Tag Archives: Neal Maupay

Is something rotten in the state of Brentford?

9 Dec

We’ve not really touched these pages in the last week or two. Matters outside of Griffin Park (namely, a social life rearing it’s head once more like some long forgotten relic of pre-parental life) have meant the column takes a back seat. To be honest, it’s probably no bad thing given the recent run in form that for Brentford finally looked like it may be coming to a halt with that 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion on Monday night. We all know what happened there, with the Bees doing to ‘deserving’ opponents what our own head coaches have felt hard done by so many times over the last few seasons. An injury time equaliser from Lewis Macleod rescuing a point after the hosts had conspired to miss all manner of seemingly unmissable chances earlier on. Good news, we thought. We have stopped the bleeding (not my words but those of Thomas Frank). Then Swansea City happened and a 3-2 defeat that was about as shambolic as it has been in recent months.

The Bees were a goal down with less than 30 seconds on the clock. The Griffin Park scoreboard hadn’t even sprung into life by the time Wayne Routledge had tapped home the opener after the defence had failed spectacularly to clear the most innocuous of pass backs and straight crosses. It was 2-0 Swansea soon after as Chris Mepham turned into his own net to gift the visitors a second. That the clock was registering 27 by the time Swansea made it three was only due to the injury suffered by Martin Olsson. One can only hope that the lengthy treatment before play resumed (there were 8 minutes added on at the end of the first half) was precautionary but it didn’t look good from where we sat on the far side.

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No minutes on the clock and already a goal down. 

That third goal was everything that was wrong with the team at present. A listless ball across midfield that was picked up by nobody. A needless free kick awarded on the right hand side. A ball delivered in that wasn’t cleared far enough before spaces were left for the return that would have embarrassed my son’s U-6 team. Kudos to Ollie McBurnie for attempting the overhead kick that lead to their goal but that he was even afforded that much room was a crime in itself. Leroy Fer made no mistake as the Brentford defence were unable to mop up the resulting detritus. I’ve seen better markers in a packet of Sharpies. 3-0 down and 27 minutes gone, 8 of which had seen the clock stopped for Olsson’s injury.

Frustratingly for Brentford, that unfortunate break in play should have allowed the team time to regroup. To have a chat about what next to avoid the inevitable third and actually find a way back into the game. But there had been nothing and the inevitable happened.

That’s it. If you want to read about inspired comebacks. About almost snatching a point. About hitting the bar two or three times then be my guest. Here’s the BBC website. Here’s Brentford official. Here’s Sky Sports where the report is about as lightweight as our midfield was for that opening period but they do have the goal highlights. I’d suggest you watch them just to see how not to play football.

Don’t let a fight back fool you or mask over another dreadful start. I’d hope Thomas has been up all night figuring out how to repair the gaping holes in the team, in their confidence and in supporter morale. The boos on the third goal and half time suggest that the crowd as finally been lost.

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View from the Braemar. The perimeter boards really rubbing it in during the first half.

It was yet another game where quite wonderful individuals have been that. Individual. Where the team spirit has seemingly gone out the window. Where the inability to kick a ball forward instead of faff has cost us. Where the result of being unable to put in a challenge has been a glut of goals conceded in a short space of time. See also Preston. QPR. Middlesbrough. Sheffield United. I honestly thought the game with the Blades had seen us as off the pace as we could possibly be but this one really trumped it.

That first half was on a par with, if not worse than, Oxford United in the league cup a few years back. At least in that one (and we’re clutching at straws) Marinus could blame his relative short time in the job, the sandpit of a pitch and his own tactical naivety in picking eleven players with barely a handful of first team appearances between them. But Thomas has been part of the set up for two years. He knows the players. They know him. This was a good line up – on paper – but instead it did what it has done time and again in recent weeks. Defensive hesitancy. Midfield absence. Full backs brutally exposed. Passing the ball sideways and backwards instead of forward. Inability to make a challenge, close down or simply mark an opponent. Just not kicking it away when it was near the goal. The ‘discussion’ amongst the team after the third went in was there for all to see.

To be fair, it changed after. As the heavens opened, the Bees came alive. Albeit Brentford very much had Daniel Bentley to thank for even keeping us alive at 3-1 down. This after Ollie Watkins had pulled one back in the first half and before Said Benhrahma gave us hope with a wonderful freekick midway through the second. But it was all too late. You can’t keep on giving away 2 or 3 quick fire goals – bang, bang, bang – and expect to take anything from a game.

From the point where we were named as joint favourites for the league title with Leeds United, Brentford have not so much hit the skids as gone through the crash barrier and plummeted down the mountain side. We’ve got games coming up at Hull City and then home to Bolton Wanderers. Both sides in the rapidly diminishing clutch of teams currently below the Bees. Failure to pick up at least 4 points out of 6 in those will see us getting sucked into that relegation vortex.

It’ll be a big ask given Thomas has only picked up 4 points from his opening 9 games. Even Marinus had managed 8 from the same period. What we’d give for that sort of form at the moment although please note the Dijkuizen experiment is not one I’m calling for a return of. Ever.

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Marinus and the Oxford United fiasco (not a prog rock band). Never forget

What’s really troubling me is why this isn’t working at the moment. We’ve had many poor teams and poor runs over the years at whatever level we’ve played. But the squad is currently packed full of internationals. It is the same squad Dean Smith had. We have the Championship’s second top scorer (Neal Maupay currently one behind Lewis Grabban). Top flight clubs covet the likes of Ollie Watkins, Chris Mepham, Daniel Bentley and Ezri Konsa. Josh McEachran (up there for player of the season so far) has pretentions of playing for England.

We’re not talking about times where the set up has been so thin that we’ve had to beg a favour off Neil Shipperly. These are good players. Great players. Players who hit the ground running and propelled Brentford to the very top end of the table back in August and September. Now, they’ve got all the confidence of a studio audience going in to a recording of Mrs. Brown’s Boys.

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Neil Shipperley. Never forget

Is it simply bad luck? Injuries limiting selection? Or is there something going on behind the scenes. Something as simple as an arm around the shoulders that is missing? Or something more in tune with a change in tactical set up? This should have been a seamless transition but for whatever reason it’s just not working out at the moment.

Let’s not pretend that the end of Dean Smith’s time here didn’t see us in a mini-blip relative to what he’d done prior with just 1 win out of 6. Yet what was intrinsically different then was that he had the winning form that made nobody in any doubt it would be back again soon. Even when we weren’t taking all three points, there was none of this constant shipping of goals over a short space of time.

Nobody has a divine right to be any good. We can’t just rock up and expect to win. Equally though, you still need to rock up in the first place. You can’t keep on giving the opposition two or three goal leads and expect to come away with anything.

Thomas has got a huge, huge challenge ahead of him. Both tactically and psychologically. I hope he has thick skin and a plan B. Or C. The way the crowd reacted yesterday after a frankly awful opening period suggest that if he can’t turn things around fast, things could get very ugly. For everyone.

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Raining (goals) at Griffin Park v Swansea

Nick Bruzon

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Tough questions to ask, and answer, after an insipid performance under the lights.

28 Nov

Well that was awful yesterday. And not the news that Mrs. Brown’s Boys leads the BBC Christmas schedule with two episodes of the alleged ‘favourite’ having been commissioned for the festive period.  Of course we mean football where, being honest, even after sleeping on this one I’m struggling to be positive this morning. That Sheffield United made it 6 defeats out of 7(seven) for Brentford since Dean Smith left is almost secondary. The 3-2 loss contained so many problems that even had we grabbed a last gasp equaliser, it would actually have masked the deficiencies as I’ve no doubt we’d be told how this team never gives up and keeps fighting until the end. Yet the simple fact is this game should have been well out of sight by half-time. How the visitors only led by a single goal as we went in for our bovril I’m still not sure. With a televised trip to West Bromwich Albion next up on Monday night, it’s not going to get any easier for Thomas Frank’s Bees.

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Incredibly…. You HAVE been warned.

It had all started off so brightly. Despite the sparce crowd, Buzz and Buzzette did their level best to get things going before kick-off. The team came out of the traps flying and it wasn’t long before we’d raced into the lead. With just 6 minutes gone, Romaine Sawyers played Neal Maupay through and there was no mistake as the Championship’s top scorer grabbed his 13thof the campaign. What a start. But what a response was to follow.

Straight from the kick-off, the Blades poured forward in a move which culminated with Daniel Bentley’s crossbar left quivering after John Lundstrum blasted it from ten yards out. By all rights he should have scored given the space and position in which he found himself in front of the goal. It was a massive let off for Brentford and alarm bells should have been ringing. If so, nobody was listening.

Just a few minutes later Sheffield United were level as Ezri Konsa turned a corner into his own net for 1-1. And then it was 2. Oliver Norwood giving the visitors the lead with just a quarter hour gone after hitting a beauty from outside the box. Catching it first time the ball rose, curled and then dipped past Bentley high into the back of the net. It was a magnificent strike but saw yet another game where we’d conceded a batch of goals in short space of time to throw things away.

It could, probably should, have been worse after Daniel Bentley made a wonderful save at close range half way through the opening period after denying United from close range with a huge stop.

Yet in return, we offered nothing. The goal aside Brentford were lacklustre. Abject. Masters of our own self-destruction. Sideways and backwards passing saw us unable to make inroads once the visitors had settled. The midfield lacked bite and a leader. Lewis Macleod lightweight. Alan Judge making the effort but getting drawn out of position time and again. Josh McEachran uncharacteristically tetchy. Lucky to escape a booking for a quite blatant push in front of the ref that gave away a free-kick in the heart of Saunders territory. Captain Romaine Sawyers conspicuous by his silence. Where was the desire? Where was the will to win? If it was there then I didn’t see it. And that’s the most disappointing aspect of the night.

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United were head and shoulders above Brentford in the first half.

Yet. Yet. Half-time came and it was only 2-1. Despite it all, we were still very much alive. Whilst United started brightly once more, Brentford soon stepped it up. This was more like it. The pressure built. The ball started to move forward. The crowd started to lift and just after the hour Romaine Sawyers saw his cross-come-shot turned in by John Fleck for the game’s second o.g. as parity was restored. That was better and there was only one team in it from here? Wasn’t there.

Err, yes. Sheffield United.

Instead of pushing on, Brentford allowed the frailties of the first half to return. Sheffield United were given the freedom of Griffin Park as our defence once more turned into vampires. Scared of crosses. If the first goal had seen us concede from a position where we’d have expected Mepham (who missed it) or Konsa (who gifted the goal) the opportunity to clear, Leon Clarke’s winner was even worse. I’ve seen caravans that were less static. Like Middlesbrough at the weekend, a well delivered ball into the box was our undoing.

Clarke may have been embarrassed by the copious space he was left in but he made no mistake. His shot was hard and low past the diving Bentley for 3-2. And that’s how it stayed. The subsequent substitutions making no difference to a Brentford team that limped towards the final whistle.

But for me, the most telling sign was at the death. With the Bees awarded a late free-kick, Thomas Frank was clearly telling Chris Mepham to push up into the box. There followed a quite bizarre looking argument of shrugging, arms open in the ‘what’s going on?’ position and the player refusing to move up. Eventually, he would but it did beg the question what all that was about?

Lack of respect? Frustration? Or just a general confusion about what we should be doing in a dead ball situation? Why isn’t this sort of stuff clarified on the training ground rather than in the public eye? If nothing else, football 101 says that when a team is goal down and awarded a dangerous spot kick at the death, everybody piles up. Sometimes even the ‘keeper. What you don’t do is argue with the boss and keep two defenders back.

I’m not a coach. I’m not a manager. I’m just the numpty on the terrace and you may think I’ve called this all wrong. Fair enough if so. It should have been a quite fantastic night under the floodlights. I take no pleasure from moaning about the team and have looked to remain upbeat this campaign. Yet that was painful last night and don’t let the closeness of the result fool anyone. Brentford were second in every respect. Goals scored. Cohesiveness. Attitude.

We don’t have a divine right to be any good. I’ve said this many times and it’s true. Yet to see players who we know are more than capable looking so out of sorts is just wrong. To see a team looking so bereft of ideas when we’ve torn rivals apart at times is a worry. And whilst Thomas may be on the business end of the bad run, let’s not forget that despite all the ‘deserving’, the culmination of Dean’s time in charge saw only 1 win out of 6. Even Marinus had a better track record at this stage of ‘games played’ into his own start – and that’s a scary thing to acknowledge.

We do have injuries, of course. Who wouldn’t miss the likes of Ollie Watkins or Saïd Benrahma? Rico Henry and Emiliano Marcondes are only just returning to action.  The ability is there amongst those who are fit.

The real question now is not the position of the head coach, which many fans are already questioning, but more what he does to unlock the talent and inspire his team.

Roll on West Brom when we find out.

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The floodlights providing a rare bright moment

Nick Bruzon

Another defensive copy/paste but at least we’re getting good at kick-offs.

11 Nov

QPR 3. Brentford 2. What can you say? Not much. Try the BBC, Beesotted or ‘official’ for your match reports. Results saw The Bees end the day in 15th whilst our next opponents, Middlesbrough are up to second after their own win. Only Norwich City, our previous ‘away’ opposition, stand between them and the table top. Nobody said Championship life was easy, that’s for sure. But those goals against yesterday. Ewww. Not pretty. It felt like Preston all over again. If you want to see them once more then the defensive highlights are below.

Defensively challenged

It had all promised so much. The Bees back to winning ways and picking up the first points for Thomas Frank after steam-rollering Millwall last weekend. The team flying once more after being bundled (and rained) out of it at Norwich City. QPR with the somewhat dubious lure of having just seen Steve McClaren named as October’s ‘manager-of-the-month’. We all know what ‘should’ happen after that.  Everything was in place for another win. And then disaster struck as the defence went walk about for a ten-minute spell in the second half.

You were there. You don’t need me to repeat the obvious or dissect this further. It was something that Thomas had no choice but to acknowledge in his own post-match interview –  which you can see in full further below. That chat, one which looked like it was taking place in front of a room previously occupied by the Loftus Road firing squad.  

Yet more agonising was the fact that this was the second time in the last three away games that we’ve gone awol for a short period, during which time three goals have been conceded and the game effectively lost. Don’t forget there was also the trip to Preston last month where the score reached 3-0 to the home team before we’d even left the changing room.

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Thomas  updates us. (But has anyone seen Ian Holloway or Chris Ramsey, recently?)

That we almost turned that one around and gave ourselves hope yesterday when the World Cup’s Henrik Dalsgaard of Brentford made it 3-2 with 82 on the clock makes it all the more frustrating. All the more confusing. Similar happened at Deepdale. We can score goals. We play beautiful attacking football at times. Our young centre backs are quite magnificent whilst it’s wonderful having Moses Odubajo back aswell. We all know how strong Daniel Bentley has been for us. Just why do we have these blips?  

Well, as Thomas noted in that video, “The most important thing for me at the moment is the desire to get better”. Likewise, his comments on the BBC after both yesterday’s game and the one at Preston have a very similar feel.

Preston: Three goals away from home should be more than enough to win three points but we need to defend better in general. In this league you need to be on it.

QPR: In the second half we had a blackout more or less for 10 minutes, where we defended way too soft for all three goals. We need to do that better in general.

Doom and gloom from me? No. Frustration and confusion. That’s for sure. As much due to the injuries. Ollie Watkins, who had a blinder after he came on against Millwall, was missing due to what Thomas described as, “A toe issue where the joint in the toe is twisted“. So nothing to do with any rumoured transfer interest, which is good….

Yet it was those injuries that occurred once the game had started that caused as much concern. With Brentford heading towards half time one up c/o Neal Maupay (now up to 12 Championship goals already) things were looking good. Then, with the tea brewing, he collapsed to the floor unchallenged and ended up being stretched off. The concern was palpable and was later confirmed as the result of a concussion.

Sadly there was worse to come with Said Benrahma taking his place on the stretcher after rolling his ankle in the build-up to Henrik’s goal. Thomas would later confirm that the Algerian had rolled his ankle although, as yet, there’s no prognosis as to severity or recovery time. Here’s hoping it’s not as severe as first thought. The only saving grace here being that we’ve two weeks off thanks to International break for that recuperation process to begin in earnest. And to practice defending…..

From 1-0 up on fifty minutes, Brentford were then given three further attempts to perfect our kick off routine as the clock reached the hour mark. Whilst we’d lost Neal Maupay, that shouldn’t stop goals going in. Should it?  

Well, with no viable alternative then taking the option to push Sergi (or anyone) up top would only ever have an impact on the shape. But who else was there to fill that void? With absolute respect to Alan Judge, we’ve tried him there at Loftus Road and things didn’t exactly work out well for the team. The lack of alternate striking option has long been flagged on the terraces as a concern. Moreso, with Ollie also sitting this one out. In this instance, the percentages backfired.  

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Recent periods of the defence going awol have been a gift for our opponents

But I still maintain we have absolute quality in this squad. On its day, our first team is about as strong as we’ve seen. Talking to a fellow dad (and former Bee) at Harry’s football training in the morning, he was enthusing about the quality of football he’s having the pleasure of watching at present. On the way home from that, we happened to spot Neal Maupay whose enthusiastic hello to HB and chat about what was coming up that afternoon suggested everything was set for a fairytale ending.

Sadly, it wasn’t to be. A frustrating finish to a day that had promised so much but, equally, one step missed in a longer journey being taken. The forthcoming Middlesbrough game is about as tough as they come. Moreso, given our own recent form against them. It would be great if for that one the defensive blips could be cured on the pitch rather than afterwards in the post-match analysis.

We’ve two weeks to really figure them out and get our players fit again. There’s been a hell of a lot of football played in the space of a few weeks. Perhaps all of us recharging would be for the best.

In the meantime, here’s that interview with Thomas…

Thomas talks

Nick Bruzon

Spending big is not necessarily spending clever.

6 Nov

Good morning Brentford fans. And it is a very good morning. A quick look at the Premier league table following last night’s results shows Fulham firmly anchored to the bottom. Their 1-0 loss at a Huddersfield Town side (who themselves scored their first home goal since mid-April) sees our West London neighbours propping up the rest of the league. Statistically speaking, that’s 24 points behind leaders Manchester City after just eight games and with a trip to Liverpool next up.

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Happy Tuesday in the Premier League

The current predicament seems even more horrific when you look at the outlay from Fulham over the summer. It’s been widely documented that the £100.3m they spent has  been matched by a mere £4m coming in. They’ve kept their squad together and built on it. Hugely. A net outlay of £96.3m is only beaten by Liverpool who top the big spenders on £131m (161m out ; 30m in).  

And what is the result of this? A top flight record of ‘goals against’ for a Premier League start (29 conceded already), the worst goal difference in the division, a form record of LLLLL and a confidence level that saw the BBC match report subsequently describe them as: ”A fragile Fulham side, stripped of confidence and there for the taking.”  

It’s easy to laugh. Let’s be honest. Equally, let’s not make out we wouldn’t like to be feasting at a higher table. Yet that is something which I have no doubt will come. And, when it does, we’ll be competing rather than unable to scrap for the crumbs discarded by others. We’ve talked so often on these pages over the last couple of seasons about how Brentford are doing things. How we are spending cleverly, within means, and using our unique methods in order to stay afloat, comply with FFP but also build for the future at Lionel Road. It becomes a bit of a cracked record at times yet when you see the talent that has been uncovered, aswell as being sold for vast profit down the line as the team continue to step up, one has to step back and take notice.

Likewise, I’m not going to pretend I wouldn’t love to have seen some of those heroes stay on. It still hurts so much to see Jota in the blue of Birmingham City although nobody could deny the form of our current widemen. Having the likes of Ollie Watkins, Sergi Canos and Said Benrahma as regular starters / first choice substitutes a luxury not many managers in this division have the benefit of. That, a situation which has arisen because of our ‘buy low and sell high’ policy. The departure of Harlee Dean (as much due to the the emergence of Chris Mepham) helped facilitate the return of Moses Odubajo and what already seems a huge bargain in picking up Ezri Konsa to further enhance the current squad. Then there’s Neal Maupay…

He’s the Championship’s leading scorer. He’s the Championship’s leading provider of assists. He’s the player who endured such a torrid start to his Brentford career last season – and that was just from Ian Moose. He’s the player who found his feet and perhaps, if anyone, illustrated just how fragile Fulham are when he bagged that late, late equaliser back in April  – ironically, the same day Huddersfield scored their previous home goal. It was a goal that deflated Fulham as easily as somebody letting the air out of a clacker or blow up hand and should have been seen as a warning sign.

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Mark Fuller’s picture captured THE moment at Fulham

Spending big is not necessarily spending clever. That’s for sure. Yet by the same virtue, look at Manchester City. Compared to previous ‘windows’ they’ve barely troubled the scorers over the summer. This, something very much in isolation for them. At the same time, I read a piece yesterday by Miguel Delaney of The Independent. It was an article described by the author himself on Twitter as an “Upbeat piece on football’s impending death”.

Click bait theatrics or genuine cause for alarm? The collapse at The Cottage is great value. For us, at least. The longer term prognosis in the top flight is, if you share Miguel’s opinion, a somewhat more concerning one. If you read one article today, make it his. You can do so here. Whatever your view on City’s approach, it’s well worth a look –  enjoy.

Nick Bruzon

Toothless Lions tamed with strike of Sergi-cal precision.

4 Nov

My word. What an afternoon. What a way to return to form. What a time to do it with the trip to QPR next up. Brentford beat Millwall 2-0 in a game that, as it progressed, could easily have seen that score doubled. It was a magnificent team performance exemplified by solid defence, rapid counter attack football and a forward drive that had been so desperately missing last weekend at Norwich. Sergi Canos and Ollie Watkins took their chances brilliantly to give us the goals, each player clean through to tuck it home, but don’t underestimate the way the whole team played here. Said Benrahma must be wondering how his delicious first half curler from the outskirts of the penalty box stayed out (curse that far upright) whilst Said Maupay also touched wood in the second period. Even Daniel Bentley had to stay alert to make one smart save with the scores locked at 0-0. That’s not to overly lavish praise on one over another here. It was about as ‘team’ as it comes yesterday. You could see what this one meant to Thomas Frank at full-time, clapping all the home fans and acknowledging anyone who looked to single him out, as our new head coach got his first points on the board.

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View from the Braemar – Said had a cracking game

That’s the game in a paragraph. As you know, we don’t do the full-fat match reports here. Go to the always wonderful Beesotted, the BBC or, of course, Brentford ‘official’ for that. Sky TV have the highlights here but I’m equally looking forward to seeing if we get a chance to hear what Mark Burridge and Greville Waterman made of this one when the 12pm ‘official’ coverage gets released into the wild. No doubt voluminous praise and excitement of ‘Jota at Blackburn’ levels will be the order of the day. It really was that sort of afternoon as the team returned to a style of play and clinical finishing that we’d become somewhat spoiled with over the early part of the season. Pity QPR on Saturday if we can keep this up. Millwall weren’t even given a chance to come second in this one as Brentford defended about as solidly as I’ve seen us do (some first half faffing across the box in search of the perfect distribution aside – sometimes, it’s not wrong to lump it up if there’s a defender closing in).

What else can we take away from this? Well, first up the celebration from Sergi was just a thing of beauty. With the net still rippling he tore over to the Braemar Road touchline, leaping high in the air as his teammates joined him. This was followed by a double fist pump and exuberant salute – the smile on his face broad. This one meant one hell of a lot. It was a moment of joy only matched by an equally emphatic routine from Ollie Watkins as he made the points safe late on.

Kudos, too, for Neal Maupay’s wonderful interplay in providing the assists for both our goals. He’s the Championship’s leading scorer and provider now. The adoration of fans in marked contrast to 12 months ago as a new signing beginning to find his feet in this division, the likes of Ian Moose pouring scorn and dripping poison.  

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View from the Braemar  – Sergi salutes the fans

Romaine Sawyers was named captain, again. His third time in four games. Thomas Frank would later confirm that he has dispensed of our rotational captain system. Something that Dean Smith had specifically introduced but has now gone with him to Aston Villa. Instead, the pool of leaders has been whittled down to just two – Romaine and Henrik Dalsgaard (of Brentford). Romaine had a great game yesterday after what, it would be fair to say, had been a dip in the form of last season’s ‘players’ player of the year’. Long may this continue!

I thought Josh Dasilva really impressed on his debut, coming on late for Josh McEachran. He drove forward as he added fresh legs and further goalscoring potential with the Bees looking to close this out rather than sit back and allow Millwall to press. Interestingly, I’ve this morning had a message from a Lincoln City fan I work with, noting: “Young lad you have out on loan at Forest Green, Archibald, he can play the game! We won 2-1. Absolute smash and grab though as we were outplayed. He is a very good player, great balance and change of direction. Some would say a ‘typical Brentford player’. We couldn’t deal with him tbh.”

With Josh stepping up and Theo showing his own potential for Forest Green, it’s great to see the B-team system continuing to flourish.

I had fun yesterday. A lot of fun. It was just that sort of celebratory occasion. Moreso, coming after a rightfully sombre start with Peter Gilham leading a minute’s silence to recognise both Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and, especially, the 100 years since the end of WW1 as part of the Remembrance Sunday observations. It was impeccably observed by both sets of fans whilst due praise to Sam Marshall and his programme team in recognising this hugely significant event. The production that he – ably assisted by Paul Briers and Dave Lane – put together to recognise this was a quite wonderful piece of work and compulsive reading.  

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Get one if you still can

The Millwall fans continued their respectful silence throughout the game. Aside from the odd chant of “No-one likes us, we don’t care” (really – then why do you persist in telling us so often?) they were largely as impotent as their team. Toothless Lions on and off the pitch, easily tamed by ringmaster Thomas Frank. Brentford, on the other hand, coming in for rightful recognition in his full time press conference.

There’s not much more to add after this one. On a personal note, Harry’s reaction to the game told me all I needed to know about how exciting it had been. He grabbed my phone, asking if he could call Uncle Tim to give him a full time update, then broadcast this to the Braemar Road forecourt (including one senior club figure whom I can only thank for his own subsequent observations and chat with an uber-excited five year old). He next proceeded to remove his coat to show the world his Ollie Watkins shirt and sung all the way home. Harry, that is.

Yet it was at Harry’s bedtime that I was given the sign that the Thomas Frank era is truly now underway. “Daddy” he entreated. ”As a special treat can I wear my Watkins shirt in bed instead of pyjamas?”

Yeah, he’s hooked. Thank you Sergi. Thank you Ollie. Thank you Thomas. Roll on Saturday and QPR.  

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Unconventional pjs but it would have been churlish to deny him

Nick Bruzon

What can you say? Where do you start?

28 Oct

Where to begin today? In the normal course of events, we’d start by talking about Norwich City v Brentford. Yet having gone to bed and then woken up with nothing but the horrific story from Leicester City at the forefront of the football news, I’m just in shock. As, it seems, is the entire football community. With no official word as yet, we’re still hoping for a miracle yet fearing the worst following the crash of club owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s helicopter outside their King Power stadium following the Foxes 1-1 home draw with West Ham.

There are no words to describe what has happened. Moreso given how visible this was. We’ve all seen the images of the aftermath and they are terrifying. One can only feel for the families, the fans and all involved at a club who have done nothing but win friends over the last few years.

Who amongst us didn’t cheer when Leicester City defied those 5,000-1 odds to win the Premier league. Beat the top flight far cats time and again to keep up the pace, defy the pundits and win the league. What a refreshing breath of fresh air to those of us who don’t support the likes of Chelsea or Manchester City/United with their logic defying budgets and wealth of world stars at their disposal. What an inspiration to those of us supporting the likes of Brentford.

With the right stewardship, unfancied teams can triumph. They can beat the ‘bad guys’. They can make the dream a reality.

We went to Norwich City yesterday. We lost. 1-0. It wasn’t a great game in the grand scheme and it wasn’t a particularly classy goal to concede. Daniel Bentley’s penalty save from ex-Bee Jordan Rhodes one of the few highlights from a Brentford perspective. Neal Maupay somehow not equalising when most of us were already celebrating.

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Brentford press in the first half.

Despite this, it was what happened off-pitch at Carrow Road that showed me, yet again, how wonderful football can be. What an incredible family there is involved. From both sides.

It’s not even called into question that there will be no quarter given when the whistle blows. Nothing but backing the team, barracking the officials (in the unlikely event that they make a decision we can clearly see was incorrect) and enjoying the misfortunes that befall our opponents on the day.

Yet with HB fortunate enough to be one of two ‘away’ mascots on the day, there was only generosity and magnificence shown to him from start to finish on the occasion of his first Brentford road trip. Norwich were fantastic – let’s get that out there immediately. Staff, fans and players. Even manager Daniel Farke stopped by for a chat with HB, fellow mascot Harvey and Thomas Frank when the players arrived.

Nonetheless, it was Brentford who really raised the bar. The players all stopping for a photo and an autograph with a five year old who is fast shedding that customary shyness in their presence. A quick chance to stick our heads around the door of that infamous pink ‘away’ dressing room. A chance encounter with the ever friendly Chairman Cliff Crown (“Who’s that, daddy?” – sorry, Cliff). Kitman Bob being the legend that he always is and Peter Gilham clearing the scrum around the dugouts as the players warmed up, in order that Harry could get his picture with Thomas.

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Peter can now add ‘Minder’ to his many duties at Griffin Park

Big up to Harvey, too. The two lads were given the choice of who would get to lead out the team. He didn’t even question it but immediately offered the role to his younger counterpart. I can’t thank him enough but, equally, think this shows (once again) the attitude that runs throughout this club. Through so much of football. Yet which is so rarely seen in the wider world. Which needs to be talked about. That, actually, it’s not all those things the press love to highlight such as morons singing awful songs, chanting racist abuse and fighting. There’s a ton of great stuff happening too.

Which is as much as anything why, as an outsider looking in, we could all get behind what happened at Leicester City. They were an unfancied club but one doing things the right way. Doing it with the fans. And what a reward for doing so. Winning the Premier League. A Champions League run. Players now picked for England, and beyond, on a regular basis. And now this.

One can’t even begin to quantify the sheer awfulness of what we’ve seen unfolding. Of what may be announced over the next few hours or days. One thing’s clear though, the footballing world is united and sending nothing but love to Leicester City.

Nick Bruzon

Team 54 becomes team 65 as Bees welcome new boss and Gibraltar go again.

17 Oct

Well that’s been all go yesterday. With Dean Smith having joined Aston Villa last week, Brentford announced the news that everybody associated with TW8 was expecting – namely, the appointment of Thomas Frank as the new head coach. With Leeds United fans still, seemingly, upset about the performance of ref Jeremy Simpson during our recent draw at Elland Road, their goalscorer Pontus Jansson is facing an FA charge for his own post-match comments. Over in Europe the UEFA Nations league has dominated international break with the headlines being made not by the new-fangled theme tune but by Gibraltar, who have broken their international duck in some style.

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Thomas opted for ‘signing shirt’ rather than ‘scarf aloft’ or ‘fake contract’

First up though, Thomas Frank has now been named as the new Brentford head coach. It is news which has surprised nobody, despite the best efforts of the bookmakers to talk up anyone from Roberto di Matteo to Marinus Dijkhuizen (pity anybody who ‘invested’ there at the terrifying odds of just 33-1). With Thomas being an integral part of the Griffin Park back room staff since December 2016, and his clearly visible role on match days, there was really only ever one name in the frame. Continuity being the absolute name of the game here.

Chief executive Mark Devlin used Twitter to reflect that : Thomas has been an integral part of our development over the past two years and deserves this opportunity.

Co-director of football Rasmus Ankersen followed up his own words at last week’s fan forum by noting how: “Thomas knows the Club’s strategy inside out and he is both respected and supported by players and staff at the Training Ground. He has played a major role in the development of our style of play over the past couple of years and we believe he is ready for the job as Head Coach.”

You can read that article in full on ‘official’. Albeit, I can’t imagine there are many who haven’t been there yet.

Yet the most intriguing tweet comes from Jonathan Burchill, whose statistical nuances are very much in the line of a Luis Melville when it comes to niche. And then some. He notes how : In last 40 years Brentford have had 4 promotions. 3 of the successful managers were internal club appointments: Warbs (13-14), Andy Scott (08-09) & Phil Holder (91-92).  The 4th being the promotion season of 98-99 where Noades appointed himself.

It’s an obvious appointment. It’s a sound appointment. The players know and respect Thomas. The fans are familiar. There’ll be no tip-toeing around getting to know each other. As pertinent, and as Jonathan noted, we’ve considerable success at Griffin Park doing things this way. Whilst I’m just the numpty on the terrace, this one seems a complete no-brainer even to me.

The only two questions I have at present are, firstly, whether Thomas will continue with rotating the captaincy? One would assume so, given the talk about this at the fan forum. Equally though, as an idea that Phil Giles confirmed was originally put forward by Dean Smith is it one Thomas will take forward? I hope so. If only to see Neal Maupay given the role at St. Andrews or for the return Leeds United match.

Secondly, and perhaps the most important of all. What will his match day attire consist of? Tracksuit manager, sports-casual or smart suit. Whilst current indications suggest the former, who knows what difference the new role might make to his own sartorial stylings. Roll on 3pm Saturday when we find out.

As for Leeds United, we’ve skipped over the post-match nonsense and barracking of Jeremy Simpson on these pages since that game. Largely because its all a bit pointless.

Shocking news –  supporters feel hard done by and blame referee for both their own inability to win a game and recent blip in form after a storming start to the season. Who’d have thought it?  Seemingly, one (correct) penalty decision given to tinpot/little etc etc Brentford is the reason for their own slip from the automatic positons into the play-off zone. Something that, for the record, I am sure will only be a temporary one.  

Pontus Jansson, their goalscorer that day, has now been charged by the FA (as have the club for fans throwing objects at Neal Maupay) after accusing the referee of ‘robbery’ and saying on live TV that the result felt a bit ‘shit’.  There’s talk of conspiracy, too. Seriously? Get a grip. They’ll no doubt get over it. Jansson will no doubt be found guilty of charges he has until 5pm today (Wednesday) to respond to. Leeds will no doubt be there or thereabouts at the end of the season. They’re too strong. They’ve too much backing and Sky Sports love them (another game moved now, along with our own Monday night trip to West Brom. Joy). What conspiracy?

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Neal’s penalty was well received by players and fans alike

I could rant. They can rant. They can nibble at the obvious fishing-rod emoji. It’ll change nothing. Let’s focus on ourselves. Let’s be gutted by not taking three points in a game that was there for the taking. Let’s see how Thomas rallies the troops to go one better at home to Bristol City on Saturday.

Next up, Gibraltar. Wow. After 22 consecutive losses in competitive football since they became the 54thmember of UEFA back in May 2013, the tiny nation (think an international Brentford if you want some comparison of general commentating cliché and relative size) has finally won a first game. And then another. Much like our own 65 bus, you wait ages and then two come along at once.

Saturday’s 1-0 win in Armenia was followed up by last night’s 2-1 win at home to Liechtenstein. A first ‘official’ win on home soil (friendlies not counting) and the first time they have scored more than two goals in a game. It was wonderful stuff to watch and about as tense as it comes with an additional 6 minutes of stoppage time added at the end.

Sky sports may wind us up with their Leeds United obsession or fixture shenanigans but the ‘blue button’ option was a life saver last night. Fuzzy feed from Gibraltar being beamed directly into sub-channel six and an opportunity to watch history being made. Sensational stuff.

Sensational, that is, until the ref blew for full time. Within about ten seconds the post match euphoria had been killed. Instead of players celebrating or excited interviews, the live stream was replaced by the footballing equivalent of the test card.

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Talk about a post-match passion killer

What can you do?  With Armenia beating group leaders Macedonia, this one is suddenly wide open. Miracles can happen. Gibraltar are now vying for top slot in group D4 and promotion to Group C where they may then be afforded the chance to play some of the bigger teams in Europe. Or Scotland.

All that’s a long way off. For now, it’s all about enjoying the moment. And what a moment it was.

Getting back to all things Brentford, the eagle eyed amongst you may have seen further progress at Lionel Road. With the South stand dominating the horizon, work on the East stand is now clearly visible. Whilst the groundwork has been underway for months, anybody approaching the site can now see clear evidence of one ‘end’.  

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The second stand appears

These are exciting times. I’ve no desire to wish my life away but, by the same virtue, things at Griffin Park at Lionel Road and on The Rock are all on the up. I can’t wait for more.

See you Saturday. Bring on Bristol City…..

Nick Bruzon

Was this the game that had everything? Fans and players nail it on Twitter as Bees hold Leeds.

7 Oct

Where do you even start with the one? Well, the result obviously. Leeds United 1 Brentford 1. Yet this was surely the consummate example of that old cliché that the result doesn’t even begin to tell half the story of a blood and thunder league game that was a quite wonderful example of Championship football. It had everything. Great saves, red cards, crossbars hit, pantomime villains and controversy. It was a day that saw the hosts end it in third place, The Bees still sixth and Neil Maupay become the first player in the top four divisions of English football to reach the ten goal mark.

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Neal does his thing for the tenth time( on official twitter )

On a personal note, big thanks to Mrs. Bruzon. What greater treat could a man be offered than to wake up in Lisbon on the morning of his tenth wedding anniversary and be told that he was to be taken to the pub to watch the game? Love? Worn her down? Her own secret desire to watch this one? Or some very hefty payback coming my way? Whatever the answer, it was worth every moment.

We’ve all seen the game. We’ve all got our reasons for where we watched it. I’m not going to over elaborate here as there’s a programme column to write for next Saturday’s game with Bristol City. Frankly, you’d need a volume to do this one justice. Both on and off the pitch where one can only doff the hat to those Bee’s supporters who braved the early start, the journey and remortgaged the house to cover the cost of the ticket.

What I would say is that to play like that and then concede so late was frustrating beyond belief in the moment that Pontus Jansson headed home with just two minutes left on the clock. Was there any reason we couldn’t hang on at the death? It felt like Aston Villa all over but that was short term disappointment when, stretching desperately for another cliche, I think the vast majority of us would have taken a guaranteed point had it somehow been offered before kick off. 

Yet for that perspective I’ve been reaching for all season, we’re upset about ‘only’ drawing with Leeds United. About going to the league leaders and not being beaten. About putting in a stonking performance on the road. I thought the first half in particular we gave everything. But instead of tiring and burning out, the Bees kept going. If anything, that was ultimately our undoing and, perhaps, a touch of naivety as rather than put a foot on the ball to “Slow it down. Slow. It. Dowwnnn” (as somebody much wiser than me once said) we kept on playing. Luke Daniels had pulled off a quite wonderful save . Kamo was magnificent. Neal Maupay did his best to make friends and influence people, slotting home the opening goal under the most extreme pressure and ‘encouragement’.

The players’ appearances on social media afterwards tell you everything you need to know about how this one went……  

As ever, the likes of Brentford ‘official’, Beesotted and the BBC will have all the reports on this one. We do more of the other stuff on these pages and so instead, we´ll leave it to Twitter to talk through the highlights of a game that had everything:

And I can’t beat that for a summary.

GREAT work you Bees.

Nick Bruzon

All to play for on Saturday after a gritty night and controversy at Griffin Park.

3 Oct

Brentford climb the table after a 1-1 draw with Birmingham City at Griffin Park but it was very much a case of Cheer up, Garry Monk. Or however it is the song goes. Blues manager Monk was left fuming after a red card for Maikel Kieftenbeld, following a clash with Neal Maupay, saw his side reduced to ten men. And his own subsequent dismissal from the touchline. Yet if it was a soft decision, and both managers’ words at full time were telling, The Bees were due something back after Saturday’s quite awful officiating in the 2-2 with Reading. As Leeds United returned to the top of the Championship, themselves 1-0 winners at Hull, Dean Smith has a lot to think about ahead of our trip to Elland Road on Saturday.

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View from one New Road observer.. fight,fight, fight….

If we were due a refereeing kick back (and in true Arsene Wenger style, I didn’t see the incident whilst even Sky Sports Leeds were somewhat selective with their post-match highlights package) then perhaps we were also due one on pitch. Dean Smith very much shuffled his after replacing Daniel Bentley with Luke Daniels. This, following Saturday’s double fumble. So there was no irony lost in Birmingham goalkeeper Lee Camp – a man who has had more clubs than Harlee Dean has had red cards – allowed Josh McEachran’s first half free-kick through his hands and into the back of the net for 1-1. It WAS a wonderfully hit effort from the New Road side but, being honest, should never have allowed a first goal in 188 appearances for a player who would rightly go on to scoop ‘Man of the match’ honours.

Prior to this, Michael Morrison had given the visitors the lead, heading home from a Jota cross. Or Hoe-ta, as Peter Gilham still insists on calling him. How I’ve missed that wonderful pronunciation from our redoubtable man-with-the-mic . Yet it was just about all the mercurial Spaniard did in the hour and a half he was on pitch. Yoann Barbet had him in the back pocket whilst Josh whipped the ball of his toes a number of times.

Daniels wasn’t the only change for the Bees. Out wide, we were missing both Saïd Benrahma and Ollie Watkins (suspended and injured respectively). Whilst Alan Judge and Sergi Canos are both wonderful, it deprived Dean Smith his normal option to mix it up in the second half. And with Birmingham City packing 11 behind the ball, there was no third gear to accelerate into as the game progressed. Indeed, and you have to give credit to Monk, his stifling of the game meant our short sharp passing game had no way through. Our 74% possession unable to be turned into real chances. Only Henrik Dalsgaard, pushed forward towards the end with Maupay having little joy against the lumbering Birmingham defence,  came close to sending The Bees faithful home happy. Camp making amends for his earlier butter fingers to pull off a point blank save with the clock deep in injury time.

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Brentford ‘Official’ capture the goal on Twitter

It was very much a case of parking the proverbial bus with the Bees unable to get past. That’s a tactic I suppose. Whatever you think, it worked. The only exception being with the goal where rather than parking the bus, Harlee and crew may aswell have parked a small car, slapped a bow on the front and left the keys in the ignition with the engine running. It was all the more silly given they’d had time to line themselves up and so, perhaps, as much credit needs to be given to Josh for pulling off something that nobody expected. Either way, in a scrappy match let’s be grateful for the opportunity.

One apiece at full time. The Ealing Road reminding Harlee Dean that “You can’t”. At least, I think that’s what they were singing. Another point gained and another place climbed in the table. We’re now up to fifth after other results went the way of The Bees. Yet, at the same time, Leeds and Middlesbrough have opened up a five-point gap on us in the top two slots whilst only two points separate The Bees from Bolton in fifteenth. The table really is that tight at present.

Dean Smith would use his own post-match interview to give credit to Birmingham for their game play which saw our own bright start snubbed out in a game that very much felt “Like one that got away again.” As for the sending off his opinion was that, “The lad raised his hands…so he goes down. Have a go at the fourth official”.

Dean talks to ‘official’ at full time.

For Birmingham City, Garry Monk had his own thoughts on the red card. He told reporters that “I thought the opposition player would be booked for feigning injury so to see a red card was a complete shock…After 23 years in football I know something when I see it.” Certainly, his reaction was one of fury as he was sent to join Kieftenbeld for an early bath. Or wherever it is red carded managers go to. I’ve no doubt the player’s ban will be appealed going by his own touchline explosion

As for Saturday, let’s hope Ollie is fit and able to rejoin Saïd in the matchday squad. Dean would tell ‘official’ how he had an injection in an ‘angry toe’ at the Reading game. By his own admission, the absences limited our own attacking options but, and it needs to be noted again, Birmingham City did a job on us. They were deserving of a point that makes it an incredible 8 draws out of 11 games for them. That record, I fear, something that is going to be trotted out as much as West Ham’s moving stadium West Ham’s winning the World Cup in 1966, Trevor brooking’s header in the cup final or The World Cup’s Henrik Dalsgaard being a Brentford player. If only somebody had said.

There’s not much more to say. We didn’t win. We have a tough trip to Leeds United coming up. But nobody said it would be easy. More importantly, we’ve jumped another place in the league. I’m not quite sure how that has happened but the table doesn’t lie.

And that’ll do me.

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Garry goes for a bath – c/o Matt Davis

Nick Bruzon

2-2 to the referee but the table shows all to play for on Tuesday.

30 Sep

Brentford 2 Reading 2 . Ten games played, the table having now ‘taken shape’ and the Bees sitting in the play-off zone. Just four points off leaders West Bromwich Albion. We’ve another home game to come on Tuesday night, the always welcome return of Birmingham City, and have just run Arsenal super close in the cup. We should be ecstatic. And I am yet equally can’t help still feeling somewhat subdued having woken up off the back of a quite awful display of spoiling tactics and atrocious officiating. It was one that has surely denied the Bees all three points and the fans any semblance of a quality game.  Geoff Eltringham and team, we’re looking at you.

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Thanks. Ref.

We’ve crossed swords with Mr. Eltringham before. And I don’t mean last season’s oversight of the 5-0 hammering inflicted on Birmingham City. His performance that night being ten times better than anything seen since. Or previously. The straight red card administered to number 26 in the home game with Sheffield Wednesday a few seasons back, after he’d allowed himself to be harangued by opposition players, being an additional slap to the face in a game that saw Marinus Dijkuizen ‘in charge’ for the last time. It should have been a warning that we were looking at an acolyte of Stroud. Alas, he struck again.

Saïd Benrahma was shown red for two bookings in a second half that saw the man in the middle wave the yellow 7(seven) times. It was a period that saw a crazy ten minutes of additional time added on in about as frustrating a half as we’ve had to endure. There were close to five of those alone, just for faffing around at a free kick awarded to the Bees from which he promptly failed to control or organise an opposition team who, understandably, were pushing the man as much as they could get away with. Which was lots. It was like watching a nervous supply teacher having to cover a bunch of rowdy fifteen year olds. And he couldn’t cope.

That there were ‘only’ ten minutes added on for a game where nobody was seriously hurt tells you all you need to know. Frankly, it could have been closer to fifteen. Dean Smith was his diplomatic best at full time, telling Brentford ‘official’ how, “The second half exploded into something that probably only the referee can explain” whilst from the aforementioned deadball situation he noted that “I don’t know what’s happened but we’ve ended up with six cautions and they’ve ended up with one. And that was the wrong person.

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View from The Braemar – This ‘no throw’ decision another to incense the crowd

That’s not to deny Reading their two goals. Both came as a result of what we’ll call defensive ‘fumble’. They were presented their chances and took them. That’s how football works. If you‘ve seen them then you know. And if you haven’t then Sky have their highlights up at present. This isn’t the day for castigating individual mishaps when, frankly, even with ten men Brentford would ordinarily have still walked this one – based on current form. Yet such was the stop-start nature of the game, the physical approach of Paul Clement’s Reading side and the roulette wheel nature to Eltringham’s decision making that any attempt at proper football was nothing more than a pipe dream. The visitors came to do a job on us and succeeded – they got their point. Well done Reading. Well done Geoff.

Prior to all that Neal Maupay had given the Bees an early lead, slotting home from close range to bag his 9th Championship goal of the season. Not a bad return prior to October for a player who has appeared just eight times. We should maybe have turned the screw from there but the opposition gameplan and an attempt to restrict our passing game meant Reading were able to contain the situation. This, before taking their own two chances twenty minutes either side of half-time.

Yet it was in that gargantuan period of stoppage time that Brentford hauled themselves back into it. The incredible Yoann Barbet heading home to send the Griffin Park faithful delirious. His constant enthusiasm and seeming love for the club is nothing but infectious. So to see him of all players pop up to ensure summary justice was executed generated the natural response. Yessssssssss!!!!!!!!!!!! You beauty.

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Yoann. Involved in everything fr0m ballet to goal scoring

2-2 and that was how it remained. The Bees kept pushing but were unable to turn one point into three. 10 men against 12 is always an uphill battle but it certainly wasn’t for want of trying. Instead, we’ll need to reflect on a table that sees us very much at the business end as we approach the quarter point of the season. As we await the visit of Birmingham City on Tuesday night. The Blues also earning themselves a point in their 7th(seventh) draw from 10 games after going two goals behind at home to Ipswich Town yesterday. That sort of fighting spirit something we’ll need to be accutely aware of if last season’s results are to be emulated. Moreso given we’ll be missing the mercurial Benrahma. But with Sergi Canos no doubt chomping at the bit to regain his place in the starting XI, things aren’t all bad on that front.  

There’s not much more to say from here. The officials had a stinker. Reading were industrial. Brentford earned a point and are sixth after ten games. I’d have absolutely taken that positon all day long if offered it when proceedings began at home to Rotherham last month.

The question being how we push on from here.

Roll on Tuesday night when we find out.

Geoff Eltringham said Reading guide dog

Saïd can’t believe he’s been sent off.

Nick Bruzon