Tag Archives: Cardiff

Magnificent. Rivals thumped, humped and spanked as top of the table tightens.

15 Dec

Well that was just stunning. Another home win as Brentford beat Fulham – yet again – on Saturday to go fourth in the Championship table. It was as comfortable a 1-0 as you could hope to see. The visitor’s goalmouth leading a charmed life with the Bees hitting the woodwork three times. There’s only Preston, Leeds United (who gave an intriguing reminder of their annual ability to fall apart) and then table toppers West Bromwich Albion (also derby winners as they came from behind against Birmingham City to render Harlee Dean’s goal meaningless) above us. 

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Another wonderful win under the lights

With Barnsley hammering qpr 5-3, it was just about the perfect day of results for Brentford fans. The chief of which was, of course, at Griffin Park. In truth it never felt in doubt, the first twenty minutes aside. Fulham starting in the ascendency. Brentford dropping passes short, having no luck with the bounce of the ball and just feeling second to everything. It was a brief fancy. A posing concern that vanished as quickly as it had arrived. Fulham had their moment, even hit the post at one point (albeit David Raya had the shot covered) and then the Bees stepped it up. My word did we step it up.

Thomas Frank would talk at full time about his pre-match message to the players, “One thing. Out run them. When you feel the pain, run again.” The tactic was simple. Keep moving. Keep running. You will win. And sure enough, we did. Bryan Mbeumo got the goal that silenced the visitors and gave us the lead. Saïd Benrahma with the cross from the right although Thomas was as quick to praise Ollie for his tireless work. Not just in the move that saw Mbeumo fire home but throughout the game.

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View from the Braemar – Bryan celebrates his goal

With fans on their feet, voices raised and smiles broad (that was just Peter Gilham) we pushed on. How Ollie didn’t score I have no idea as the post came to Fulham’s rescue. It was one of those which, watching it live, had seemed as though it was just a case of waiting for the ball to hit the back of the net. Alas, not.

Next up, Pontus Jansson just before half time. The woodwork once again coming to Fulham’s rescue in front of their supporters. Apparently – I’d been dragged to the forecourt at that point by a boy in need of a hot chocolate and a wee. The spirit of BBC Billy Reeves still alive and kicking.

It could have been 2 or 3 as the players trooped in for their break but, frankly, we were winning. Forty-five minutes away from another win and a move into the play-off zone. Each and every one of us would have taken that if made the proverbial offer before kick off.

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Watching on as Pontus hits the post.

Back out and it was more of the same. Brentford tireless. Indefatigable. Unceasing in the hunt for a goal which would have secured the points. More importantly, sparing the heart conditions of more than a few people sitting around us in the Braemar. As stress levels built, Mathias Jensen did it. Yessssss. 2-0 !!!! Nooooo!! Somehow it hadn’t gone in, despite bouncing off the inside of the post, across the goal and surely over the line. Surely? 

I’m still convinced it was in but the reaction of the players and the straight back to action for them tells us that, perhaps, one of those we need to chalk up to optical illusion. Instead, it was a case of calm heads and keep on going. There was nothing to worry about. My word, the stakes were high. The desire to win second to none. I’ve not felt the ground like this in a while. The awareness of what a win meant, clear to all.

Brentford of old a team that, we all know, would have played this well and created that many chances only to see a freak goal bounce in off Alexander Orlov’s arse in the final seconds. But not this side.

Thomas Frank has instilled confidence. Pontus Jansson a colossus. Mathias Jensen pulling the strings in the middle. Rico and Henrik never stopping. Ethan Pinnock making that second centre back berth his own. Everybody playing their part. The team spirit, the smiles to each other. The handshakes and the all round camaraderie clear for all. These boys would lay down their lives for each other if it meant stopping goal going in. The post-match walk around the pitch once more a sign of how happy everything is in the camp. 

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Full time celebrations

And so rather than panic, it was more a case of running out those last three minutes of added on time. Then celebrating like we’d won the FA Cup. Yes, there really was a Leyton Orient away feel to this one. I’ll take your words and recycle them Mr. Slade. I’m not proud. But in terms of significant moments, that could be about as huge as they come.

Of course , there’s a hell of a long way to go but now we are in the top six, this is ours to claim. Ours to keep on making progress. Ours to look next at hunting down West Bromwich Albion and Leeds United. Whilst both seem well, well clear at the top we all know what Leeds do so well. Yesterday was another fine example as a 3-0 lead at home to Cardiff City ended in a 3-3 come back by the visitors. And that, with a man sent off. Could it happen again or will it be a blip….? They visit Fulham next Saturday so either way, something else has to give from the teams around us.

As for Brentford, our next action is the trip to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday. The league leaders. The conquerors of Birmingham City (although that’s no major achievement these days, such is the state of a Blues team who are less ten times better and more starting to look over their shoulders where the gap from 16th to the relegation slots isn’t that far off).

It is about as tough as they come. On paper. We’ve all seen how solid West Brom are. How Romaine Sawyers has taken his game to the next level since leaving Griffin Park. And he was already firing then. But Brentford are no slouches either. Only Leeds United have a tighter defence, as it stands, and 3 of their 13 conceded came in yesterday’s Cardiff debacle. But Brentford are only on 17 against. That’s almost half the total from this time last year, if memory serves. With the goals flying in at the other end, we’re worth an extra point on GD alone.

The trip to the Hawthorns looks likes it’s going to be an absolute cracker. For now, though, let’s relax in the present and enjoy this moment. Thomas – thank you. 

What an afternoon. What a performance. What a way to head towards Christmas. As one New Road observer put it in the pub afterwards, “That was a pleasant surprise”

For me, it was very, very pleasant. But no surprise. Fulham got just what was coming to them. Brentford delivering another Christmas gift to the fans. Now bring on The Baggies.

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None shall pass

Nick Bruzon

Thomas has my vote as the stakes get ever higher.

12 Dec

Another game at Griffin Park, another win. Cardiff City the latest side to fall as Brentford picked up all three points in a 2-1 which, after seeming effortless and more a case of ‘how many?’, ended up being a bit of a nail biter as the visitors were allowed back into it courtesy of a quiet magnificent set piece routine. Credit where it is due. But with just about all other results going our way last night and everybody else drawing barring QPR who won at Birmingham City (that one really was Sophie’s Choice – other, cruder, metaphors may also apply) the gap to the play off places and Fulham in third – for now – got even tighter. With 21 games played, The Bees sit immediately outside the play-off zone and just two points behind the Cottagers.

It was a game which, as called in advance, featured the return of both Henrik Dalsgaard and Pontus Jansson. For the other nine it was the team which last ran out in from of the home fans  – ‘that’ scoreline against Luton Town – which started again. Meaning Ethan Pinnock retained his place alongside the enigmatic Swede rather than Julian Jeanvier. That said, JJ did put in an appearance in a late switch to three at the back that had Griffin Park gritting it’s collective teeth and all knowing ‘what happens’ when we move to last gasp defence. In this instance though, we held strong !

To be fair, it hadn’t felt remotely like getting to that buttock clenching stage for huge swathes of this one. Saïd and Mathias both coming close early with strong chances. How Jensen didn’t score remains a mystery, although Neil Etheridge in goal for the visitors will claim the credit as the midfielder found himself clean through but shot at the ‘keeper. 

It didn’t matter. With little over half the opening period gone, Saïd continued his one man torment of the Bluebirds and lined up Bryan Mbeumo for the opener. It had been coming all half in a game that was about as one way as they come. The Algerian working wonders and bamboozling defenders before cueing up his fellow wideman. 1-0. Game on, surely, game over ? Surely?

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Goalscorer Mbeumo runs at Cardiff, again.

If there was any doubt it was put to bed immediately into the second period. Ollie Watkins glancing a header across the face of goal and past Etheridge. Whilst the cross had been delivered from the Braemar it was a move which had begun on the opposite flank, via the medium of a ….short corner. This is not a typo. This is not a drill. I repeat, a short corner. My word. One of them has actually worked. Of all the ironies and, perhaps, Brentford official did me a favour in electing not to print last night’s programme column (no idea, for those that asked but thank you) in which this most maligned of set pieces did get another mention.

We digress. With it, Ollie moves on up to 13 goals in the Championship charts. His strike made to look as effortless as any he has scored all season. It wasn’t, but that’s just how he rolls. Cool, calm and another one collected to add to his tally. That’s 3 behind Aleksandar Mitrovic at Fulham. If Saturday didn’t have enough frisson already, there is now an even more interesting sub-plot with this battle between two of the table’s top scorers.     

So that was it. Wasn’t it? 46 minutes gone. 2-0 Brentford. Cardiff not given a glance all game and the Bees still pushing. A home banker from this point onwards. Ah, if only football was that easy. We’ve all been here too many times to think there’s such a thing as a comfortable evening. Luton Town aside. Sure enough, we conspired to almost ‘do a Brentford’. Almost.

Referee John Brooks, so strong in the first half, suddenly went to ‘random mode’. It was as though he had been imbued with the spirit of Gavin Ward. The Bees sat back and Cardiff grew in confidence. Moreso after Marlon Pack absolutely leathered a free kick from distance just after the hour. The move had been a well worked one to stretch us but was then hit with all the accuracy and speed of a guided missile. David Raya had no chance. The away fans celebrated and the Bees wobbled. 

But if there was any doubt in the stands, there was none on pitch. Wave after wave of pressure was mopped up. The defence holding firm. The addition of Jeanvier not having the feared imbalance . Instead, we stayed tight. It wouldn’t have been my call, that’s for sure, but it’s why Thomas Frank is head coach and yours truly just writes nonsense in his spare time. It’s amazing to think about some of the ridiculous stick he was getting just a month or two ago. Just last weekend after the Sheffield Wednesday game. He’s a man with a plan and has his boys firing. Holding their nerve. Getting the win. Patience, and a bit of faith, people. It will be rewarded, as was proven last night.

Four minutes of additional time, stretched out by a head injury, were as angsty as they got but Cardiff shot themselves in the foot with a needless bit of foul play at the end and, with it, their moment was gone.  An oddly set up free kick, with the visitors not knowing whether to defend it or line up for a last gasp run at our goal, saw the clock run down. Brentford hung on to win a game that had felt so, so comfortable for so, so long. Neil Harris tasted defeat for the first time in his Bluebirds’ career. Brentford with another win under lights and with it the realisation that we only have two more ‘regular’ league games after dark  – the visits of Leeds United and West Brom. Enjoy these moments whilst you can.

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There aren’t many of these to go…

 At the end of the day, Clive, the result is the only thing that counts when the final tally is counted up. It’s another three points for The Bees. The table ever tighter at the top. Brentford knowing that a win against Fulham on Saturday will take us above our neighbours. Their own back to back defeats all helping the chasing pack. Not that we needed any extra incentive for this one but, my word, if ever we needed any extra incentive then here it is.

All that’s to come. For now, the highlights are up and we can all catch our breath. Until the weekend……

 

Nick Bruzon

A welcome return to Griffin Park this evening.

11 Dec

The Festive calendar is well and truly upon us. Brentford start a run of five games over the next eighteen days with a visit from Cardiff City. It is a run that also includes a local derby at home to Fulham on Saturday, followed by games with title chasing West Bromwich Albion, Swansea City and then Millwall. All this squeezed into what remains of December. Good luck finding time to get that Christmas shopping done.

Tonight looks as though it is going to be about as tough as it gets. At least, on form. Neil Harris has Cardiff firing and, as it stands, they  sit one place above us in the Championship table. Three wins on the bounce and unbeaten since the ex Millwall man took over suggests that the Bluebirds are very much a force to be reckoned with. 

I’m not going to be pretend to have an overly impressive insight into our visitors. Anybody coming to these pages should, one hopes, know what they are going to get by this stage. Inciteful analysis probably more reserved to the likes of Beesotted or other reputable sources. Besides, Neil Warnock’s side weren’t exactly renowned for their attractive football. You knew what you were going to get and to anybody outside of the Welsh capital it didn’t really warrant too much scrutiny. Generally effective.

Yet now a change of manager has seen a change in fortune. The results are coming in. Then again, the same could have been said for  Mark Bowen’s Reading and we stoped them dead in their tracks the other week. We’ve a team that, on it’s day, is a match for anybody in the division. The goals have been flying in and the defence looking solid. As a general rule. The BBC report we are likely to be blessed by the return of both Henrik Dalsgaard and Pontus Jansson tonight. Both missed the 2-1 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday over the weekend. Both are amongst our biggest, best and most experienced. International players with their own unique skillsets. 

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View from the Braemar – Pontus and Henrik have been imperious

Jansson the marquee signing over the summer. The captain of Sweden. Leather lungs, rock solid and afraid of nothing or no-one. Woe betide anybody who lets their captain down. The smile on his face enormous when we win. The pain on his face should results not go our way, etched deep in waves of torment and despair. As for Dalsgaard, he is one of the most under rated players in the team. Whilst the likes of Said, Ollie, Rico, Pontus, Josh and David (amongst others) so often grab the headlines – and deservedly so – Henrik just does his thing. A titan at the back yet one with the ability to push up higher than Simon Cowell’s waistband. Apparently he represented Denmark at The World Cup whilst a Brentford player – if only somebody had mentioned it at the time.

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Captain Pontus – key to the spine of the team

So yes, tonight could be hard. But as much for Cardiff City as Brentford. The table sees a mere point separating the teams with everything to gain and nothing to lose. Apart from three points. I expect The Bees to go for it. Whether the Bluebirds opt for strangling the game and catching us on the break or going for broke themselves is a mystery yet to be unravelled . Roll on 7.45pm when we can find out.

And if there was any more incentive needed, last night saw Fulham warm up for Saturday’s game by losing. Again. The weekend saw them beaten at home by Bristol City. Tuesday was the turn of Preston to take the points. The gap to Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion at the top growing ever bigger. With the added bonus of defender Denis Odoi being sent off, meaning he’ll miss the game at Griffin Park. Boo-hoo. What a shame. A win tonight will put us within touching distance of the Cottagers going in to that one.

Whilst we shouldn’t get too far ahead of ourselves – every game as it comes and all that –  what a wonderful extra that would be if we do get the win tonight. For me, Clive, I’m going into this one bursting full of confidence despite the opposition and despite Sheffield Wednesday. We’re just too strong at home. Ask Luton Town. Griffin Park under the lights has seen some special nights and with these now very much finite commodity, expect it to be raucous tonight. I can’t wait.

See you there.

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Brentford celebrated 7 (seven) times last time at Griffin Park.

Nick Bruzon 

Crisis club in tailspin? Are fans revolting?

8 Dec

Sheffield Wednesday 2 Brentford 1. 

Sack the board. Spend £100million. Benham out. Frank out. It’s disaster. Nooooo. You don’t want to go up etc etc.

That’s one response to yesterday’s game I suppose. Some people may feel that way. Not me.

Personally speaking, I’m of the ‘everybody just calm down’ school of thought this morning. We lost a game. Away. To a team who are at the business end of the table for good reason. We might have won. Perhaps we should have drawn. But that’s not how football works. They scored twice. We scored once. We were missing two World Cup players. Arguably the most experienced members of our squad. We’ve still got one of the youngest and most exciting teams in the division. We’re ninth in the Championship. We’re three points off Nottingham Forest in fifth place. We move into Lionel Road in little over eight months time. We’ve back to back home games approaching – Cardiff City and then Fulham on Saturday. 

Football life is good. Very good. Enjoy the moment. Ride the wave. I’d love to have won it yesterday but it’s not the end of the world. Anything but. Come back to me in May if you think there is any form of crisis. There isn’t, for the record.

Besides, from my perspective there’s another reason for yesterday’s defeat. Pick up Wednesday’s programme to find out why. Or just look at Twitter.

See you then.

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Nothing more than a temporary glitch

Nick Bruzon

 

 

 

 

What a week. What a 16 years. Why today is more than just ‘another’ game.

11 Aug

Stoke City here we come. Brentford hit the road today, safe in the knowledge that Ryan Woods remains a Bee after a somewhat uneventful, albeit tense, transfer window slammed shut on Thursday ™ . That said, there can’t be one Bees fan who doesn’t know full well there still remains a gaping hole in the middle of it through which a player could still leave before month end. This, whether to / from another Championship club. Or Lower. Whilst we may be out of the woods in terms of the ginger Pirlo heading to Swansea City, that still remains a theoretical possibility for a few weeks. And with Sam Clucas leaving the Swans for today’s hosts after initially failing to agree terms with top flight Burnley, could their interest in Woodsy now be renewed?  Or might today see a renaissance for Ryan?  

First up, Stoke City. We’ve not had a competitive fixture with the Potters since the 2002 play-off final. That was the one we lost. 2-0. Although we had the unique experience of getting beaten in Cardiff, rather than in the semi-finals or at Wembley. That was the one I attended with my Stoke supporting flat mate Phil and HB’s now godfather, Colin. Where Jack Segal of First Great Western trains tried to make an already awful day even worse on the way home by taking the train out of commission at Newport. Amongst his lesser offences. How DID that evening all work out, Jack? How much did that taxi cost? The one where Steve Coppell’s squad was not so much broken up as splintered into a million pieces immediately afterwards. 

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Move along – nothing to see here. Again.

It wasn’t a great day all round by any stretch of the imagination. Frankly, I was glad to be clear of Stoke. They changed managers a few times but would hold station until the enigmatic Tony Pulis out shone their divisional rivals to make it into the Premier league in 2006/07. It was a position the Potters would maintain until their love-in with the top flight ended in a bitter divorce at the end of last season i.e. they were relegated. And now our paths cross once more. Sixteen years later.

Cripes, Stoke look tasty. Unlike most relegated teams, they’ve been able to keep the majority of their squad together. Clucas has come in from Swansea whilst they had already strengthened with the £6m+ purchase of midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo. In addition, Dean Smith was quick to recognise other new boys including Tom Ince and Ashley Williams in yesterday’s press conference. That’s before you factor in the likes of Joe Allen or England World cup squad member, goalkeeper Jack Butland.  

Then again, the Bees look equally impressive. You can only play the opposition presented yet Saturday’s 5-1 obliteration of Rotherham was about as one-sided as it gets. This despite Ryan Woods not being named in the matchday squad after the interest from Wales. Frankly, that we ‘only’ scored five is still about as confusing as it gets. Brentford were insatiable when pushing forward and could really have made a claim on those beautiful brackets that come with a 7(seven) goal score. Yet three points and top of the table after the first round of games are about as much as one could hope for.

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View from the Braemar – a great performance against Rotherham

Today will be an infinitely sterner test. Just where is that dividing line to be drawn between Rotherham being awful and Dean Smith’s team being considered able to take that next step up? Will the team change now that Woodsy is available? Even just the bench?  Dean told the media team yesterday that “Ryan is a full member of our squad. I am very pleased he didn’t leave. We had bids and there was an unsettling period for Ryan but nothing has happened. Our valuation was not met so he remains a Brentford player.

What that means for today is unclear. I just can’t see a winning team being changed but equally, and has been noted many times, I’m just the numpty on the terrace. One thing Dean does is surprise us with his choice of personnel. Last season’s opening period was punctuated by no team being the same in successive games for a stretch that seemed to last about two months, if I recall correctly. Might we see more of the same?

There’s only one place to find out and that’s 3pm at the bet365 stadium (things to note not to call Lionel Road – I think I’ll cry if we run out at the LeoVegas Arena). I can’t wait for this one. If for no other reason than we get to see how well the boys do in that quite magnificent brown and orange away shirt.

Roll on kick off and see you there.

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Looking forward to seeing more of Said in the brown today

One final note on the Woodsy situation. Or, more specifically, the Swansea City situation. What mess must they be in at present? I’m not close enough to be in any position of knowledge but looking in, it seems staggering. They’ve had years in the Premier League. They have those god awful parachute payments to help keep them afloat. Former Bee Alfie Mawson was sold to Fulham for a fee noted at close to £20m. Clucas for another £6m+, yet they couldn’t reach to Brentford’s valuation (thought to be £6.5m) for a player they had been courting all window.  Then again, that Clucas deal represents a somewhat awful turnaround for a player who cost £16m from Hull City (along with Stephen Kingsley heading in the opposite direction) just 12 months earlier.

That’s not to have a dig at Swansea. Far from it. We all know what it’s like being on the wrong end of your best player leaving or financial mismanagement. More, to note once more how well we are being run and how relatively stable things are at Brentford compared to a lot of other clubs.

Great job, Mr. Benham. Now here’s to three points  today.

Nick Bruzon

 

 

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

Will Brentford keep going? Can Aston Villa do us a favour? Saturday is HUGE!

27 Apr

Two games to go and this is still wide open. With the fixtures falling as kindly as one could have hoped for, Brentford travel to relegation threatened Barnsley on Saturday knowing that with two games to go we are three points off Derby County in sixth place. The same Derby County who head up to an Aston Villa side still looking at a slim chance of ‘automatic’ promotion to the Premier league. It is a chance that, much like our own play-off dream, will require three points on Saturday to keep it alive. Cardiff City may have dealt a blow to our own promotion ambitions on Tuesday night as they went down 3-1 to the Rams yet, at the same time, have given us a back door bonus by really handing Villa that incentive to try and catch them.

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I’ve always loved Aston Villa (eh, Simon ?)

Elsewhere, fifth placed Middlesbrough (four points ahead of Brentford) take on 7th placed Millwall (one ahead). That’s an evening game and by the time it comes around, our own game will of course have played out. Will it prove of supreme relevance or be a statistical anomaly by that juncture?

Realistically, three points for Brentford up at Oakwell are an absolute must. Any other result will leave us relying on a combination of mathematics and good fortune even more convoluted than the table already looks.  Barnsley have to go for it, too. Any permutation beyond home win will leave them all but down and needing both Bolton and Birmingham City to self-destruct. In itself, not an improbable combination based on the season’s results to date.

As ever, though, outside distractions really are that. Distractions. By virtue of the teams playing each other, something will go our way at some point. The worst combination of results being victories for Millwall and Derby. The best, home wins for Aston Villa and Middlesbrough. Both, more than feasible. Then again, I fancied Cardiff City to do it on Tuesday. One up at half time and in control, you have to tip your hat to a Derby County team that, aided by some suicidal defending, produced a devastating second half performance to break their three game losing streak.

Trying to call anything this weekend is a fool’s errand. As much as anything else, pressure and necessity will cause some teams to collapse like a house of cards. Others will rise to the occasion. The prospect of glory an adrenaline boost to the arm that sees them (and all being well us) surge towards those all critical three points.

Brentford were magnificent against Fulham. To the very end of the game where Neal Maupay produced one of THE moments. Likewise, for huge patches of the game against QPR where, but for Mr. Madley, the victory would have been a much more comfortable one. Then again, perhaps he has also done us an unintentional favour. What a way for a team to have to test themselves in the toughest of circumstances. 11 v 14 is never easy. Moreso, when the 14 were flying in with horror challenges, studs up, yet facing no real danger of card based justice.  

We know we have the ability to win this one. To beat anybody on our day. Only 3pm on Saturday will dictate how well we can meet that challenge. How much resistance Barnsley can provide or whether they are dead men walking. Either way,  I can’t wait for this one !!

Elsewhere, did you read Mark Devlin’s programme column in the QPR edition of BEES? Talk about putting his views on the line in a wonderful article about Sports Minister Tracey Crouch and, more importantly, her decision in regards to the Safe Standing application made by West Bromwich Albion.

With ‘Safe Standing’ a clearly stated and supported desire of The Bees, he was pulling no punches with comments that included:  “I fear that politicians will once more put their prejudice and fears ahead of what is needed and wanted by the football community” and “I was even more shocked that she appeared to claim there was insufficient demand or interest from clubs, fans and leagues”  

Well said Mark. How refreshing to see any Chief Executive standing up to be counted in such clear and uncertain terms. That’s Brentford, though. Trailblazers again.

The good news being that a public petition has now topped the 100,000 votes required for parliament to consider it for debate. Albeit, this still remains open and there is time to add your voice to the list on a matter that will potentially have a direct impact on Brentford, given the current construction of Lionel Road. The link to that one is here. Thirty seconds that could impact your club if you can make the time to sign.

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Lionel Road . I’ve not seen a hole this big since the Birmingham City defence turned up

Next up, football stickers. I’ve banged on a bit in the last few weeks about the World Cup 2018 album. Primarily, my son Harry’s rapidly developing interest in this most traditional of football related activities. For reasons unnkown the mere mention of the name’ Lucas Biglia’ (Argentina) has him in stitches whilst Spain and Iceland are his favourites. Not because of the countries but the kits – no idea where he gets that from.

So imagine my surprise just coming in from work on Wednesday to hear he had been presented with what Mrs Bruzon described as ‘a two inch wad of swaps’ (although, personally, I’d say it looked more like seven) by a mystery benefactor from the Bramear Road stand. 

I say ‘mystery’. I wasn’t with them at the time and so all we know is that she sits near us at Griffin Park and the one-sided exchange took place by St. Paul’s Park. If this was you – THANK YOU. I have a suspicion who it may be and will be donning the Columbo mac at the Hull City game.

Yet this is mentioned as much to say, yet again, how truly wonderful the Brentford FC family are. For a fellow fan to go out of their way to do this for a young supporter they’ve never spoken to before really made me feel proud. Thank you. Again.   

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The amazing pile of swaps

Finally, congratulations to my good friends (No, I’m not going all Ian Moose) at Beesotted. Their Pride of West London podcast has now made the final shortlist for the Football Blogging Awards. What an honour it would be for them to win this.

As noted before, we all know what a great job they do and just how entertaining Billy (Grant) and the team are. Likewise, how many painful train journies have been made ten times better by listening to them opine on all things Brentford. And beyond.

Please. Help give them the recognition they deserve in the Best Football Podcast category and vote Beesotted at the FBAS

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Nick Bruzon

Tonight is huge (again)….but not necessarily at Anfield.

24 Apr

Something, something, something, royal baby. Blah, blah, blah, Liverpool getting a semi. Those glory, glory European Anfield nights. Some perspective people, please. There are much more important matters afoot. Hey, Brentford aren’t even playing tonight and will have to be content with gorging on the memory of Saturday’s derby day victory over QPR combined with looking forward to the weekend trip to Barnsley. Yet if ever there was a case of ‘other results’ being of critical importance to The Bees then Tuesday night is that time as Derby County host Cardiff City and Nottingham Forest are home to Barnsley.

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Sergi and Romaine amongst the architects of QPR’s doom on Saturday

We all know the current position in the Championship table. Middlesbrough in fifth, are on 72 points. That’s four ahead of Brentford and the aforementioned Rams on 68. Yet sixth placed Millwall have 69. I’m no Stephen Fry but even yours truly has sufficient mental acumen to know that’s a gap of one point. One. Point. With two games left to reel it in.

Yet, as ever, there is a potential fly in the ointment. Derby County do have that game in hand. And they play it tonight. Against Cardiff City. Victory will stretch the gap to an, albeit still catchable, three points. Cardiff, on the flip side, know that a win will give them a monumental advantage in the race with Fulham for an automatic promotion slot. Success will see them four points clear in second place with just two games to go.

This is huge. You couldn’t make up a game of this consequence. West London will be split down the middle tonight with Brentford no doubt hoping for a Cardiff win whilst Fulham fans will be mildly waving their clappers in support of Derby. Even QPR supporters will be praying for…. actually, they won’t as they’re long dead in the water.

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Cardiff win tonight and I’ll even forgive them the hashtags

But if this one has impact on Brentford, then our attention is going to be split on two fronts. There’s also the game at Nottingham Forest where defeat for Barnsley will massively increase their chances of relegation. A win will see them leapfrog fourth bottom Bolton Wanderers and have the added benefit of dragging Birmingham City back into things. The Blues own safety net of five points will be a lot squeakier if that becomes three, once the remaining games level out.

Honestly, I’m not sure which result will be best for us here. No doubt Dean Smith would tell Brentford fans just to worry about ourselves. Yet with The Bees going to Oakwell on Saturday, do we want them with destiny back in their own hands and safer, or with that potentially demoralising punch to the gut having been administered by Nottingham Forest? In themselves, a team who have won just a single game out of the last nine, losing the other eight and managing just three goals in the process.

Is it better for us to go into Saturday’s game with Barnsley’s safety all but a mathematical miracle, potentially even hoping that Birmingham City could administer a mid-afternoon psychological blow to our opponents? Or is being the architects of their own survival a better option? Something that would then also see us in the utterly distasteful position of hoping for QPR success on Saturday, with the Blues heading to Loftus Road.

Sadly, having seen the ineptitude of the hapless hoops on Saturday I now have to declare Birmingham City safe. That hurts. But all good things come to an end. Bolton travel to fellow relegation candidates Burton on Saturday and then host goal shy Forest as the season reaches an intriguing denouement. I’m not even going to get close to calling those.

Instead, it really is a case of whatever happens tonight at the City Ground happens. Any result is both good and bad for us. It WILL have an impact but only Saturday at 3pm will tell what that is. Instead, the game of absolute importance will be the one at Pride Park.

I remember back in 1995/96, listening to BBC Radio 5 ( I think, sure the sport had moved on from Radio 2 by then) and Birmingham City v Bradford. It was the season that only one side went up and the Blues only needed two points to guarantee the league title from second placed Brentford. Their 0-0 with Bradford City was one of the most painful bits of self-inflicted torture I’ve ever sat through.  It was rewarded, briefly, the following weekend as The Bees were doing the needful at Bristol Rovers whilst Huddersfield Town took the lead against City. Sadly, results didn’t hold and we ended up in the play-offs. What I wouldn’t pay for that conclusion this time around…

So choose what you do tonight carefully. That Liverpool – Roma Champions League tie is, undoubtedly, a huge occasion. The Reds have a magnificent record in Europe that we can’t get close to. Yet. And if nothing else, the chance to play ‘Liverpool in Europe’ bingo is always a wonderful one.

But for me (Clive) it’ll a case of eschewing Anfield and BT Sport where, whatever happens, it will only be half time. At full time.  Instead, I’ll be glued to Sky Sports and the game from Derby. The prize at the end of that one could be of infinitely more importance in this little corner of West London…

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Liverpool bingo – celebrating both history and cliche

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

Goals mean wins see. No matter how they come.

14 Mar

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

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

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

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

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Sergi saying what we were all thinking

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

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

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

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View from the Braemar – the Bees were outmuscled last night

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

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

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

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

See you there.

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The gap is starting to grow

Nick Bruzon