Tag Archives: FA Cup

Could it have been any worse? Well, I’m smiling this morning.

3 Apr

What a night for Brentford fans. Simply magnificent. Twitter was awash with celebrations well into the small hours. Nothing to do with the performance at Swansea City, if one can even call it that, but more the fact that Fulham are down. Officially. They will now have to spend the last five games of the season being described as Fulham (R),  after their inevitable return to the Championship was confirmed at Watford. With Huddersfield Town already doomed, we now know two of the teams that we’ll be lining up against next time around. It’s just a shame that we’ve not been able to fulfil the opening part of the “Bees Up Fulham down” refrain, this time around. Woeful away form will do that to you though.

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Watford administer the fatal blow

The magnificent post-Christmas run that saw us within sniffing distance of the top six has well and truly come to a halt. We’ve not scored in four games whilst away from Griffin Park have been on the wrong end of some pretty turgid performances. Last night’s obliteration by Swansea City had been preceded by the stinkfest at Wigan (0-0), a 1-0 home defeat to West Brom and the post Middlesbrough 2-0 loss at Sheffield United. That’s one point earned in four games where we’ve failed to trouble the scorers. To this we can now add the latest, a 3-0 battering at Swansea City that saw us a goal down within a minute and that lead then doubled in a first half which also saw the hosts hit the crossbar twice.

The ‘highlights’ are here if you can do it to yourself. Oh, those first two goals are awful. One has to feel for the fans who travelled for this.  And the players, although at least Thomas Frank recognised that they knew the level of under. His post-match interview was pulling no punches as he noted,  We can lose. Ok, that’s football but I think the performance we put into the first half was under our normal standards. It was slightly better second half but first half is not good enough, no matter if you concede an early goal or not…we are definitely not satisfied with that and we need to sort it out as soon as possible”.

His interview, which you can see below went on to describe how we had played without intensity or belief. All well and good but why? Is it simply exhaustion as the squad, which has also seen Ryan Woods & Chris Mepham sold for many, many millions, is stretched to the very limits after a long season? Why have we had such a devastating contrast between home and away form? 

Thomas tells it like it is.

Let’s not forget how this season Griffin Park has borne witness to us scoring goals for fun and taking teams apart as easily as a kitten toying with a spider. Rotherham, Hull City and Blackburn Rovers (the latter two as recently as February) were all on the wrong end of five goal hauls. QPR were obliterated last month in a game where the most confusing factor was how we only managed three. The combination of Neal Maupay and Said Benrahma has fans purring like the aforementioned kitten, such has been the prolific nature of their form in recent months. 

So how does wonderful home form (mostly, let’s not linger on the visit from Swansea City where we were three down in about twenty minutes) translate to death on the road? I wish I knew. The second half at the Liberty Stadium in the FA Cup being about as horrific and shambolic as it has been.

That had seen us 1-0 up at HT and heading into the quarter-finals before the self-destruct button was hit and Luke Daniels was left scooping the ball out of his net four times. Five if you count the offside.

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Swansea in the FA Cup wasn’t good.

That’s not to get on the back of the players or the management. The former are amongst the most exciting we’ve had in years. A team packed full of young internationals and goals, goals, goals. Mostly. Thomas, a wonderful orator and that rare quality of being a head-coach who tells it like it is rather than how he would like it to be (#deservedtowin) . How the fans see it. A man who exudes confidence and faith in his squad. We’ve a new stadium being built at Lionel Road, for which surely next season will see a big push in order to open preceding in the top flight. That, in itself, a quite outrageous thing for those of us a bit longer in the tooth it even be considering !

Ultimately, we’ve not blown £100m on players. Oh dear. We’ve not been divisional whipping boys. We’ve not had an owner who has felt compelled to argue with supporters on social media as to whether he attends games or performs unspeakable with dogs. 

For all that Fulham slipped into the Premiership last time around, they’ve dropped out as quickly as they entered. Noses very much bloodied, foam fingers wilting and clappers crushed. The coffers emptied and a third manager now in charge. Scott Parker unable to arrest the dreadful form seen under Claudio Ranieri who himself had been unable to arrest the dreadful form seen under Slaviša Jokanović. 

Swansea City may have ensured that it won’t be Bees up but Watford definitely pressed the button to make it Fulham down. The season has had plenty of smiles and despite our own performance last night, I’ve woken up with another one across my face.

Here’s to a few more against Frank Lampard’s Derby County ™ on Saturday. 

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The season has still had plenty of smiles

Nick Bruzon

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Uncanny parallels on a day of Gayle v gale as the run comes to an end.

17 Mar

And with that, the home streak was over. After 7 (seven) straight wins at Griffin Park, Brentford went down to West Bromwich Albion 1-0 in a game dominated by two goalkeepers and awful conditions. On a day windier than a naughty puppy at Christmas after snafflling an entire family size tub of Roses, it was West Brom who played both the conditions and the ref to win the game with their one moment of true quality – Kyle Edwards embarking on mazy run through the midfield and the Brentford defence to steer it past Luke Daniels six minutes into the second half. Elsewhere, there was more than a passing interest in how our own FA Cup conquerors, Swansea City, would fare in the next round at home to Manchester City. It would be fair to say there was no irony lost in how that one turned out. But we can only start with matters at Griffin Park.

The writing was on the wall before the game even kicked off in anger, if we’re being honest. And not just the appointment of Andy Madley as our ‘referee’. There was that lowest of low tricks at the toss – changing ends. I’m not a fan of having to kick ‘the wrong way’ in the first half. It doesn’t feel right and gets everybody’s back up. Especially given it meant we’d spend the second period kicking into the wind. And it was strong, very strong. The trees behind the away end were bending double whilst three balls were lost over the stadium roof after being hoofed high into the gusty stratosphere.

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View from the Braemar – West Brom had it when to counted. Sadly.

It was a bad start to the game but entirely understandable given the circumstances. Despite pressure and chances, the Bees were unable to find a way past Sam Johnstone in goal for the opposition in that opening period. It was another game where we went for it from the off.

Yet where previously we’ve had the ability to step it up in the second period, this time there was no way through. The elements providing a massive help to a team who defended with strength whilst cynically running down the clock at every opportunity. The ball was kicked away whenever possible, the ref allowed The Baggies to get in his ear and under his skin, throw ins were delayed and dives that would have had Tom Daley smiling were common place.

Much as against Sheffield United midweek, Brentford were locked out by well drilled opponents. When the chances came, the ball didn’t quite fall right or Johnstone was on hand to pull off top drawer saves. One in particular, from a Yoann Barbet free kick, had the fans out of their seats for 1-0 Brentford before the diving’ keeper’s outstretched palm managed to guide it to safety at the explosion of the ‘goal’ celebration. Canos and Maupay also came close but it wasn’t to be. 

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View from the Braemar – Yoann comes close. So close.

When West Brom had their own opportunity, Edwards took it with style. There can be no complaints about the way he started and finished the move. Even if there were plenty afterwards as the clock headed towards it’s inexorable denouement with all the pressure and tension of a losing Countdown contestant trying to make a last round word out of JKXDZBEIO.

More so, when referee Madley followed a strong first hour with a final thirty minutes which suggested his focus was anywhere but on ensuring the game could flow. His own performance very much going to the dogs as Brentford battled against Dwight Gayle, a roaring gale and a rogue ref.

So after the play-off dream had briefly raised its head in recent weeks, we’re now nine points off the top six with nine games to go. Given the way this team can play, I’m not going to say it’s over until it’s over. But being realistic, things are going to need a remarkable swing.

On the plus side, we’ve got international break to all catch our breath and recuperate before that final push begins at the end of the month with two away games – Wigan Athletic and then a midweek trip to Swansea City. At the very least, another top ten finish is more than attainable. Another finish over the likes of Birmingham City and QPR well within our grasp.

Yesterday was frustrating and notably so, given the conditions we had to watch the game in. Whilst I’d never trade being at Griffin Park for TV, there was a pang of jealousy about the comfort of those watching ‘on screen’ from sunnier climes.

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Not exactly TW8….

Still, if it was all about the comfort then you may aswell stay at home. Something a group of West Brom fans must have been wishing after putting on the worst pre-match display for TV’s Soccer AM since, well, that day we don’t talk about against Doncaster Rovers.

With football done, it was back home to catch up on the FA Cup action. In particular, the game between Swansea City and Manchester City. That one being of particular interest to Bees fans after we’d seen a 1-0 half time lead at the Liberty Stadium in the previous round turn into a 4-1 fifth round exit at full time. The catalyst for that one being turned around was, of course, the unfortunate equaliser where a free kick had beaten Luke Daniels, hit the post, struck the back of the still diving goalkeeper on its return and deflected straight back into the net for 1-1.

So there was no irony lost as Swansea saw a 2-1 second half lead at the Liberty Stadium turn into a 3-2 sixth round exit at full time. The catalyst for that one being turned around was, of course, the unfortunate equaliser where Sergio Aguero’s penalty had beaten Kristoffer Nordfeldt, hit the post, struck the back of the still diving goalkeeper on its return and deflected straight back into the net for 2-2.

That the penalty decision, like Aguero’s late winner, had probably been made the wrong way can only have added to the sense of frustration felt by the home fans. Tell me about it. Yet another two fingers up delivered from VAR or, more the case, the lack of VAR. The FA Cup only allowing the system to be used in games players at Premier league grounds. Nothing like keeping the competition consistent, eh? 

For Manchester City, an incredible opportunity to scoop a quadruple still awaits. For Brentford and Swansea City, we’re back to the drawing board. The Championship play-offs remain a mathematical possibility but are going to take an incredible combination of wins and favours from other teams.

 With Leeds United and Frank Lampard’s Derby county still to visit, who knows what might sill happen…..

Nick Bruzon

Club and fans help take the edge off cup disappointment.

20 Feb

Who wanted to play Manchester City, anyway? Swansea City were rewarded with an FA Cup quarter final at home to Pep Guardiola’s all conquering Premier League outfit after beating the Bees on Sunday. Brentford, denied a 30 year (wow!) anniversary rematch with the club supported since a child by goal scoring legend Gary Blissett.  

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The iconic Bees cup image was so close to getting a modern day revamp

We’ve all seen it by now. We all know the performance was as devastating in the second half as it was exhilarating in the first. Swansea City were worthy winners. A combination of spurious defending, blistering pace and just plain old bad luck proving to be our undoing. The coach journey home was about as tough as it gets – the feelings far to raw to try and process just what had happened at The Liberty stadium. Yet having now given it a few days to reflect, are there any positives we can take from what happened? And, for the record, being able to concentrate on the league does not count !

On the field, I’m struggling. Ollie Watkins’ goal was a work of art. Magnificent build up play that showed rampant Brentford at their free-flowing best. Yet, if anything, in retrospect it only made what came next even harder take as the Bees not so much waved the white flag as rolled out the red carpet to our hosts. 

IMG_1783Special mention to Kitman Bob, though. The previously unseen red number worn by Luke Daniels being another tick in the box marked sartorial bliss. In the interests of avoiding a revolution, we’ll spare any further comment on the brown/orange being sported by the rest of the team. What’s the point of pouring petrol on a chip fire by eulogising further about something that others deem to be anything from vile to the sole reason for our struggling on the road this term.

For all that this season’s FA cup was looking like it might turn into one of the most open tournaments in its illustrious history, all off a sudden we are in a situation where 6 of the final 8 are all from the Premier League. The sole representation from outside the top flight coming from Millwall and, of course, Swansea City. No doubt the likes of Manchester City and Manchester United will fancy themselves to add another notch on the bed post of tournament success. The chance of an unfancied team winning it now disappearing faster than Sunday’s half-time lead. In the end, top flight form once more took hold and the potato skins can now stay in the recycling box.

We can’t talk about Sunday without recognising the effort made by Brentford to help our fans get to Swansea and get into the ground. The second the game was moved it became a logistical nightmare. We all know that Sunday engineering works were due to take place meaning any attempt to travel by rail (and replacement bus) . So for that fleet of coaches to be provided with little to no not, and laid on for free, was nothing short of amazing. Add an £11 price for 2 tickets( one adult and on child) into the mix to realise what an effort was made by our club to help the fans. Nobody can doubt what we do off the pitch.

Nowhere moreso was this proven by the team in the ticket office. Much as I love being part of any ‘singing’ section towards the back of the stand, travelling with a five year old presents it’s own challenge. Namely because the second anybody might chose to stand up (apparently, it does happen) his own view is obscured. Even when on foot himself ! So imagine the huge grin on his face when our request for tickets towards the front of the stand was met with front row, middle. Right behind the goal. Whilst we all know what a fantastic job the ticketing team do, that they continue to care so much is nothing short of incredible. What a way to represent our club.

Let’s look at the fans themselves. The coming together on the coaches rather than the usual train service meant previously unheard conversations began as groups of unconnected supporters were thrown into the powder keg of an 8 hour round trip with no means of escape. I saw one tweet from Oh Fuffuxake! / @TheChauffeur! on Twitter noting that, “Weird old day yesterday. Spoilt only by a 45 minute debacle that was out of my hands. However, can I thank the lads on the coach home. New pals, new drinking buddies and BIG laughs…

On a personal note, I finally got to meet regular correspondent Bernard Quackenbush  / @BernardQuack after a chance encounter in the stand. Like ‘Push up Brentford’ man, Jumper man and Brentford Bot, BQ is an essential part of the club’s rich tapestry of ‘fans to follow’. Whilst our paths have never crossed previously, outside of cyber space, like ‘The Chauffeur’ it felt like the sort of day to make new friends. Thank to the vagaries of pre-allocated ticket distribution, that’s another ‘face put to name’.

Indeed, the random meet ups continued even last night. Sitting in a Kentish Town pub awaiting the arrival of an Aston Villa supporting friend (unlike his club, he did eventually show up) prior to watching popular music’s The Lemonheads, my own attention was grabbed by one of the people I was sharing a table with. The ears couldn’t help but prick up on hearing him say, “I couldn’t believe it. We were 1-0 up and cruising at half-time. They did us 4-1 in the end”. That could only be Brentford and sure enough, it was. Even from the most abject of football finishes, our club found a way of uniting supporters.   

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The Lemonheads do their thing in Kentish Town

Yet for me, one of the abiding moments was on the way home. It was provided by Simon. Harry Potter. On another coach. His enthusiasm for all things Brentford unable to be crushed by something as trivial as a trashing in the cup. Reports across social media suggesting that his coach was very much the life and soul of an otherwise potentially sombre return journey to West London. I won’t deny the smile on my face at the thought of the fun being had on his bus (please note: your definition of fun may vary)  as ours was punctuated by nothing more than the faint tapping of iPod headphones and a chorus of snores drifting up and down the aisle (not me, for the record). 

Let’s nor pretend that Sunday ended well in a footballing sense. Let’s not pretend we weren’t secretly jealous when Manchester City came out of the hat. Imagining what might have been. Mostly a 0-7(seven) beating, I’d guess. But there was enough happening elsewhere to help maintain my faith in a club that really cares. In a group of supporters whom, whilst obviously hurting, still found a way to come together. Who still look out for each other.

Even just the nods of recognition and messages saying “Did you see….” in regards to mine and HB’s ‘crowd moment’ from the TV coverage showed us looking out for each other.  His own world being slowly shattered as the enormity of our situation took hold being one that was, unwittingly, shared with the wider Bees’ community. People’s kind words afterwards have been nothing but appreciated more than anyone can imagine.

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The bottom lip is beginning to quiver.

Sure, we got dumped out of the cup. I’d love to have gone through. Instead, it wasn’t even close. Yet by the same virtue, everything else that happened around Sunday afternoon already has me desperate to get back to Griffin Park on Saturday. 

See you there.

Nick Bruzon

There are games of two halves and then there was that. Bees baked in Wales.

18 Feb

A day that started with such promise. An afternoon that saw us forty-five minutes away from an FA Cup quarter final. An evening that ended with a press of the self-destruct button the likes of which Brentford haven’t seen since, well, the trip to Hull or more pertinently, the opening twenty minutes of the home game with (erm) Swansea City. And it was the Swans who once more provided the catalyst to our undoing as Ollie Watkin’s magnificent opener was rendered meaningless by three second half goals and a red card for Ezri Konsa in little over a quarter hour phase. It ended 4-1 to Swansea. It could have been five but for a very delayed call from the linesman. What can you say? Beyond me having to console five year old HB after his own pre-match prediction of 3-4 was thrown back into his face in as dramatic a style as one could ever see.

It’s a fair bet we’ve all caught the game by now. The free to air broadcast on BBC Wales meaning that anybody who wasn’t able to travel on the resultant free coaches would have had ample opportunity to watch it live. It was the consummate example of that old cliche about football being a game of two halves. With the opening salvo from Swansea snuffed out at little more cost than a yellow card for Yoann Barbet, the Bees got going. In style.

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Swansea had come forward early but made little progress

With the exception of Luke Daniels retaining his FA Cup place, Thomas Frank named the same team that tore Aston Villa apart for fun on Wednesday evening. It was a decision that was proven correct as we went for it. Swansea City barely had a look in as slick passing and wonderful interplay from the attacking quartet of Said, Sergi, Neal and Ollie suggested a goal was inevitable. When it came, on the half hour, it was beautiful. Benrahma breaking forward at pace, feeding the ball forward to Maupay on his right. The Frenchman then provided the same to the overlapping Watkins who burst into the box and fired it across the face of goal high into the far side of the net.

Yesssss !!! 1-0. We’re on our way. The fans erupted. Tinfoil trophies (of which there were plenty in evidence) thrust high into the sky. Strangers hugging strangers and the dream was on. Swansea looked dead on their feet. Impotent. A flaccid reminder of the team who had obliterated us in that opening twenty minute spell at Griffin Park back in December when they’d raced into a three goal lead without reply. Half time came with optimism high, the fans in wonderful voice and a chorus of boos rising around The Liberty stadium from the home contingent. Surely this was it? Surely….?

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Yesss!!! 1-0. Ollie Watkins you beauty.

What happened at half-time will, forever, remain as unfathomable a mystery as Stonhenge, the Pyramids and Ian Moose’s narcissism. Brentford gave the appearance of a team who had forgotten how to play football. Graham Potter in the home dressing room, presumably, delivering the mother of all team talks. Either way, it was a different Swansea City who emerged.

They were level within five minutes from a free-kick awarded in the most dangerous part of Saunders territory. Daniels unable to reach the ball as it fizzed past him, hit the post but rather than bounce clear hit the back of his head as he was still diving and pinged back into the goal for 1-1. It was a hammer blow. It should have been a warning that we were now very much in a game. Alas, it got worse.

An immediate goalmouth scramble aside, there was little further response from, or respite for, Brentford. Daniel James gave the home side a 2-1 lead shortly after with a quite remarkable effort. Picking up the ball just outside our box, he ran full length and full tilt up field. The acceleration was incredible, even running wide at one point with three players left trailing in his wake, before turning back inside and leaving Luke Daniels, caught in no mans land, for dead. Hats doffed to James for pulling this one off. It was brutal. With it, any remaining psychological stuffing that had been left after the unfortunate o.g. was truly knocked out of us.

Minutes later that man James broke clear once more. This time, he was stopped. But at the expense of a red card for Ezri Konsa as the defender took the last desperate measure available to him in order to try and preserve the narrow deficit. Referee Stuart Atwell has no choice but to show the red card. It was a challenge that, at least, succeeded in the aim of keeping our opponents at bay. For five minutes.  Sergi Canos, again filling in at wing back, was played twice by Bersant Celina who also danced past Julian Jeanvier before slotting home for 3-1. Urghh.

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Even the scoreboard was trolling us

With the attacking threat of Benrahma and Canos removed just moments later as the substitutes came on, the game was effectively dead. If it hadn’t been already. If Thomas had gone almost full strength with his starting XI, the bench offered little in big game experience or match saving nous. Whilst most of these young players will have their time, throwing them in to a game that was only being kept alive on life-support was never going to change anything. And , sadly, it didn’t. 3-1 became 4-1 became 3-1 as the linesman eventually intervened. It made little difference with Swansea grabbing the fourth goal that their second half domination suggested would come as the game limped towards full time.

Even then, Neal Maupay had a chance to restore some pride. His decision to chip the ‘keeper when put through, not quite coming off as the beaten Bees saw it loop over the bar. He made a call. He tried his luck. It didn’t happen. Boo-hoo. The subsequent highlighting of this by the BBC in a standalone video clip entitled , “How did he miss this? Watch Maupay’s terrible effort for Brentford” as cheap, unnecessary and out of context a feature as Ian Moose talking about that Cardiff game last season. No recognition of his quite incredible form this campaign or when it actually happened, with the players physically and emotionally drained after an absolute pummelling. 

Likewise, no mention of what he was clearly feeling as he ran to the Brentford fans at full time to hand over his FA Cup shirt to one lucky supporter. Poor show, BBC. Keep up the wonderful work, Neal.

It was an awful experience to be part of. The second half, I mean. I had tears to cope with at full time from a distraught HB who managed to compose himself and eventually clap his heroes off, despite the clear upset he felt. Looking around, he wasn’t alone. The club’s magnanimous gesture of laying on the coaches and cheap tickets felt very much secondary at that juncture.

I’m gutted this morning. Even now after trying to sleep on it. Swansea ran the second half show ; we handed them the tickets. The dream of the cup quarter-finals disappearing as quickly as it came. HB’s tin foil trophy stuffed into a dustbin on the way home.

Talking to supporters after the game, there seemed to be very much an expectation that this column was going to be used to ‘put the boot in’ today. But I just can’t do it. To coin that well worn of parental phrases, it not so much that I’m angry as disappointed in you. The chance was there and we couldn’t take it. Instead, to collapse in a combination of errors, bad luck, subsequent no-show and of course, the pace of Daniel James has left me feeling broken. A numb feeling in the pit of the stomach that will pass with time but at the moment feels far, far too raw.

I’m just hoping HB uses his half-term break to sleep in. About a week should do it….

Nick Bruzon 

Are we all set for a jolly boys (and girls) outing? The quarters are beckoning….

16 Feb

Oh my. The FA Cup fifth round is here. Opportunity is very much knocking. Watford are already through to the quarters after winning 1-0 at Loftus Road last night. Now we’re getting ready for our shot as Brentford fans begin to countdown for Sunday’s trip to Swansea City. There’s plenty to whet the appetite for that one today with Newport County hosting Manchester City and the visit of Millwall to AFC Wimbledon. That’s before you even get to the likes of Doncaster v Crystal Palace or Monday’s final game denouement that had TV producers reaching for the ‘coverage selection’ button the second Chelsea v Manchester United came out of the hat.

We can only start at the Liberty Stadium. On paper, there isn’t much to grab the neutral about the prospect of Swansea City v Brentford. Whilst both clubs and their fans will be viewing it as a wonderful chance to progress, it hardly has the upset potential of Manchester City at Newport County. The follow up story to Wimbledon’s wonderful humiliation of West Ham (winners of the trophy in 1980 and World Cup in 1966) from the previous round. Don’t let that fool you for a second. This one is huge and I can’t wait.

You could hear the collective groan echoing around TW8 and the GPG as the decision was made to move this to a Sunday afternoon, 4pm kick off for the benefit of BBC Wales. I’ve said my piece on that decision already and we just have to move on now.

With the prospect of a rail engineering works ruining it for everyone, the club sprang into action quicker than Neal Maupay running though on goal with the announcement of free coach travel to the game. Along with the reduced ticket prices , it was about as supporter-friendly a gesture as one could get. Consequently, myself and Harry are the ones now re-upholstering the tinfoil trophy that has seen us through the previous rounds. An £11 return trip for two of us, including entrance to the game, a bargain in anybody’s book and the reason The Bees will be there en-masse as the coaches filled up in nano-seconds.

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Who doesn’t love a coach trip ?

It’s not going be easy, that’s for sure. For either team. Only four points separate Brentford and Swansea City in the Championship table. Advantage traditionally favouring the home side as we’ll be running out in that glorious brown and orange. Here’s hoping for a repeat of the performance at Rotherham in that one, rather than a repeat of the performance just about anywhere else on the road whilst wearing this most stylish of shirts.

The good news for those deeming this to be some sort of jinx (honestly, I’ve never heard such nonsense, now where are my lucky pants?) being that we’ll have a new goalkeeper’s shirt making its debut. If what a source close to the club told us plays out, this one promises to have us kit nerds salivating.

The other factor to play more into the hands of Sunday’s eventual result is, of course, our recent form. We’ve only lost once in the last 12 whilst the midweek victory over Aston Villa was just about as comprehensive and stylish a performance as one could ever hope to see. Truly, Brentford were magnificent. Dean Smith left shell-shocked at full time and chuntering all sorts of nonsense about his team ‘deserving it’ (change the record) after Neal Maupay sent the hone fans wild in the 91st minute. Even now, Saturday morning as this is being written, I have a huge grin on my face thinking about that moment.

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This one from Brentford official said it all about Wednesday

Prior to that and, excusing the Forest game, it has been a case of scoring at least three goals a game in the previous five. A streak that coincided with Brentford playing stylish football with confidence and swagger. The ball being moved around the team for fun as we took the old mantra of “Push up, Brentford” to heart. It was a self-belief that was in evidence once more on Wednesday night. Here’s hoping Swansea City get to experience it themselves on Sunday afternoon. 

For sure they’ll be feeling as upbeat as we are. A home draw is the first thing any club hoping to progress would ask for in the later rounds of the FA Cup. Swansea have had that prayer answered  whilst on pitch have had a fairly strong start to 2019, winning five out of their nine games played so far in all competitions. They’ll no doubt fancy this in their own back yard whilst also have the benefit of ‘Mark’ Lawro Lawrenson using his BBC prediction column to back the Bees. Trevor Nelson and DJ Big Zuu (literally no idea – parents, ask a kid) going for the home side.

My main concern with this is Lawro’s assertion that, “I am backing Brentford to stay unbeaten, and get through on penalties.” We all know the nonsense he spouts these days and his presence as a pundit or co-commentator is generally greeted with the same fear felt by a pre-match press room buffet as Ian Moose approaches. But penalties? Seriously? You’ve got to think our name is on the cup if that’s going to happen. Here’s hoping he’s right. You can read that one in full, here.

Otherwise, its going to be a case of trying to make today feel as much like a normal Saturday as possible. I make no apologies for being excited or loving the FA Cup. Perhaps it’s an age thing but this tournament remains, for the supporters, about as exciting as it gets. The nostalgia, the romance, the potential, the shot at glory and even the cliches. 

I saw a quite wonderful tweet from @DeanCornish1966 yesterday about the Newport – Manchester City game, noting that:

ITV news preview on Newport v Man City just included:

2 x ‘The whole town is buzzing’

1 x ‘biggest match in history’

1 x ‘David v Goliath’

3 x ‘unbelievable’

1 x ‘dare to dream’

1 x ‘Gulf in class’

2 x ‘dreams are made of’

1 x ‘stacking shelves’

If ever there was close to a full house in cup upset bingo then here it was. But it’s what makes this trophy so special. Even now. It’s why I’m taking a five year old boy on a marathon coach trip to see if we can equal our furthest ever progression. Or perhaps even go beyond.

I’ve no doubt that when me and H are sitting down this evening to see if Newport can throw a potato skin under the feet of Manchester City (that’s one which ITV missed), the talk will be all about what awaits on Sunday afternoon. 

That, and maybe seeing if we need to add another layer of tinfoil to our replica trophy. 

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We’re all up for the cup

Nick Bruzon

All good things come to an end. Now is the time to go ag, ag, ag.. once more.

10 Feb

So it wasn’t to be 11 unbeaten. It wasn’t to be another victory on the road in the incredible orange and brown. A 2-1 win for Nottingham Forest saw Brentford defeated for the first time since that mid-December trip to Hull (and back?) . With back to back TV clashes at home to Aston Villa and then up at Swansea City in the FA Cup to come, January’s manager-of-the-month nominee Thomas Frank is now tasked with the challenge of getting the momentum going once more.

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Thomas will need to go ag.. once more

Brentford official would describe this one as ‘Frustrating’ on the club Twitter feed at full time. The stats would certainly bear this out with the game ending on 70% possession and 21 shots for The Bees.  Ollie Watkins had a goal disallowed, the woodwork was hit twice and Daniel Bentley pulled off a magnificent double penalty save. Sergi Canos provided hope late on with his fourth in four games. Yet we all know that ‘deserving’ and ‘stats’ count for nothing if you can’t take your chances or if you give away sloppy goals.

Certainly, Nottingham Forest will be well pleased with their win and made no mistake when opportunity knocked. The highlights are up on Sky’s website already and are very much a case of – move along quickly, nothing to see here. At least, at the back.

The defensive coaches will no doubt be having words on Monday morning about what were two very soft efforts to concede. In the cold light of day we can’t be pleased about either but, at the same time, let’s not deny Lewis Grabban or Molla Wague any kudos here. They worked their chances, were perhaps given a helping hand but still had to put them away.

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Another penalty save counted for nothing in the end

On another day we might have won this one. The positive news being that there were chances to take. The run of goals, goals, goals had to end at some point. We’ll bounce back. The visit of Aston Villa on Wednesday night couldn’t have come at a better time. If we can’t get ourselves up for this one then what’s the point of bothering? Who doesn’t want to prove a point to Dean Smith? Player or fan?

We all acknowledge why he took the ‘dream job’ and I can’t imagine there’ll be any ‘ill will’  but that doesn’t change the fact he left a wonderful young squad at a progressive club. He’d taken Brentford to a position where we’d been named as Championship favourites when Villa came calling and that mantle was passed to Thomas Frank. Now he returns with a team who are scoring goals, and shipping them, for fun. It could be a scintillating encounter.

Then there’s Swansea City in the FA Cup. What an incredible opportunity awaits in that game. A fleet of free coaches heading up the M4 in the hope of reaching the quarter finals in a winner takes all clash. there’s no chance of a replay now. It has to be sorted on the day, via the mediums of extra time and penalties if needed. No prizes for guessing which direction that one could end up heading. This is Brentford after all….

I’d love to have beaten Nottingham Forest. If only to extend a fine winning run in recent seasons agasint the Tricky Trees at the City Ground. There’s the personal reasons of wanting to get one over a few of their supporters whilst who doesn’t love extending an unbeaten run? Instead, It was former Bee Lewis Grabban who swung the axe to chop us down for the first time in five home games.

Now, we have to prove this was the blip that I am sure it will be after a fine run of form. Forest are pushing at the play-offs. Brentford looking at a cup run. As Harry said to me at full time, “Daddy. Was that a league game? … Thank goodness, so we’re still in the FA Cup then!

I can’t account for the naivety of youth and I’m certainly not going to dent his enthusiasm. Wednesday will be huge but Sunday could be epic.

Nick Bruzon

Bring on the rail replacement bus after another night of goals, goals, goals.

6 Feb

We’re through. On a night where the FA Cup headlines were made by a huge scare for Wolves and a massive slip up for Middlesbrough, Brentford dodged the potato skin that was a replay at home to Barnet and eased to a 3-1 win. But for a brief flurry later in the second half it was every bit as comfortable as the scoreline suggests. Indeed, it probably should have been more as the (proper) Bees made it 10 games unbeaten ahead of Saturday’s visit to Nottingham Forest and now face the prospect of a fifth round trip to Swansea City.

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There was no way through for Barnet on Tuesday

A game played out in the shadow of Tony Kleanthous’ crazed rant about ticket allocation, something caused completely by his own club’s somewhat free and easy approach to sales, had the potential to see Brentford caught with their pants down. The Barnet supporters certainly started off in vocal form before Sergi Canos took the wind out of their sails with the opening goal after 7(seven) minutes. A short corner routine saw the ball guided in as the Spaniard slid home his third goal in as many games and from there it was game over. 

This is not a drill. That is not a typo. A short corner worked. Repeat. A short corner actually worked. You got the feeling from that moment that this was going to be our night. When that most unsuccessful of set pieces pays dividends you know something special is happening. 

Brentford continued to push. Barnet weren’t even at the races in the opening period. The epic 3-3 of the original game being put into context as a near full strength Brentford team took the non-leaguers apart. Luke Daniels, Josh McEachran and Mads Bech Sörensen coming in to a team full of all those other names we know and love. Thomas Frank was certainly taking no chances on this one, even if he was able to see the likes of Ollie Watkins , Yoann Barbet and Kamohelo Mokotjo kept fresh for Saturday’s trip to Nottingham Forest.

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Mads Bech Sörensen looked comfortable filling in for Yoann Barbet

Julian Jeanvier made it 2-0 with half an hour gone as he executed a beautiful volley. Said Benrahma with the assist, yet again. How many times has that line been used in recent games? Five in the last five, being the answer. Indeed, per the BBC he’s actually had a hand in eight goals over that period. Aswell as the assists he’s also found the back of the net three times. A wonderful return for a player who has yet again proven the wisdom in our once maligned transfer policy. Hats off to Mr. Benham and the recruitment team for their vision.

Half time came and went. Brentford continued to push. The visitors began to up their tempo. An early contretemps on the Braemar Road touchline threatening to spill over as emotions got the better of Barnet and referee Roger East lost total control of a situation that eventually resolved itself in two yellow cards for our guests. Luke Daniels saw his crossbar rattled as Neal Maupay and Romaine Sawyers came close. Sergi and Said continuing to pull the strings. And then it was over. 

The goal machine that is Neal Maupay did his thing once more. This time it was The World Cup’s Henrik Dalsgaard of Brentford (TM) who turned provider. His ball into the box swept home by the Frenchman to make it five successive games where we have scored three goals or more. One can only presume Nottingham Forest fans are hoping Martin O’Neill has some added steel to his backline. On this run of form, you’d back Brentford to score against anyone.

With the Brentford fans still cheering, there was a glimmer of hope. David Tutonda firing home a quite exquisite strike to send the visiting supporters into rapture and offer some hope of salvation. Sadly, for them, it wasn’t to be. There were to be no further efforts or goals. No further FA Cup fairytale for the non-leaguers. Instead, it’s a trip from Griffin Park to Swansea City and their Liberty Stadium on the 17th for that infamous 4pm, rail replacement bus hit, Sunday afternoon fifth round tie.

Yet as we exited with the players celebrating and Peter Gilham exhorting us to check the website for travel news, could there be some salvation coming the way of anybody wanting to make the journey for this one? Here’s hoping.

All that’s to come. For now we’ve a trip to the City ground and a home game with Aston Villa to focus on before the visit to Swansea. The woes of November and December are rapidly disappearing over the horizon and Brentford are playing some incredible football.

Thomas Frank walked all round the ground at full time, following in the wake of his players to applaud the fans. There’s a real buzz around Griffin Park at present and it’s so nice to see him being able to enjoy it. Fair to say there’s probably a lot of egg on faces at present from those giving him a hard time after Dean Smith departed, with the Bees already tottering on the brink of that dreadful run. Instead, the defence has sorted itself out and the goals are flooding in.

What a time to be a Bee! Now bring on Swansea City. And Forest.

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View from the Braemar: Thomas and Said take the plaudits at full time.

Nick Bruzon    

Have the visitors scored an own goal before the game has even kicked off?

4 Feb

What links the Brentford away end with Chelsea and Everton? Quite simply, they sold it out in the cup and then didn’t go crying when there were no tickets left. Now what links the Brentford away end with Barnet? Quite simply, they sold it out in the cup, with reckless abandon given it holds twice their average gate, but then did go crying, threw their toys out the pram and their chairman launched a quite bizarre tirade against us.

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No tears from Chelsea (despite not beating us at Griffin Park

We’ve all seen that rant by now, I’m sure. Blaming everyone but themselves for the fact that not everyone can get along who may want to. Shock news : big match proves popular. It was a tirade that still included reference to Ollie Watkins being awarded a penalty although refusing to acknowledge that the player didn’t appeal for it or call foul play. A tirade that included the terrifying threat of a boardroom boycott. Oh well, all the more pies for Ian Moose should he sniff them out from the press box.

One can only assume it is, at best, a misguided effort to engender a sense of being hard done by. A feeble attempt to rally the Barnet fans and players further ahead of a game which, given the magnificence of the original tie, is one we’re all looking to see played out to a gripping denouement.

Instead, all it has done is elicit laughter from the Brentford contingent and unify us. If ever we needed more incentive to stick two fingers up and raise the roof then here it is. Served up by bucketload with a side salad of a swipe at our own Chairman, Cliff Crown.

The reaction on Twitter was as expected.

Justin(LionsAndBees) : Tell your Chairman to learn how to read full sentences, not just the bits he likes the look of.

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Jamie: What absolute shite. You get the same amount as every club that comes here. Including Chelsea a few years ago and Everton a few years before that. Did they complain? No of course not cause they sold their tickets the right way and didn’t offer 6 tickets person. Also there is no possible way you’ll ever get more tickets as there is no bloody segregation. I’d be embarrassed if this was our chairmen doing this, absolute joke.

Personally, I went for classic ‘Partridge’. One of the rare occasions a ‘gif’ is acceptable.

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Yet it was the team at Beesotted who pulled out the big guns. And I can’t top this. See you on Tuesday, Barnet. I can’t wait.

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Nick Bruzon

BBC Wales stick two fingers up to The Bees ahead of Blackburn visit

2 Feb

Brentford host Blackburn Rovers this afternoon, looking to make it 9 games unbeaten and continue the climb up the table that Thomas Frank’s rejigged team have been enjoying since just before Christmas. It is a game that will see him looking to kick on from the disappointment of being held at Barnet in the FA Cup on Tuesday night. That in itself, a game which now presents a further headache beyond the forthcoming replay. Namely, BBC Wales selecting the fifth round tie at Swansea City for a Sunday afternoon, 4pm TV fixture. The reaction to that news one of universal frustration as a day of motorways or train disruption awaits anyone looking to make that trip.

First up, Blackburn. I have to be honest that their position in the table had escaped me. Instead thoughts of Rovers normally turn to Gary Blissett in the FA Cup, ‘Birdy’s date’ (THE single best kit launch video ever – Kitman Bob, if you are reading I remain available) and Jota causing Mark Burridge to explode in the commentary box. Yet a quick glance at the Championship standings shows them just four points behind Frank Lampard’s Derby County (TM) in the hunt for a play-off place. They’ve won four on the spin, conceding just a solitary goal whilst the BBC match preview tells us that they are the kings of the second half goal. Brentford, beware.

Come on Bob. I’m game if you are

Yet The Bees are no slouches either. With goals being scored for fun and Neal Maupay exhuding all the confidence and prowess of a Grand National winner, we’re a force to be reckoned with ourselves. The squad is now confirmed after what was, thankfully, one of the dullest deadline days in history. There was none of the alleged interest from Dean Smith up at Villa Park and so Thomas can be confident he has his boys until the rest of the campaign. Unless, of course, any of them fancy joining Nico Yennaris in China. That being the news that was confirmed on official yesterday but which even Matthew Benham had been tweeting about the day before.

The goals against Barnet were all great. Ollie’s strike from distance, Neal slotting home another ice cool penalty and then Sergi maintaining his composure after a quite delightful ball to feet from Henrik Dalsgaard. Then there were the three efforts against the post. Had Moses Odubajo found himself an inch or two luckier I think we may have had another ‘Jota moment’ in the commentary box. #burridgegasm. Instead, we’ve been left with a tricky replay and the image of John Motson talking tactics under the shadow of Ian Moose stuffing his face. For crying out loud man, at least chew.

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Motty and Chris do their thing as Ian Moose does his

The goals against, and the midfield, were very much a case of ‘move along, nothing to see here’. I guess in part this was down to the slight squad rotation in a game played out against the backdrop of a passionate full house. One thing’s for sure, you can see the incredible difference Kamo makes to the squad. We’re a different team when he starts and one has to hope he’ll be back in the Brentford line up today.

I can’t even come close to calling this one. It promises to be a fascinating match up and I’m intrigued as to how hard we react after Tuesday night. The only thing you can be sure of is that’s going to be bitterly cold out there. Whatever you do, please take care and wrap up warm. The slush may have been cleared but I almost lost a few toes to frostbite on the school run past Griffin Park yesterday.

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A carpet of slush is clear from Griffin Park, Friday

From the league to the cup, next. “An away game at Championship rivals Swansea City has about as much romance, of the cup or otherwise, as a Valentines card and bunch of flowers from petrol station forecourt. I’ve no doubt they are thinking the same…… As I can’t imagine it’ll be one that is selected for TV, if we actually win the replay, at least it should be a traditional 3pm kick off“. 

My words, written on Wednesday morning. Well that’s just another example, if one were needed, of why yours truly is the numpty on the terrace rather than any sort of informed source. As was revealed yesterday, whomever wins the replay on Tuesday night has now seen the match at Swansea City moved to 4pm on a Sunday afternoon.

Well thanks a bunch, BBC Wales. Talk about sticking two fingers up to the fans who now face the prospect of the three scariest words in the English language – ‘Rail replacement bus’- which we’re all thrilled to hear is operating between between Bristol and Cardiff on the Sunday. Expect a return home of about midnight if you chose to take the most godforsaken mode of transport since records began.

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Bad news for The Bees

The reaction has been almost universal. It all seems so pointless. A game that’s not even likely to sell out being picked for a regional arm of the BBC – albeit one available outside of Wales via the medium of Virgin and Sky. Yet we all know that watching it on the armchair is nothing like being there. And why do it at such a ridiculously inconvenient time, given the travel hell that is sure to unfold (see also: moving the cup final to an evening kick off). 

I’ve no doubt the club will point out that we are beholden to the rules of the competition and the whims of broadcasters. Broadcasters who clearly don’t give a monkey about the people that actually make the competition what it is – the fans. Let’s wait to see if BIAS swing into action. This would be the perfect forum for them to say their piece or, better still, our fans’ group get involved. Seriously Adam, if you are reading then you’ve got a quite wonderful opportunity to do something for the supporters. No matter that we already know it is a decision which won’t be over turned.

And yes, I realise that we have to get past Barnet first. They’re in exactly the same boat as us but there’s nothing to stop our clubs, and fan groups, presenting a united front on this one. At least until 7.45pm on Tuesday night.

Still, that’s for then. For now, we’ve got a visit form Blackburn Rovers to look forward to and I can’t wait. See you there.

Now, how about one more look at Jota…..

 

Nick Bruzon   

Quietest window in years still sees plenty of action – mostly off pitch with ‘that’ video.

1 Feb

It was less a case of the transfer window slamming shut (TM) and more one of it sliding gently to an imperceptible close. With Brentford concluding first team business once Chris Mepham had departed for Bournemouth last week, there was only the addition of B team striker Gustav Mogensen  from AGF Aarhus as the quietest deadline day since record began – probably – passed by with barely a flutter at Griffin Park. Albeit Nico Yennaris is as done a done deal as an unpublished deal can be – certainly going by Twitter rather than ‘official’. Dean Smith kept the Aston Villa cheque book under wraps as there was no last minute sortie for Neal, Romaine et al. And the video of the year has already been published – a quite wonderful riposte to those Birmingham City and Leeds United fans still moaning at the Bees. Yes. It WAS a penalty. And yes – it was an even ballsier reaction from Neal Maupay.

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First up, deadline day. The squad remains largely intact. Great news for a team with the opportunity to embark on a quite wonderful FA Cup run and push for a fifth successive top ten finish in the Championship. Or beyond? What it means for the summer window  is another question of course but with our last full season at Griffin Park approaching, a push for the top ahead of the move to Lionel Road must be in the thinking.

The only real headlines about the in-door swinging, Gustav aside, were made with the announcement of our new chief executive Jon Varney. As one Braemar Road observer noted, “At least they didn’t troll us with an ‘incoming‘ message on Twitter. You can get the full facts on Jon, here.

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Our new CEO

For now though, we know who will be on pitch at Brentford. There was no late swoop from Aston Villa or, if there had been, it was repelled with barely a whisper. Fan favourite Neal Maupay remains a Bee which is wonderful news. The progression he has shown this season has been quite magnificent. There are the goals, of course, but also the passion and the balls. Finally, a penalty taker who doesn’t choke when looking into the eyes of the goalkeeper.

But then his reaction after scoring at Leeds United shows you all you need to know about his mentality and his guts. Sure, perhaps things can spill over at times but this young man is still only 22 years old. More games and more experience will help control that. Possibly. Although at the end of the day, Clive, who wants a neutered lion?

The one thing you can be sure of is that at one point Neal will move on. That’s football. That’s the Brentford model. If nothing else, the ‘one club player’ is about as rare as unicorn poo these days. Hopefully his eventual departure will be later rather than sooner, with The Bees firmly ensconced in the top flight and our name inscribed on the FA Cup.

Could his long term replacement have already arrived? Brentford official describe 17 year old Gustav as “An impressively tall and imposing front man for a player of his age, Gustav is a member of the Denmark Under-18 national team, following in the footsteps of fellow B Team players Nikolaj Kirk, Mads Bech Sorensen and Luka Racic.” He has an impressive tally of U-16 and U-19 appearances already notched into his metaphorical bedpost. You can read that one in full on ‘official’ .

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Unicorn poop – rare

The list of those who did exit was published last night and contained five names: Alan Judge (Ipswich), Chris Mepham (Bournemouth), Ryan Woods (Stoke City), Josh Clarke (Burton Albion – loan) and Reece Cole (Macclesfield Town – loan). Missing from that group was Nico Yennaris, who published his own farewell message on social media aswell as updating his own profile picture to show him now signed for Chinese super league club Beijing Guoan.

He told supporters: “I would like to say a big thank you to @BrentfordFC and all the staff for the last 5 years. It’s a special club with amazing fans and I’ve enjoyed every minute. So many great memories with the Club which will stay with me forever. Good luck for the rest of the season” .

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As Matthew Benham responded with a simple “Best of luck Nico, thanks for everything” rather than any comment about him still being signed at Griffin Park, this one would seem to merely be waiting for ‘official’ to swing into action. Quite probably with a showreel of blockbuster goals. Fingers crossed that comes soon. If nothing else the piledriver at Birmingham City can’t be seen enough times.

And finally, ‘that’ video. The Barnet game seems to have stirred up our divisional rivals a tad. With Leeds United fans still moaning about our penalty  and performance back in October,  supporter Tom Ritchie has put this incredible compilation together. It really is a work of art.

Whilst the Bees are still better placed than holier-than-thou Leeds United and Birmingham City in the divisional fairplay table, who doesn’t love it when we get our claws out. Rules are there to be broken every now and then. Aren’t they…?

Nick Bruzon