Tag Archives: Derby County

I gave you every break possible. You had a 50-50 chance. You weren’t even close.

17 Mar

A point on the road and avoiding defeat. Something you’d normally be ok with. Moreso with one of your main promotion rivals falling to a 3-0 defeat. Yet there’s nothing but a hollow feeling this morning off the back of as frustrating an evening as they come. Brentford were held 2-2 at Wayne Rooney’s Derby County in a game that saw us electric in the first half and anonymous in the second. Early goals from Ivan Toney and Sergi Canos setting our stall out but there was always the feeling that missed opportunities, primarily one from Bryan Mbeumo, may come back to bite us in the second period. Its Brentford, innit? Yet there was no legislating for how costly our inability to punish opponents when they were looking dead on their feet would ultimately transpire to be. The aforementioned defeat for Swansea City at Bournemouth providing scant relief in the face of our own disappearance and Watford cruising past Rotherham 4-1. Saturday’s game with Nottingham Forest will be huge. Another early kick off to try and lay down a marker. A chance to exorcise the demons of the second half.

Cripes, it all started so well. A return for Pontus Jansson alongside Winston Reid at centre back in his first game of the year. Wayne Roon etc etc  Derby County so anonymous in that opening period we could have filled the defence with a couple of paper bags fluttering around randomly in the breeze and we’d have been just as safe. Bryan Mbeumo and Sergi Canos, the other change to the team, driving us forward. Norgaard and, especially Janelt, imperious in the middle. Vitaly winning every ball and breaking with speed. Ivan Toney doing his thing from the penalty spot once more with less than ten minutes gone after Mbeumo had been felled in the box. No complaints from Derby and about as stonewall as they come.  

It was another one stroked home to the bottom corner. Another one preceded by that most heart stoping of almost nonchalant ambling up to the ball before unleashing a trademark precision strike. 1-0 up and soon it was double. Canos getting our second from the corner of the box with a fine shot, hit low into the corner. Tariqe Fosu may feel hard done by, and personally I thought he’d retain his spot following the game at Blackburn, but Sergi was there to to do what he does. To show the critics just why he deserves his chance.

2-0. Sergi did his thing…

In between these came the Mbeumo opportunity. Jensen bursting clear and squaring to the unmarked wideman. He was clear, albeit on the angle, but  somehow managed to hit it painfully wide rather than coming close to even troubling Derby ‘keeper Kelle Roos. It wasn’t the only chance we had in that period but certainly the clearest. The sort that might have had Ian Moose punching the directions to the training ground into his sat nav. With the pressure building and the Derby goal being peppered, it was the sort of half where we felt hard done by in ‘only’ scoring twice. Arrogant? Not really. More symptomatic of the possession we’d enjoyed and chances we’d created in one of the most intense periods of football we’ve played this season. Yet, as we all know, stats and chances count for nothing if you can’t turn them into goals. If the first half had been nothing but Brentford, the second period saw the baton handed to our hosts in quite remarkable style.

Wayne Rooney has been lauded for the triple substitution he made as the players returned. Rightly so. Derby hadn’t been at the races and drastic action was needed.. There was no messing around. No further opportunity for the no-shows to redeem themselves. Instead, a change in set up was the decision and what a reaction. Within minutes they’d pulled the first goal back. Nathan Byrne bursting down the right and squaring the ball for Louie Watson with the simplest of chances. He made no mistake as he steered home from close in. Now we had a game on our hands. Now we saw 2-0 and dominant become 2-1 and wobbly with almost the entire second period to play. Brentford resembling nothing more than punch drunk boxer. Derby raining strike after strike in a bid to find that knockout blow. The Bees on the ropes, offering nothing. Hanging on to a 2-1 lead and waiting until the final twenty minutes to start making changes. 

The arrival of Tariqe Fosu providing some respite as we began to open up the Rams but there was little end product from anyone to provide a genuine threat to Roos. The feeling that a second Derby goal was coming growing by the minute and then, with the clock reading 86, it arrived. Louie Sibley making the opportunity for himself and then unleashing a fine curler past David Raya. 2-2. Game over, man. Game over. A point gained but a match that feels like nothing except a gut busting defeat. Even having slept on it. We could have put it out of sight in the first half, true, but it was more our complete inability to even come close to keeping pace with our opponents in the second that is the real mystery. Our inability to get even close to the ball or hang on to it when we did pick it up that I can’t get my head around. You have to credit Wayne Rooney and his side, of course. Yet at the same time, it takes two teams to play a game of football and there was only one present in the second 45. Thomas is going to have to give the mother of all pep talks today in the build up to the TV game with Nottingham Forest on Saturday lunchtime. 

Win that one and we overtake a Swansea City team who then have their challenge with Cardiff City the visitors. Win that one and we close back in on second place Watford ahead of their visit from Birmingham City. Let’s hope Lee Bowyer is ten times the better manager than the recently displaced Aitor Karanka.

Yesterday started off badly with the sad news of Yaphet Kotto passing at the age of 81. To cinema goers, he was best known for his roles as William Laughlin in The Running Man, Parker in Alien and, of course, Doctor Kananga in Live and Let Die. The role that saw him face off against the best Bond, Roger Moore, trading one liners and high end fashion with 007. As full time went at Pride Park, I couldn’t help but think back to his own impassioned speech to tarot reader Solitaire (Jane Seymour) upon discovering her betrayal as he despaired, “I gave you every break possible. You had a 50-50 chance. You weren’t even close.

The highlights are up. Somewhere. I’m not sure I can face watching them again today. The post match catch up last night was painful enough. No team has a right to win every game. It’s not the fact we lost, sorry drew, that hurts, but more the manner of our no show. Instead, perhaps time to crack open the Bond collection instead. Time to switch off from football for a few days.

See you on Saturday for Nottingham Forest. Maybe sooner.   

Deadly rivals face off.

Nick Bruzon

Rams await as Sergi speaks out.

16 Mar

Tuesday night. Another round of fixtures at the business end of the Championship table. The weekend played out with Brentford seeing our own win on the road matched by away wins for Swansea, Barnsley and Watford on Saturday. Norwich picking up three points the following day. Now, we’ve another chance to see if things can change around any. For the Bees, a trip to Wayne Rooney’s Derby County awaits. The Hornets are at Rotherham whilst Steve Cooper’s side face a trip to Bournemouth. Themselves, once looking nailed on for automatic and now trying to play catch up to the play-off pack. How quickly things can change. How quickly they can return with a few wins on the bounce. Easier said than done, of course. Elsewhere, Sergi Canos has spoken to Sky Sports about his own return from injury and the social media abuse being handed out this season by some of our followers.

Sergi got 3 out of 3 against Cardiff City

First up, Brentford face Derby County at 7pm this evening. The Rams are very much at the wrong end of the table compared to recent seasons and whilst relegation is probably not a subject on the agenda, they’ll want to start picking up a few points to make sure. Should Birmingham City start winning a few Derby may find themselves sucked in once Rotherham’s mammoth four games in hand play out. Stranger things have happened.

They’ll need to start finding the back of the net though. Saturday’s home loss to Millwall was their fourth game in a row without troubling the scorers. The sort of stat that always makes me angsty. I’ve been following Brentford far too long to take anything of that nature for granted. Following football far too long, to be fair. Complacency is the mother of all f*ck ups and we’ll need to be at our very best tonight. Pride Park never an easy place to go, regardless of how well our opponents are playing. The Championship a division where anyone can beat anyone. Something we’ve said many, many times. Mainly because it’s true. All being well a philosophy Watford and Swansea City will be on the receiving end of this evening. Much as we need to focus on ourselves only, let’s not pretend we won’t be keeping an eye on those other results.

The good news is the Bees played out of their skins to beat Blackburn Rovers on Friday night. Rock solid at the back and dominant in midfield. Winston Reid and Ethan Pinnock (a player I saw described afterwards as a ‘heading machine’) locking it up in the CB positions. The combination of Vitaly Janelt and the returning Christian Norgaard made the midfield a dream to behold. Ivan Toney doing what Ivan Toney does. Scoring. It was the sort of game that might have seen us pegged back or even beaten in days gone by. This time around, we held our nerve and took three crucial points. More of the same tonight would do very nicely, thank you. Here’s hoping everyone remains fit as, if so, I can’t see Thomas changing anything up. Sergi Canos the obvious choice to come in but given how the team played, I’d imagine he’ll have to be content with a place on the bench and trying to make his usual high energy impact.

Ah, Sergi Canos. What can you say? Well, if we’re on these pages its only going to be positive stuff. Or, at least, fair.  Then again, any regular reader (should such a concept exist) will know that. Aside from being our Harry’s favourite player he’s one of those you can’t help but love. The passion, the desire, the team spirit. The goals. The speed. The enthusiasm. The love for Brentford and our fans. Sure, he’s had his off days but who hasn’t ? The season has been a long one and players must be knackered. Moreso coming off the delayed end to the previous campaign. For Sergi, there was also that injury suffered at Nottingham Forest that kept him out for the best part of 2019/20. It’s amazing to think that at only 24 years old he’s fast closing in on his 200th Brentford appearance. 

Yet all this hasn’t stopped a quite bizarre hate campaign, bullying even, from a sub-strata of apparent fans on Twitter this season. Criticism and objective comment is one thing but this has been nothing short of consistent bile. Poison. Keyboard warriors at their very worst. We all know who they are. Their crud keeps popping up. You can try to avoid but still it appears. Frankly, I’ll call it out anyway. We can pretend it isn’t going on but it is. See also: FrankOut. Err…..?? Our team have been on an upward trajectory all season, everyone wants the same thing – promotion – and moreso after the frustration of how last season played out. So how does a ‘special’ group think they can help? By putting the boot in to one of the players trying to achieve that goal. Go figure. And sure enough, Sergi has seen it.

His interview with Dan Long on the SkySports website is here. Everyone should read this. Regardless your opinion on the player. WE all have favourites. We all have players whom, perhaps, we may inwardly groan when we see their name on the team sheet. My word, some of those to have worn the red and white over the years…. Cripes, it makes your hair curl to think back. Yet despite all of this we’ve supported them through thick and thin. Certainly, at the time. No matter how frustrating it was. And that’s been the (relatively) crap ones. The sad thing being Sergi’s actually ‘any good’. Yet the lemmings have had it in for him. His own comments sum it up..  

Normally, when you are not injured, you are playing and you manage that criticism during the season, but because I was going from zero to 100, it did affect me a little bit because it wasn’t only coming back from injury, it was also handling that pressure and that criticism from everyone. It was quite shocking because it was all at once. It didn’t help me, I’m not going to lie.

Perhaps it’ll subside. Perhaps just one person might change their choice of words or think before committing comment to social media. Might also consider the mental health of players. Just because they have the dream job and the public eye doesn’t make them immune to a constant barrage of abuse. Be kind, everyone. Would you say it to his face? Well, we all know the answer to that. 

I’m glad Sergi has said his thing. It’s a shame he has had to but it’s nothing we haven’t been banging about for months on these pages. Now, perhaps, everyone can just shut the heck up and back our boys. All of them. There’s 11 games to go and every point, every goal, is going to be crucial. Starting tonight at Derby County.

I’d love to be there in person. Instead, it’ll be time spent on the sofa with Mark Burridge. Metaphoriocally speaking. Sky also have it on the red button. See you there. In spirit.

Amazing to think this was 2015 yet he’s only 24

Nick Bruzon

Put down the crowbar and look at the shoddy photoshop. The latest big game is upon us.

3 Feb

Tonight’s the night. We hope. Brentford finally play Bristol City after the teams have already seen our coming together twice cancelled. First due to Corona Virus suspicions and then, actual, cases. It is a game that reeks of potential for both clubs after recent results from our Championship rivals. Defeats for Watford and a fourth in a row last night for Bournemouth, along with Millwall holding Norwich City, make the business end of the table as open as it has been all season. The Bees are 2 and 7(seven) points behind Swansea City and The Canaries respectively but have games in hand on both. For The Robins, a win will take them level on points with sixth placed Bournemouth and possibly above them, should GD swing by more than one. Elsewhere, Manchester United did their one team bus tribute act. Not so much parking it as waiting for one.

We can, of course, only start with Brentford. It seems we’ve waited an eternity for the Bristol City game. One can only hope that severe injury list that coincided with their 11th hour cancellation of our New Years Day fixture has got a bit healthier. Much like their staff whom one can only be thankful that the sudden onset of Corona Virus symptoms proved to be nothing more than a false alarm at a time where the testing laboratories were closed. Relief all round, I am sure. It feels like we’ve all got a lot older waiting for the Bees to play the Robins…. And, with that, I’ll put away the crowbar and instead present the shoddy photoshop.

We’ve all grown old waiting for the Bees to play The Robins (kids, ask a grown up)

We all know the stats, of course. Brentford remain unbeaten in the league since October 24th and the Stoke City debacle. Since then, we’ve been unstoppable. Ivan Toney has been banging them in for fun with the hat-trick (now officially confirmed) against Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday the latest in a long line of goals, goals, goals. That was quite the performance from the entire team. Tarique on fire. Josh a welcome return to our midfield and Sergi blitzing it in the second half. The net still rippling from his goal(our fifth). An absolute blockbuster. 

If only we’d been allowed in to see Sergi, Josh and co..

We’re currently third placed on 48 points after 25 games and have just hit Wycombe for brackets. A 7(seven) -2 victory one that, being honest, could have gone to double figures had we taken those first half chances rather than allowing them back in to the game. For context, at the same marker last season we were sitting fourth with a still hugely respectable 40 points 3rd. We’d just gone down 1-0 at Millwall, fourth on 40 and were hoping Leeds United would fall apart. Again. 

Now, destiny is in our complete control. The table doesn’t lie and the prize for winning tonight , whilst not season defining, would lay down a huge marker to the top two teams Norwich City and Swansea. Especially given they then play each other on Friday night. Yeah. Frank Out!! Sergi’s rubbish. Sign somebody Benham, we’re doomed. Oh, and insert Picard graphic. Again, I’ll put away the crowbar and insert…. 

Hmm. They’ve gone very quiet…..

All this, of course, ignores Bristol City. They aren’t just going to roll over and die. Surrender meekly and hand over more points to Brentford. Although it would be nice if they did. However, with Bournemouth picking up the mantle from Leeds United, the Robins will be chomping at the bit to do their thing. The play-off zone is back in sight and Dean Holden has the hottest instead of the sadly departed Lee Johnson. Last season’s fun and games feeling even further away than the original date for tonight’s fixture and another excuse to wield the photoshop.

Last season was fun. Farewell, Lee Johnson.

Moreso, we need to be wary of the Robins given how they slipped up to Wayne Rooney’s Derby County at the weekend. Or, should that be, Rooney’s derby. Cripes, the castration of the Rams continues apace. Having got through Frank Lampard’s, Steve McClaren’s and, to a lesser extent, Ashley Cole’s it looked like they were once more Derby County. Then Rooney came in, took over, and now Derby have already lost their capitalisation. Rooney’s derby proclaimed the weekend updates….

derby further emasculated (thanks to Trevor for spotting this one !)

Etc etc etc. We could go on. But won’t. With Bournemouth serving up that favour last night and reopening the door to Bristol City, they’ll no doubt have their own spirits lifted. Here’s to our high flying Bees doing our thing one more. Even half the performance on Saturday would be sufficient. As long as it’s the second-half.

The other news last night came at Old Trafford where Manchester United hit Southampton for 9. Cripes. If we were destructive on Saturday, this was next level. Like buses, you wait ages for brackets to come along and then two appear at almost the same time. My own phone alerts suddenly going off late in the evening suggesting something happened and , sure enough, The Red Devils hit the magical 7(seven) goal mark. A feat they managed on 87 minutes yet still then finding time for an additional two goals. Well played all round and a scoreline we could only aspire to. Whilst there’s no chance of it happening tonight – Daniel Bentley’s not a flappy ‘keeper – I’d be happy with a gritty 1-0 and the three points. 

Will we get them ? Roll on 7.45pm when we find out. Mark Burridge has the hot seat on the quality comms. There’s also Sky for those of you with that option, should you prefer. Regardless of the provider, this could be huge. Bring on kick off and see you there. In spirit, if not body.

Nick Bruzon

Now let’s unmask this phoney fan and see who she really is…

10 Dec

Brentford 0 , Wayne Rooney’s (interim) Derby County 0. The Bees made it ten unbeaten on a night that, being honest, was as frustrating on pitch as it was exciting off. We head into the weekend, sitting 7th (seventh) in the Championship. A win away from Bournemouth in the automatic spots and facing the prospect of a trip to Nottingham Forest on Saturday afternoon. Themselves, victims by the odd goal in three at table topping Norwich City and sure to be raging after going behind, again, just after they’d hauled themselves back in to it last night. Yet the fact that we’re already talking about another team is, perhaps, subconsciously telling us all we need to know about last night at Lionel Road. My word that was hard going.

For the supporters taking their turn on the ticket merry go round, you could see and hear what this meant. Social media was awash with more positivity and photos. It sounded great from the TV and just imagine what the noise will be like when the stadium is eventually allowed to be full (scientists calculate that as being approximately 2032). 

Back home we had the intriguing combination of witnessing this in the company of Natalie Sawyer and Jonathan Douglas sitting with Mark and Mick in the commentary box. Fate bringing together one of our more recognisable fans alongside a former player who is a hero to just about all Brentford supporters. They seemed to go well together !  Mark was in there with his Cameron Diaz story  – pretty sure I heard her name mentioned on more than one occasion – as her fake fandom was once again put into the minds of all true Bees (and if you’d like to read more, then let’s never forget her celebrity supporter status, or lack of, being unmasked on national radio…).

Now lets unmask this imposter

Again, though, we’re digressing from the main event. When Brentford fans (or lack of) are the talking point then we’re probably in the right ball park after a gritty 0-0. It was one that saw us unable to break through the eleven men Wayne Roo… (can we just call them Derby County and take the Rooney bit as read?) had packed behind the ball. 59% possession for Brentford (I’d have had it as more) and 12 shots only tell part of the story. The crucial factor being that not one of those was on target. That when the chances came, we blazed high. We fired wide. We didn’t trouble their goalkeeper. Bryan Mbeumo, starting this one alongside Sergi and Ivan, had the best of these. It seemed harder to miss than score yet he managed the former when he found himself just yards out early in the second half with the goal gaping.

That’s football. Ideally the game doesn’t hang on one chance. Vitaly Janelt had a pair of shots from distance early on as it looked like it was simply going to be a matter of time before the floodgates opened. ‘This is going to be 0-0’ said Mrs. Bruzon early on. Hmm. What does she know? Rico’s on fire. Sergi has picked up where he left off against Blackburn. Ivan is the division’s top scorer. Alas, as with everything in life, she was right. Josh Dasilva also had his moment but couldn’t quite find a way through in a game where Thomas Frank noted at full time that, “We created five big chances but didn’t have the sharpness or quality in the decisive moments.

Too true, Thomas. His team selection was strong enough. The opposition came to do a job on us and they succeeded. No complaints there. An away point from a promotion chasing team no bad thing in their eyes, I’m sure. For Brentford, though, can there be any positives? 

Well yes, of course there are. The unbeaten sequence aside, it was another clean sheet. It was another game without Christian Norgaard – a player that I’m intrigued to see playing with Vitaly Janelt. Too similar or the making of Brentford 2021? It was another solid performance from Mads Bech Sørensen. It was another point that keeps us well in contention. This time last season we were eighth with 27 from 17 games played. This time around we are one point and one position better off. Not so much clutching at straws after a ‘challenging’ 90 minutes but more the case of looking at the table with fresh eyes having slept on it following, rather than during, the game.

For me, Clive, the frustrating thing is as much seeing Said Benrahma keeping the bench warm at West Ham. The reasons for selling (sorry, loaning) him are clear to all and so there are no complaints there. He wanted his move to the top flight and the money will be very good for us. Yet last night was the sort of game where having a player of his unique ability could have been the difference between the win and the eventual draw. He’d have decimated them, had he been on his game.

There’s no benefit in crying over who we don’t have but at the same time there has been a clear gauntlet thrown down which, to date, none of the wider players have consistently looked like picking up. We’re solid at the back. We drive forward in midfield. The goals are coming up top (normally). Unlocking that final area of the pitch is the challenge. It’s great that the full backs can overlap in such style but Rico must be knackered. Thomas can only pick from his available squad and, perhaps, it will be a return to the combination of Canos, Forss and Toney that serves us best against Nottingham Forest on Saturday. Go for it from the off and see what happens. 

For now, though, it IS another point and another game where we’ve had some more of the fans back in. Long may that continue. ( Did somebody say Tier 3…..…?). Derby County are still languishing in the bottom three and we’ve a trip to another of their relegation rivals to look forward to this weekend. Chris Hughton’s recent record at Forest is on a par with Simply Red’s greatest hits – short and terrible. LLDLL from the last five doesn’t make good reading. 

So I’m happy still. It wasn’t a great spectacle but one game is only a small part of the bigger picture. A picture which is a frenetic, non-stop season with games coming week on week on week. I’d love to have won but in the end we’re as lucky not to have lost. Derby had their own chance(s) late on and that post is still rattling.

Move along. Nothing to see here. Instead, its one for the record books and the ongoing hope that, one day, perhaps Cameron might just check what she is missing out on. Hey, if its good enough for Ryan Reynolds and Wrexham….. Yet even if she does, somehow, appear Natalie will always remain Queen Bee.

Nick Bruzon 

Sergi does it in style and Thomas speaks out as Brentford open the doors.

6 Dec

What’s that noise? The sound of tunes being changed? What’s that smell? The stench of flagrant hypocrisy. The ongoing bullying, and there is no other word, of Sergi Canos by a group on social media replaced by praise of the highest order after a quite stunning performance and goal for Brentford against Blackburn Rovers on Saturday afternoon. Sorry to start here. We should be focussing on the brilliance of a first game at Lionel Road for our fans and the prospect of doing it all again on Wednesday night against Wayne Rooney’s Derby County. Themselves, visitors likely to get a warmer reception (at least pre kick off) following the bullsh*t at Millwall yesterday. Yet the internet trolls (see also: Frank Out) have been on it all season and it stinks. We talk about being fans. About mental health – hey, players are as human and fragile as the rest of us. How do YOU know what’s going on in their head? How do you genuinely think that tagging players and messaging them to drip more poison in any way helps? Of course we‘ve got a right to have an opinion. To criticise a team selection. To offer up our own game plan and strategy. What stinks is what has felt like an ongoing and lemming like bullying campaign from keyboard warriors who wouldn’t have the balls to say any of this to anyones face.

For me, being a fan is about showing support. About showing faith. About not launching into one player when he has, in your opinion, an off day. About not jumping on a bandwagon because its the ‘cool’ thing to do. About knowing that recovery from horrific injury is a long term process. About recognising that, actually, we are a team and that aside from being wrong ( for more than one reason) picking on one player is hardly going to help anyone. Call me a n*nce, happy clapper, whatever. Tell us ‘don’t defend him’. Personally, I don’t give a monkey. I make no apologies for supporting my team and our heroes. I’m not blinkered. We recognise poor performances but what we don’t do, at least in our house, is round on our team. Blame every perceived ‘failure’ at the door of one man.

Cripes, you could see what that meant to Sergi yesterday. The tears in his celebration. You could see Thomas Frank fuming, too. He came out fighting at full time to defend his own tactics after Jacob Davenport had rescued an 87th minute equaliser for a Blackburn team who had been playing with ten men for close to an hour. This, following a straight red for Darragh Lenihan had let Brentford back into the game on 36 minutes. His foul on Ivan Toney being deemed sufficient for the player to be invited to leave the field of play. Toney, the Championship’s leading scorer, made no mistake from the spot. Once again his balls of steel walk up culminating in a strike that was as accurate as it was powerful. 

Red seemed harsh but no mistake made from the spot

By this point we had already gone a goal down. Blackburn came out charging and, perhaps sensing the emotion of the day, brought the game to us. It worked. Despite Dalsgaard returning for Fosu to give a more orthodox full back option, our normally impenetrable defence lasted less than twenty minutes. Joe Rothwell waltzing through a series of pirouettes and half arsed challenges.  

Rather than anyone attempting to put in an actual tackle he was given the freedom of Lionel Road before firing home from the edge of the box. 1-0. Deserved. But it woke us from our slumbers. With Sergi puling strings in a front three made up of him, Ivan and Marcus Forss it only felt like a matter of time before we would be level. Sure enough, we were.

Yet if the build up and first half had got the juices flowing, it was nothing compared to the second. Roared on by Peter Gilham, the players came out and kicked on from where they’d left off. The inevitable goal coming from Sergi on the hour. Cutting down the left he stepped into the box, dodging defenders before unleashing an absolute piledriver into the top corner. The Blackburn ‘keeper left no chance. The tears flowing. And that was just from our family ! What a strike. What a way to answer those with nothing good to say. What. A.Goal !! It put one in mind of his effort at Reading away a few years back. It was that good. Bravo, Sergi. Bravo.

It should have been put to bed from there. Blackburn offered nothing. Making no attempt to break and set up to snuff out any further damage. The much touted Adam Armstrong was subbed off, leaving Ivan a clear run to go ahead in the top scorer charts. Yet, instead, we ‘did a Brentford’. D’oh ! 

87 minutes gone and another defensive malfunction allowed Jacob Davenport room to wriggle though and bury it. Urghh. And with that, there was to be no more. Five minutes of injury time, most of which were wasted by the visitors’ ‘keeper, saw us unable to get the fairytale winner. Instead, Brentford having to be content with making it nine unbeaten and still in the top six. Of picking up a ‘mere’ ten points from the last four games which included two midweek trips to Yorkshire and a local derby.

The other talking point was substitutions. We’ve been saying on these pages all season that changes will be made. Either in the starting XI or off the bench. Now offered the chance to make five switches per game, Thomas Frank has absolutely taken that opportunity. Yesterday was no different. Did it change the course of the game? Probably, although we still had enough to wrap up the win and by his own admission we should have gone for more at 2-1. Thomas reflecting at full time that we should have made more forward passes (a real life case of ‘Push up, Brentford’, perhaps?) ”After the 2-1 goal of course we need to win because they didn’t want to come forward so it was only about us making a mistake and unfortunately that happened”.

That’s football. As a fan, ‘disappointing’ didn’t even begin to cut it. Talk about seeing the wind taken form our sails. Ecstasy replaced by agony. Yet as we always say, no team has a divine right to win every game. Sometimes we cruise home by a mile. At others we hang on and fall over the line. Cripes, we’re still up there fighting and just four points off the top of the table. Hardly a case of ‘Frank Out’.

Should we have won? Yes. Did we deserve to? No. Each team scored two goals. That’s how football works. Chances count for naff all. Did the subs affect the team balance? Probably. But that’s the nature of this season which is a marathon crammed into a sprint period. We’ve made changes. We have our squad intact for Derby County on Wednesday. Others are going to do the same. Managers have no choice. On that, Thomas was quite clear. Unequivocally so.

If you asked me if I wanted to make five substitutions if it was the World Cup final tonight then I wouldn’t, probably not…but we have 30 more World Cup finals to play in the most compact programme ever and if people don’t understand that we can’t play every single player for 90 minutes in 46 games then they need to start studying a little bit about science and fatigue, mental freshness and how you use that. So, if you ask me if I would do it again? 

ONE.. HUNDRED.. PERCENT.

Do I like it as a supporter? Well, its not what I’m used to that’s for sure. But we’ve also got a great squad. Blame the defence for having a moment if you must but why not lambast the attackers for failing to put this one to bed? Tarique Fosu came on for Sergi. Mbeumo for Forss. These are great players and very much the heroes of our Twitter crew. Yet they couldn’t wrap it up. That’s not to knock either player btw. We were up against a resolute Blackburn side who hung in, absorbed damage and caught us on the break. It finished 2-2. That’s football. The important question now being how we can bounce back against Wayne Rooney’s Derby County in midweek.

I’ve got a feeling that one’s going to be and absolute cracker. Being part of the Lionel Road crowd was a huge honour.  Our new home is everything it has been bigged up to be and more. Great sightlines, close to the pitch and a truly fantastic atmosphere. Griffin Park at night, under floodlights, was always special. Imagine that on Wednesday? Two thousand made some noise in the dusk. It’s going to be even louder when Derby visit.

It won’t be easy, either. They finally climbed off the bottom of the table after winning 1-0 at Millwall in a game ruined before kick off by the moronic booing of the players supporting racial equality. Something as awful as the club’s complete silence on the matter. If only their fans could have adopted the same tone. There aren’t sufficient words. Pathetic justification of not bringing politics into football no defence. This is not support of  what many feel is some quasi-marxist movement. This is support of players. Of showing we feel there is no room for racial injustice or discrimination. And if you think that’s wrong then f*ck off. Football has come so far, in places, except it would seem at the den.

So Derby County were riled. They got their win in a game where the closest the the home team’s match report would get was to note that,  “Roared on by 2,000 fans – and what a great sight it was – the game got underway “. Hmmm. What a way to welcome fans back in. What a way to represent yourselves. Perhaps the only saving grace here being that with only two thousand present it will be easier for any identification to take place. But I doubt that’ll happen.

Instead, Wayne Rooney and his Rams will find things much more welcoming at Lionel Road on Wednesday. At least, before kick off. Once that whistle blows, give them hell. I’d love to be a part of it once more. For those getting their turn next up, ENJOY.  

Until then, perhaps one more time from Sergi….

What an afternoon it was. Welcome to the future. Welcome home.

Well played, Sergi.

Nick Bruzon

Ten out of Ten, so far. In a manner of speaking.

5 Nov

Ten games played all round. The table has now ‘taken shape’ . Brentford sit in tenth after Tuesday’s night’s 1-1 draw with Swansea City. A late goal from Andre Ayew denying us all three points. An even later one in injury time from the same player denying the visitors similar. This, after Ayew’s header home was adjudged to have been from an offside position. Elsewhere, Wayne Rooney’s Derby County are in early trouble whilst pacesetters Reading have now made it two defeats on the spin. With play-off contenders Middlesbrough up next before the two week international break ( what break??) the Bees remain well in contention for another promotion push. What have we learned so far though?

As we’ve seen the last few games the injuries are already biting. Squad rotation over the entire season is going to be absolutely key. Not just for Brentford but any team with realistic ambitions to stay afloat in this division, let alone make a run for the Premier league. Mads Bech Sorensesn joined Pontus Jansson on the missing list at centre back. Christian Norgaard is amongst the other big names currently awol thanks to the non-stop run of games our players are being obliged to undertake. Whilst we have squad depth, let’s not pretend that we are better with those players missing. I can’t imagine they will be the last, either.

Being blunt, we were lucky as on Tuesday night. Swansea City will probably feel hard done by following a game in which who else but Ivan Toney grabbed the opening goal. That’s ten out of ten  for the free scoring front man as he guided home from close range with 36 minutes on the clock. Again eluding his markers for what then seemed the simplest of finishes. Yet in truth it was a goal against the run of play and even having gained the lead, it never felt comfortable. David Raya keeping us alive before and after until, eventually, Ayew restored parity with a quarter hour to go. Even Thomas Frank would admit afterwards that “I don’t think we hit a good level” but the final score is the one that counts and that shows that the visitors failed to stretch their lead at the business end.

Man of the match Raya kept us in this one

Ok, so we were lucky. A lot of players had an off game. No excuses from me. We’ve had long enough to adjust. Ghoddos and Canos in particular below their best as we were looking for some oomph. The plus points being the form of Raya, Rico Henry, Ethan Pinnock and Toney. Not to mention Marcus Forss from the bench.

For me, the revelation of our two front men (Ivan tops the Championship charts with ten goals from ten games) has been the absolute golden bonus of a frustrating season. Frustrating, mainly because we remain locked out of our new home. Watching it all on tv is fine but no substitute for being there. No way to generate proper atmosphere. No way to try and assert any semblance of home ‘advantage. It’s tough for the players, the club, the balance sheet and especially the fans. Much as I love listening to Mark Burridge and Marcus Gayle, what I really want is to be hearing Angry Dad reminding the officials how to do their job. To hear HB cheering as Ivan slams home another goal. To hear Peter Gilham doing it for real on the p.a. system. 

We’re all in the same boat.I have to be thankful that we are quids in from Ollie Watkins’ inevitable departure yet, if anything, the goals are flowing even faster. Not just from Ivan but Marcus, too. We’ve been unlucky (Birmingham City), shot ourselves in the foot (Norwich), ridden our luck (Swansea) and plain awful at times (Stoke and Preston). Yet the wins have also started to come as the team adjust to new surroundings, new colleagues on pitch and a BMW now missing its B and W.

At the back, David Raya is back to his best whilst Rico Henry continues to astound. Ethan Pinnock looking like yet another top draw signing. We saw him grow last season and he has only continued that progress. Get the flanks right and I still think we’ll be ok. Of course, it would be lovely to clone Josh Dasilva in the middle but that’s not how football works. Thomas has the most almighty struggle in having to juggle fit players whilst waiting for the injured to recover.

I’d love to be higher up of course. Who wouldn’t? The table doesn’t lie though and if we are honest with ourselves, tenth place is reflective of our form. Great goals and pleasing wins combined with the challenges of injury and self-inflicted debacle for a team readjusting to new faces and a possible hangover from last season. Yet, more importantly, we are only four points off of second place in the table. Two points outside of the play-off zone.

Besides, look at those others we may have earmarked as promotion contenders when the season began? Wayne Rooney’s Derby County are languishing in the trapdoor zone. Wycombe Wanderers overtook them last night thanks to a last minute own goal at Birmingham City (not from whom you’d think, either) meaning only ‘minus point’ Sheffield Wednesday are below them. Nottingham Forest have had an absolute stinker and are only now starting to find their feet. A mere six points cover the 15 teams from second placed Swansea down. I’d much rather be in that pack than sitting outside of it. The wins and the run will come and, at the least, we know we can rely on goals. Whomever starts up front for Brentford. Get the midfield balance right and we’ll be just fine.

Middlesbrough on Saturday will be absolutely huge. A win for Brentford will see us overtake the fifth placed team as we go into that two week break from league action. Will see us end this part of the season on a high. The injured will at least have that additional chance to regain their fitness in the buffer zone of no further games being missed. Those selected for their country will hopefully come back in one piece. Hopefully.

In short, we’ve been awesome and at times we’ve been awful. The goals are flying in. The injuries are biting. But we remain just outside the promotion pack. The new signings are bedding in and we’ve  overcome the challenge of replacing Ollie Watkins in some style. If we can get the Benrahma piece right then we’ll be just fine. Getting on the players backs won’t help any but that’s part and parcel of football. I just wish we were there to cheer them in person. Maybe in 2021……

Longing for a stadium full of fans rather than empty seats

Nick Bruzon 

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

12 Jul

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

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

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Sergi was back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Brentford ‘official’ Twitter capture the moment at full time

Nick Bruzon

We are now in virgin territory. Have all jinxes been reset?

11 Jul

Nooooooo. With Brentford sitting pretty in the Championship, disaster has struck. I don’t give a monkey about Leeds United beating Stoke City 5-0 on Thursday night. Well done. Seriously. You’re going to make it up now and won’t throw it from here. West Bromwich Albion are the team to go for. Nor do I particularly care that Fulham won last night, taking them third on the basis of having played their game earlier than the rest. If we are to have any realistic hope of that automatic place then we need to win today. Something that will also see us climb back above the Cottagers. Those are the facts of the situation yet none are anything compared to the curveball delivered on Friday  morning. Ahead of our trip to Wayne Rooney’s Derby County, Thomas Frank has only been declared the winner of June’s ‘Manager Of The Month’ award. 

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Congratulations, Thomas

Nooooooo. We all know what this means. The ‘jinx’ of Manager of the Month is now in play. A piece of footballing folklore even older than ‘the curse of Clem’ is now lurking in the wings. That one, seeing a visit from everyone’s favourite roving reporter for a Football League Show / Football Focus feature normally followed by a defeat or draw. Something statistically demonstrated on these pages during our Clemwatch feature over season 2014-15 and which, equally, does no harm to remind ourselves of. If only for what came next.

Starting with short term Leeds United manager David Hockaday (who saw his new team lose 2-0 at Millwall) and finished with the consummate example of the Clem effect as Bournemouth scooped the Championship title at the expense of promotion rivals rival Watford. The Hornets lead with all other results going their way, the title was in their grasp. With the BBC showing 90 minutes, Sheffield Wednesday proved themselves the ultimate party poopers as Atdhe Nuhiu levelled things up for the Owls in stoppage time. And there it finished at 1-1. The title lost, with the final goal. All under Clem’s watchful eye. In 30 features, the Clem ‘team’ only won 7(seven) times.

Clem table rd 11 ipswich

Behind bars but no escape from ‘the curse’

Yet that worm has then turned and how. No sooner had The Football League show run it’s course than things changed for the better. A complete 180 was performed and these days a visit from Clem comes with victory as good as assured. He has gone from albatross to some form of footballing St.Bernard. A rescue dog – bringing three points rather than a barrel of brandy slung around his neck. Something that has been proven time and again in recent campaigns. Most notably just a week ago after we thumped Wigan Athletic 3-0.

And if Clem proves that things can change, then how about Manager of the Month? My word, if anyone has the confidence and the talent to do this then it is Thomas Frank. The togetherness he has inspired was demonstrated in the award photo which , rather than the typical pose of manager holding trophy, was a shot of the set up at Jersey Road. Head coach and Club staff as one.  

Then chuck in to the mix the fact that winning the award in June is surely a first? Ordinarily, May sees the final Manager Of The Month prize handed out. The extension of the season has meant that we are now in virgin territory. Have all omens been reset? Could this be a chance for this most feared of prizes to rebrand itself it in the public eye?

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Thomas and Clem prove that positivity can triumph. Things can change for the better

 Whatever else, scooping this one shows just what we have achieved. How solid a unit we have been to date. The performance against Charlton on Tuesday night proved that. The Addicks were unbreakable for huge swathes of the game yet Brentford kept going and going.

Patient. Calm. Never panicking. Thomas galvanising his troops and showing them his whiteboard. Benrahma coming ever closer until finally we were level. Then we were ahead.

The last few minutes of that one were played out with a level of calm which was far too at odds with the pressure of the situation. That’s Thomas Frank, though. He inspires. He exudes confidence. Positivity emanating from every pore. And it is infectious.

Whilst probably not the word of choice at present, it is the most apt I can think of to describe his Thomas Frank effect. We’re going to win today. We’re going to take Brentford back up to third place. And whilst I’d expect West Bromwich Albion to triumph at Blackburn Rovers, if the Ewood Park outfit are to have any hope of reaching the play-offs then their own victory today is essential.

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Thomas does his thing

Thomas may not be a man for permutations. He has made it quite clear he only cares what his team do. The table gets nothing more than a cursory glance. Us fans are anything but. We know what other results can do. We have a permanent eye on them. For crying out loud, I even sat through Leeds United v Stoke during the week. That’s two hours I’ll never get back. There were only two teams in that game – Leeds and United. 

Will they improve enough to stop Brentford? Can Thomas Frank inspire his team to even bigger and better things. Will Phillip Cocu have delivered the mother of all team talks to fire his boys up? If nothing else, they are only three points off the play-off zone and so have more than enough incentive, despite recent results.

Oh, I wish I could be at this one. Instead, its a TV game for us. For everyone. Although a game made all the more challenging in our house by the fact that we have longstanding plans with friends and so can’t even watch it live. The bringing forward of the game to lunchtime a final straw in the coffin of being able to watch it. Instead, it’ll be a case of ‘phones off’, hitting ‘record’ and thing going into ‘Likely Lads’ mode. Then hoping we don’t stumble across it somehow.     

Hmmmm.

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Togetherness – my abiding image of the season to date

Nick Bruzon

Thomas and Trevor play the opposition like a fiddle. No pressure, Leeds….

9 Jul

What else can we say? The shockwaves from a quite magnificent win for Brentford over Charlton Athletic on Tuesday are still rumbling. Not so much about the strength of character and barrel load of guts shown by the team but more due to the predictable yet always brilliant reaction from Leeds United supporters. This time, in regards to Thomas Frank and his whiteboard. And if they were feeling the pressure after that, I daren’t even look at social media following yesterday’s win for West Bromwich Albion against Wayne Rooney’s Derby County. The stress levels in Yorkshire when Stoke City visit tonight could be immense.

There was no column yesterday. A relief for many, no doubt. This was for no more a reason than needing to catch up on some sleep after what had been a brutal yet ultimately exciting evening in front of the telly. Charlton got the early goal – our first conceded sine Joe Ralls found the net for Cardiff City in February (and just pause to think how far back that was)  –  then put down the shutters. The game managed beautifully by The Addicks and Brentford seeing all attempts at creativity stifled. Half time coming and going before we knew what had happened. The clock moving ever onward and the mood in the Midlands getting lighter by the second. And then came the moment which hanged the game. THAT hydration break…..

With games now interrupted for players to take on water at the midway point, Thomas Frank seized his moment. Along with the water bottles, out came his whiteboard and magnets. With the players taking on fluids, an impromptu review of tactics played out in front of our eyes. I say tactics, it could just as easily been an attempt to figure out the seating plan for the coach trip to Derby or decide who was going to take Ian Moose his full time snacks. Who knows what was said… 😉

 

And it was this that sent the Leeds United fans off the deep end. Twitter was awash with salty tears, cries of foul play, shouts of tin-pottery and a swathe of accusations that our head coach was somehow cheating. Hello Mr Kettle. Is somebody feeling the stress? With Brentford sitting just three points behind the Elland Road outfit and four to play, their game at home to relegation threatened Stoke City this evening will be absolutely huge.

The GPG have since released what they believe to be a transcript of the conversation that played out. If you haven’t seen it (surely everyone has) then it is below. And if you have, then watch it again. Quite magnificent. Great work Trevor and symptomatic of how much we are enjoying the wave of pressure that others seems to be struggling with at the business end of the table.

Yet whatever it was that Thomas did say had the desired effect. Man of the match (I presume) Josh Dasilva  creating mayhem down the right. Benrahma coming closer and closer with each attempt on goal before he was eventually felled in the box, picked himself up and made it 1-1 with a quarter hour to go. From that point on there was only one winner. Josh Dasilva saw a shot from distance bounce clear off the top corner as the Bees pushed on. Eventually, Ethan Pinnock grabbing the decisive goal with five minutes to go. A corner taken short (not a typo) was whipped in and rather than provide his customary assist, he went one better and steer it past the ‘keeper with a fine header. Oh. My.

It was a victory achieved in the toughest of circumstances abasing opponents who played a first class game and cause so close to themselves securing at least one point. Charlton gave it their best and will presumably remain safe. A win for Stoke City this evening probably the last thing they’ll be hoping for. 

In the end Derby County were unable to do us, or themselves, any favours last night. West Bromwich Albion swept them aside with all the ease of Ian Moose reaching for a slice of cake at half-time. The Rams at least offering hope ahead of our own visit to Pride Park on Saturday in their looking totally inept .

That, a game I’m dreading for no more reason than Thomas Frank has this morning been nominated for June’s manager of the month award. With Brentford boasting that 100% win record   and cleaner sheets than Danny Baker doing his doorstep challenge, he’ll be doing well to miss out on this one. And we all know what happens next time out should a manager scoop the award.

Then again, we beat the curse of Clem against Wigan Athletic. What’s to say that, should he triumph, we can’t beat this one either? The way Brentford are playing at the moment, nothing would surprise me.

The one thing we can be sure of is that Derby can’t possibly be as anonymous as they were last night. With the play-offs still in their sights, this is going to take everything we’ve got. And I can’t wait. Bring it on.

See you on the couch this Saturday.

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Trevor (and Thomas) play Leeds’ fans like a fiddle

Nick Bruzon

Is this his best goal ever? And a sneak peak inside the ground on matchday.

5 Jul

Magnificent . Wonderful. Incredible. One starts to run out of superlatives after a while. A Said Benrahma hat trick was the icing on the cake of another dominant performance for Brentford. Five in a row and none conceded as a 3-0 defeat of Wigan Athletic on Saturday afternoon kept up the pressure on the top two. With West Bromwich Albion just a couple of points ahead and due to face relegation threatened Hull City this afternoon for their ‘game in hand’, the season really is building to a ‘who blinks first’ crescendo. Leeds United can breath a little easier after their own three points yesterday but it was at Wayne Rooney’s Derby County, of all places, where the day got off to a quite wonderful start. Their 95th minute equaliser against Nottingham Forest saw the Bees staying in third without even having to kick a ball. Instead, we kicked on in just about the best style possible.

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Celebrating with the ‘fans’ at full time……?

Wigan weren’t even at the races. No surprise given the situation playing out at the DW where we can have nothing but the utmost sympathy for their players, staff and supporters. Yet to overlook the performance from Brentford would be to offer the hugest level of disrespect to Thomas Frank and his team. The Bees were at their scintillating best. Tearing it up down the flanks , cutting through the middle and only last gasp defence denying Ollie Watkins the opportunity to add to his haul. 

But if one of the division’s form teams (Wigan were unbeaten in 9 and had won 6 of their last 7(seven) games) looked like they might hold tight, that man Benrahma popped up with just shy of 20 minutes on the clock. Marcondes headed the ball towards towards him, the Algerian turned, spun and volleyed it low in to the bottom corner. 1-0 and game on ! 

And whilst the score remained the same until half time, things changed in the most dramatic style shortly in to the second period. Benrahma picking up the ball close to the corner flag by the New Road and hitting it goalwards on the tightest of angles. It floated across the defence before taking a handbrake turn into the top corner. The ultimate example of the cross-cum-shot and one that had no right to go in but, somehow, it did. The smile on his face said it all. As did the tweet from Brentford official, which declared: IF HE’S MEANT THAT, THAT IS RIDICULOUS..

Did he mean it, they would go on to ask this morning? The goal is below and, my word, needs to be seen to be believed.

And then minutes later it was three. Benrahma claiming the match ball with another shot pinged in from the eye of the box. Josh Dasilva and then Christian Norgaard combining to set him up for a beautifully struck shot. How does he make it look so easy? 

There was more but I don’t really have the words today. Watch the video. It was a long, emotional afternoon. Beers were drunk before, during and after. Points were cheered and smiles were broad. Sitting in the shadow of Griffin Park as the sun set, it was another chance to count our blessings. With chaos reigning all around, the good ship Brentford seems as calm and stable as ever.

Thomas Frank hinted at it in his prematch interview with Clem that went out on Football Focus. The link to that one is here – it’s on I-player for a week – and is well worth a watch. He exudes calm. Confidence. Common sense. His manner is nothing but inspiring and his approach philosophical. Why look at the table for more than a second? You can’t change anything. Influence anything. Concentrate on your own next training session. Your own next game. It is an approach that clearly worked yesterday.

By all logic, this should be awful. Shut out of our own ground. Denied the chance to watch this most special of teams in the flesh. To see if our last minute surge to the top of the table may have sufficient legs to see us surge past West Bromwich Albion or Leeds United on the line. Yet the communal feeling that is still so apparently there – on social media, whatsapp groups and in our little bubbles – is nothing but intoxicating. We really are in this together. Even if it is from the safety of our front rooms. 

Hearing Peter Gilham roaring the team on (via the video links) still sends shivers up the spine. Seeing him celebrate the goals and, along with the other officials, take the applause at full time even better. I was sent these pictures last night of what it looks like from that perch on high. I’d love to be there but, you know what, being with friends and family feels like the right way to do this. 

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Peter celebrates

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….the other side of that post game celebration

Yet perhaps the last word today should got to Thomas Frank, from the aforementioned BBC piece. Asked by Clem for a single word to describe the achievement if Brentford were to reach the Premier league, he answered in characteristic style:  “I will give you that word. If and when we achieve it. I promise you that.” 

I can’t wait to hear what that is…

Nick Bruzon