Tag Archives: Josh Clarke

Can Lasse grab another pizza the action at Cardiff ? Brighton do Bees a favour.

8 Apr

Brentford travel to Cardiff City today. Brighton retook the lead in the Championship from Newcastle after despatching the Loftus Road mob last night (and do us a potential favour at the same time). And FourFourTwo magazine have published their list of the match day experiences at all 92 league grounds, ranked in order from worst to best . Coventry City, look away now.

First up Brentford. And we’ll keep this brief – I’ve got a train to catch. The trip to Cardiff represents an excellent chance to continue our rise up the table following three straight victories. The latest, our 2-0 win over Leeds United on Tuesday night, being one of the most complete Brentford performances seen in recent times. It really was that good. Romaine Sawyers, Harlee Dean, Sergi Canos and Lasse were amongst those taking the headlines but, in truth, we were wonderful to a man.

IMG_6728

Jota watches the action unfold against Leeds on Tuesday

The flip side to all of this was injuries to Nico and Ryan, which makes both of them unlikely to start today. Alan McCormack and KK being the obvious replacements and, if supplemented by Jota along with the aforementioned Sergi and Romaine that will still make a formidable five.

Expect an unchanged defence from Tuesday (Clarke, Barbet, Dean and Rico) with Dan Bentley between the sticks and Lasse leading the line. That is, on the assumption he hasn’t got his fingers burned in a little Italian restaurant. At Brentford Lock. I think it fair to say he’s more than earned that midweek pizza.

With Brighton condemning QPR to another notch in the ‘L’ column last night, Brentford remain 6 points above our West London rivals with today’s game to come. Victory could see us rise as high as ninth although, of course, it won’t be easy.

Dean Smith’s press conference on Thursday included the very telling observation that, “ “Neil Warnock teams are very difficult to beat. He has them well organised and they will be up for every game.”

There’s no doubting Mrs Doubtfire has the Bluebirds flying once more since their early season flirtation with the lower end of the table. It won’t be easy but the chance to draw further ahead of QPR and close in on both Fulham and last season’s 9th place finish is a huge lure. Can we do it? See you at the Cardiff City stadium this afternoon when we find out.

And for those of you travelling, it you’d like some reading material for the journey (no, not the book i although if you would like to read more about the last three seasons…….)   then could I suggest the online version of FourFourTwo magazine. Specifically, the aforementioned stadium guide they published this week.

Whilst, admittedly, being somewhat out of date it does hit the mark in most places. Certainly, I’d baulk at our performance relative to some of the soulless enormobowls we’ve had the pleasure of visiting this last few seasons. After all, this is a survey of match day experience rather than stadium quality.

Then again, if ever the Lionel Road team need some inspiration then here is a chance to see what the magazine deem the best and worst in English football.

Enjoy

Nick Bruzon

Realm of the defence. Let’s not overlook magnificent Harlee and co.

5 Apr

The morning after the night before. No, it wasn’t a dream. Brentford really did beat Leeds United 2-0 and, whilst producing another performance of two halves, this time it was different. Wonderfully different.

Ordinarily the Last Word gets written having slept on things. Last night saw immediate thoughts penned upon the return home and prior to bed, such was the excitement at the way Brentford had outplayed the opposition. Whilst I stand by that post-match column, indeed if anything our attacking prowess in the first half was probably understated, we do also need to look more at the other end of the pitch.

Scoring goals is what ultimately wins football matches. That we only (and that word is used in the loosest sense) managed it twice is as much down to the performance of Rob Green between the sticks for Leeds. The likes of Sergi, Lasse and Romaine were magnificent as they pulled the strings and took the game to the visitors. From the off. It was as pleasing a first half of football as one could hope to see and the only disappointment, if we can be overly critical, was Brentford being contained to a ‘mere’ two goal lead.

Yet equally, we need to note the way Brentford played in the second half. As mentioned, it was a performance of two halves but that is meant in a positive way. If the first was non-stop attack, having taken that lead the second was as much about nullifying the opposition, trying to pick them off on the break and maintaining our advantage.

And for this, we need to pay due credit to our defence. All of them. The post match article noted the magnificence of Harlee Dean and the prowess of Dan Bentley when called upon. However, such was the excitement surrounding the win, the goals and the first half its almost as if these were taken for granted.

The pair of them have already been cited on these pages as being contenders for player of the season. Last night was further evidence as to why. Praise for Harlee on social media was unanimous whilst the Beesplayer team, including a return to Griffin Park for Sam Saunders, named him as their man of the match. Personally, I stand by my vote for Romaine in this one but it was a very tight call.

On that note, it was interesting to read Harlee’s own comments on his team mate, which you can find in full on Brentford ‘official’. Amongst other praise heaped at the midfielder’s feet he noted that, “He’s one of the most intelligent players I’ve played football with…I know his demeanour may look a little bit laid back, but he’s never out of position, never lazy. People have the wrong perception of him and he’s slowly changing it. He’s one of the best players in the team.”

C8mnwiFWsAUaiER

Harlee says and does his thing on ‘official’

As for Dan Bentley, do we just accept his brilliance as the norm these days? He rarely, if ever, puts a foot wrong and last night was yet another example. It already feels as if he’s been here for ever whilst I recall at least three solid, solid saves that helped ensure there were no heart in mouth moments as we reached the closing stages.

Remember the worry many of us felt when it appeared clear over the summer that David Button was on his way? Nobody could deny how his own game had progressed at Griffin Park yet to see his own performance last night as Fulham went down 4-2 at Derby was a perfect demonstration of the gap between who we had and who we have. Whilst, ordinarily, I wouldn’t direct anybody towards Fulham, in this instance their own highlights reel is worth a watch.

Josh Clarke made the absence of Maxime Colin look like an irrelevance. Don’t under estimate the Frenchman’s talent or the just how ably Josh filled in for him. Rico Henry again showed how the stats computer identified him as a transfer target ( I do wonder if ‘former Dean Smith player’ is one of the variables currently programmed into it) whilst Yoann Barbet gave a further demonstration of the centre back talent at Dean’s disposal. With two full internationals in Andreas Bjelland (Denmark) and John Egan (Republic of Ireland) waiting to recover from injury to try and reclaim their places, I don’t envy anyone having to keep those four happy.

It’s no wonder Dean persisted with the ultimately doomed three centre back experiment for so long and the summer transfer window could be an interesting one. Given our propensity to sell when the price is right, are two out of four really going to be happy spending so much time on the bench? Hey, its a lovely problem to have.

In all of this, we’ve not mentioned Nico or Ryan, both of whom limped off early with injury. Here’s hoping this was nothing more than precautionary with a third game in eight days upon us at the weekend. Whilst the eyes are naturally drawn to the excitement of a Sergi or Jota , lets not forget what a solid yet often understated job this pair do in the middle of the park.

So often this season Ryan Woods has had to cover the space of two or three men as the midfield struggled to fully flow whilst who could forget the stick Nico came in for from many of our keyboard warriors at the start of his Griffin Park career? That seems a long, long time ago now and is testament to his self-belief, perseverance and talent.

So yes, it was an incredible first half. It was one of those that will go down in memory. Yet, as importantly, perhaps the relaxed looking, comfortable and totally in control second period is the one we should really be purring about now that the dust has settled on that result.

I have no doubt it was anything but relaxed for the players , who gave their all. But at no point did it feel as though Leeds were in with a chance of taking anything out of this.

Whichever part of this performance you celebrate. Whichever player was your vote for man of the match. Whichever way you look at it. This was as complete a team performance over ninety minutes as one could hope for.

Very well played, team. Spot on from Dean.

Smith, that is.

On a day that started with the B-team scoring 7(seven) goals, it ended with the first team in seventh heaven.

Roll on the weekend.

Nick Bruzon

Fine margins see Huddersfield staying alive as Brentford goal glut runs dry.

12 Mar

All good things come to an end and that was certainly the case on Saturday as Brentford saw their hot streak in front of goal stop with a juddering halt. Huddersfield Town shutting us out (and not just in front of goal, if we’re being honest) as they recorded a 1-0 win at Griffin Park. With Fulham, of all teams, doing them a stonking favour with a 3-1 win up at Newcastle United, there’s everything to play for in the top slots .Good luck to anyone trying to call the two automatic promotion places that the Terriers, Magpies and Seagulls are currently fighting over.

Still, promotion is nothing but a pipe dream for Brentford at present – albeit we have a wonderful chance to still impact the play off race later in the season when we travel to Fulham. Assuming they haven’t choked it by that point.

Instead, our aspirations are more about building for next season and, with safety all but mathematically assured, we’ve been doing this in fine style recently. Brentford entered this game off the back off a goal glut which had seen us rise to the top half of the Championship table. Then Huddersfield paid a visit.

Despite a lurid kit – think QPR with added highlighter pen – and the pressure of David Wagner having been named ‘manager of the month’ the visitors accomplished their sole aim. Win the game to keep the pressure on Newcastle and Brighton.

IMG_6343

View from the Braemar – three points and a lurid kit for Huddersfield Town

Whether it was exhaustion, a terrible display from referee Oliver Langford (who seemed to be set to ‘random’ mode), superior opposition or just a combination of all the above, we were second best on the afternoon. Despite a bright start to both periods, Huddersfield were soon able to control the game and snuff out our attacking threat. Indeed, it was the visitors who had the better chances even if the only way they did find the back of the net was via a combination of a Harlee Dean deflection and Dan Bentley.

It was a shame because the pair of them have been unsung heroes this season. The goals of Scott Hogan and the return of our talismanic Spaniards have dominated the headlines and perception of our team. Yet both Dan and Harlee have more than played their parts and are serious contenders for player of the season, when we look back over the entire campaign.

Things could have been different. Perhaps. Brentford had a bright start to both periods, Jota unleashing a drive from outside the box after three minutes that Danny Ward in the Huddersfield goal had to go full stretch to parry away.

Moments into the second half (the Bees having survived a huge scare almost from kick off) Lasse Vibe was presented a gilt edged chance.

Rico Henry releasing Flo Jo, whose slide rule pass across the box found the great Dane unmarked and Ward flatfooted. Yet instead of stroking it home, he somehow managed to sky it over the bar from eight yards out. In truth, the ball was travelling at him, at speed, yet even allowing for that movement one would still have hoped to see the net ripple. And that, a deflected effort that looped onto the top of the crossbar aside, was as good as it got.

After the game, Dean Smith would talk about fine margins being the difference. In the interview which you can find on Brentford ‘official’, he noted how:  “If the goal is given, if Lasse takes his chance, if the free-kick is given at the end of the game then it is different. Unfortunately we are not getting loads of those calls at the moment.

Was this a thinly veiled dig at referee Oliver Langford? A man who incensed captain Harlee Dean and the entire Griffin Park crowd with a series of odd decisions. Certainly, we’ve been getting the goals (and even penalty calls) in recent weeks. Yet even watching from the sidelines, Dean was more animated than I think I’ve ever seen him before as decision after decision went the way of the opposition. He was less Dijkhuizen and more Saturday Night Fever, such was the way he waved his arms around every time a crunching foul was overlooked.

Dean Smith travolta

Dean channeling his inner Travolta, with Huddersfield staying alive in the promotion race

I’ll be keen to see the official highlights later on today. The 90 seconds served up by Sky (in as much all you need to know about the game) glossed over any refereeing faux-pas. Instead, they are just a chance to remind ourselves about what might have been.

That said, I did find Dean’s assertion that, “I thought that we more than matched them today” a bit of an odd one. Statistically speaking alone, the visitors had more possession, more shots and more goals whilst just looking at the game as a supporter I can acknowledge when we’ve been nullified. Huddersfield weren’t streets ahead but they were the better team on the day, no question. They are where they are for a reason.

Instead, we’ll just have to regroup for Tuesday night’s game against Wolves. Expect personnel changes for no other reason than the amount of games we’ve played in such a short space of time. Again, something Dean alluded to in that interview. Could the likes of KK, Tom Field, Sergi Canos and Josh Clarke find themselves back in the starting XI?

Whoever he picks will have the somewhat dubious privilege of Keith Stroud being the man to wave the cards in that theatrical style of his. Here’s hoping Keith is the restrained man in the middle that we have seen on occassion rather than the Keith of Bramall Lane infamy.

This season his record is 161 yellows and 11 reds in his 35 games. That’s an average of 4.6 bookings per game. By comparison, Mr Langford has 113 yellows and 5 reds over the same period. I’m not sure which is better really, going on yesterday.

Instead, let’s just hope it’s our football that everyone is taking about once more come Tuesday night.

keith-stroud-referee-blackburn-v-burnley-24th-october-2015

Keith Stroud – your eyes aren’t wrong. There is NO card in hand

Nick Bruzon

What happens in Preston, stays in Preston as Harlee makes a frank admission.

12 Feb

F*ck off Brentford” said one supporter on Twitter after this one. Others were calling for Dean Smith’s head. I’ve even seen comments reminding us that Mark Warburton is available after his resignation/non resignation from Rangers. Seriously? Seriously?? Sure, The Bees had been beaten 4-2 by Preston North End but let’s leave that nonsense and put this one down to the proverbial bad day at the office.

After those two tonkings administered to Aston Villa and Brighton, had Dean Smith gone into this one with anything but the same approach then, perhaps, there could have been casue for frustration. But no, he stuck to his guns and rightly so.

This team and formation were the exact same decisions I would have taken and, whilst just the numpty on the terrace rather than any form of Championship Manager, it was great to see Dean continue with this attacking intent. Indeed, despite the availability of John Egan, amongst others, the only change was one of personnel as fit again Maxine Colin replaced Josh Clarke in the right back position.

The anti-performance at Chelsea had been followed by a new look team and a new set up. Despite the absence of Scott Hogan, six goals had followed from five different players.

Now make that 8 goals from 7(seven) players in three games as Lasse, Nico, Harlee, KK and Jota were joined by Maxime Colin and Tom Field on the list of recent scorers. For Tom in particular, his first league goal for Brentford – and one which gave us an early lead –  was the perfect riposte to his critic after last Sunday’s post match nonsense.

tom-field-goal

Post goal celebrations for Tom Field, c/o the Sky Sports highlight reel

After that, though, the wheels fell off. Aiden McGeady waltzed through the Brentford midfield and defence to equalise from distance for the hosts. Preston then took the lead early into the second half as Callum Robinson stole in totally unmarked between Harlee and Andreas to beat the offside trap and tap home.

And with the Bees pushing to get back into it, Mcgeady (again)  and Daryl Horgan put the game beyond doubt as it became a case of “After you, Claude” from Brentford. Maxime Colin pulled one back late on via a generous deflection but that was how it ended.

As ever, proper match reports are available on the BBC, Besotted or ‘official’. Likewise, you’ve got free video highlights on Sky – at least, until we get the full fat Burridge infused version on Beesplayer lunchtime.

It was interesting to read the post match comments of both Dean Smith and Harlee Dean after this one. Talking to ‘official’, Dean admitted that “We lost our organisation and our discipline, we opened up too easily and they could have scored more. We need to be disciplined and have emotional control. Football is about scoring goals and you can’t get too emotionally involved when the opposition score one”.

As for Harlee, his observations were on a similar line. Along with a captain’s standard post defeat apology to those who travelled, there was an admission of tactical naivety from the players combined with their poor decisions and poor performances. Coming from the man in the midst of the action, these are probably more telling and comments I take heart from.

It is hard to remember that Harlee is only 25. One forgets just how young he was when he first turned out for Andy Scott’s Bees way back in November 2011. Yet here is a man who has fought his way up from non league and loanee to now being club captain and one of the first names on the team sheet.

c4ag2-xxuaqwcd_

Harlee Dean – also appearing on Twitter at FT

Don’t get me wrong, nobody wants to make that long journey home (longer for those who travelled on Virgin Rail if head of media relation’s Chris Wickham’s twitter account was anything to go by) on the back of a 4-2 scoreline. Yet if the players themselves are aware of where they went wrong and where they showed inconsistency (another phrase used by Harlee in that post match article and which has been visible to all but the most blinkered of supporters this season) then there is hope that this newly reinvigorated team can continue to do what they’ve been doing.

We’ve two very tricky fixtures coming up. Midweek trips to teams currently looking for play off points. Reading this Tuesday and then Sheffield Wednesday a week later.

Here’s hoping Dean can hold his nerve in regards to team selection again.

Here’s hoping the team can learn from those mistakes on Saturday.

Here’s hoping that what happened in Preston, stays in Preston.

Nick Bruzon

 

How can the same stuff happen to the same guy twice as Rangers meltdown? Can the same scoreline happen again as Bees travel North?

11 Feb

Well that’s been a busy few days off. Most of us have woken to news that Mark Warburton, David Weir and Frank McParland have, apparently, all ‘resigned’ at Rangers – something our former manager claims to know nothing about. With the Scottish club announcing that Graeme Murty is in charge, things could get interesting in the dugout at 3pm. Back in Brentford,  Josh Clarke and Dean Smith (nothing more than coincidental timing, I am sure) have both signed contract extensions whilst on pitch, not that one exists as yet, Hounslow council have given rugby club London Irish permission to ground share at Lionel Road. Yet all these are mere appetisers ahead of the main course – our trip to Preston North End.

Of course, we can only start at Deepdale. Brentford annihilated Preston 5-0 at Griffin Park earlier in the season and, based on current form, the casual observer would only expect more of the same. We’ve scored six goals  in our last two games – the first of the Hogan free era.

Aston Villa were despatched as simply as a half time balti pie offered to a hungry supporter. There was literally no resistance from the former Premier League team who were left looking somewhat like a pub side. The only disappointment being that 3-0 was scant reflection of a game where there was only one team in it.

As for Brighton on Sunday. 2-0 up and with a penalty opportunity to make it three, that one looked very much like another win fro the Bees. That it ended 3-3 was as much testament to the quality of our opponents (still very much promotion favourites and title contenders) combined with, perhaps, a touch of naivety from Brentford as the lead was retaken with 95 minutes on the clock. No criticism though. It was an honour to be part of the crowd for that one.

kk-post-goal-v-brighton

KK is in there, somewhere, celebrating a late, late ‘winner ‘ against Brighton

Yet, as we’ve mentioned before, part of this resurgence is as much down to Dean Smith’s new formation. Lasse Vibe just one of five players to get on the scoresheet in front of two wide men and two centre backs in Harlee Dean and Andreas Bjelland. More room in the middle. Jota destroying all comers and looking a class above anybody trying to stop him. With a bench that includes Josh Clarke and Sergi Canos aswell as the finally back in favour Konstantin Kerschbaumer and Alan McCormack, Dean seems to have got the balance just right. Can he do it again for a third successive game ?

Surely he’ll go for more of the same today? Although Preston are five points above the Bees, they haven’t won in four games. We know we have the beating of them and that was in a team without Jota. Yet the BBC report that with John Egan fit again, he could return to the starting line up.

All being well, this is nothing more than opportunistic journalism. And this is meant as no disrespect whatsoever to a player who has more than justified his own contract extension. Yet playing with a traditional back four, albeit one where the defence still push up, has been nothing short of revalationary. A breath of fresh air after what could, politely, be described as some turgid, sluggish and inconsistent performances.

Come on Dean, here’s hoping you have the same courage of your convictions away from home as at Griffin Park. The bookies still have Preston as favourites  – only 2 defeats in the last 12 at home likely helping their position – but the new look Bees are a force to be reckoned with. I can’t wait to see how we fare on the road.

img_5398

Jota helped destroy Brighton. And Aston Villa

Rugby is the other news to make us sit up and take notice – Mark Warburton at Rangers aside, where one can only wonder what on earth is going on. In a communications debacle to make our own media team seem like Pulitzer Prize winning journalists, the Glasgow club have released a statement to say he has quit whilst Warbs seems unaware that he has, supposedly, penned his resignation letter.

This is a situation where nobody comes out the winner. Aside from, perhaps, Celtic whose 27 point lead over closest challengers Rangers and Aberdeen seems even safer than ever. With alleged new destination Nottingham Forest already having named their interim management team, could Mark Warburton find himself temporarily out in the cold again?

It was 10 February 2015 when the story about his ‘replacement’ at the end of Brentford’s Championship season was leaked by The Times. The club handled news about that one terribly – the only way worse could have been had we included a hashtag – as Warbs , in public at least, carried himself with dignity whilst retaining the love of players and supporters alike.

Bees 1-0 v Watford Warburton

Warbs , Jota and the team on the day of village-gate 2015

Two years to the very day, it has happened again. Another announcement about his position, this time at Rangers, clouded in confusion and controversy. Who’d be a manger. Or  in a comms role…

As for the rugby, well it seems that London Irish will be the new tenants at Lionel Road, once the stadium is built. Hounslow Council have granted permission for a ground share at the new stadium. Official tell us us that “Progress on the implementation of the Brentford Community Stadium project is continuing apace, ahead of a moving in date of the season 2019/20. The full story is on the club website.

And finally, if you can get through all the adverts , pop ups and surveys on their site, (Get) West London’s Premier Journalist Tom Moore has another video. Do check it out, it’s well worth a look.

Until then, here’s to Preston.

Nick Bruzon

No fight, No clue, No nothing. Worst. Display. Ever (and that’s just Dean) as Bees go down at Chelsea.

29 Jan

Chelsea 4 Brentford 0 . Well played Chelsea. You can only beat what is put up in front of you and what comes next is by no means meant as either criticism, or over exuberant praise, of our hosts on Saturday. But that was atrocious.

An FA Cup scoreline most outsiders would have expected before kick off yet one which, with the players at Dean Smith’s disposal could have been so much closer. More to the point, with the players at Dean Smith’s disposal it should have been one which involved some passion and fight. Instead, he rolled over and had his belly tickled.

screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-08-25-03

Stat of the day going into this one..

The BBC match report has the highlights as does Match of the Day on the I-player, approximately an hour and nine minutes in. If you must do it to yourself, I’d suggest going with the latter option purely for Gaby Logan’s sub-Partridge introduction to the game “Two years ago Chelsea lost out to League One Bradford City in the Fourth round. Today’s opponents also started with ‘B R’ and ended in ‘Ford’ but could Brentford give the Premier League leaders another FA Cup thumping?

The answer was a categoric “No”.

It is said that games can hinge on a single moment. This one was the exact moment Dean Smith set up his team. Chelsea were never going to be at full strength with matches against Liverpool and Arsenal in the coming week. Even I could see that and my managerial experience has been limited to two games at the helm of the Brentford legends.(P2 W2 D0 L0. Just saying).

The only chance of getting anything out of this was to go for it from the off, get in their faces and then grind it out later on if needs be when Chelsea brought their big guns on.

Instead, we stuck to the five defenders and four midfielders in  a system totally devoid of any attacking intent. Tom Field was demoted to the bench. Jota and Josh Clarke sat along side him, with Scott Hogan helping make up the numbers. Wing backs without wings. I’ve seen more flare and width on a kipper tie. Brentford invited Chelsea to come at them and it was a tactical decision that was doomed to fail.

We will be going all-out to win the game” promised Dean on Thursday. His team and their tactics – a Marinus era display of sitting deep then passing it sideways and backwards rather than forwards – gave the impression that we would be going all out to sneak a turgid draw.

img_5307

Was this Dean’s game plan, left on the Stamford Bridge steps?

It was total exhibition stuff from Chelsea. Rather than Diego Costa, I was half expecting Antonio Conte to bring on the Harlem Globetrotters in the second half .

The opening forty-five was so abject from Brentford that the biggest cheer from the visiting fans came at half time with the news that Paul Hayes had put Wycombe 2-0 up at Spurs. Along with the likes of Aaron Pierre, Myles Weston and Sam Wood (Marcus Bean and Sam Saunders having to be content with a place on the bench) The Swans giving a perfect lesson in how to take on a below strength team at the business end of the Premier League in their own back yard.

I heard supporters berating Romaine Sawyers and Josh McEachran – claiming the latter had been more interested in his recent ‘golf photos’. Neither had great games, granted, but they were as much a product of the tactical decisions going on around them.

Tom Field was dropped. Why, Dean? Why? Even if he was as tired as you made out, at least start him for an hour then bring on Barbet for the defensive role once we are ahead. Given the line he’d spouted two weeks earlier about trusting his players in regards to ‘not picking’ Scott Hogan (because of course, that was your decision and not at all influenced) then why his sudden reversal? Tom had absolutely nailed that position in the last few months and this was as big a slap in the face as a manager/head coach (whatever) could deliver.

There was no attacking intent on the left. Barbet either too scared, or simply not allowed, to try and take it forward. No width on the right. Josh Clarke and Jota were both overlooked in favour of a 5-4-1 formation in which all 5 sat back and all 4 passed it sideways. And backwards. It was an open invitation for Chelsea to come at us. It was an invitation which required no RVSP and no second chance. It was an invitation which came with a party bag marked ‘goals’. Only Daniel Bentley and the linesman’s flag keeping the first half score respectable.

It was abundantly clear what was going to happen. Invite them on and pay the inevitable price.

img_5275

Pre kick off. Yet worse was to come. Much worse

Just look at the way the two managers/head coaches (whatever) performed. Smith, cutting a solitary figure standing motionless on the edge of his technical area. He was a man reverting to the same abject characteristics of his ill-fated predecessor, Marinus Dijkhuizen. He was a man displaying all the passion of a waterlogged stats graph and about as much technical ability.

His opposite number Antonio Conte was like a man possessed. A demented conductor, directing an orchestra of understudies. There he was, driving them on with every gesticulation. A man constantly encouraging his team and barking out orders. This, despite them being two up against a side whose sole purpose seemed to be ‘don’t lose’.

As for the Scott Hogan decision, who knows what was going on there? If there was any chance of taking anything out of the game he should have started. Or been dropped. There’s no room or place for wishy-washy nonsense. Whatever point either he or Dean are trying to prove at the moment is not in the best interests of this team.

The opening twenty minutes of the second period showed just what would happen if we decided to cross the half way line. Attacking the Shed end that housed the 6,000 Brentford fans we began the half the way we should have started the first.

And then it fizzled out as Chelsea started to play again.

screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-08-45-32

An impressive arena. A less than impressive performance

Only poor finishing and Dan Bentley had kept the scoreline vaguely respectable in that first period. With Romaine Sawyers (whose role yesterday eludes me) unable to go forward,  three static central midfielders passing it amongst themselves and the defence stretched (how can five men get stretched?) the only question was how many Chelsea would get. That it was only two, and eventually four, is a miracle in itself.

In Matthew we trust” , I wrote earlier this month. Well I stick by that. The problem being his trusted lieutenants. The players are there. The talent is there. The motivation and formation isn’t.

For gosh sake, I could have done a better job at motivating them and setting up yesterday . If that was a team designed to go ‘all-out to win the game’ (Dean’s words, not mine) then perhaps he needs a new dictionary or coaching manual.

We haven’t got a divine right to roll over anybody before us. Likewise, Chelsea are where they are for good reason. Roman’s roubles have allowed them to build a squad that is sweeping all before it in the Premier League. But if our ultimate fate was to lose, at least show a bit of passion. A bit of fight . Make a half-arsed attempt to try and get something out of the game instead of trying to chase it when it was already lost.

The most attacking intent shown by anybody vaguely connected with Brentford was from the paunchy geriatrics in the upper tier at full time, as a crazy punch up ensued amongst some agitated supporters.

Instead, we were left with the aforementioned stat of the day from Standard Sport still holding true. We’ve never had a better chance of putting this one to bed. Instead, there was no kapow from Dean Smith.

batman

Nick Bruzon

In Matthew we trust. Whatever happens over the next two weeks.

15 Jan

Newcastle United left Griffin Park with all three points last night and nobody can deny them that. They scored twice. Brentford scored once. Newsflash: that’s how football works. Yet even in defeat, I woke up this morning (duh-duh-duh-duh-duhh) full of positivity. As, it would seem, have the vast majority of those out in cyberspace. This, despite losing a game and the prospect of our star man on his way to West Ham/other after Dean’s strange decision in regards to team selection.

Thoughts on that were published in yesterday evening’s post match article. Worth a look purely for the ever eloquent views of Bernard Quackenbush in the comment’s section. And Bernard, if you are reading, then that special guest slot remains yours should you ever want to go ‘full fat’ on the column (not a euphemism).

Looking across Facebook and Twitter (other sources are also available) there is a lot of pride out there today at how well Brentford played. There is huge recognition of how well Lasse Vibe performed up top. Perhaps the immediate answer for when Scott is sold is sitting right under our noses. There is huge regret at the fact that Jota couldn’t quite complete his moment of magic in the 90th minute.

If not for the well deserved point that we would have scored but the sheer and unadulterated moment of mutual celebration that the 10,000 home supporters would have shared. Jota. In the last minute. After the Bees had been knocking on the door all second half. Just imagine the sheer ecstasy had he found the back of the net in such circumstances…

Even Mark Burridge has posted on facebook this morning to say that the game, “Was a pleasure to commentate on, Marcus, Mick and I really enjoyed it….had the last minute Jota goal happened then I feel the stadium would have erupted.”

Eruption probably the understatement of the decade.

So it is a morning of regret. But lovely regret. Disappointment yet in the nicest way. Honestly, I’m struggling to explain it properly. We lost. It’s normally the cause for a moan about not creating enough chances and, had we, then things might have been different. But yesterday we played. And we played so well. No pressure Dean, but a bar has been raised after outperforming the league leaders for huge periods.

As for Scott Hogan, well I’ve see some nonsense out there today. He didn’t come out for the second half. He didn’t warm up, his attitude sucks. Allegedly. Utter garbage.

If you want bad attitude then look at Dimitri Payet or Diego Costa. Scott has done nothing but carry on doing his thing when selected. Just look at the Birmingham game when rumours had long been gathering. You can’t blame the player for the manager’s decisions to declare him available, to not start him and then to not bring him off the bench.

We’ll sell him at some point, no question. But once the price is right. Standing outside The Griffin yesterday evening, Matthew Benham and his family walked past. “Don’t sell Hogan…” shouted one supporter . “Unless the price is right” , added another.

The response was immediate: “I’m holding out”. Anybody thinking they’ll get a cut price deal might do well to remember this isn’t the Brentford of old.

We’ll reinvest, but once the players are right (Hello? Operator? Can I have the number for Norwich City please?)  The likes of Tom Field, who had another great game yesterday, and Josh Clarke have already shown we have strength within the deeper squad. Chris Mepham has now had his debut whilst Jota is back and Rico Henry has still to show us what he can do. Alan Judge gets closer to fitness each day although perhaps that is a dream too far? Or is it?

One thing Matthew has shown is he loves to surprise us. Who would ever have thought Marcello Trotta would return after the rarely mentioned penalty incident? Yet return he did as he not only won back the fans after the lowest of lows but his goals then inspired us to that wonderful promotion.

They celebrated like they’d won the FA Cup”. Not my words but those of Russell Slade after that incredible Lunchtime at Leyton Orient. Trotta scored the winner that day yet, but for Mathew’s shock decision, we’d never have seen him in Brentford colours again. But for Matthew’s decision who knows what might have happened that season?

1-0 Marcello

Marcello – Matthew brought him back despite everything

Whatever happens with Scott Hogan, anybody doubting the player’s attitude should probably take a step back. Anybody doubting that a decision made will be for the long term good of the club and the team might want to consider how the side has ebbed, flowed and transformed over the years.

Co-director of football Rasmus Ankersen, made that famous quote back in September 2015, telling supporters that “The goal is to get stronger after each transfer window”. Being honest, it has never quite felt as though we are stronger in the immediate short term yet this team and this squad keep going.

rasmus-goal-stronger

Perhaps this is as much through long term injury. As Andre Gray was doing his thing, Scott was undergoing that long, long recuperation. Imagine a team with those two together?  Now we have Rico Henry and Lewis Mcleod out for most of the season. Yet this has given others the chance to shine and I can’t imagine Tom Field giving up his place without a fight once the former Walsall man is fit again.

I’m bored of people getting overly critical about the make up of the squad or our long term direction. And that includes myself. How that squad is managed is a different issue altogether but Dean Smith showed yesterday we have players who can do it.

We came close. We lost. But we impressed. Can Dean get us to go one better? Can we get a repeat of our last away performance when we travel to Wigan next weekend? And then there’s the small matter of Chelsea away.

Whoever is picked, it’s a great time to be a Brentford fan. We’re fast approaching our fourth season in the Championship with a wonderful opportunity to cause an incredible cup upset. I’ve said it before but need to say it again. That’s just bonkers. Moreso, for those of us who have been here for sometime.

cliff-and-mike-1

Mike Ashley and Cliff Crown yesterday – Brentford now mixing it with the big boys

Anybody who doubts how far we’ve come just needs to look at yesterday’s match day programme. Part one of Mark Chapman’s piece on the failed takeover attempt by QPR is well, well worth a read to remind ourselves of what once might have been.

I disagree with how Dean handled Scott yesterday. A poor decision. One of the B-team should have been recalled. But I admire his trust in Lasse and how good to see that rewarded.

Who knows what will happen over the next two weeks? It might not be pretty. It might not be pleasing. Yet one can only trust in everything that has gone before and the way we are continuing to build for our long term future.

Now, who’s got shovel ? There’s a stadium to build.

vp3pyqad-jpg-large

The programme this season has been quality – credit to Mark Chapman

Nick Bruzon

Brentford held by Norwich as 2016 ends with a whimper, Jools and Robbie’s hand gel

1 Jan

New Years Eve. So often the most over-rated night of the year. The Emperor’s New Clothes of nights out where society dictates that you will enjoy yourself but then promptly laughs in your face by offering up Jools Holland boogie-woogying his way through another Hootenanny as a means of doing so. A turgid, self-indulgent affair whose primary function (aside from showing how many friends our host has – a musical Ian Moose, if you will) seems to be in proving that Roland Rivron remains alive. Take that, 2016 – here’s one you didn’t get your hands on.

And so it was at Griffin Park where Brentford and Norwich City were the pre-Jools entertainment in a televised game that would have had most of those watching at home asleep in their armchairs long before the former Squeeze man had begun tinkling on his ivories. Instead of the excitement we’d been promised  by Sky. Instead of the pre-match buzz generated by the news that Jota was returning. Instead of (potentially) seeing Scott Hogan off in style we had nothing but an awful game of football. Sometimes you get them and this was up there.

screen-shot-2017-01-01-at-08-56-40

The Bees could find no way through the Canaries

Dean Smith seemed so intent on avoiding a repeat of the month’s 5-0 hammering at Carrow Road that he strangled the midfield and offered minimal width. The aforementioned Hogan looked off the pace and out of sorts whilst the slippery conditions did nobody any favours. That the Bees ended the game having no shots on target tells you everything you need to know as we were left unable to break through a Norwich team who  played the last 15 minutes a man down, after Robbie Brady was shown straight red for a foul on Ryan Woods.

Watching the ‘highlights’ afterwards (and I use that word in the loosest sense) it didn’t seem half as bad as it had done live, with no chance of a replay. The incident, which happened right in front of yours truly, looked a nailed on ‘red’ with the Ginger Pirlo likewise able to demonstrate a nasty looking contact mark to both the referee and protesting Norwich players as Brady eventually trooped off.

Yet rightly or wrongly, Brentford had been handed an advantage. Here was a chance to go for it. Despite like for like subs already having been made (Barbet on for the ever impressive Tom Field and favourite son Romaine Sawyers replacing Josh McEachran) here was an opportunity to apply some pressure. Pull off a defender. Maybe Nico. Stick on the pace and trickery of Josh Clarke to run riot?

But no, it wasn’t until the scoreboard read 88 that John Egan was subbed by The Hoff. Why so late? There was hardly any time to make an impact. Why not inject some much needed pace and width? Why, if you are going to take off a defender, choose the player who is our second highest scorer for the season?

Even then, we still had chance. Hogan was played clean through, only to be denied by a wonderful last gasp tackle from Ryan Bennett. With the striker unable to unleash it meant we were denied a penalty kick although unlike the trio of bad decisions in the Boxing Day clash with Cardiff City, this one the correct call.

The Bees will stay up. The Bees won’t go up. We haven’t got a divine right to be any good and, at the end of the day, Clive, we haven’t lost. We looked the other day at viewing everything in both historical and long term context and that still rings true. Yet even allowing for that, it is still frustrating to see teams that we should be beating given the opportunity to run at us (there’s no denying Norwich City had the better chances) and around us as safety first and backwards seems to be the order of the day. Given the resources we do have, surely it is more a case of being able to get the best out of what we have and positioning them accordingly to react to, or even heaven forbid anticipate, the situation? When these players are on fire, they really can perform wonders.

In the end, but for Cameron Jerome’s woeful shooting  (Cameron Diaz would have done better with one particular effort in the second half) we could have ended this one pointless. Which, ironically, is how all supporters finished the game. What seemed to be an announcement by Peter Gilham just prior to kick off that club shop loyalty points were going to expire that day, was then confirmed on social media and in an article published on the clubwebiste at 18.18 (that’s well into the first half of the game we were watching) to say these would expire at 19.45.

And sure enough, on getting home and ‘logging on’ my balance was zero.

No doubt this was all in the terms and conditions but would it have hurt to make an announcement a little more in advance to come over as a little better organised? Look, I may well have missed this and if so then ‘hands up’ but if not, it would seem a really poor way to end a promotion which is designed around encouraging supporters to spend and accrue. Which is a shame for no other reason than we’re normally so good at fan interaction.

Instead, 2016 closed with two promotion hopes at an end – that in the league and that in the club shop.

In its place, 2017 arrived. Off pitch Jools traded places for Robbie Williams to deliver a lumpen set of karaoke greatest hits. The phrase ‘going through the motions’ sprang to mind whilst as the traditional Auld Lang Syne ended, he was caught on camera wiping his hands with anti-bacterial hand sanitiser moments after high-fiving his audience. Stay classy.

At Griffin Park, 2017 brings more questions. How is Alan Judge? Will we see him, Macca or KK again? Will the club break ground at Lionel Road? Will Scott Hogan be sold? Will he play against Birmingham on Monday? Just who will any goal threat come from if he isn’t on the pitch? Could we see him and Jota in the same team? Let’s not forget that the talismanic Spaniard is winging his way back to Griffin Park and, apparently, it was he who initiated the discussions.

Whilst the pressure and expectation on his shoulders will be immense, there’s no denying the roof will be raised should he make an appearance on Saturday in the cup. Certainly he gives Dean Smith a wonderful option.

If used correctly.

screen-shot-2016-12-31-at-12-21-37

He’s coming home

Nick Bruzon

Return of the Mac ? Something has to give as Bees aim to sting Canaries.

3 Dec

Too obvious? Apologies. A full house today in local paper football headline bingo (try saying that after a night out). With Brentford and Norwich City both experiencing what Dean Smith has described as ‘blips’, whilst the teams’ respective form has been well documented as LLL and LLLLL , something has to give at Carrow Road today. The obvious question is, what?

I haven’t seen enough of Norwich City to overly comment on what they are doing wrong all of a sudden. But with the likes of Sergi Canos and Alex Pritchard not featuring at present (although the later did make a 67th minute appearance from the bench last weekend) one has to wonder what talent they have ahed oaf them? And why it is failing to fire after a start to proceedings that made it look as though an immediate return to the Premier League was high on the agenda?

canos-norwich

Sergi – in the unfamiliar yellow and green

The ever wonderful Beesotted have cut to the nub of matter. Do take the time to read their article today in which Norwich supporter Jon Rogers describes the footballing fayre currently on offer as “pedestrian. It’s very congested. It’s sometimes slow and dull”.

Can Dean Smith and Brentford take advantage of this? Sure, we’ve had 1 win in 8 and lost three on the bounce but it still seems incredible that we got nothing out of the Birmingham game. It was the proverbial case of doing everything but score a second goal whilst I’m still in awe at the wonder save Tomasz Kuszczak pulled off to deny Scott Hogan’s net bound effort. We know the defending against Blackburn was uncharacteristically shambolic (although at least the team scored a few) whilst Fulham (h) was the performance that we don’t talk about . Move along, nothing to see here.

Yet how quickly things change, Had we beaten Fulham, we’d have made it into the play-off zone that evening. Now, Brentford sit four points above the relegation place (albeit with another five teams between us and Cardiff City). Yet a win today could take us back up to tenth. Things are still that tight.

So just how does Dean take advantage of slow and dull Norwich? How does he convince his team they really are world beaters. To avert a situation arising where, in his own words, “Sometimes we can catastrophise defeats and that leads to a demise in confidence.

Well, if Norwich are as pedestrian as we’ve been promised, then the likes of Sullay Kaikai and Josh Clarke could run riot. But I’m more interested to see if Dean will perform a further midfield shuffle and parachute Alan McCormack into the side. Is an immediate return following his five match ban and ‘that suspension’ something we can expect?.

alan-mccormack

Will Norwich see return of the Mac?

Personally I thought Josh McEachran did really well coming on as substitute at the weekend. Likewise, when the three centre back system settled it looked a lot better than in the opening period. So, for me, its a place on the bench for Macca with Josh (M) in the middle and Josh (C) in place of Lasse. If we’re talking about catastrophising defeat then the great Dane’s miss against Birmingham has enough in it for an Irwin Allen movie (kids, ask your dads). One presumes Romaine Sawyers will keep a place and so that leaves Ryan Woods with Scott Hogan up top.

Then again, I’m just the numpty on the terrace. If it were down to me I’d have given KK a few starts by this juncture. Yet, for whatever reason, he’s currently got more chance of a run around Richmond Park than a run in the team. Likewiswe, with Andy Gogia scoring for fun on loan in Germany and Jota doing God knows what on loan in Spain, the Griffin Park midfield situation has more questions than answers at present.

All are questions that will no doubt be forgotten or, at the least, put to one side should Dean and the boys pick up three points today. Whatever the run of results, there’s enough talent in that Brentford team – as was shown in the way we played in the denouement of the Birmingham game.

Can we pick up where we left off? At 3pm, we find out.

gp-corner

Griffin Park looked glorious against Birmingham, even if the result wasn’t

Nick Bruzon

Where’s Miss Marple? BBC Phil nails it as Birmingham City get away with murder.

27 Nov

Well, perhaps murder is a bit extreme. Although if not that, certainly a case of “Call the police, there’s been a robbery” as Birmingham City left a sunset drenched Griffin Park with all three points yesterday following a 2-1 win over Brentford. With Norwich City also losing, again, it makes next weekend’s road trip very interesting indeed.

gp-corner

Griffin Park looked glorious, even if the result wasn’t

But before we get too ahead of ourselves and think about Carrow Road , let’s look back at this one first. For me, it was a game which could be summed up at the highest level in three quotes:

Birmingham City boss Gary Rowett :“We rode our luck and if luck was a horse I have won the Grand National today”.

Dean Smith: “If it was a boxing match it would have been stopped”

Phil Parry of BBC London : How is it still 1-0 to Brum??? How did Vibe not score?? Where’s Miss Marple?

First up, Mr Rowett. Honest of him to admit but, equally, teams ride their luck. Teams take their chances. Teams play worse and win. His Birmingham did that yesterday, ably helped by a couple of wonder saves from Tomasz Kuszczak in the second half.

As for the goals, both were presented to Birmingham on a plate. The first saw a penalty awarded for a foul on Clayton Donaldson as the former Bee ran onto a ball threaded straight through the midfield and our plethora of centre backs. Dan Bentley was adjudged to have brought him down and the spot kick duly despatched. Indeed, but for Andreas Bjelland running across, surely red would have been shown and, with it, a possible league debut for Jack Bonham.

The irony of Clayton even winning a penalty at Griffin Park was missed by nobody. I’ve lost count of the number of nailed on spot kicks denied in League One as he’d be kicked, tripped , manhandled or wrestled to the ground only to see his claims waived away. Maybe it was just a Brentford thing.

I’ve all the time in the world for the big man, even now. When his contract expired, Birmingham were there to offer him what he wanted and allow him to move closer to home. We couldn’t match that. And so some of the abuse he was coming in for yesterday seemed harsh – especially after the penalty. What’s he going to do – not score? I’m not going to openly cheer somebody who is now an opposition player but at the same time, have some class.

img_3754

View from the terrace – Clayton fires home for 0-1

The second goal was an equally disappointing one to concede. Also, from a dead ball situation as a free kick was awarded in front of the away fans and out near the Braemar Road touchline . With all the time we needed to set ourselves up to defend, City were still able to float it over our plethora of centre backs to the far post where Ryan Shotton was able to stroll clear of his marker and tap home for 2-0.

As for Dean Smith, he can talk about it being a boxing match that should have been stopped but that’s not how football works. Nobody cares how much possession a team had, how many shots were rifled in or how unlucky you were. At the end of the day, Clive (and as we’ve said many times before) the only stat that counts is balls in the back of net.

“If we played them ten times again we would beat them nine times: It was that one sided” he also added – that one in the interview on ‘official’. He’s probably right but we got off to a very slow start in a system that took everybody some getting used to – three centre backs in the middle and a fourth playing out left, with Max Colin on the right. To be fair to Dean, I had wondered if this is how he would crowbar the glut of defensive talent together and so let’s not write this one off. Certainly, it allowed Barbet to get into some very advanced positions and I’ve a feeling we’ll see more of the same against Norwich next weekend.

Yet despite Brentford continuing to build the pressure, turn the screw and find ourselves in full ‘unlucky’ mode, it was the second half and Birmingham were 2 goals up. Then Scott Hogan happened. Again.

Getting onto the end of a ball floated into the box from Josh Clarke, he beat Kuzczak to dink his header past the otherwise excellent ‘keeper and into the back of the net to send the home fans delirious. It set up the proverbial grandstand finale in which if Dean Smith had a kitchen sink on the bench I’m sure he would have brought that on, such was the amount chucked at the Birmingham goal .

And then it happened. 2-2!! Andreas Bjelland with a header from a Ryan woods cross. Or was it Scott Hogan with the faintest of toe pokes from an Andreas Bjelland header? Either way, the one man goal machine was adjudged offside as a result. Standing behind the goal it looked like Bjelland’s effort all the way and a very harsh call from the referee and his his assistant. Brentford official were more diplomatic in their match repot saying, “It is possible that if Hogan had not touched it the goal may have stood but the movement of the Brentford man definitely affected Kuszczak and he would probably have saved it without the touch.

The third quote at the top end was from Phil Parry, on Twitter, mid-match as Lasse Vibe failed to put it in from yards out with the ‘keeper beaten and two defenders on the line.

screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-06-32-01

Gut reaction at the time was, like Phil, just how did he miss that? How? Looking back at the video  – and you can see the highlights on Sky at present (until the BeesPlayer goes live at mid-day)  – perhaps at first the ball gets gets caught up in his legs a bit. Likewise, he maybe takes one turn too many that allows the defenders time to position themselves more. Either way, a chance that he’ll be bitterly disappointed not to have buried from that starting position.

It was always going to be tough game. To be honest, we created more decent chances than I expected us to . It’s just a huge shame that when it came to putting them away a combination of great ‘keeping and bad luck have conspired against us. Then again,  Birmingham City have delivered the quintessential lesson in taking the opportunity when it arises.

Dean Smith also noted at full time that,  “We have played two weekends, Blackburn Rovers and Birmingham City, and we should be sitting here really pleased with six points…However, we are here with zero and that is the Championship.

It is Dean, it is. But with only 1 win from the last 8 games, I’m very interested to see what you do next to try and increase those points from zero to three. Surely it can’t all be down to bad luck?

As for next weekend and Norwich City, well they lost again yesterday. That’s five defeats in a row for the once high flying Canaries. Are they the ones to help us return to wining ways…?

Nick Bruzon