Tag Archives: City

It’s all happening at the top of the table this weekend.

27 Feb

Another huge weekend in the Championship. It’s relentless. Exhausting. Captivating. Utterly, utterly compelling. For Brentford, a patched up team returned to winning ways against Sheffield, Wednesday, and now welcome a visit from Stoke City. Elsewhere, we’ll all be hoping that Bristol City and Bournemouth can reignite their spluttering play-off campaigns as they face off against Swansea City and Watford respectively. The Cherries getting things under way today with a lunchtime kick-off on Sky before we all wait for Norwich City to wrap things up at Wycombe on Sunday.

We all know the shape of the table. We can all see Norwich 7(seven) points clear with Brentford next up. Albeit hanging in there by virtue of our goal difference. What price the free-scoring heroics of Ivan Toney, ably assisted by Sergi Canos, now? Cripes, the top of the table is tight. There are going to be plenty of twists still to come in the final 13 games and the midweek result couldn’t have come at a better time. The horror show of Coventry City expunged and those thrown together to plug the gaps more than pulling it together in style. I thought Winston Reid was immense whilst Mads Bech Sørensen slotted in for Rico Henry quite wonderfully. Good thing too as he’s going to have to do it for most of the remaining season. Replacing the division’s best left back, and a player who one way or another will be in the top flight next season, no small ask. Kudos, Mads.

We all ended Wednesday happy

But it was a determined, feisty performance all round. Not our super slick best but still a million miles away from Coventry. The new look line up finding their feet and then stepping it up as the big guns eased their way back into action from the bench. There was Emiliano Marcondes. Josh Dasilva. Ivan Toney. All making late appearances that coincided with Brentford turning the screw. Samman Ghoddos and Bryan Mbeumo both starting and scoring. Both assisting. Both, being honest, afforded chances that had they been taken would have stretched the scoreline even further. But you can’t be disappointed to end the day with three goals, three points and a clean sheet. The stats, and table, don’t lie. 3-0 is 3-0 is 3-0. I’d have bitten my own hand off for that prior to kick off. Who know how much of a psychological boost Huddersfield Town’s thrashing of Swansea immediately after the debacle at St. Andrew’s proved to be? Either way, we go into the games today infinitely happier than when we turned off the TV last week. Cries of “What the actual just happened…” (or similar) ringing around our house following the most excruciating of displays. 

That was then. This is now. 7(seven) days is a hell of along time in football. Positivity restored and it will go through the roof should we come out of the game with Stoke smiling. Not that we’re going to find that an easy task. Four points outside the play-offs themselves, we join Swansea and Bournemouth in facing teams desperate to make that surge into the promotion pack. Teams who would jump at the chance for a cliffhanger at the W place in North London. The Potters, a dogged side that could almost be argued to have inherited the mantle of being our bogey team form Middlesbrough. 

Nothing needs to be said about our last two encounters – firstly the end of season implosion at their Bet 365 stadium when the promotion opportunity was finally in our hands. Following that was the disaster in this season’s visit when we didn’t so much fall apart as not even show up in that first half. Both deeply frustrating results but, in part, down to the pressure and then the team being re-jigged this time around. Both games we’ll learn from and what better time than now to avoid an unwelcome statistical hat-trick.

One can only assume that the starting line up today will be slightly more recognisable when ‘official’ announce it at 2.02pm. Might we even get a look at the lesser spotted Nørgaard? If Ivan Toney coming off the bench was a bonus, the return of someone who is probably our most influential player cannot come soon enough. The rock at the base of the midfield. We thought it was happening in December but then there was that late setback. Christian not celebrating at Christmas. Now, the talk from Thomas Frank has been super positive and with him, perhaps, underplaying the positions of Ivan and Josh prior to Wednesday, could this great Dane be closer than we think to an appearance? Optimistic to the last. That’s me. I’d love to see him back although can only presume it will be from the bench.

Today won’t be decisive in the promotion stakes whatever happens. Regardless of the 39 points still to play for, we’ve then got Norwich midweek and finish the campaign with games against Watford and Bristol City. Plenty of opportunity to shoot down our rivals (or them, us…) en route to the campaign’s denouement. Yet let’s not pretend that their isn’t a fan amongst us not hoping that Wycombe, Bournemouth and the Robins can pull off the results that their own supporters are so desperate to see this weekend. And if we complete our side of that equation, then all the better. If….

That’s where my focus is today. Anything else a bonus. A boost. All attention on Mark, Marcus and Natalie or whomever we have guiding us through the action from in the I-player commentary box. Edge of the sofa time as it is every Saturday. Lucky shirts back in play (last season’s Ecoworld ‘away’ being worn by me and H the true reason for our win) and waiting for the interminable adverts for FIFA 21 and Carabao that preceded every game.

It’s never easy watching it being played out in an empty stadium on TV. We’d all love to be there. Today probably more then ever where the atmosphere would be a huge factor agasint a team that always make me feel angsty. What play-off final? What disaster on the way home……….? Err. We all now know that won’t be possible this season following the latest roadmap to recovery (or whatever the buzzwords are) announced by Boris. Instead, I’ll see you on the sofa. Metaphorically speaking. Bring it on. Twitter is open. The beers are cold. The football snacks ready. Let’s do this !!!!!!

Nick Bruzon

And breathe. A return to winning ways more than welcome in the circumstances.

25 Feb

As you were in the league table. Brentford remain second albeit a 3-0 win (not a typo) over Sheffield Wednesday saw us nudge further ahead of the chasing pack on the goal difference stakes. However, Norwich, Watford and Swansea all picking up their own three points was reason enough to be glad we were back to winning ways as much because it saw an end to the blip which had seen our huge unbeaten run come to an end in quite cataclysm style. Instead, we’re level on 60 points with the Hornets whilst Swansea sit on 59 , having played two games less. Norwich are, of course, 7(seven) points clear in first but a televised trip to Carrow Road on Wednesday evening (17.30 for that one) could see the punch up at the top of the Championship get even tighter. That’s to come. As is Saturday’s visit from Stoke City. For now it a case of a job very well done.

A much changed Brentford team with no recognised left back or centre-forward saw Bryan Mbeumo  filling in for Ivan Toney (Marcus Forss out with a concussion) and Mads Bech Sørensen covering for Rico. This a position he is going to have to fill for the next two months although based on last night’s showing we seem to have dodged a bullet for sure. One swan doesn’t make a summer but an assured performance and the third goal would have given him confidence by the bucketload. 

Let’s be honest. Who amongst us didn’t feel slightly anxious going in to this one? Yes, I’ve got tons of optimism but the niggling self-doubt that goes with being a Brentford  / football fan had been tested on that three match run. With big names missing already, the press conference given by Thomas Frank yesterday had caused additional trepidation as to how we would line up. Along with Marcus, he also declared Ivan and Josh Dasilva missing (although both would be named on the bench, both would come off and both would help give the team some added familiarity late on ). However, in the end it saw the above mentioned changes with Sergi and Tariqe alongside Bryan aided and abetted by Ghoddos and Jensen give us a relatively familiar feel.

Understandably things started slowly although the positive being we didn’t concede first (see also: pretty much every game in February). Instead, the Bees took the lead mid-way through the first half when Bryan Mbeumo guided an effort from Sergi home at point blank range – or it hit him in the face and turned in, you choose. Either way, his reaction time was impeccable and the goal stood. The net rippling, Peter Gilham cheering and any pre-match nerves falling away by the bucketload. The memory of ‘that’ false nine formation at QPR under Dean Smith disappearing as quickly as it had come on seeing the inevitable team selection.

Half-time came and went. A game of few chances saw Brentford in control and biting hard. Some much missed steel returning in style. Move along Henrik, nothing to see here. Thankfully Keith Stroud was keeping time from the side rather than our man in the middle ! Sheffield Wednesday unable to make inroads and the changes from the bench, which also saw a return to action for Emiliano Marcondes, were sufficient to help wrap up the points. Samman Ghoddos first on the scoresheet, having missed out earlier in the half with a glorious chance when he placed it just wide after being left totally unmarked. This time there was no mistake , with Mbeumo turning provider and a beautiful finish to double the lead.

With the Bees pressing, Mads made it three. This time Ghoddos suppling the killer assist which was met with a well placed header that the keeper could only slow down on its way into the back of the net. 3-0 and game over. It might have been more had other chances gone in. That’s football though and the final score is all that counts. I’d have taken 3-0 all night long had it been offered beforehand. Which, of course, it isn’t. For the full match report you’ve got the usual places as a good start: Brentford official and the BBC (as long as you can go into it on the  assumption their reporter is either an Owls’ fan or has some sort of anti-Bees agenda).

It wasn’t overly pretty and it wasn’t our usual slick play. The absolutely key thing being three points on the board and our performance one which saw the Bees keep going and then turn the screw in testing circumstances. Winston Reid and Ethan Pinnock immense at the back. David Raya not really given the chance to be tested, barring one first half-effort. We’ll have more options for the game with Stoke City on Saturday and then the Norwich fixture. Neither are going to be easy, that’s for sure. Then again, nobody said the Championship was a walk in the park. All we can do is worry about ourselves and keep up the pressure. Keep on banging in the goals. Keep on churning out there results, It may not always be super slick but the-performance was a hundred miles away from the horror show at Coventry City. For that, I’m a happy, happy man. Lesson learned. Can they be applied again? Roll on Saturday when we find out.

And relax – we all feel it. Brentford official published this on their Twitter last night

Nick Bruzon  

Let’s just call this a bad day at the office and move on.

15 Feb

Well that was all kinds of awful. Brentford said farewell to the marathon unbeaten league run after going down 2-0 at home to Barnsley on Sunday. It was an absolutely deserved win for the visitors who pressed high, pressed hard and were first to everything. No sour grapes here and with the Bees not even close to being the second best team in this one, with too many players going inexplicably awol, the outcome seemed apparent from the off. A veritable … don’t do it, don’t do it, don’t do it….Valentine’s Day massacre. Urghh, did it. With it went the chance to retake top spot from Norwich City after the Canaries had swept aside Stoke City on Saturday. Instead, we start the week two points behind on level games played and looking forward to visiting Loftus Road on Wednesday evening. Norwich host Coventry and third placed Swansea entertain Nottingham Forest.

Let’s rephrase that a tad. It WAS awful but it is was as much frustrating. It is only one game. Nobody can keep going for ever and all teams slip up from time to time. Have the odd off day. Unlike last season, the Stoke City and Barnsley results haven’t fatally holed the good ship Brentford. Instead, they have provided some choppy waters and how navigate through the will be the real mark of this team. We all know just what they can do. How good the Bees are on the day. The inability to react to Barnsley and their approach was inexplicable but it happens. Certainly no indication that we are doing a Leeds United. Even they wobbled more than once last time out – see also West Bromwich Albion – and whilst this is the oldest cliché in the book, the league is a marathon not a sprint. 

The game had that feeling from the off with Barnsley coming at us and dominating. Yet again, Brentford conceded the opening goal but this time there was no  coming back at our opponents. No blitzkrieg assault with that free scoring form that has typified our performances this season. Instead, we looked lethargic. Sloppy. Out of sorts. Conor Chaplin making a Charlie of the Bees defence on 13 minutes to find himself totally unmarked and steer it home for 1-0. There was no answer. No reply. No nothing. A bit of huff and puff but Bryan Mbeumo’s inability to pick out Sergi Canos in acres of space summed it up. The screaming at the TV to play it out to the electric Spaniard could probably have been heard at Lionel Road, so open was the position. Alas, it fell on deaf ears. 

Bryan wasn’t alone in being off his game though. The normally magnificent Ethan had a stinker. The second goal, straight after the restart, also had the opportunity to to be snuffed out but instead Dike’s low cross bypassed the defender leaving Carlton Morris the easiest of finishes. Tariqe Fosu did nothing off the bench. Samman Ghoddos got into space but failed to capitalise. Josh and Vitaly invisible in the midfield compared to their normally dominant selves. Rico and Henrik off the pace. Ivan Toney had the first touch of a JCB. When he was fouled in the box, referee David Coote choose to perform his Arsene Wenger tribute act and instead elected not to see the incident. Barnsley were on it and got everything their performance warranted. This was not a stolen win but one which they fought hard for with the points going to the right team. For Brentford, nothing to do except wipe this from the memory and pretend it never happened.

Thomas Frank got it spot on at full time. “We know in this league you can lose to every team in this division if you don’t hit your highest level. We lost to a better team today. They won fair and square. We need to move on. It’s all about how we react on Wednesday.

He’s bang on the money here. We know only too well that there are no ‘teams like…’ in this division. That the Championship is the most exciting, toughest league in Europe with no foregone conclusions in any game. Just look at how Wycombe turned things around to win 3-2 at Huddersfield this weekend. What is more important is how we react at Loftus Road on Wednesday, at Coventry this Saturday lunchtime and further down the track. We may win or lose both of those. They won’t be season defining. What is more important is how we react. How we play. That we put this one behind us.

I’d much rather be where we are now (second on 57 points) than where we were last season after 29 games (fifth on 47 points having just gone down to Nottingham Forest). Even then, it felt good to be that high up. Knowing there were a whole stack of games and points  – 51 – still to go for. That destiny was still very much in our hands.

The same is true now. No side has everything their own way. Even the Premier League showed that this weekend with Manchester United being held by West Brom, Liverpool seeing their own title defence obliterated and Everton being undone by Fulham. Not a typo. If anything, the tech malfunction that saw us missing comms as the game started and the sight of Ian Moose pontificating before kick-off made me feel ill at ease and in mind that this was not going to be our afternoon. Presumably, the talk sh*te buffet burglar would have buried any of our half chances before posing for a selfie with one of his faux friends. How does that work in lockdown?

Look, we’re second in the table. Automatic promotion in our sights. We’ve ‘lost’ a game for the first time since October 24th last year rather than drowned a kitten. Still with a trip to Norwich City to come at the start of next month. The Championship still has plenty more twists to come. For what its worth, I’m absolutely convinced we’ll smash our hosts onWednesday evening. An empty Loftus Road and the opportunity to get straight back on the horse awaits. I cannot wait for that one – if only to get the stinky taste of Barnsley out of my mouth. 

I wouldn’t want to be in Mark Warburton’s shoes now. If Brentford do what we know they can it’ll be raining goals in West London. IF…..

The only possible explanation for Sunday – our visitors’ performance aside

Nick Bruzon

Did Swansea help Brentford? Who would you pick?

6 Feb

Brentford fans are waking up to a table that sees us back in third place prior to this afternoon’s game at Middlesbrough but with the door to ‘automatic’ opened that little bit wider following a 2-0  win for Swansea City over Norwich City last night. The current state of the table sees us sitting two points behind the Swans and four behind the Canaries, albeit with one and two games in hand respectively. The right results in those outstanding fixtures speak for themselves but before we get carried away and look to Wednesday’s visit to fourth placed Reading, focus has to be on the current state of play.

Cripes, last night was interesting. There was no real preference as to the result. Win, lose or draw  – any combination could have been construed to have a positive benefit for Brentford. Instead, it was simply a case of sitting back to see how Swansea would fare against another set of promotion seeking opponents. We all saw their WWE approach the other week as they salvaged a point against the Bees – last night was much more positive. Dominating possession and attempting to play football. A first goal that would have been embarrassing had it been conceded by a team of under 7(seven)s, let alone the Championship leaders. Norwich with half a dozen men between Andre Ayew and the goal line yet none able to get in the way of his effort following a butter fingers moment from Tim Krul. How nice to see Ayew doing what we all know he can rather than writhing around on the floor like a fish out of water. 

We got the ‘good’ Ayew last night

Conor Hourihane’s doubling of the lead a splendid second half effort that left Krul no chance and Norwich dead on their feet. If anybody in TW8 thinks Steve Cooper’s team are punching above their weight, or just punching, then think again. They were brutal. In the best sense. The win thoroughly deserved and one which never really felt in doubt. Certainly, to the casual onlooker.  

Whilst it is a victory that means Swansea have overtaken us, the psychological advantage of now having Norwich in genuine catching distance cannot be under estimated. Both in positives for us, should we win today (no small feat, of course) and negatives for them should we be able to heap even further pressure on a team who have looked so, so comfortable and in control of the table for so, so long this season. Just look at how, historically, Leeds United have fallen apart. Again and again. Three points for Brentford at the Riverside could be the catalyst for a similar level of stress to be applied.

Three points. It sounds so simple. In theory. This one is going to be about as tough as they come though. For Middlesbrough, their own chance to enter the play-off race is an opportunity sitting up and waiting to be taken. Bournemouth have hit the skids big time and a recent record of LLLL sees them now just two points ahead of Neil Warnock’s team. If we think we have incentive to get the win then let’s not be blind to that which is offered up to our hosts. Yet, for Brentford there is that own unbeaten run. The positivity coursing through the team immense. The bounce back against Bristol City midweek nothing short of magnificent. This, without Josh Dasilva whom one would imagine is match fit again for the afternoon game.

Tariqe Fosu was immense. Sergi Canos brilliant. Let’s not forget, either, only 13 players have scored more Championship goals this season than the Spaniard. Ivan Toney was, well, just Ivan Toney. A goal machine on legs. Finishing and confidence to match the very best we’ve ever had. A player who has not only filled the shoes of Ollie Watkins but, if anything, outgrown them already.

We’ve been blessed in recent years but you have to put this down to the directors of football and the vision of Matthew Benham. Honestly, if you could pick one out of Toney, Watkins or Maupay who would it be? There are no wrong answers here and I think we’d happily settle on any of them. Different personalities, different approaches but all able to find the back of the net with aplomb. If he carries on at this rate, Ivan has the potential to be the very best of the bunch.

Oh ambassador. With these strikers you are really spoiling us

For me, Clive, the return of Josh Dasilva will be huge. He really is one of those ‘first name on the team sheet’ type players. I still find it amazing we got him for nothing. How Arsenal must be regretting their decision to let him go as he has developed his own game and ability at a quite phenomenal pace. What price now on him? Then again you could say the same about Rico Henry. About Ethan Pinnock. About David Raya. About Vitaly Janelt who already feels like part of the furniture despite this only being his first season. No time needed to settle in – he’s hit the ground running. Henrik Dalsgaard, the World Cup’s Henrik Dalsgaard, getting on about his business. A phenomenal engine up the right and a rock solid presence at the back. Cripes, this team is ridiculously strong on their day. That’s before you even factor in the next generation coming off the bench.

I am confident. Not in expecting victory – nothing is guaranteed in this game – but in knowing just how immense this team is when everything fires. When our top, top players do their thing. A game with Middlesbrough used to be a thing for Brentford fans to fear. A guaranteed defeat as our start to Championship life saw them beat us again and again and again. Not even the threat of a draw.

Middlesbrough used to be untouchable back in the day

Yet with that monkey now well and truly despatched, we can look at this fixture as just another game. Albeit against a team with their own huge carrot being dangled. I’ve just got a feeling that Brentford, and Ivan’s, will be bigger. 

Kick off is at 3pm. Its on ifollow, as ever. See you there. In spirit if not body. The couch, and there lucky socks, await…..   

Nick Bruzon

This could be biblical…..

30 Jan

Are we all over the Swansea City foul fest now? All being well Brentford fans are now fully focussed on Saturday afternoon’s game with Wycombe Wanderers, even if Swans’ supporters are still justifying their team’s own somewhat robust approach to Wednesday evening’s 1-1 draw. Certainly, going by the comments to Thursday’s column… That’s nice. Good luck to them. For the Bees, this represents another chance to continue an unbeaten run in the Championship that stretches back to late October and ‘that’ 3-2 slip up in Stoke. The one with the defensive experiment. Well, we’ve all learned a heck of a lot since then and now find ourselves nipping at the heels of the top placed teams. Reading’s victory over a Bournemouth team rapidly perfecting their own Fulham tribute act has catapulted the Royals above the Bees, for now, but its all so tight at the top that should we pick up all three points this afternoon, second place with games in hand is more than attainable by 5pm. Should other results go our way.

Wednesday has been and gone – let’s just move on now

These are exciting times, no doubt. If the snow which was thought to be that great leveller never quite materialised against Leicester City on Sunday, the elements could play much more of a significant role today. At the time of writing (7(seven) am) its torrential outside and has been for the last few hours (at least). The ground in TW8 will already be sodden and the rain shows no sign of abating. Great conditions for those that like slick, passing play. For those that remember to pack the extra long studs.

Things are biblical in Brentford this morning, that’s for sure, but with the Bees looking to make their own exodus from the Championship it couldn’t be more apt. Let’s just hope there’s a great flood of goals to match the downpour. Ivan Toney’s recent hot streak may have hit the skids but he is still playing quite wonderfully. The timing of his runs (where only being man handled can stop him) and link up play to those who are finding the net still worth their weight in gold. Or should that be goals? This afternoon’s visit from the Championship’s bottom side, who haven’t played in the league since a 1-3 defeat to Middlesbrough, could be the perfect opportunity for him. Of our divisional rivals, only Huddersfield Town have conceded more goals this season and a visit from a leaky defence in the rain could be just what the doctor ordered.

Of course, football is never that easy. Gareth Ainsworth’s team have certainly tightened up their act and are even winning games now. We laboured to our own 0-0 at Adams Park back in November and so won’t be under any illusions about this being a formality. Anything but. Talismanic behemoth Adebayo Akinfenwa may not have troubled the Championship statisticians so far this campaign but his presence alone makes the front man a huge distraction for the Brentford defence. Keeping the ball down the other end will be key. Dominating the midfield the way we’re going to win this one and break down resolute opposition.

Fortunately, Matthias Jensen was on fine form at Swansea City. See also the returning Josh Dasilva who did well to avoid another early exit fro matt game. Albeit on a stretcher, given the non-stop assault he was subjected to in the first half. Thankfully, referee Mr Brooks was on hand to ignore it all. Today we’ve got David Webb (rather than W£bb) in the middle so let’s hope for a little bit more protection in the slippery conditions. 

The heart says comfortable win today. The head says I’ve been a Brentford fan far too long to take anything for granted. However, let’s put the neck on the block and call it. 3-0 Brentford. There you go. Having got the last two league games spot on (somehow) its a hat trick that will be as welcome as it will be unlikely. Bring on 2pm when we find out the team and baton down the hatches for another afternoon on the sofa. Urghh – I’d love to be soaked to the skin this afternoon, so cold and wet that all feeling has been lost to the fingers. Unable to feel my nose and rain running down the glasses. We all know why that’s not possible so instead, let’s just hope the Internet holds up. Let’s wait for Mark Burridge to do his thing on the microphone.

Bring it on and see you there. In mind if not body. There’s always social media. Enjoy the game and here’s to the right result come 5pm. No pressure, lads….

Nick Bruzon 

Was this the performance that defines the season?

30 Dec

How good was that? Brentford with the king of comebacks. On the ropes from the off . Bournemouth raining early punches like Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. Our plucky heroes flat on their backs. Pontus scooping one off the line within seconds and, really, lucky not to be two down within the opening ten minutes. Yet the consummate display of determination, relentless pursuit of the prize and sheer balls saw the Bees turn 0-1 into an eventual 2-1 victory. Goals from Henrik Dalsgaard and Tarique Fosu sealing the points that saw us overtake Swansea City and move into second place. Norwich City, perhaps feeling they already had six fingers (one hand) on the league trophy, seeing the gap whittled down to just three points when full time came. It was a quite gargantuan performance of never say die football. Both teams giving it their all and, on this showing, sure to be battling it out for ‘automatic’ at the end of the season.

Fair play to Bournemouth. They flew out of the traps and should have been ahead within seconds. Dominic Solanke seeing Pontus somehow hyper-extend a leg as he chased down a nailed on goal before scooping it off the line to safety. Minutes later the same man had another glorious opportunity with Rico the one to this time hoick it clear after a butt clenching scramble. 

How Brentford hadn’t fallen behind is one to rank alongside the alleged popularity of Mrs. Brown’s Boys. Nobody knows or can explain. Instead, Brentford grew back in to it and we were off. Rocky picking himself up off the canvas to take the fight back to their opponents. A shot from Sergi Canos fired just wide. A trio of fine saves pulled out of the locker by Cherries’ ‘keeper Asmir Begović . Mbeumo and Toney working their magic. It was only a matter of time before the goal came and sure enough, it did. To Bournemouth.

Urghh. Dominic Solanke the man to finally get the goal his efforts had warranted. Credit to the player for picking his spot. The Bees defence carved open and no mistake made this time. 1-0 up and the visitors’ strength finally paying dividends. That midfield would have graced most top flight sides, let alone the Championship. Yet if anyone thought this was game over they were sorely mistaken. Mathias Jensen (the ultimate man of the match) turning provider for Henrik Dalsgaard little over ten minutes later. The Danish World Cup star heading home an equaliser that our performance may have warranted but which was in no way guaranteed. Nobody deserves to score. Unless, of course, you actually take your chance. And Henrik made no mistake with his.

1-1 at half-time and both teams, surely, well happy with that. Bournemouth probably ruing those early chances spurned but still alive and in it. Indeed, they started the second period much like they’d began the first. Pressure building, the goalmouth threatened but nothing of real substance coming. Dominance not rewarded with anything beyond recognition of their potent attacking prowess. Then Bryan Mbeumo popped up to do his thing and, with it, the game transformed. His work down the right legendary. A run into the box lit up with his dazzling footwork. One little back flick in the midst of this opening the Bournemouth defence like a can of tuna. His delivery across the penalty box absolute perfection. Tarique Fosu had already done his own thing to find the perfect position and by the time the ball dropped, he was given the freedom to gorge at the Bournemouth ‘all you can score’ buffet. One bite at the cherry was all he needed.

Boom. What a ball across. What a finish. Open the social media floodgates as the gushing began. And rightly so. The final ten minutes and additional time added on trickled by with no real fear of conceding. Pressure, yes. Panic, no. Game management to the max mixed with a couple of substitutions as the clock played out. Drago floored. Brentford triumphant. Thomas Frank making an emotional post match speech in which he’d note our awful first ten minutes, our efforts to close out the game and our opponents’ class.

The result was a cracker. Had we lost, then it wouldn’t have been fatal. Having won, it’s a wonderful way to end the year. It sees us breathing down the necks of Norwich City. Come on!! Where are you? Right behind. Swansea City overtaken ahead of their own game with Reading. The Bees now 16 unbeaten in all competitions. The ‘Frank Out’ brigade silenced once more. Instead, the u-turn of support that (yet) another win brings was evident.  

Next up, Bristol City on Saturday. Here’s hoping we have fit players. Josh Dasilva looked uncomfortable as he went off. Fingers crossed that was nothing serious. Only time will tell there. For now, though, we need to catch our breath. To marvel at a quite fantastic game of football between two top, top sides. Brentford took the points. Bournemouth will feel hard done by. Understandably. Yet I’ll leave the last word tonight to our Harry. Only 7(seven) years old but his bedtime summary of the game proving that age is no barrier to insight…

Harry: You know Bournemouth?

Me: Yes.

Harry: They must be devastated right now.

Nick Bruzon

Time to go ape once more?

30 Dec

Brentford are now fifteen games unbeaten. The 3-2 Boxing Day knockout of Cardiff City seeing us move to within touching distance of the top. Sergi’s hat-trick the stuff of dreams. Now Bournemouth await in a 5.30pm kick off this Wednesday evening. Both teams level on 38 points and knowing that victory will take them second above Swansea City, who don’t play until later tonight. Their game with Reading has an 8pm kick-off. Even a draw all see the Bees and the Cherries gain a position thanks to our superior goal difference. There’s everything to play for in the latest ‘Biggest game since…’ . A game made all the more interesting by table toppers Norwich City dropping two points at home to the Loftus Road mob on Tuesday.

Sergi got 3 out of 3 on, err, Saturday (I think)

I suppose we should be thankful there’s even a game taking place at present. With Corona virus seeing fixtures now being pulled across all divisions, Big ‘Sam’ Allardyce calling for a ‘circuit breaker’ hiatus to action and talk of tougher restrictions coming in at a national level, it may only be a matter of time before things grind to another halt. 

The plus point being it may allow everyone at our clubs to stay safe and restore some tired limbs. The down side being that Brentford are flying at present. The league and the cup have both seen us come into our own as the pressure has increased on divisional (and Premier league) rivals. The points gap being reeled in by some relentless displays and magnificent use of the squad by Thomas Frank. Those called in have more than done a job. Those who have been regular starters somehow maintaining their energy levels over a run of games that has been as exciting as it has been exhausting.

I have to be honest, I wasn’t expecting Bournemouth to be anywhere near as strong as they have been this season. So many times we’ve seen clubs drop out of the Premier League and struggle to adjust to their new surroundings. With players being shed and talismanic manager Eddie Howe leaving in August, things looked grim. To the casual observer. Instead, they’ve carved out a run of form that has only seen them lose twice since the start of November ( Sheff Wednesday ‘away’ and a slip up at home against Preston. Hmm – I think we can all relate to that.) 

Like Brentford, they have continued to astound. To perplex. To amaze. A club no doubt as tainted with the ‘teams like’ and ‘little’ moniker as we have been in recent times. Their own top flight residence lasting for five years until the end of last campaign. We’ve all got our own thoughts on howe they got there, of course. Who could forget the team they put together when going up in 2014/15 – cripes, that must have cost them a fortune – but once there they more than held their own at football’s top table. Now, they are back amongst us in the Championship and on current form giving every indication that this will be as short a stay as possible.

Nothing would give greater satisfaction than getting the win tonight. Memories of Mike Grella flooding back once more. His name was mentioned during Mark Burridge’s commentary of the Cardiff game as Sergi looked to add a fourth goal to his, and the team’s, total. Instead he had to be content with ‘just’ the match ball and all manner of plaudits. I can’t see it being anywhere near as comfortable as that 6-0 victory back in November 2011 when the gorilla went ape, but even a turgid 1-0 will do me come full time. Chance would be a fine thing. Bournemouth aren’t going to just roll over and anybody claiming to know how this will turn out is a better observer than me. So that’s everyone , then.  

The Gorilla went ape – for one night only

If I had to call it, I’d go for Brentford by the odd goal in three. But I don’t. So I won’t. Even knowing who Thomas will start with is as much a case of car-keys in a bowl as anything else these days. Josh Dasilva and Tarique Fosu were both amongst those to miss out in the starting XI against Cardiff. Sergi is on fire but must be knackered. See also Ivan Toney and Rico Henry. Surely Thomas will go for what he’d see as his strongest option on current form tonight? For me, that read him opting for : Raya, Henry, Dalsgaard, Jansson, Pinnock, Janelt, Dasilva, Jensen, Canos, Mbeumo, Toney. 

That’s my own hypothesis and the obvious one based on what we’ve seen to date. Who knows what Thomas’ longer term plan and tactics are?  Christian Norgaard doesn’t seem to be quite match fit after that prolonged injury but perhaps Tuesday and Spurs will do for him. Assuming the game even goes ahead. Equally though, one thing we can predict is that Thomas has cards up his sleeve and will be just as likely to mix things up. To try and catch everyone, including Bournemouth, cold. Cripes, who’d be a pundit or anybody trig to write something accurate. Roll on 4.31pm when the team is announced.

I have to be honest, I’m quite liking this 5.30pom kick off time. It’s totally untraditional but at a time when as many of us are able find themselves ‘working from home’ is a cracking way to move direct from the company laptop when the whistle blows directly to the sofa and TV. To start the night early and sill have time to put the kids to bed at full time. Plus it means we’ve less time to wait until the big match kicks off. Which given the way Corona Virus cases are spreading, can only be a good thing. Let’s enjoy this one before it is taken out of our hands.    

It’s a real six pointer. More than that, given the bigger picture impact. Twelve pointer? Double six pointer? Norwich City and Swansea, both in that immediate touching distance, no doubt hoping both teams can lose. Of course that’s not how football works and something will have to give at the business end of the table by full time. It’s live on Sky and i-player so, all being well, everyone has a chance to follow this one if you like pictures with your words.

Bring it on. See you there (in spirit). ENJOY !!!

Something has to give this evening, whatever the result

Nick Bruzon 

Time for a bit of Frank talking with each other.

25 Oct

How are we all doing in Brentford this morning? Presumably still smarting over yesterday’s defeat at Stoke City or looking onwards and upwards? To the visit of Norwich City and then a trip to Luton Town. For what it’s worth (not much, apparently), I’m past it already. All the pontification about the formation won’t change anything. It’s how we react to it collectively that matters now. This was one game and there was enough there in the second half to suggest that, actually, change can be a good thing. I’ve also now seen the interview with Thomas Frank – at least, the 2 minutes 53 seconds put out by the club. That’s below… 

Say what you want about Thomas’s answers but he can only react to the softball questions casually tossed to him. These are the times when the fans are desperate to hear his thoughts on what went wrong but it felt as vanilla a Q&A as could be delivered. Of course,’official’ aren’t going to spill the tactical beans, overly show our hand or hang the coach out to dry but a bit of pressure would have been nice.

Oh, for BBC Billy Reeves and some of his characteristic gentle probing. The killer question delivered with all the charm of Leslie Phillips apologetically wielding a sledgehammer.  

Billy Reeves (kind of) – a portrait of charm and that sledgehammer blow

For me, Clive, the key point to take from this one was in regards to our formation. Was it tactical? Done due to personnel reasons? Or a bit of both?  Thomas’ answer confirming the combination approach but giving some reasoning and future notice that things are likely to be similar when Norwich City are in town. 

We are struggling a little bit with injuries, especially in the middle of the park with midfielders. For the second game in a row we only had three midfielders available from the squad and we know its most likely to be the same on Tuesday.” Going on to add that, “It’s a long season. We’re playing a lot of games. We are fit, we are strong but its also about keeping that freshness.”

Read in to that what you will. More of the same to follow, presumably, but which same? Five at the back or Ivan and Marcus back together again? The difference between the two formations was obvious to all. Going for broke and opting for the later one which puts all our attacking eggs in one basket from the off but I’m sure something which would shut the moaners up. And I don’t mean about yesterday’s performance – which was rancid – but in general.

That, and dropping Sergi who seems to have become the social media target of choice. He didn’t have a good one yesterday but you could say that about the vast majority. Henrik had a stinker. All three centre backs were stretched and caught out of line time and again. There was no service at all to Ivan. Yet the enthusiastic Spaniard is one kopping it from all angles and seemingly the reason we don’t have a record of WWWWWWW. Hmmm. 

Nobody came out of the opening hour with any credit. But if we learn form it then perhaps no bad thing in the longer scheme. Stoke City absolutely deserved their win, regardless of our own shortcomings. The season is a long one and there are going to be more decisions made which we don’t agree with. Decisions made based on fitness, tactics and a myriad of injury related factors we’re just not privy to. Sometimes it will work. At others, like yesterday, it won’t.

As Thomas himself acknowledged, “In the end it wasn’t good enough ……It was not spot on in the first half for various reasons but to be fair we could have played 3-4-3, 4-3-3, 4-4-2, 7-9-13 and I don’t think that would have helped first half.

The one obvious positive has to be the role played by Marcus Forss. He can hit a ball but he can also read the game. Ice running through his veins, judging by the finish for his second. What composure. What calmness. It gave brief hope we could still pull something out of the fire and whilst it wasn’t to be, talk about impressive. Another one storming up the blindside to emerge into the light, a fully fledged Championship and international player. 

One from the official Twitter feed – the real shining light on an otherwise dark day

For all that Thomas has injury problems to contend with, what a nice challenge at the other end of the spectrum with both Marcus and Ivan banging them in for fun. Get the supply lines and formation right ongoing and the Stoke game could well be seen as a turning point in our fortunes, much like Stevenage away all those years ago.

Not that we’re in any form of crisis, btw. One shit hour doesn’t define a season. The key point to come is what we learn from it. In how we react over the next few games. I’m not joining those getting on Thomas’ back. Quite the opposite.  Of course people have opinions and every right to express them. Context is always nice. And justification , of course. 

For me, he knows this squad. He has a wonderful way of motivating players. Look at how last season went as we hit that wonderful run after the clocks went back. The players, head coach and fans in unison.

We’ve lost that, now. There is no physical support. No closeness. The bond broken thanks to Corona. Of course, every team has the same to contend with yet for for us at Brentford it was always a huge factor. That tight stadium and proximity of fans to the action was massive. Those post-match walkabouts seeing the symbiotic relationship between those on pitch and those in the stands growing ever closer. Geeing each other up to the point where we hadn’t even left Griffin Park and already couldn’t wait for the next game.

It is a massive advantage that has been removed from our armoury and with game following game following game, needs to be considered by those wondering why we’re not winning everything 5-0. Support and motivation from the stands are a massive thing for players. Everybody acknowledges that football without fans isn’t the same. Injuries bite and necessitate change. Tired legs are already obvious to see.

Thomas and the crowd have always fed off each other’s energy

It’s how we react to these factors that is going to be so crucial to our fortunes over the next month or so. Look at he bigger picture and we’re well, well set. This is a marathon, not a sprint. We have a fantastic squad and a passionate head Coach who, for the record, better not be going anywhere. That’s my opinion and you may feel it is wrong. Fair enough but as one fan to another, explain why. Explain what you would do. How you would cope with a relentless series of games that would test the fittest of players. How you would motivate players rattling around empty stadia.

Those, for me, are the challenges faced by not just Brentford but every club in this division. This Championship campaign is going to be one of the most open on record. Careful management of the squad will be key to success. This is what we are trying.

Life’s too short and too hard at present to lose it on negativity. That’s not me wearing a club hat (they don’t employ me and I have no obligation to kiss anybody’s butt). It’s me fed up with the constant moaning about a team who have a progressive set up, a passionate head coach and are only four points off second place.

That said, please let’s never play three centre backs again.

Nick Bruzon  

Just what the doctor ordered? Possibly.

11 Sep

Ollie Watkins has gone. Aston Villa his new home. Brentford move on. What does the weekend promise….? Birmingham City. Birmingham City. Owned by a per… well, we don’t sing that one any more. Things have changed at the top of the club. Then again, we won’t be singing anything for a while. The Bees travel to St. Andrews tomorrow for a Championship opener which, save for our dozens of journalists, will be bereft of fans. Much like the conclusion to the previous campaign. 

There will be no fans an no noise this time around

Given the ever evolving advice about Corona Virus (and ‘advice’ is a word used in the loosest sense), one can’t see that changing anytime soon. Oh, good. More couch time at home watching the games on i-follow rather than nail biting away days to those far flung pubs that are visited once a year (subject to cup ties).  Just what the doctor ordered. And this one is on Sky, meaning that per my non-Sky sources, even the online service won’t work. Now TV, a pub or a social bubble are your options. Assuming we are still allowed to meet some of our friends this weekend? 

Anyway, the point being it promises to be a very different start to the season compared to normal. I can’t see anything significant changing any time soon, either. Talk of experiments at allowing fans into grounds seems diametrically opposed to the tighter rules about gathering that come in to play from Monday. It’s all a bit underwhelming now. Everybody well sick of this (no pun intended) and longing for the day we can do something as simple as attend a game of football with our friends. Dreams about filling Lionel Road nothing more than that in the short to mid term.

Cripes. I turn 50 next month. There had been a lot of thought about doing the Preston or Coventry games in style. Of going hell for leather with friends. Now, we’ll be lucky to watch it with more than six of us in the same room. On the plus side, it does make up for there fact I don’t actually have more than six friends who’d want to celebrate.

Anyway, We digress. I’m tired.The dawn of a new season is upon us and that should be an exciting time. There have to be some positives and, of course, there’s always light on the horizon. Benrahma and Raya are still Bees. Will either start / feature  for Brentford tomorrow? Is Luke Daniels our new skipper or will Pontus step straight back in to the team and exert control of the armband?  Can Ivan Toney fill the boots left empty by Ollie Watkins following his move to Aston Villa. Only Thomas Frank knows that one and whilst I can’t see anyway in for the mercurial Algerian, as much through his lack of participation in the pre-season games as any transfer related wrapping in cotton wool (“Hello? Matthew? It’s Dean Smith here…”).

That first team selection is, as we have said many times already, going to be telling. The window has a long way to run – October this year – and the cramped fixture list means we could be well into the campaign by the time our final squad is locked down. Then again, our  directors of Football have their heads screwed on. Time has more than proven that and so whilst it’s easy to panic, gritting teeth and trying to stay calm has to be the way forward. An infinitely tougher task for those of us on the outside looking in but that’s part of being a football fan. Especially at Brentford.

As for our opponents, they’ve got Aitor Karanka in charge and no longer have a number 22 shirt, having retired it after club icon17 year old (is that compulsory still?) Jude Bellingham moved to Borussia Dortmund. With the flair gone and the former Middlesbrough man at the helm, expect a more robust than ever approach from our hosts. Their squad may not be ten times better than it was last season but no doubt Harlee Dean, Maxime Colin, Josh McEachran (inj) and now Jon Toral will all have a point to prove. We’ve more old boys there than a school reunion. Even Aston Villa only have three (although the dream I had last night about Jota – get your minds out of the gutter – perhaps only two).

And Toral must score….

It should be super exciting. And to an extent it is. Yet it would be a lie to say this has the the overwhelming buzz of previous campaign launches. This is nothing to do with ‘that’ result at the W place in North London but more because it all feels so detached still. So disjointed. So close to being awesome yet, instead, we’re locked out of our new home with more of the same to follow. I-follow and Sky coverage ARE great but watching football on TV, being played out in front of empty seats, just doesn’t have the same allure as normal. 

Of course it doesn’t. Its an ersatz replacement but one which will hopefully line us up for when we do get the chance to return. Whenever that may be and however that may look. 

Once the table starts to take shape and the games begin then hopefully the usual positive feelings will return. A win on the road will be the perfect tonic. See you on the sofa for Saturday brunch.

And finally… e-book, season review etc etc. If you’d like to read more then you can pick them all up for free, here. Time is ticking on this one so move fast before Amazon stick a price back on them (at which point any proceeds received go to the Community Sports Trust). From Betinho to Ollie Watkins and beyond….

Nick Bruzon

Quite simply it was top, top football. What a way to say goodbye.

30 Jul

The morning after the night before. Smile broad. Head throbbing. Who cares? It was worth it. If you have to go, go out in style. Brentford said goodbye to Griffin Park by reaching the Championship play-off final in the the most incredible manner. Swansea City were swept aside 3-1 (3-2 agg) in a second leg that the Bees dominated from the off. Now, Fulham or Cardiff City await on Tuesday for the £170m shot at the Premier League. It was a far cry from the mini-run that had seen us lose three on the bounce but with Rico Henry restored to the line-up, we were back to our brilliant best and then some.

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Ollie sums up what we all felt (on Brentford official twitter)

What a night. What excitement. If there had been any stress in the build up then it wasn’t evident. Thomas and the players seemed calm on arrival at the ground. 1-0 down from the first leg, they came out of the blocks flying. It was a tactic that Thomas had suggested would be coming but nobody could have expected this fast a start. Certainly not yours truly who had nipped in to the kitchen to stick pizzas in the oven at the same time as Mathias Jensen bisected the Swansea defence and midfield with a quite incredible low pass. The timing was exquisite (not mine) as it went direct to who else but Ollie Watkins? Our leading scorer  was there to run on to it, bear down on goal and give The Bees the lead. Parity in the two-legged tie restored. The cheers in the streets around the ground evident for all. Nerves calmed. Goal sweets eaten.

Four minutes later and it was two. This time, Marcondes the man to get his name on the scoresheet. Benrahma delivering a cross into the box which Emiliano guided home from the penalty spot with a text book headed glance. He made it look so simple yet it was anything but. It was a moment that was all about keeping your cool and he more than did that. A quarter hour gone and already Keith Stroud’s moment of madness was a distant memory. Brentford had taken the lead overall and were on fire. 

This wasn’t the ‘play-off’ mode Brentford we know and love. That have seen us cruelly denied so many times in the past. But then this isn’t the Brentford of old. From top to bottom we are ten times better than anything that has gone before 

At the other end, David Raya keeping us in it with a fine low save before Said cut into the box and saw his low drive beat the ‘keeper, only to be denied by the inside of the near post. It was a blistering shot that ran agonisingly across the face of the goal after hitting the woodwork. It could have been three but no matter. The way the Bees were playing it would surely be a matter of time. Turning the screw when we had the momentum was key if there was to be any hope of reaching Wembley. 

Instead, it stayed 2-0 at half-time. Brentford dominant and with a slim lead but Swansea only a moment away from levelling things up. They would be the ones to start the second half at 100 mph, wouldn’t they? No chance. With a minute of the restart we had a third. Jensen freed Rico who delivered an inch perfect cross into the box for Bryan Mbeumo to fire home from the edge of the six yard box. It was a great finish under pressure but plaudits for the assist. What a ball and what a way to find personal peace of mind after the heartache of Sunday’s wrongful dismissal. 

Oh. My. Word. The screams. The excitement. The relief. Not even we’d cock this up, would we? The way Brentford were playing there was a danger of brackets being required. And then Swansea woke up. David Raya pulling off another fine save as the visitors began to dominate. First half roles reversed with the Swans left no choice but to go for it and with little less than a quarter hour to go, they got their goal. Rhian Brewster capitalising on what we’ll politely call an otherwise excellent Pontus losing his bearings trying to clear a ball that have been played into the middle from distance. The youngster made no mistake lobbing David Raya to bring the Swans within a goal of extra time.

Tension. Stress. Edge of the seat stuff. Perhaps in our house but not on the pitch. The Bees calm as you like as, if anything, we were the ones coming closer to the next goal. A yellow card for Thomas Frank showing how hard fought this one had become before a horrible six minutes of injury time were added on (from where?) but we held firm. Pontus using all his experience to help see it over the line. Said almost putting things out of sight with a curling effort that went just wide of the upright. One last cross into the box from Swansea cleared. Full time blown. The noise from Griffin Park ringing across St. Paul’s Park and through Brentford as it became evident fans were gathering celebrate. The mood ecstatic. The relief palpable. After going down in our eight previous attempts at the play-offs, this was about as composed and exciting as I’ve ever seen the Bees in this game of footballing roulette. Quite simply it was top, top football.

Leaving Griffin Park was always going to be an emotional experience. I wrote a piece yesterday afternoon about what saying goodbye to our lifelong home meant to me. It’s here and I would please ask you please take a look if for no other reason than to share your thoughts.  Yet if there was tear in the eye putting that piece together, this morning there’s a grin as broad as a split watermelon. Sleep has been at a minimum, such was the buzz and the post match celebrations at our friends house back on Brook Road. An extra pint or three  – not that they were really needed after the amount of, err, nerve calming that had gone on the few hours previous – were enjoyed. The fat was chewed and then waiting in the street to watch the lights go out on Griffin Park for the last time. CLUNK. That was it. Gone. It’s all over on the playing front for our home of 116 years. The next time we run out together will be at Wembley on Tuesday evening. Then it’s on to Lionel Road.

IMG_8255

The lights are on for the last time

On the pitch, the players and staff celebrated. Despite the best efforts of Mr. Benham (who pulled a post match ‘Trotta’) Bryan Mbeumo goes down as the last Bees player to score at Griffin Park. Yet it was all about the team last night. They were immense. Gutsy. Confident. Back to their brilliant best. Doing it for the fans. The fans living the dream through our heroes.

HAQK3785 2

The ball sailed over – curse that crazy player finding stats computer

It was an incredible experience. Today we can enjoy it and then the build up to the next one can begin in earnest. The small matter of the Premier League…… 

Tonight we can watch the second leg with genuine interest tonight. Will it be Fulham or Cardiff City? With the Bluebirds 2-0 down from the first leg, the smart money would be on a West London derby in the final. But if Cardiff start like we did last night then anything is possible. Whatever will be will be. We’re going to Wemb-er-lee. I’m looking forward to finding out who joins us.

IMG_8263

Loved this one from Bees United

Nick Bruzon