Tag Archives: Chris Mepham

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

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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

On pitch, we’ve Bees v Blades. Off it, we’ve reached the end of an era.

30 Mar

This could be a very Good Friday indeed. Brentford start the four day weekend with a game at home to a Sheffield United team who at one point were looking like the surprise package for automatic promotion and even now are just a couple of points outside the play-off zone. A Sheffield United team who have as many ex-Bees in their squad as Birmingham City (the difference being that the Blades have picked up the baton and run). Jack O’Connell, the always awesome Simon Moore and that demi-God amongst men, Clayton Donaldson, being the terrific trio.

Yet it’s more than simply the big game we need to look at. Away from the action, it seems that we’ll be saying goodbye in some form to a pair of long standing supporters who are both quite unique club ambassadors.  

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Baby Clayton. A star struck fan. And my son

I love Easter weekend. None of the random days off you get at Christmas. For those of us lucky enough to have regular jobs, there’s the regular going to work on a Monday and Tuesday, have Wednesday and Thursday off, then a shlepp back in for one, tedious day after the Festive break. That’s just a tease. Not a holiday.

But this is different.  We’ve got two shortened weeks with a full fat four day break in the middle. And within that, a footballing double header. The trip to Bristol City takes place on Monday but first up, Sheffield United at Griffin Park.

It’s not just the prospect of some down time but more the chance for a return to footballing action after the interminable International break. At least this time around our lack of league football was tempered by the pleasure of watching various past and present Bees in action – of which the appearances for Chris Mepham and Alan Judge were the clear highlights for well documented reasons. That, and a first ever win for Gibraltar as a FIFA member. Yes, I know we spoke about this last time out but some things are worth trumpeting. Liam Walker, you beauty.  Besides, the alternative is to bang on about England fans in Holland or number 26 earning us a cool half million. And nobody needs that.

So this one is all lined up, at least in my head, for that perfect storm of brilliance. The Easter break beginning with the return of Championship action after a few weeks out and and some old friends in tow. My own son doesn’t know how close he was to being called Clayton rather than Harry. Had the big man got the winning goal in the promotion shoot out with a Doncaster Rovers team currently residing in the ‘where are they now’ files, there was a very public agreement that would have resulted in a somewhat different name on his birth certificate.

Can we get the win, though? Absolutely. Play even half as well as we did at times against Middlesbrough last time out (remember that one? A blizzard going on around us and Romaine Sawyers sent off for two of the softest yellow cards you’ll ever see) and the win will surely come. Certainly, I’m expecting this one to be an entertaining goal-fest. Although going purely on my tipping skills, don’t discount the 0-0 at 23/2.

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Last time out v Middlesbrough. Sergi was denied a goal and an orange ball

That’s to look forward to. Off field, supporters were left in shock at the news that came through on social media at the back end of the week. Namely, that two of the most iconic faces linked to Brentford are moving on.

I have to be honest, I had to choke back the surprise and genuine upset at the story in The Times yesterday which said that Natalie Sawyer, THE face of Sky Sports News, has presented her final show without even a word from her employers to the viewers. No fanfare. No mention. No goodbye. That’s it.  I hope this isn’t true but it would certainly seem to be the case and has been picked up by plenty of other sites, too.

We all know what Natalie has done for our club. How much a public face of Brentford FC she is. How much time and effort she puts in to backing the Bees. Ever popular and always taking the time to talk to the fans. An ardent supporter of the BFCCST and even appearing as a regular on BeesPlayer (THAT Keith Stroud game up at Sheffield United) and hosting our end of season Player of The year awards. Amongst other things.

No doubt all of this will continue but, at the same time, it really is the end of an era if Natalie has presented her final bulletin. Truly an inspirational figure, I can’t help but think Sky will fully appreciate just who they have lost until it is too late. Here’s to bigger things.

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The king and queen of Griffin Park commentary

But it’s not just Natalie. King of Stats and Futsal guru Luis Melville has this week worked his final office day at The Brentford FC Community Sports Trust.

We all know what incredible work the Trust does and what a KEY individual Luis has been here. Whilst perhaps a little less high profile in the wider public eye, have no doubt that his leaving will as ground shaking as Natalie’s departure. The good news being I’ve seen a tweet from Luis in which he notes that he’ll still be part of the furniture at Griffin Park (good news indeed – and hopefully on comms, too) but perhaps this tweet best sums up the regards in which he is held….

Nick Bruzon

Is this the future ? Next season’s ‘must start’ player, ‘must have’ fashion item and big ticket.

23 Mar

Take a couple of days away from the blog and it all happens. Despite international break meaning the visit of Sheffield United is still a week away, Brentford fans have been kept well on our toes with a surfeit of good news. The interview conducted by the GPG with Matthew Benham has been published. Season ticket prices for 2018/19 have been revealed. Chris Mepham has made his international debut for Wales whilst Andreas Bjelland’s Panini incarnation for Denmark in the 2018 World Cup has been released to the world (thanks to Beesotted for spotting that one).

Chris does his thing. What a man !

First up, the GPG and Matthew Benham. Whilst he may not say much publically, when Matthew does give these sort of interviews they are well worth a read. This one is no different. I’m sure we’ve all seen it already although if you’ve missed it then it’s here.

Another very personal piece about his thoughts, hopes, investment (which is now up to £106million. One. Hundred. And six. Million. Pounds) and the future of the club amongst other varied topics. I’m not going to regurgitate it here, suffice to say this is well, well worth a read and so good job all round to the GPG readership and production team on this one. When Matthew speaks, it’s definitely worth listening.

The one point I did want to dwell on was in regards to his thoughts for a potential April Fools joke. Per the interview, at one point Matthew considered Rasmus would have appeared modelling the new look third and third scarves (Brentford, Fulham and QPR). The associated blub from Rasmus would, in Matthew’s words “Use loads of marketing speak and say like “this ticks a lot of boxes”.  “

Seriously. What a shame this never happened. This would have been absolute genius whilst the reaction alone would have been incredible. Better still, the hopefully positive fallout once our more knee jerk elements ( I’m sure I’d have bitten too) realised they’d been had. There’s no better way to get a positive reaction than taking the occasional moment to have a good natured laugh at yourself.

It did get me thinking though. Discussing this point on Twitter afterwards with @crumblechris , it has potentially lead us to stumble across a club shop winner. Whilst we all know the usual half and half scarf is the devil’s own product, merging two tradtional rivals onto one piece of ad-hoc merchandising, why not celebrate a more positive partnership? That of our co-directors of football.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…the Phil and Rasmus half and half scarf.

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Kamo models 2018/19’s ‘must have’ fashion item. Possibly

I’d never, ever wear anything with a QPR crest on it but I’d happily hand over my money in the club shop for one of these. Matthew, Mark, Cliff. If any of you are somehow reading (unlikely, I have to be honest), how about it…?

Next up, season tickets. The news was announced yesterday that these are being frozen for the third, successive season. This is fantastic . Moreso given juniors have had their reduced to £49 in the family section. Talk about a way to get that next generation of fans along to Griffin Park . If you haven’t got one, then what better time to upgrade the membership card? Another season of Championship action (at the very least) awaits along with a team who, on their day, have played some of the most exciting football we’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. Brentford as an established Championship side? It’s happened. Now to see if we can take this to the next level. Full details are on Brentford ‘official’.

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The 5-0 destruction of Birmingham City. About as a complete a peformance as we’ve ever seen.

Congratulations Chris Mepham. We all know what an incredible start he has had to league life but to move up to his national side so soon shows just how much he is destined for big things in the future. Hopefully at Griffin Park and then Lionel Road. Yet there he was making his debut for Wales in China on Thursday afternoon. A 6-0 win was just about as perfect as it could have got for him. The only downside, if there can be one, being Wales missing out on that additional goal which would have seen the game officially deemed a bracketing. Of course, the magical scoreline being 0-7(seven).

Whilst I’ll leave the interviews (and genuine effort) to the likes of Beesotted and the GPG, what I can say (clanngggg, the sound of a name being dropped) is that I was fortunate enough to catch up with both Rasmus and Phil earlier in the week. Specifically during the event to mark ground being broken at Lionel Road. Talking with them about transfer strategy (including those summer moves to Birmingham City) you could hear the genuine pride and pleasure about the way Chris has come through and filled the void left by Harlee. Along with Brentford currently having five B-team players on international duty at U-19 level, you can’t deny the fruits of their labours as The Bees look to their next first XI.

If Chris just missed out on a slice of football mythology, Andreas Bjelland has achieved it. Being immortalised in Panini form. Big thanks to the eagle-eyed team at Beesotted who spotted this one when the World Cup sticker book was revealed this week. As big an honour as an international cap, Andreas, Denmark and Brentford could become one of the most valuable commodities in playgrounds and offices up and down the land this summer.

Congratulations, Andreas. Here’s to 2022 when we see Chris Mepham (Wales and Brentford) alongside you in the book.

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Got it. Got it. Need it. Could Andreas see his stock increase?

Nick Bruzon

A season defining game and the chance to correct football’s biggest jinx await.

13 Mar

Well this really is an evening with everything to play for. Whilst most neutral observers may well be focussed on Manchester United and the Champions League, it is the Championship where there’s a story of genuine excitement and intrigue building. Brentford host a Cardiff City team looking to make it 7(seven) successive league wins. Victory will see them afforded a chance to draw level with a Wolves team whose seemingly unassailable lead at New Year has melted away quicker than the snow that caused this fixture to be postponed ten days ago. A gap of 12 points after they beat us in early January has now become just 3. Is it conceivable Cardiff could actually catch up with them tonight?

Let’s just cut that one stone dead in it’s tracks. Whilst something that is technically possible, I can’t see it happening. For one thing, Wolves are also in action. They host a Reading team who have offered little this season and are flirting with the relegation zone a touch too much for their liking. Thankfully for the Royals, the ongoing ineptitude of Birmingham City, Sunderland and Burton should see them home, even if their safety is acquired by accident rather than design.

More importantly, we’re also involved. Brentford thumped Millwall on Saturday in everything but goals scored. It was an extremely frustrating end to an afternoon where we did everything but score. Instead, George Saville did the needful for our genial hosts as Andreas Bjelland was left dead in the water after aggravating an Achilles problem he’d felt in the warm up.

There’s no complaints from me. We’ve been saying all season that goals, rather than possession and opportunity, are what win games. Millwall did what they needed to and then more than rode their luck. Equally though, I’m expecting Brentford to come out of the blocks flying tonight. There’s still a hope of the play offs although an eight point gap is going to need reeling in and with games running out, what better time to start than this evening?

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Functional breeze blocks. Millwall on Saturday

I also fancy Neal Maupay to prove a point tonight. I’ve no doubt that with Dean juggling his squad, the enigmatic striker will be back in the starting XI. If nothing else, he’ll have a point to prove to professional loud mouth and moron, Ian Moose. We all know what the imbecilic Talk Sport shock jock said after our sides met at the Cardiff City stadium back in November (and it wasn’t, “Happy Birthday, my good friend….”). I’m backing Neal to make him eat his own words, something that would be quite ironic given it’s normally the half-time catering that Mr. Moose has a morbid fixation with ingesting.

Expect Neal to start whilst Chris Mepham for Andreas is an absolute given. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sergi given a rest, especially knowing Cardiff’s propensity to concede second half goals. Ten of the last eleven they’ve let in have been after the sides have come back out (and I’ll thank the BBC for that one!). Likewise, could this be the time for Josh McEachran to shine? Back from injury, he’ll no doubt be knocking down Dean’s door with a point to prove.

Sky TV are in attendance tonight. I’m not surprised given what is at stake and the results have fallen wonderfully for them. Whilst Manchester United v Sevilla in the Champions League on BT is the obvious draw to the neutral, this one has got it all to play for. It has so many more sub-plots and possibilities at stake than simply whether Jose Mourinho can grind his team through to their own next round.

Even better, why not get yourself down to Griffin Park? Tickets are still available for what promises to be a potentially season defining game. For both teams. Neil Warnock is the current manager of the month and even managed to dodge ‘the jinx’ after receiving his award on Friday. Win the prize; lose your next game.

Then again, the match immediately after that was against Birmingham City. The Blues are displaying such wonderful anti-form at present they couldn’t organise a banjo in a brewery with a barn door. As such, no surprises Cardiff managed to anger the footballing gods and avoid the traditional post-award slip up.

Instead, it’s up to Brentford to right that wrong. Can The Bees do it? I can’t wait for 7.45 when we find out. See you there.

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Fully dseserved for Neil Warnock. But can The Bees correct the jinx?

Nick Bruzon

A game of two ‘best’ teams sees the ultimate in smash and grabs.

11 Mar

Millwall 1 Brentford 0. That’s what the record books will say and we’ll have to respect that. Yet if ever there was to be a lesson in taking your chance then here it was . Millwall had one notable effort on goal, former Bee Gerorge Saville sliding it under Daniel Bentley with less than a minute on the clock, and that was it in terms of noteable opportunities. The ultimate smash and grab. It was a goal that saw Andreas Bjelland pick up an injury in the build up that left him prostrate on the ground as Saville broke clear. It was his last meaningful action as the great Dane was then replaced by wunderkind Chris Mepham.

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The red shorted Bees prepare to start. Less than a minute later…..

It had the feel of being one of those days. The Bees, for reasons unknown, turning out in red shorts (here’s hoping we see them again) looked magnificent but couldn’t quite convert pressure and chances into goals. Yoann Barbet had an almost immediate reply chalked off for off-side after an interminable wait for the linesman to do his thing. With the combination of Stuart Attwell in the middle and Keith Stroud on fourth official duties it was always going to be a big ask getting something from the men in the middle. Bees fans were left frustrated after seeing this seemingly legitimate effort ruled out. A subsequent viewing on the sky highlights has confirmed that, to be fair, it seemed the correct call despite the interminable wait for the linesman to do his thing. Then again, the angle is not directly in line so who knows? Where’s the wonky ruler and VAR when you need it?

The second period saw Sergi Canos hit the post from distance with goalkeeper Archer left rooted to the spot aswell as  blazing over when a pass might have been the better option. John Egan came oh so close after being left totally unmarked in acres of space. His powerful header bounced back off the crossbar with goalkeeper Archer left rooted to the spot. As for Henrik Dalsgaard, pushing high up on the right his reward for a strong performance (in my opinion) was to see a goal bound shot cleared off the line with goalkeeper Archer not so much left rooted to the spot as scrabbling around in the mud.

Millwall – they got away with it. That’s for sure. They were, at best, workmanlike. Goals are what win games and so you can’t deny them their three points. They deserved them on that basis whilst Brentford didn’t quite have the run of the green. At times we looked too flat whilst the build-up play was laboured. When the chances came, that lack of clinical finish cost us dearly. However, any talk of the play-offs on the Lions’ side is something which will only conclude with an unhappy ending.

Millwall manager Neil Harris was in cagey form at full time. Noting that, “The best side won the game 1-0, the best side always wins the game – that’s the result“. Dean Smith, on the other hand, thought that, “The better team got beat today” also adding that “but for the woodwork and the people on the line we would have won“.

So who was the best team? Well, clearly anybody with a pair of eyes in their head would have seen that was Brentford, based on the day’s performance. But, and Harris is right on this one, it’s goals that count. So often Dean has said that we have deserved to win games that we lost or drew, but didn’t quite reach for that line yesterday. Based on what I saw play out in front of me, he’d have been justified to use it on this occasion.

As a side note, what was with the red shorts that the Bees wore.? Certainly, kit clash shouldn’t have been an issue with the Lions turning out in white. If anything, Dan Bentley’s all black against their very dark blue shirts might have presented more of a problem. Although purely on the balance of play, there wasn’t really any chance of a blue shirt being seen near his kit.

Reaction on social media seemed to be mixed, at best. Personally, I think this heavier red bias is a great look and certainly wouldn’t be upset to see this back again. What’s wrong with a bit of change every now and again?

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Man of the match Ryan Woods showing off that ‘red’ in full

Black, red or white – it would have made no difference to the end result. Sadly, it looks like we’ll be heading back to The ‘New’ Den next season. An awful breeze block stadium that is as functional as the football team who fill it. Say what you like about Millwall and Cold Blow Lane but at least that place had some atmosphere. Bloody terrifying most of the time. These days the Lion’s den is nothing more than a toothless shell of their former home. A faded, concrete carbuncle of a lair. If ever there was a lesson needed in how not to build Lionel Road then here it is.

Instead, it looks like we’ll be back to more of that pre-kick off song about jellied eels, glasses of beer and coming down to the Den (Let ‘Em Come by Roy Green, for the record). I was half–expecting Dick van Dyke to start his step in time routine as the players came out for kick-off . Having missed out on this last season I’d forgotten just how cringey this gumph is.

If the club needed any incentive in reaching for the Premier League then it shouldn’t be the lure of switching places with the likes of West Ham or Crystal Palace but simply the chance to avoid that awful, awful song.

Roll on Tuesday night and the visit of Cardiff City to see if there’s any chance of this happening….

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Functional breeze blocks. Millwall & The (new) Den.

Nick Bruzon

Bees get the point as Changchun Yatai get that Vibe. What next as Sunderland await?

11 Feb

Brentford 1 Preston North End 1. After that mini run of double defeats, here was a chance to get back to winning ways before the double header against two teams up to their hips and necks in the relegation quagmire – Birmingham City and Sunderland. Yet on a day which saw the long anticipated transfer of Lasse Vibe to Chinese Super League side Changchun Yatai for a fee rumoured to be £2m and a much changed Bees team lining up against promotion chasing Preston, in retrospect was it as disappointing as it felt at full time?

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Any votes for ‘China in your hand’ on #BeeTheDJ ? Farewell, Lasse

No. In a word. As a fan, I’m always desperate to win no matter whom we are up against and whichever players are staring. Yet a first XI which, had it been picked during the transfer window would have had supporters screaming ‘conspiracy theory‘, more than held their own and arguably had enough chances and possession to have wrapped this one up. There was no Sergi Canos – suspended. Ryan Woods had to be content with wandering up and down the Braemar Road paddock, chatting to supporters and confirming he should be fit for the Sunderland game. Yoann Barbet was dropped to the bench whilst wunderkind Chris Mepham was awol.

Yet this was still a strong team with Josh McEachran having a very positive start before returning to the frustrating enigma that his performances so often are. When he’s on form he really is a talent and his forward passing is a joy to behold. Equally, there’s more sideways and backwards passing than down the road at Twickenham. Watching the England-Wales rugby after this one, I was half expecting our number 10 to put in an appearance. No irony lost, given one challenge he put in on Callum Robinson. Move along, nothing to see here. It’s a tough call for Dean how he crams that central midfield, who makes way and how he can get the very best from his available resources. Certainly, the arrivals of Lewis Macleod and Alan Judge were very welcome.

It was a game played out in front of a sparse crowd under drizzle soaked skies. It was a game that saw Brentford give away a goal out of nowhere. Tom Barkhuizen putting Preston ahead before Florian Jozefzoon levelled things up just eight minutes later with a goal described by Sky Sports (and you can get edited the highlights here) as a superb strike. I say this given I missed it, in circumstances described in the trade as ‘doing a JJ’. Still, anything for the cause. From then on, it was one-way traffic and I can’t wait to hear how the ever wonderful Mark Burridge described all this when the full fat package is available later *.

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View from the Braemar: Andreas Bjelland v Preston – a Dane in the rain

With Greg Cunningham’s second yellow seeing the visitors reduced to ten men with fifteen minutes remaining, it was backs to the wall stuff. Ollie Watkins blazed just wide whilst Alan Judge came oh so close with a curling free kick in the dying seconds. Emiliano Marcondes added further threat from the bench and it is no surprise Dean came out with post-match comments that included his observation that, “We should have got three points today as our performance was good”.

Second half, it was good. Very. Although, equally, we can count our blessings The Bees didn’t go behind in the opening period. Tommy Spurr adjudged to have been marginally offside as he headed home for 1-0. But no. Instead it was that sweetest of football feelings – opposition cheers being snuffed out by the wave of a linesman’s flag. 0-0 it stayed, until Barkhuizen did the needful.

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It’s an early shower for you, number 3. Cunningham walks.

As for Brentford, up front remains a tough one for Dean. Neal Maupay had one, clear chance when put through one on one with Preston goalkeeper Declan Rudd. The man in black (Rudd, not the ref – if Kitman Bob is reading, what ARE the rules on that?) quick off his line to smoother the striker’s shot from eight yards. Other than that though, there were slim pickings in what you’d deem a typical striker’s chance. One thing’s for sure, with Justin Shaibu on loan and Lasse sold without being replaced, Neal is in for the long haul. That’s no bad thing either. We saw early on in the season what an impact he had off the bench. Here’s hoping that given a prolonged run of starts he’ll push on and find the back of the net on a regular basis.

My other thought is in regards to Dean Smith’s post-match observations. Both in this one and the previous two games. The 3-0 Loss v Derby saw him note that, “We had the better chances… the score-line wasn’t a reflection of what I thought was two-evenly matched teams”.

The game prior, our 1-0 Loss at home to Norwich, saw him opine how: I feel that the better team got beaten” going on to add later that, “I think Norwich will feel fortunate that they have gone away with all three points”.

Yesterday, it was that we should have won. Personally, my take on it is that we could have won. What a difference a letter or two makes. At least Dean recognises the chances we are creating but as has been said a gazillion times on these pages, they count for nothing if you can’t put them away.

As has also been said, who’d be a manager? Very much a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Overall, He and his team are doing just about most things right. Certainly, there are no huge complaints from where I am sitting. Quite the opposite. We’re pushing it against the best in a phenomally tough division and more than holding our own.

Actually, there’s nothing wrong with not winning a game. We all want to. Myself included. I remember league two days. No money etc. etc. etc. I saw a reference on Twitter the other day to the Eddie May/ Micky Adams relegation season. Grim stuff. We’re more spoilt now than we’ve ever been. Moreso with the new stadium plans really gathering pace. But the football fan is never happy. We always want more. We live in hope of what might be. We all have a dream. We always want better.

I understand Dean’s passion and desire but I also know what I see when I’m watching the same game he is. Too much of the ‘we deserved to win/ should have won’ starts to lose impact after a while.

Hey, it’s a small gripe. At least he’s got faith in his team and is constantly reinforcing that positive message. If it’s the worst thing Dean does then we’re in good hands. He has tough decisions ahead, that’s for sure, and I don’t envy him picking the team to start against Sunderland. Likewise, his substitutions, whenever they happen….

But these are nice decisions to have to make. There is competition for the starting berth in just about every position. Yoann Barbet, in particular, must count himself very unlucky to have missed out this time around (albeit I love seeing Josh Clarke out there). No doubt he’ll be amongst those hammering down Dean’s door this week. Metaphorically speaking.

I’ve no clue who Dean will start on Saturday at Sunderland. Could this be Alan Judge’s time? I can’t wait to find out though. Given their own late comeback from 3-0 down to earn a point at Bristol City on Saturday, it’s not going to be as easy as the table suggests. That’s for sure.

There’s nothing more dangerous than a black cat backed into a corner and desperately fighting for survival. Bring it on.

As for Lasse Vibe, there’s not much more that can really be said. We all knew his contract was up. We all know what he has done for us over the last few years. How open and friendly he is. How enthusiastic and dedicated to the cause whilst at Griffin Park. Talking to supporters yesterday and reading through social media, I can’t see anybody wishing him everything but the best.

I can’t think of any other club or any other player where losing your main goal threat has been treated with nothing but universal good vibes. Yet that’s Lasse.

THANK YOU. Here’s to the World Cup..

* until then, here’s the post lunchtime update with the ‘official highlights’. Great job on the comms, too…

 

Nick Bruzon

 

As unexpected shocks go, this is up with the best of them. What next, though?

1 Feb

Can we look yet? 5.30am and the alarm has just gone off but, it seems, Brentford are in the clear. At least for now. The domestic transfer window has formally slammed shut and we have survived. Whilst outside of TW8, the biggest Bournemouth related shock of yesterday was their beating Chelsea 3-0 at Stamford Bridge, at Griffin Park we had our own cause to be wary of Eddie Howe. The Bournemouth manager reported by Sky Sports to have bid a staggering £5.5 million for Chris Mepham. Something that other sources later claimed had been upped to £7(seven) million pounds.

Chris is a huge talent and has done nothing but impress in the handful of appearances since making his Championship debut but a bid of that size is one that nobody expected. With all the talk of Lasse Vibe heading off to China or Ryan Woods to Sunderland, nobody had considered the thought that our new star could be on his way to the seaside. Thankfully, he isn’t. For now.

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Chris Mepham won’t be turning his back on the Bees

Once again, it shows how much guess work and clickbait goes into those January rumours. Nobody saw this one coming and it will be very interesting to hear the official verdict on our January business. After the carnage in the summer when Harry Redknapp started to splash the cash at the 11th hour, you could have been forgiven for fearing the worst.

Instead it has been a case of tumbleweed at Griffin Park. Chris Mepham is still at Brentford and that can only be a good thing for all concerned. He has shown so much ability and maturity in such a short time that there is no doubt he can play at the highest level. Yet, for now, he continues his footballing education with Brentford and that’s fantastic news.

Instead, it is the ‘in door’ which has swung this time around with the signing of 20 year old Chiedozie Ogbene confirmed from Limerick earlier in the week. Another free scoring attacker (10 goals in 37 appearances last season) he is a player with huge potential. With Alan Judge staying at Griffin Park and Emiliano Marcondes taking those initial steps in the first team, competition is set to be even fiercer than ever before.

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#WelcomeOgbene

In other ‘non’ news, number 26 is still at Burnley  – so no sell on clause for us. Although given his family ties, there was no way he was ever going to join the likes of Arsenal or any other Southern club. Manchester City would have been the only viable option out of all those clubs being linked with the strike happy centre-back.

That said, Justin Shaibu has gone out  – albeit on loan to Walsall. I really thought he may have been given a bit more of a try out in the first team – especially when Lasse has not been available. One does wonder what will happen should the Great Dane decide his career lies abroad. The transfer window in China remains open until February 28th so I don’t think we are quite out of the woods there. Still, all that is pure conjecture. We know from Dean Smith and other club sources that he has been in conversation with another club but, to date, no agreement has been met. Fingers crossed that Lasse sticks with the rest of his team mates to see where this season might take us.

I’m a very happy man this morning. Whilst it has got to the point that nothing would surprise us anymore (and almost did), when the worst that happened on deadline day was my triple Chelsea defence taking a fantasy football hammering – thanks, Eddie – then things have gone very, very well.

Yet had we sold anyone then I think it fair to say that whenever this has happened we’ve bounced back. This summer’s window has seen the quintessential example of this, with it taking Birmingham City the best part of four months to finally limp out of the bottom three. Even then, it took a win over fellow relegation strugglers Sunderland. Brentford, meanwhile, have picked ourselves up since losing Maxime et al to become the divisional form team as we’ve climbed from bottom of the table to the fringes of the play-off race.

But we digress. I don’t want to get caught up on the woes and travails at St. Andrew (albeit February 20th could be a very tasty encounter). Like it or not we are set up to grow, develop and sell players at present. Everybody has their price although clearly Chris Mepham’s is expected to be a lot more than has already been dangled under our noses.

We didn’t sell this time around. It’s brilliant. Moreso, it poses a very interesting question now about what happens should the Bees really kick on from that wonderful recent form. Espcially if Lasse stays put.

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Nick Bruzon

Twitter and Bees tell it like it is. What a performance – and that was just the fans!

21 Jan

Well this is all getting quite exciting. Brentford went to Reading on Saturday and returned victorious. Three more points in the bag c/o Lasse Vibe’s solitary strike, two more places up the table and a fifth win in six league games. It was another clean sheet for the defence of Bentley, Barbet, Mepham, Bjelland and Yennaris. Indeed, that’s just 5 goals conceded in the last 7(seven) league matches. But for the 3-0 reverse at runaway leaders Wolves earlier this month, an already wonderful copybook would have even less of a blot (a word used in the least possible sense). This really is a great time for Brentford supporters.

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Lasse enjoying his goal celebration – shared this one on Twitter

And it was the Brentford supporters, numbering close to 3,000 out of a total 17.893 in the Madjeski, who deserve as big a pat on the back as those players out on the pitch. Looking through social media afterwards, their presence had clearly been felt. Twitter was awash with comments.

Kitman Bob Oteng: Would loved to have watched the game from smack bang in the middle. Ledge support the the ‪@BrentfordFC boys and girls yesterday.

Captain Nico: Another solid team performance from all over the pitch  3 points and great travelling support.

Sergi Canos noted similar, even giving us that rare moment when it IS accepatable to ‘go again’.  “What a fantastic win. Felt like playing at Griffin Park today. Unbelievable support once again, this is for you!!! Let’s enjoy it, we go again next weekend! Come on ‪@BrentfordFC !!!!!

Yoann Barbet is Brentford royalty. He was also enthusing – as much about his attempts on goal as the result – although the key observation being: “What a win !!!! Really tough game, but another 3pts and another clean sheet. Unbelievable support today from the fans , you were unreal.

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Yoann comes close. ish

The upshot of all this being Brentford are 9th in the table. Whilst reaching the top 6 yesterday was a somewhat improbable ask given the number of results needing to go our way, at least a few of the teams around us dropped points. Leeds United being our main benefactors in going down 3-4 to Millwall at Elland Road although Preston were also pegged back at home. By Birmingham City.

These two scores making somewhat of a nonsense from yours truly and the pre-match prediction that: Being realistic, Birmingham haven’t a prayer at Preston. Leeds, despite their own recent poor form, now have Adam Forshaw added to their ranks and are surely good for at least a point at home to Millwall ? Middlesbrough WILL hump QPR.

Hey, one out of three ain’t bad. Besides, as the revered and respected Ian Westbrook would later opine on Twitter : “Another great result today for ‪#brentfordfc And to see all the players as one applaud the fans all together for such a long time at the end was tremendous. Let’s hope the whole squad is still together on 1 February as we could be on to something special!”

Too true, Ian. Too true. It WAS A great result even if it was a tough one. My bum is very much itchy when it comes to thinking about that accursed window. One would hope that sales are not needed or that players want to stay and be a part of what we have going on at Griffin Park. That’s a subject for another day, though.

Besides, this was hard but the result needs to be celebrated. As one of my own friends and most sardonic of observers, an Ealing Road WAG, said to us during the first half. “We should be destroying them, they have nothing to offer at all, but we’re not” although subsequently adding, “we’ve had a fairly exciting miss.” Yet the same observer would also make the erudite observation that Lasse had been immense since Canos came on. I couldn’t disagree. The goals are up now on the Sky Sports website, with our own to be added here once the sun is past the yardarm – or whenever league regs let them go live.

And we’re off. How about a bit of Burridge…?

As for Lasse, well I’ll leave it to the man who knows anything and everything about Brentford, Billy Reeves, to have the Last Word today : “Give this lad a new contract. One for the future, I reckon”.

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The current table makes very pleasant reading

Nick Bruzon

Do Brentford have the scent of Royal blood at Reading? Could ‘other results’ actually happen?

20 Jan

Here we, erm, go again. Brentford travel to Reading on Saturday afternoon knowing a win, along with defeats (and definitely not victories as was originally noted)  for the five teams above us, will see the Bees end the day level on points with the play-off teams. Goal difference could even put us into that top six pack. True, this relies on things as improbable and distasteful as QPR and Birmingham City (amongst others) doing the needful but stranger things have happened before. Who could forget that wonderful denouement to 2014/15 when wins for Reading at all-but-there Derby County and Blackburn at home to Ipswich, combined with our own defeat of Wigan, saw the Bees slip through into fifth place?

Indeed it was the penultimate week of that season which saw a Brentford win on the road, at the Madjeski, to keep our hopes alive. Alan Judge and number 26 getting the goals as the Bees ended the day in seventh, two points and vastly inferior goal difference behind Derby.

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Andre Gray for 3-0 v Wigan (and other results) secure a 2015 play-off spot

We all know how that play-off campaign ended. It was the play-offs, after all. Although at least we got there, unlike Derby.  Instead the point is made to illustrate what can happen when you least expect it. Sometimes, other results can go our way despite form. Thankfully the end of the season is a lot further away this time and so to desperation for the not so super hoops or Birmingham to win doesn’t have the same frisson, that’s for sure.

Whilst that unholy alliance is not one Brentford need to make today, it is still a nice position to be in. For now, though, let’s just focus on ourselves. Other results will do whatever they do. With games to come against all the chasing pack we still have matters well in our hands. Besides, it seems a bit premature to be talking play-offs and potential promotion at this juncture.

Yet, the table doesn’t lie. The gap to Sheffield United in sixth place IS three points. I’d be a liar if I was to say to you that I wasn’t absolutely excited by this prospect, no matter how slim and tenuous it is. Being realistic, Birmingham haven’t a prayer at Preston. Leeds, despite their own recent poor form, now have Adam Forshaw added to their ranks and are surely good for at least a point at home to Millwall ? Middlesbrough WILL hump QPR.

Can we do it though? Well, there’s no doubting Dean Smith’s team are on form at present. Last weekend’s defeat of Bolton followed a wonderful Christmas period in the league. Perhaps its best we forget about the hiccup in the FA Cup now. Move along, nothing to see there. Indeed, the Bolton game didn’t even require the mercurial Sergi Canos to start that one, although his presence at the end of the game was a most welcome one as the wide man set up Neal Maupay for 2-0 late on.

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Bolton were left looking dazed and confused by the end

I’m still not convinced we know Dean’s best / preferred starting XI. When this squad is on form and the players are at the top of their game, it really is a case of Buridan’s Ass. Which of the available options does he pick? 14 into 11 just won’t go. It’s one of those lovely problems to have, that’s for sure, with Chris Mepham’s form and the return of Alan Judge adding to his quandaries.

Reading, on the other hand, are missing John Swift whilst centre back Paul McShane is also reported as out. The Royals are very much off their A-game, form wise, although at least they have made it through to the fourth round of the FA Cup. In another battle of Championship v League 2, they made it through (unlike the Bees) and their reward is a trip to Sheffield Wednesday on Friday night.

With that to come and their own progress requiring Tuesday evening’s replay against Stevenage, could players be rested? Might if be a case of that old cliche being turned on its head and the Royals concentrating on the cup, now they are effectively out of the league?

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John Swift. The former Bee is missing in action today

One can dream. I’m still expecting a tough one today. The trapdoor to League One isn’t actually that far off for Reading. They’ll be as keen to secure those points as we are. Yet along with form, Brentford will have massive support on our side. Close to 3,000 tickets have been sold to the visiting support . With less than 15,000 turning up for their last league game at the Madjeski, a defeat at the hands of Birmingham City (clearly ten times better than the Royals), the 24,000+ capacity ground could feel a very empty place for the home team.

Certainly, it’s a stadium that has been a happy hunting ground for the Bees. Along with the aforementioned 2-0 win, let’s not forget the following season. Dean Smith’s first in charge saw that wonderful 2-1 victory. It was a win that was lit up by Ryan Woods and Sergi Canos. Goals that fall very much into the category of ‘best we’ve seen in recent years’ (see also: Stuart Dallas at Fulham and Nico Yennaris at Birmingham).

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Sergi. Great goal, great shirt, great hair (then)

That’s all in the past though. If it meant more points, I’d happily settle for 1-0 and a deflection off Josh McEachran’s backside. Scrappy finish or 25 yard piledriver, they all count the same.

Roll on 3pm when we find out which it will be. Roll on 5pm when we see just how those ‘other results’ have gone. Could Brentford continue to climb up the table? Might we be saying a small word of thanks to our rivals?

I can’t wait to see how this all plays out.

Nick Bruzon

Ryan’s wonder goal set a very high bar. That Sergi then cleared.