretend that there won’t also be an ear on my terrace trannie. Keeping abreast of other results and just what they’ll mean at about twenty past two next Sunday

See you there.

Nick Bruzon

Just when it couldn’t get any more exciting……

22 Apr

What an afternoon. If Fulham last week was huge then this one was monumental. Magnificent Brentford beating QPR 2-1 in a terrific derby day victory gained against the toughest of opponents – referee Mr. Madley and his assistants. Yet let the inconsistency and poor decision making of the officials take nothing away from a Bees team who were simply immense. With a raucous Griffin Park crowd urging them on, Dean Smith’s team have now moved to within ONE point of the play offs as those around us all fell to draw or defeat. One. point. Even, say it quietly, Birmingham City did us a favour of sorts in beating Sheffield United 2-1. With Sunderland now formally relegated and the Blues getting a bit of clear air (for now) our trip to bottom three Barnsley on Saturday gains even more significance than it already had.

Sunday morning. Where to start? Having slept on it, I’m still thrilled by Dean’s team selection but also the way they played. There was only one team in this over the first half as the rampant Bees poured forward in wave after wave. Sergio Canos and, particularly, Romaine Sawyers were magnificent. Flo Jo displaying a turn of speed that left his opponent for dead on more than one occasion. The move that freed an electric Ollie Watkins for the penalty (more to come) was as spell binding a display of one-touch pass and move football as we could ever hope to see. Absolutely delicious.

To do that on the training ground would be one thing. But at full tilt, in a blood and thunder local derby, something completely different. It looked incredible live. To see that exchange of passes once more on video shows just how dazzling it was.

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Sergi and Romaine – a rare moment of ‘slow it down’

I’m so pleased for Romaine, in particular. He came in for obscene levels of criticism at the start of his Griffin Park career but what a way to win the haters around. What a way to keep your mental focus and prove the doubters wrong. To demonstrate just what you can do with a football. Do check out the Sky highlights package (up now on their site), until the full fat Mark Burridge version can be added after mid-day to see our man in action. I’ve still got a stupid smile on my face now just thinking about it. Hmm, perhaps better go and watch that just once more.

The first goal was only ever going to come to Brentford. QPR were left standing in the blocks as The Bees went for this one from the off. Wave after wave of attacks were somehow repelled until Sergi Canos fired home from close in on the quarter hour mark. The visitor’s inability to deal with a corner kick proving their downfall. The story of the afternoon, really, as they were second to everything for such long swathes of the game. Clearances missed, passes made directly into touch and seemingly simple balls miscontrolled. At one point Luke Freeman was left with his head in his hands by the Braemar Road touchlines after spectacularly failing to trap a high ball forward and gifting a throw on to Brentford.

One goal up and the Bees continued pushing. As half time approached we had the aforementioned moment of magnificence from Romaine. With Ollie Watkins clean through and a goal all but assured, goalkeeper Matt Ingram came charging off his line and ploughed through our man. Penalty !! But no red card. Instead, after a protracted period of medical emergency that ended with all players deemed fit enough to continue, referee Andrew Madley showed yellow. Ingram was allowed to stay on and promptly saved the spot kick. To compound the felony , the visitors went down the other end and with their first meaning fun attack, equalised. You couldn’t make it up. QPR’s Sylla leaving a black mark on our copy book.

So. The penalty. Should it have been a red? Absolutely in my eyes. There was no attempt to play the ball but a cynical assault on a player bearing down on goal with the net in his sights. The crowd were incensed and understandably so. Perhaps the injury period allowed time for the ref to draw the sting from the event. A sympathy yellow for a player who was clearly unable to carry on and, like Ollie Watkins, was subbed before the second period had begun.

Now it is true that the rules surrounding such an incident have been relaxed. Previously, had a penalty been awarded in such a circumstance then a red card would have been awarded by default. Likewise, followed by suspension. However, this ‘triple’ punishment was first reclassified back in 2016 following an 18 month review and, instead, the rules tweaked to say that only deliberate fouls warrant a red. The yellow would be shown if the referee deemed that it had been accident.

I’m sorry but this was no accident. There was no chance whatsoever of stopping that ball, such was the way the QPR defence had been split open like an overly ripe watermelon by Romaine’s tracer bullet of a pass. Watkins was home clear and running at full tilt. Ingram committed to come off his line and through the player. Even Ian Holloway would admit after the match that, “The penalty save was huge. Should he have been sent off? I think he should but he then stood up, probably concussed, and made a wonderful save”

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An accident? Hmmmm. Sky TV cameras capture the moment

Madley got this one wrong. Very wrong. But then that was the story of his afternoon. Those yellow cards he did show handed out at random. There was no consistency. No boundaries set and, most importantly, no protection of the players. The Bees in particular on the receiving end of several studs up and scything challenges that themselves could have been candidates for ‘straight red’. Alex Baptiste, I’m looking at you.

1-1 at half time and if ever there was a candidate for Dean’s oft repeated lines that ‘We deserved to win’ then here it was. Brentford had been rampant yet somehow scores were level. The second half began at a much more sedate pace (relatively) with players readjusting and substitutions having been made. The pattern of the game being broken up by an even more robust approach form the hoops. Eventually, class told. Florian Jozefzoon proving the telling factor as he made room in the box and fired home.

From there the lead was never going to be a surrendered. Whilst Rangers did try to turn up the pressure, I only recall one save of note from Daniel Bentley in the second half. The defence were otherwise rock solid, dealing with high balls and corners as though they were stealing candy from a baby. It felt tense at times. In reality, the players were the epitome of confidence.

A word also for the crowd. What an atmosphere. What passion. What noise. For all Griffin Park is small and old, having everybody so close to the pitch DOES make a huge difference. Moreso in a game such as this against our staunchest of rivals. With all the history, a visit from QPR is always the one we look for when the fixtures are announced. When the game comes around, it is always the one where the noise is the most voluminous (is that even a word?). Loud. The QPR players knew they were in a game. Jake Bidwell, especially. He looked a beaten man in the second half. A resigned shrug to the Braemar Road crowd before his eventual substitution.

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Home supporters jump up to express consternation to Mr Madley and Alex Baptiste – again.

What next? We’re eighth. One point off sixth placed Derby County with two games to go. The trip to Barnsley and then the visit from Hull City. Derby do have that game in hand but its a visit from a Cardiff City team locked in a desperate battle for the second ‘automatic’ place behind Fulham. Should the Bluebirds do us a huge favour on Tuesday night – something that will have the double whammy bonus of railroading The Cottagers – then Saturday becomes even bigger. If that were possible.

Even Middlesbrough in fifth can still be caught, such is the proximity of the teams from positions 5-9. This has all the hallmarks of 2014/15. We were reliant on favours, and our own results, then. We’re in the same position now. The difference being that under Mark Warburton we’d spent large chunks of the season in the play-off zone. WE slipped out after bit of a late wobble results wise before recomposing oursleves nad having results go our way on the final day. Thanks, Derby! To fall short then, having been in control, could have been all kinds of demoralising.

This time around, it is a perfectly timed run. A play-off push that, and please correct me if I’m wrong, has so far not seen us in the top six at any point this campaign. What a way it would be to finish the season – hitting the top six for the first time on game 46. Or, preferably, game 45 on Saturday. At Barnsley. Themselves up to their necks in a relegation scrap.

As a side note to that, there would be no irony lost on anyone if it turned out to be those Brentford players that Birmingham City didn’t sign who helped keep them safe, rather than the ones they did. No doubt Harlee Dean will be cheering on his old team mates although, perhaps, just wishing they were ten times better.

Let it never be said football doesn’t keep us intrigued.

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Even Harry was kept on the edge of his seat until the end of this one.

Nick Bruzon

The weekend in three images.

16 Apr

Fulham 1 Brentford 1. As noted yesterday, the scoreline alone cannot do justice to what happened at Craven Cottage. Albeit Mark Fuller’s wonderful picture of the Brentford equaliser (which has more than been shared already on Twitter) helped. A lot. Then Sunday came and with it, Wolves all but winning the title after their 2-0 defeat of Birmingham City.

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Mark’s picture captured THE moment

I’ve a soft spot for Wolves after they’ve gone neck and neck with Brentford over the last five seasons. From that incredible League One campaign through a run in the Championship that has now seen them ascend to the Premier league. It’s been a good natured and respectful rivalry that, should results go as we hope, may even continue next season.

So all in all, it’s been a cracking weekend of football. At both ends of the table. The aforementioned Fuller photo deserves all the plaudits. Equally, these other three that have done the rounds also help tell the story of an incredible two days……

Neal’s goal broke more than a few Fulham hearts. Don’t cry…

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How was it for you, Dean?

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Wolves v Birmingham – ten times better (at getting sent off).

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Nick Bruzon

 

Neal makes Moose eat more pie at Fulham as magnificent Brentford help Wolves go up.

15 Apr

Where do you start with that? A scoreline of Fulham 1 Brentford 1 doesn’t even begin to touch the sides of a dramatic afternoon that saw Wolves’ promotion to the Premier League confirmed, The Bees keep our own play-off dream alive and The Cottagers slip out of a top two they had so briefly graced. At the bottom, things are locking up with a win for Burton aswell as Bolton drawing at Barnsley really keeping the heat on Birmingham City.

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View from the away end – Brentford go for it at Fulham

Another season, another failure for Fulham at The Cottage against Brentford. Being honest, they were lucky to get away with even a point after The Bees came out of the traps flying. Ollie Watkins was cruelly denied an opener by a (subsequently incorrect) offside decision. Yoann Barbet had a stonewall penalty turned down after Stefan Johansen manhandled his freekick. The player and fans were incandescent. From the far end it had looked nailed on. Something the TV would later confirm.

Yet backed by 3000 fans, Brentford continued to pour forward. Ryan Woods superb. Chris Mepham mopping things up at the back when the odd Fulham sortie found a way through. Ollie Watkins and Florian Jozefzoon displaying electric pace, supported by the ever overlapping full backs and Sergi Canos.

Truly, it was a performance that made a mockery of Fulham’s Premier League credentials and, more importantly, outlined our own progress. Despite ending 0-0 at half-time, surely that goal would come?

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Dan Bentley snuffs out a rare first half attack from Fulham

Alas, not. Instead it was a very much smash and grab effort by Aleksandar Mitrovic, on loan from Newcastle United, to give the home side a seventieth minute lead. It was a lead that was against the run of play but as we’ve said so many times, goals are what count. Craven Cottage erupted. Finally. Prior to that, Fulham’s dependency on those dreaded paper ‘clappers’ to try and generate an atmosphere had been an embarrassment. A repugnant creation and terrible indictment of a club allegedly chasing promotion that they are needed for a game of this magnitude. For any game. Then again, the use of ‘run out’ music for the warm up showed the level of desperation /  atmosphere building that was required at the Cottage. Cringeworthy.

Contrast this with the 3000 or so Brentford fans who had remortagaged the house to pay the £35/£40 adult ticket price. Who had spurned the TV to get along and make an ear shattering noise. I’ve not been in a crowd like this one for a long, long time. I’ve not celebrated a goal like Neal Maupay scored to level things up in this manner all season. It was one of THE Brentford moments.

With Mitrovic having done the needful, the brakes came on. The clock was run down. Fouls became more cynical. Substitutions were dragged out as the home team used all manner of underhand tricks to put an end to the game. Neeskens Kabano suffered the indignity of an 87th minute ‘sub subbed’. The minute and a half it took Stefan Johansen to make his own switch with injury time approaching did not go unnoticed by referee Neil Swarbrick. He was quite vehement in his pointing to the watch, wrist held high for all to see. Time wasting was the verdict. Four additional minutes was the sentence. Four additional minutes for Brentford to get what the performance warranted and railroad our rivals’ promotion push.

90+1. 90+2. 90+3. 90+4….. And then it happened. With Fulham twitter sites already declaring a win, the ball was whipped in by Yoann. A deep cross found the head of most definitely onside Flo Jo who steered it towards Neal Maupay, unmarked on the edge of the six yard box. Surely, surely, surely……?

YEEEEESSSSSSSSS!!!! Goal, goal, goal goal, goal, goal, goallllllll. Maauuu-paaaayyy!! His header eluding Marcus Bettinelli as it bounced in front of the keeper’s despairing dive and hit the back of the net. What scenes. What noise. What an out pouring of emotion. What a moment. Mark Fuller’s quite wonderful photograph captured it all from the players’ perspective. His caption doing it from that of the supporters 🙂

Incredible. Absolutely incredible. Sitting here writing this on Sunday morning, I’ve got goose bumps even now. I’ve got a stupid smile on my face that has Mrs. Bruzon thinking I’m up to no good. But it was just breathtaking. If ever people want to know why we go to football, then here it is. Everything encapsulated in a single, late moment. The promotion dream stays alive. Fulham’s takes a firm blow to the unmentionables.

A blow delivered by a striker who has taken all manner of flak, most noticeably from Ian Moose. The catering and pie obsessed journo having put the boot in after the young striker missed one chance at Cardiff yet how Neal has responded.  Every goal serving up another helping of humble pie to the Talk Sport shock jock. From a striker who now has the most goals from the bench of any player in the top four English divisions.

But it wasn’t just us. The goal also meant that Wolves were assured of promotion to the Premier League. They are now uncatchable by third placed Fulham at the top of the Championship whilst victory over Birmingham City at lunchtime will hand them the title, subject to a freak run of results and goal difference swing.

Full credit to Wolves. They’ve been fantastic this season and it will be very interesting to see how they fare next campaign. For now, though, let’s just hope they haven’t over celebrated last night and really go for it today. What is turning into a quite fascinating relegation battle has, with just three games to go for most sides, seen nobody fall though the trap door as yet. Defeat for Birmingham (who also need to play Sheffield United, QPR and a final game with Fulham) could also place an exponential increase of pressure on their survival hopes.

Still, that’s for them to worry about. For Brentford, there’s the prospect of another West London derby on Saturday as dead in the water QPR visit. We’ve three games to reel in a four point gap to Middlesbrough in fifth and Millwall in sixth. Can we do it ? Play like that on Saturday and anything is possible. Make noise like that and QPR will be blown away before they even step out.

As Sergi Canos asked on Twitter…

Frankly, I can’t top that. Just when we couldn’t love him anymore.

Nick Bruzon

Almost 24 hours on and it still feels fantastic.

11 Apr

Almost 24 hours later and I’m still buzzing. Having spent the last ten days on a very rare holiday, following Brentford has been that bit trickier than normal. Yet what do when the last night abroad coincided with our game at Nottingham Forest? Rather than stay in a hotel room with Mark Burridge whispering sweet nothings into my ear (via the medium of I-follow) instead it was a trip outside to find somewhere showing the Champions League thriller between Manchester City and Liverpool. That said, thanks to the joy of WhatsApp and Twitter pretty much all of my attention was focussed on updates from The City Ground rather than the TV in Popeyes bar, Lanzarote. A third 1-0 win in a row for The Bees, secured via a late strike from Henrik Dalsgaard, saw Brentford move to within four points of sixth placed Millwall with just four games to go. The most unlikely of play-off dreams remains alive and it makes Saturday’s game with a Fulham team whose own victory propelled them into the ‘automatic’ places even more significant than it already was.

Just four points to Millwall in sixth. Just four points to Derby County in fifth (albeit The Rams have two games in hand). Brentford held their nerve last night in a match which, statistically speaking, seemed to pour scorn on Forest’s recent record of failing to trouble the scorers for five straight games as shot followed shot. Despite hitting the woodwork twice in the opening period, Daniel Bentley’s goalmouth once again remained untouched. Despite 16 attempts, 3 on target, there was no way through for the home team.

Rather, it was the stooping Dalsgaard who got on the end of former captain Josh McEachran’s 81st minute corner to frustrate Nottingham Forest again. You have to feel for the home fans but, being quite selfish, that’s their issue. Instead, Popeyes erupted to a quite unexpected shriek of delight that had absolutely nothing to do with Liverpool snuffing out another Manchester City attack. Nothing to do with seeing Birmingham City en-route to yet another defeat; this time at Bristol City. Nothing to do with Roma making it 3-0 against Barcelona and thus lined up to progress on ‘away goals’. Instead, it had everything to do with our Danish international full back giving us the lead with less than ten minutes remaining.

And then the waiting game began. Waiting for the internet to refresh. Waiting for another Euro 3.00 beer to reach the table. Waiting to see if Brentford could hang on. Waiting to see if Barnsley could snatch a late equaliser at Portman Road. Sadly, the Tykes couldn’t. Whilst people all around me were in awe at events unfolding in both Manchester and Rome, there was one corner of a foreign pub that was forever Brentford. And it was beautiful.

Ding: Another WhatsApp message. The trumpet ‘emoji’.
Ding: Yes!!!!

We’d hung on. Oh my, that was quite remarkable. Quick. Where is that ‘As it stands’ table? Ah. There we go. What a sight. What a time for Brentford to narrow the gap. What a game awaits on Saturday afternoon. If you haven’t got a ticket for The Cottage then what are you waiting for? This could be even bigger than the 4-1 in terms of brilliance. The potential double whammy of railroading the Fulham promotion push whilst increasing our own chances. Could it be that game at Leyton Orient all over again? If we celebrated three points there like the FA Cup, victory at The Cottage would see Champions League levels of ecstasy.

Whilst Millwall are still in the box seat as play-off dark horses, if Brentford can keep up this wonderful run then who knows? Imagine. Could it end up a Fulham v Brentford play-off final, even? Win on Saturday and anything is possible. Call it the cabin pressure at 37,000 feet, but flying home now I feel euphoric about all things football. I feel as though anything could happen. We’ve even got Ryan Woods available once more.

Seeing what Liverpool and Roma achieved last night should be sufficient evidence that this most beautiful of games can continue to surprise us. Nothing is certain until that final whistle blows. Results really can defy expectation.

But for now, it has to be as much a time for reflection on overcoming what could have been a very tricky hurdle at Nottingham Forest. Take nothing away from our opponents. Opponents who, at least as far as yours truly is concerned, have remained nothing but sporting. This was a HUGE result in a season that has the potential to match our own first back in The Championship. The season of Mark Warburton and a play-off semi with Middlesbrough when all the results aligned on the final round of games to elevate us to fifth in the table.

Could similar happen again? Who knows but I’ll tell you one thing – I can’t wait to find out. Roll on Saturday and Fulham.

See you there….

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Following Brentford. From Lanzarote. Via the Champions League.

Nick Bruzon

Afternoon thoughts as the latest ‘must win’ game approaches.

10 Apr

Another day, another game. Sitting here at midday, waiting for the evening to come around, I’m struggling. Brentford travel to Nottingham Forest tonight to take on a side who have failed to win or score in their last five games. Three nil-nils is the high point of that ‘run’ whilst their last victory came against Birmingham City (as much of a given as one can expect these days). It was a stat I’ve needed to triple check, and will do once more for good measure, after being steered towards it by two separate Forest fans on Twitter whom I’ll simply call Jamie and Matt. Yet having tapped them up for a prediction, they both replied with devastatingly similar thoughts.

“After the best part of eight hours, a goal would be nice. Anything else would be a bonus…..”

and

“Our form is atrocious – may scrape a draw though. Of the 0-0 variety”

But here is where I’m struggling. Are we walking in to a trap? Is this too good to hope for against a team who are surely safe from both relegation and promotion? Can Daniel Bentley record a 15th Championship clean sheet and Brentford make it three wins on the spin in our final game without ginger Pirlo, Ryan Woods?

His own three game ban, following the handbags against Sheffield United, comes to an end tonight. With the trip to Fulham next up, Dean Smith resisted the temptation to appeal a dismissal that still seemed somewhat harsh. Yet in his absence we’ve seen two 1-0 wins and two goals from Neal Maupay. We’ve seen domination at Bristol City and then what reads as a somewhat grittier performance at home to Ipswich Town.

But with three points the absolute priority if those play-off aspirations are to remain a reality, we’ve done the needful in differing circumstances. Now there are just five games to go and a five point gap to reel in. Another win has to be the target with the fixtures running out. You couldn’t ask, on paper, for any more than to be up against a team for whom the back of the net is something as hard to find as a Neil Warnock post-match handshake.

Which scares me. That sort of stat has to give at some time. Opponents with nothing to lose can play with freedom of expression. Brentford will need to approach this with 100% focus whilst remembering how well we’ve played at times this campaign. It’s no coincidence that despite a rough start we’ve climbed into the top ten. That we’ve taken apart the likes of Leeds United, Aston Villa and Birmingham City.

Perhaps rather than playing our opponent’s statistical record and our own future state, this really is the time to concentrate on the game at hand. Switch off from what has gone before and what might be. The consummate example of that cliche about taking one game at a time (I would also accept : every game as it comes).

By rights, us football fans can be a pessimistic bunch. It’s no surprise that Nottingham Forest supporters Matt and Jamie have come out with less than positive predictions. Being quite honest I’d probably have made similar had roles been reversed. Even now, I’m struggling to call this with any sense of accuracy although, being equally fair, that’s long been a challenge yours truly has failed to rise to.

Instead, it’s a case of hoping that Dean Smith picks the right starting XI for the right result. For hoping that Forest prove anything but Tricky Trees. And if nothing else, at anywhere between 11-1 and 13-1, a few quid on 0-0 might not be the silliest investment ever made?

Here’s also hoping Neal Maupay can ruin that one.

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Last time out saw a win against Ipswich Town

 

Nick Bruzon

 

One down. Five to go. We’re still in this.

8 Apr

One down, five to go. Brentford made it back to back wins as Neal Maupay’s penalty and Daniel Bentley’s record (at this level for a Bees ‘keeper) 14th clean sheet of the campaign proved to be the difference over an Ipswich Town side that began the game with Luke Hyam in the team and ended it with 10 players after running out of substitutes. Whilst, as ever, the likes of Beesotted and ‘official’ are usually the places to go for your match reports, in this case they really are. For reasons out of my control I had to miss this one. Instead of sitting at Griffin Park, I found myself holed up in a random pub with some random Barnsley fans (amongst others), watching the Merseyside derby and getting somewhat over excited by the Tykes comeback against Sheffield United. This before Birmingham City managed an 87th minute equaliser against fellow relegation candidates Burton Albion that brought everybody present back down to earth with a bump.

By that point though, it was too late to be overly concerned. Much as I’d love to see ‘ten times better’ Birmingham slip through the relegation trapdoor, primary focus has to be on Brentford. We’d absolutely done the needful despite a butt clenching final few minutes of time added on that had been spent waiting for the scores to refresh and confirm our 1-0 victory.

To be honest, I had considered spending the afternoon with Mark Burridge sneaking into my ear via a discreetly placed headphone. However, despite the wise words normally spoken by our commentator par excellence the lure of another beer in the afternoon sunshine and the somewhat less appealing prospect of Stoke City v Spurs on TV won out.

In a way, I’m glad. Not so much the sitting through the Stoke game (if ever there was any added incentive needed to go for the play-offs then just the prospect of bypassing them in the divisions should be sufficient) but more missing out on a match that sounded hard work. With Mick McCarthy setting his Ipswich team up on us man for man, it was always going to be a tough one for the fans. If you had to miss a game then in retrospect, and from a footballing perspective, this one sounds like it was up there.

Flicking through social media at full time, Chief Executive Mark Devlin seems to have summarised the feelings of most fans when he noted : “Thanks for your support and well done to the team. It was by no means a classic but the players got the job done.”

Likewise, Bees boss Dean Smith was quick to pay tribute to both his counterpart and the opposition. His post match interview (which you can catch up on in full over on ‘official’) includes the observation that Ipswich “Made it very difficult for us to get our free-flowing football going. We found chances hard to come by. We were due a penalty like that; it was soft and I would be slightly annoyed if it was given against us.

Hey, sometimes you just have to take the chances when they are offered. At this stage in the game, a win is a win. Whether scrappy, deserved, fortunate or other. That gap to the playoffs remains five points with five games to go. It’s all about getting the result and that’s what Brentford did. Whilst it may not have sounded like the most aesthetically pleasing performance, you get a feeling of what this one meant to all concerned. MrJamie88 summarising it quite beautifully on Twitter, with a bit of help from Sergi Canos.

Next up, the trip to Nottingham Forest awaits on Tuesday. There are five games to go. Five mini cup finals. Keep picking up the wins and I’ve no doubt we’ll be celebrating like a certain Russell Slade once so famously opined. Cliche alert but…..it really is about taking one game at a time whilst, perhaps, hoping for a favour along the way. It happened in 91/92; it could happen again.

Yet without wanting to get too far ahead of ourselves, at the bottom end of the table I’ve got half an eye on Barnsley. Yesterday showed yet again why I’d love them to stay up. Great fans and great camaraderie. There’s the added incentive that their safety would put even more pressure on Garry Monk’s Birmingham City team. With our final away game of the campaign being a trip to Oakwell, how big could that one turn out to be? Hopefully their fate will be well sealed by that point – in a positive way. Hopefully we’ll have carried on picking up the points that will make that game of quintessential relevance.

Before that, though, we’ve the Forest game and then a West London derby double header . First the trip to Fulham and then the home game with QPR. With just that handful of games to go, the season has got a ridiculous amount of fun left in it still and I can’t wait.

As one final word of note, how great to have Alan Judge back in a Griffin Park starting XI. Moreso given the opposition and their own line up. I won’t deny I felt a genuine pang of excitement when the team sheet was published at 2pm. What a journey back from the depths. What a team to do it against.

Nice one, Alan.

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The view from Griffin Park

Nick Bruzon

 

Bees blunted by Blades and random ref but what a celebration.

31 Mar

It’s a point closer to the play offs for both teams as a day that saw two controversial dismissals ended with Brentford and Sheffield United drawing 1-1. It was a day that ended with Daniel Bentley winning his personal battle with former Bee Clayton Donaldson as two great stops late on kept us alive. Bristol City, whose own last gasp equaliser at Barnsley gave hope to Birmingham City, are next up in what promises to be a real six-pointer at the right end of the table. With just 7(seven) games to go and the gap to the play-offs 7(seven) points, the chance of a spectacular climax to the season is still there. Just.

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Brentford entertained Harchester United at Griffin Park on Saturday

What can you say about events at Griffin Park where there was a very real danger of having to call out the Coastguard? Well, if the Middlesbrough game was made uncomfortable for the supporters thanks to the snow, this time around it was Biblical levels of rain. Somewhat appropriate for the Easter Weekend and what was still, mostly, a very Good Friday.

Those who took one look at the torrents heading their way and bailed out of coming to this one did, at least, have the consolation of staying dry behind their computers or in front of the TV as it lashed down from the warm up to the post-match handshakes. The water was already spraying up off the surface as Yoann Barbet stroked home dead ball after dead ball in his pre-kick off routine. Conditions didn’t get any better.

By the time we got down to proper business, you could have launched a flotilla down by the Braemar Road touchline. Flo Jo in particular, perhaps ruing one second half challenge that left him soaked through in the quagmire. But if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. Pack it up and go home. Not that there was anything particularly hot about yesterday, the first half especially.

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View from the Braemar – Flo ended this one soaked through

That opening period being a somewhat tepid affair that saw even ‘angry dad’, my most favourite amongst those fans who sit around us in the Braemar Paddock (what genuine passion and enthusiasm that always stays the right side of ‘family’) remain silent for the vast majority of that opening period. The linesman on the near side saved the usual telling off that his performance so often warrants.

How things changed when the teams came back out after half time. There was vigour. There was gusto. There was the late arrival of Mrs Bruzon, delayed due to transport debacle. And as such, there was the customary goal for the opposition that her presence so often heralds.

If lucky pants, shirt and not shaving on a winning run work for some supporters, she’s almost the opposite. There have been several moments of what we shall simply call ‘unfortunate timing’ over the years. Within minutes of taking her seat, Sheffield United had taken the lead. A deflected effort from Chris Basham beating Daniel Bentley to make it 1-0. It spurred Brentford into life.

Yet, if Mrs B is somewhat of an albatross at times (in a footballing perspective), young Harry is the opposite. “Daddy. If we score a goal, will you lift me up?” he asked as play resumed.  Little more than ten minutes later, he was being raised aloft as Welsh international Chris Mepham (how good does that sound?) made it all square. His left footed drive from 12 yards out was followed up with the most incredible knee slide across the sodden surface.

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Chris Mepham leads the celebratory charge

Talk about enjoying the moment of his first goal in league football. Yet who could blame him? What a wonderful season it has been for a player plucked from the B-team to the Bees first team. And from there to his national side.

It’s no wonder he celebrated as he did. For once, the horrific conditions aiding the cause There are plenty of tweets doing the rounds of this one. Take your pick. They’re all brilliant.

Yet if the goal was a moment of ecstasy, we were bought crashing back down to earth with a sickening bump moments later. With most supporters watching the celebration, over in the goal mouth referee Jeremy Simpson had taken umbrage with visiting goalkeeper Jamal Blackman lashing out at Ryan Woods. He was red carded yet, likewise, so was our own ginger Pirlo.

Having seen one version of the footage, I’m at a genuine loss as to why we’ve been penalised. Perhaps something was said to the ref or perhaps he had a better view. Perhaps he simply made the mistake that Woody’s subsequent reaction suggested. Who knows? Dean Smith told the waiting media after the game that he hadn’t seen the incident as yet. Perhaps on review he’ll then appeal.

It was a game changing moment. From Brentford pushing, it was United who once more gained the ascendency. Simon Moore was brought on between the sticks to join Clayton and Jack O’Connell as three ex Bees playing for the visitors. Yet it was Daniel Bentley who proved to be busiest from that moment on. He was the man responsible for us gaining the point which has kept faint play-off hopes still alive.

As Dean Smith would note in his press conference, “Nothing has changed. It is still must-win. The less games you have left then the less likely you are to make the Play-Offs if you don’t win games. We have gone four without a win now. We have played very well in two of those games and should have got something. We have to turn that around very quickly now on Monday.

So where do we go from here? Will the Bees appeal? Do we have any hope of the play-offs? A win at Bristol City is a must if that is to happen. Should we be content with aiming for a fourth successive top ten finish? Something that would, in itself, be an incredible achievement for a club with our history and budgetary challenges relative to our rivals.

When you have the likes of Sunderland (whose incredible 4-1 humbling of Derby County was THE result of the day) and Birmingham City tripping each other up at the bottom, it shows yet again that size, reputation and spending prowess count for nothing if you can’t do it when the ref blows his whistle.

Brentford couldn’t quite get the win yesterday. But given all that was going on, I’m well happy with a point.

Roll on Monday.

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Where’s Karl Fletcher?

Nick Bruzon