Tag Archives: Nico Yennaris

Neal makes Moose eat more pie at Fulham as magnificent Brentford help Wolves go up.

15 Apr

Where do you start with that? A scoreline of Fulham 1 Brentford 1 doesn’t even begin to touch the sides of a dramatic afternoon that saw Wolves’ promotion to the Premier League confirmed, The Bees keep our own play-off dream alive and The Cottagers slip out of a top two they had so briefly graced. At the bottom, things are locking up with a win for Burton aswell as Bolton drawing at Barnsley really keeping the heat on Birmingham City.

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View from the away end – Brentford go for it at Fulham

Another season, another failure for Fulham at The Cottage against Brentford. Being honest, they were lucky to get away with even a point after The Bees came out of the traps flying. Ollie Watkins was cruelly denied an opener by a (subsequently incorrect) offside decision. Yoann Barbet had a stonewall penalty turned down after Stefan Johansen manhandled his freekick. The player and fans were incandescent. From the far end it had looked nailed on. Something the TV would later confirm.

Yet backed by 3000 fans, Brentford continued to pour forward. Ryan Woods superb. Chris Mepham mopping things up at the back when the odd Fulham sortie found a way through. Ollie Watkins and Florian Jozefzoon displaying electric pace, supported by the ever overlapping full backs and Sergi Canos.

Truly, it was a performance that made a mockery of Fulham’s Premier League credentials and, more importantly, outlined our own progress. Despite ending 0-0 at half-time, surely that goal would come?

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Dan Bentley snuffs out a rare first half attack from Fulham

Alas, not. Instead it was a very much smash and grab effort by Aleksandar Mitrovic, on loan from Newcastle United, to give the home side a seventieth minute lead. It was a lead that was against the run of play but as we’ve said so many times, goals are what count. Craven Cottage erupted. Finally. Prior to that, Fulham’s dependency on those dreaded paper ‘clappers’ to try and generate an atmosphere had been an embarrassment. A repugnant creation and terrible indictment of a club allegedly chasing promotion that they are needed for a game of this magnitude. For any game. Then again, the use of ‘run out’ music for the warm up showed the level of desperation /  atmosphere building that was required at the Cottage. Cringeworthy.

Contrast this with the 3000 or so Brentford fans who had remortagaged the house to pay the £35/£40 adult ticket price. Who had spurned the TV to get along and make an ear shattering noise. I’ve not been in a crowd like this one for a long, long time. I’ve not celebrated a goal like Neal Maupay scored to level things up in this manner all season. It was one of THE Brentford moments.

With Mitrovic having done the needful, the brakes came on. The clock was run down. Fouls became more cynical. Substitutions were dragged out as the home team used all manner of underhand tricks to put an end to the game. Neeskens Kabano suffered the indignity of an 87th minute ‘sub subbed’. The minute and a half it took Stefan Johansen to make his own switch with injury time approaching did not go unnoticed by referee Neil Swarbrick. He was quite vehement in his pointing to the watch, wrist held high for all to see. Time wasting was the verdict. Four additional minutes was the sentence. Four additional minutes for Brentford to get what the performance warranted and railroad our rivals’ promotion push.

90+1. 90+2. 90+3. 90+4….. And then it happened. With Fulham twitter sites already declaring a win, the ball was whipped in by Yoann. A deep cross found the head of most definitely onside Flo Jo who steered it towards Neal Maupay, unmarked on the edge of the six yard box. Surely, surely, surely……?

YEEEEESSSSSSSSS!!!! Goal, goal, goal goal, goal, goal, goallllllll. Maauuu-paaaayyy!! His header eluding Marcus Bettinelli as it bounced in front of the keeper’s despairing dive and hit the back of the net. What scenes. What noise. What an out pouring of emotion. What a moment. Mark Fuller’s quite wonderful photograph captured it all from the players’ perspective. His caption doing it from that of the supporters 🙂

Incredible. Absolutely incredible. Sitting here writing this on Sunday morning, I’ve got goose bumps even now. I’ve got a stupid smile on my face that has Mrs. Bruzon thinking I’m up to no good. But it was just breathtaking. If ever people want to know why we go to football, then here it is. Everything encapsulated in a single, late moment. The promotion dream stays alive. Fulham’s takes a firm blow to the unmentionables.

A blow delivered by a striker who has taken all manner of flak, most noticeably from Ian Moose. The catering and pie obsessed journo having put the boot in after the young striker missed one chance at Cardiff yet how Neal has responded.  Every goal serving up another helping of humble pie to the Talk Sport shock jock. From a striker who now has the most goals from the bench of any player in the top four English divisions.

But it wasn’t just us. The goal also meant that Wolves were assured of promotion to the Premier League. They are now uncatchable by third placed Fulham at the top of the Championship whilst victory over Birmingham City at lunchtime will hand them the title, subject to a freak run of results and goal difference swing.

Full credit to Wolves. They’ve been fantastic this season and it will be very interesting to see how they fare next campaign. For now, though, let’s just hope they haven’t over celebrated last night and really go for it today. What is turning into a quite fascinating relegation battle has, with just three games to go for most sides, seen nobody fall though the trap door as yet. Defeat for Birmingham (who also need to play Sheffield United, QPR and a final game with Fulham) could also place an exponential increase of pressure on their survival hopes.

Still, that’s for them to worry about. For Brentford, there’s the prospect of another West London derby on Saturday as dead in the water QPR visit. We’ve three games to reel in a four point gap to Middlesbrough in fifth and Millwall in sixth. Can we do it ? Play like that on Saturday and anything is possible. Make noise like that and QPR will be blown away before they even step out.

As Sergi Canos asked on Twitter…

Frankly, I can’t top that. Just when we couldn’t love him anymore.

Nick Bruzon

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The unbeaten run is over. What next for Lasse and the Bees?

28 Jan

The unbeaten run is over. Brentford went down 0-1 at home to Norwich City in a game that won’t live on in the memory for long. Dean Smith would say afterwards that ”I feel that the better team got beaten” going on to add later that I think Norwich will feel fortunate that they have gone away with all three points”. He also confirmed the news everybody suspected the moment that the team was announced and Lasse Vibe wasn’t in the squad. Namely, that he is in discussions with another club – albeit all parties need to reach agreement.

My own source close to the club, and about as good as they get, had also confirmed the news prior to kick off. Noting much as Dean would later do, however, that the deal wasn’t done by any stretch. I say source. We’re hardly in wikileaks territory here, far from it. Yet at the same time it is marvellous who you bump into walking through the stand just before kick-off. Likewise, what a straight answer you can get to a straight question if you just ask.

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Norwich came and conquered

On the plus side, Romaine Sawyers, also missing from the matchday 18, was confirmed as sitting this one out for genuine reasons – having been taken ill. The progression of Romaine’s game this season has been one of my own highlight’s of the campaign – seeing that ability shine through as he really has stepped up a level. The effortlessness with which he can spray the ball around. The rapier like way he bisects an opposition defence with one, killer pass. Not to mention the goals. Get well soon, Romaine. Here’s hoping we see you at Derby County on Saturday.

Dean would also use his post-match interview (and you can catch that article and video on ‘official’) to make a swipe at the crowd about Neal Mauapy, in for Lasse from the start for this one. His observation that I would have liked our supporters to have got behind him a lot more today” was lost on me, I have to be honest. Perhaps things were different on the New Road side but there was no negativity from where we sitting opposite. The cheers when he was replaced, along with a very poor Josh McEachran – sorry, but he didn’t have a great game – being more for the simultaneous arrivals of the ever popular Sergi Canos and, of course, Alan Judge.

How wonderful to see Alan back in action and in the first team. We all know what happened. We all know how long that road to recovery has has been, We’re all indebted to that anti-gravity treadmill – fair to say that has been ‘value for money’. We’ve all read that story and the follow up from earlier in the week – personally, I didn’t waste my time on it (long term injured footballer now back to fitness and wants to play – well d’uh!). Here’s hoping we have Alan for another few months – at the very least.

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How good to see Alan Judge back out there

Dean really would go for broke or, as one terrace wag would note ‘Wow. He’s throwing the kitchen sink at it’ by also adding Emiliano Marcondes to the mix. Certainly, the second half saw a vastly improved Brentford performance after Norwich had threatened to run away with things in the opening period. James Maddison opened proceedings with barely five minutes on the clock. Whilst he was, perhaps, afforded space in the middle, his long range pile driver from well outside the box would have beaten just about any goalkeeper and was a goal you can only doff your cap to. Certainly, there is no blame attached to Daniel Bentley for this rare moment of seeing his nets bulge (not a euphemism).

Indeed, with Norwich continuing to push he had to visibly remonstrate with his defence on more than one instance. Whatever Dean would say about Brentford being ‘the better team’, I’d disagree on that first half showing. Norwich had the lion’s share of action and opportunities. They were well set up and an overly cagey Brentford couldn’t penetrate.

That’s football though. We haven’t got a divine right to win every game. To take things for granted. It’s certainly not the end of the world. More an opportunity missed to potentially climb even further up a Championship table that, for the fourth successive season, sees Brentford sitting in the top ten.

Sky have the highlights up already. You know the drill. They’re worth a watch, even just for Maddison’s goal. One even Nico Yennaris would have been proud of.

As for Lasse, here’s hoping he makes the right decision. Certainly, he’s one of the form players on the Championship at present. Whether for goals or assists. Supporters are worried about who will replace him should he leave. Equally, Matt Allard on Twitter nailed this one just about bang on.

Personally, it just feels like territory we’ve all been in before. I’ve given up worrying myself. I don’t want to see players go. Who would? Yet at the same time, life’s too short and if the last few season have taught us anything it’s that the club, the squad and our new acquisitions, will continue to surprise us.

Maybe it’s just the fuzzy head kicking in after four weeks of alcohol related abstinence that came to a tumultous end yesterday. Yet, genuinely, I’m not phased this morning. We may lose a few games along the way. We’ll hopefully win a few more! Yesterday it just wasn’t to be. Would Lasse have made a difference? Possibly. At the same time we still had enough talent out there but the set up was out of kilter from the off. Once the subs kicked in it looked a different team.

At the end of the day (Clive) we’re talking about not beating Norwich City. Let’s not forget the opposition that were in front of us. Likewise, it’s only our second defeat of the season at Griffin Park in the league. Perhaps Lasse’s absence had people feeling a bit flat from the off. It wasn’t a great afternoon but I wouldn’t have been anywhere else.

Ka-boom. The sound of a name being dropped. Talking to Delia Smith in the drizzle before kick off (not the Lasse source) and coming all this way in the manky weather, the one time  TV chef from the Multi-Coloured Swap Shop looked puzzled and said, “It’s football, isn’t it. Why wouldn’t you?” .

I couldn’t agree more. We love it. Whatever the weather. Whatever the result. There’s nothing better to be doing on a Saturday afternoon. Bring on Derby…

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Ka-boom. The sound of a name being dropped

Nick Bruzon

Can we extend the run? Should we mention the ‘p’ word? Is this football’s latest gimic?

27 Jan

With the FA Cup taking centre stage in the public eye this weekend (and we’ll get on to last night’s game between Yeovil Town and Manchester United shortly), Brentford have a wonderful chance to make further, almost stealth like, progress. With Norwich City the visitors to Griffin Park this afternoon, stuffing the Canaries will see the Bees move level on points with sixth placed Sheffield United. Of the teams between us and the Blades, Fulham are the only other with a game today. A tricky trip to Barnsley standing between them and their own play-off aspirations.

Brentford, of course, are on that wonderful run. 13 league games unbeaten at Griffin Park combined with 7(seven) Championship wins out of the last 9 played sees us very much the form team at present. Bolton Wanderers and then Reading being the latest teams to fall victim to the red and white machine.

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Bolton were the last visitors to Griffin Park.

Indeed, in the top four divisions nobody has gone unbeaten for longer, with only our FA Cup conquerors Notts County able to match what The Bees have achieved at Griffin Park. Not even the likes of Manchester City or Liverpool, who are next up on 12 game runs. With the Magpies involved in cup action today, their reward for that third round triumph being a home tie with Premier League Swansea, there’s even more incentive to go for it today and stride clear of the ‘unbeaten’ teams.

In our way, Norwich City. A team we’ve already played twice this season whilst who could forget last campaign’s horror shows against the Canaries?

This time around, things began with a Carabao Cup third round tie back in September one we probably shouldn’t dwell on. Whilst not quite up there with the infamous Oxford United game that formed part of the ill-fated Marinus experiment, it wasn’t far off. Move along, nothing to see here.

I take much more comfort from our 2-1 league win at Carrow Road just before Christmas. The Bees were rampant in a game where the  highlight of the night was the pass from Romaine Sawyers to set up Lasse Vibe for our second goal. Even now it is worth watching a few more times just to remind yourself quite how wonderful, ridiculous, sublime, filthy, outrageous it was. Certainly, those were my thoughts at the time and nothing has happened since to change my mind.  Take your pick as to which fits best. Words can’t do it justice.

Romaine’s brilliance is 2mins 37 seconds in on the official highlights.

Listening to Deam Smith speaking at the moment, he comes across as very grounded. Very much in ‘taking one game at a time’ territory. I don’t blame him. He’s the Brentford head coach; I’m the numpty on the terrace. Yet as supporters it is so easy to see the polar opposites. Reaching for the stars or feeling as though we are sitting in the gutter. Our start to the campaign wasn’t great. A situation compounded by those heartbreaking sales. It was as much the immediacy as the final destination of those three that really hurt. Yet how things have moved on since then. How Dean’s faith in his team and their own wonderful spirit has been rewarded.

It is faith and confidence that is coursing through all of us at present. The last few months (Barnsley and Burton at home, aside) have seen some of the most exciting football games we’ve had the privilege of watching in years. Norwich City won’t make it easy. Far from it. Yet I can’t see anything other than home win today. And you can quote me on that. If for no other reason than my Cousin Charles from Gibraltar will be at this one. Any regular readers who know of his record….

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Norwich in the cup happened. Move along

As for the FA Cup, I’m not going to pretend I was anything but gutted when we went out. That defeat to fourth tier opposition, who absolutely deserved it on the day, was only salvaged by the long, long, long awaited return of Alan Judge. Trot out any number of clichés about this oldest of tournament but you can’t deny it is captivating. People want to watch it; teams want to win it. Last night was no exception as Mrs Bruzon and I settled down to watch the BBC fourth round tie between Yeovil Town v Manchester United. Nothing says romance – of the cup or otherwise – than a night on the sofa watching Ryan Dickson.

Sadly, there was no be no Goliath falling on a potato skin. Manchester United won 4-0. No surprise there. The positive was a healthy selection of tin foil trophies on display from the Yeovil fans although the flip side being the return of something we’d seen the previous week in the Brighton v Chelsea leg game.

Namely that of a young child holding up a crudely drawn sign, asking a player for his shirt after the game. Last week it was Eden Hazard, who duly responded. Last night it was Alexis Sanchez, although by all accounts he was yet to reciprocate.

Are we now to see a glut of hastily scrawled A4 sheets of paper held aloft by young fans? Is this the latest trend? Certainly, you wouldn’t get me involved in any such form of cheap stunt. Instead, I’m off to the game now (see you there) and will simply leave Harry to press ‘publish’….

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Nick Bruzon

 

Twitter and Bees tell it like it is. What a performance – and that was just the fans!

21 Jan

Well this is all getting quite exciting. Brentford went to Reading on Saturday and returned victorious. Three more points in the bag c/o Lasse Vibe’s solitary strike, two more places up the table and a fifth win in six league games. It was another clean sheet for the defence of Bentley, Barbet, Mepham, Bjelland and Yennaris. Indeed, that’s just 5 goals conceded in the last 7(seven) league matches. But for the 3-0 reverse at runaway leaders Wolves earlier this month, an already wonderful copybook would have even less of a blot (a word used in the least possible sense). This really is a great time for Brentford supporters.

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Lasse enjoying his goal celebration – shared this one on Twitter

And it was the Brentford supporters, numbering close to 3,000 out of a total 17.893 in the Madjeski, who deserve as big a pat on the back as those players out on the pitch. Looking through social media afterwards, their presence had clearly been felt. Twitter was awash with comments.

Kitman Bob Oteng: Would loved to have watched the game from smack bang in the middle. Ledge support the the ‪@BrentfordFC boys and girls yesterday.

Captain Nico: Another solid team performance from all over the pitch  3 points and great travelling support.

Sergi Canos noted similar, even giving us that rare moment when it IS accepatable to ‘go again’.  “What a fantastic win. Felt like playing at Griffin Park today. Unbelievable support once again, this is for you!!! Let’s enjoy it, we go again next weekend! Come on ‪@BrentfordFC !!!!!

Yoann Barbet is Brentford royalty. He was also enthusing – as much about his attempts on goal as the result – although the key observation being: “What a win !!!! Really tough game, but another 3pts and another clean sheet. Unbelievable support today from the fans , you were unreal.

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Yoann comes close. ish

The upshot of all this being Brentford are 9th in the table. Whilst reaching the top 6 yesterday was a somewhat improbable ask given the number of results needing to go our way, at least a few of the teams around us dropped points. Leeds United being our main benefactors in going down 3-4 to Millwall at Elland Road although Preston were also pegged back at home. By Birmingham City.

These two scores making somewhat of a nonsense from yours truly and the pre-match prediction that: Being realistic, Birmingham haven’t a prayer at Preston. Leeds, despite their own recent poor form, now have Adam Forshaw added to their ranks and are surely good for at least a point at home to Millwall ? Middlesbrough WILL hump QPR.

Hey, one out of three ain’t bad. Besides, as the revered and respected Ian Westbrook would later opine on Twitter : “Another great result today for ‪#brentfordfc And to see all the players as one applaud the fans all together for such a long time at the end was tremendous. Let’s hope the whole squad is still together on 1 February as we could be on to something special!”

Too true, Ian. Too true. It WAS A great result even if it was a tough one. My bum is very much itchy when it comes to thinking about that accursed window. One would hope that sales are not needed or that players want to stay and be a part of what we have going on at Griffin Park. That’s a subject for another day, though.

Besides, this was hard but the result needs to be celebrated. As one of my own friends and most sardonic of observers, an Ealing Road WAG, said to us during the first half. “We should be destroying them, they have nothing to offer at all, but we’re not” although subsequently adding, “we’ve had a fairly exciting miss.” Yet the same observer would also make the erudite observation that Lasse had been immense since Canos came on. I couldn’t disagree. The goals are up now on the Sky Sports website, with our own to be added here once the sun is past the yardarm – or whenever league regs let them go live.

And we’re off. How about a bit of Burridge…?

As for Lasse, well I’ll leave it to the man who knows anything and everything about Brentford, Billy Reeves, to have the Last Word today : “Give this lad a new contract. One for the future, I reckon”.

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The current table makes very pleasant reading

Nick Bruzon

Do Brentford have the scent of Royal blood at Reading? Could ‘other results’ actually happen?

20 Jan

Here we, erm, go again. Brentford travel to Reading on Saturday afternoon knowing a win, along with defeats (and definitely not victories as was originally noted)  for the five teams above us, will see the Bees end the day level on points with the play-off teams. Goal difference could even put us into that top six pack. True, this relies on things as improbable and distasteful as QPR and Birmingham City (amongst others) doing the needful but stranger things have happened before. Who could forget that wonderful denouement to 2014/15 when wins for Reading at all-but-there Derby County and Blackburn at home to Ipswich, combined with our own defeat of Wigan, saw the Bees slip through into fifth place?

Indeed it was the penultimate week of that season which saw a Brentford win on the road, at the Madjeski, to keep our hopes alive. Alan Judge and number 26 getting the goals as the Bees ended the day in seventh, two points and vastly inferior goal difference behind Derby.

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Andre Gray for 3-0 v Wigan (and other results) secure a 2015 play-off spot

We all know how that play-off campaign ended. It was the play-offs, after all. Although at least we got there, unlike Derby.  Instead the point is made to illustrate what can happen when you least expect it. Sometimes, other results can go our way despite form. Thankfully the end of the season is a lot further away this time and so to desperation for the not so super hoops or Birmingham to win doesn’t have the same frisson, that’s for sure.

Whilst that unholy alliance is not one Brentford need to make today, it is still a nice position to be in. For now, though, let’s just focus on ourselves. Other results will do whatever they do. With games to come against all the chasing pack we still have matters well in our hands. Besides, it seems a bit premature to be talking play-offs and potential promotion at this juncture.

Yet, the table doesn’t lie. The gap to Sheffield United in sixth place IS three points. I’d be a liar if I was to say to you that I wasn’t absolutely excited by this prospect, no matter how slim and tenuous it is. Being realistic, Birmingham haven’t a prayer at Preston. Leeds, despite their own recent poor form, now have Adam Forshaw added to their ranks and are surely good for at least a point at home to Millwall ? Middlesbrough WILL hump QPR.

Can we do it though? Well, there’s no doubting Dean Smith’s team are on form at present. Last weekend’s defeat of Bolton followed a wonderful Christmas period in the league. Perhaps its best we forget about the hiccup in the FA Cup now. Move along, nothing to see there. Indeed, the Bolton game didn’t even require the mercurial Sergi Canos to start that one, although his presence at the end of the game was a most welcome one as the wide man set up Neal Maupay for 2-0 late on.

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Bolton were left looking dazed and confused by the end

I’m still not convinced we know Dean’s best / preferred starting XI. When this squad is on form and the players are at the top of their game, it really is a case of Buridan’s Ass. Which of the available options does he pick? 14 into 11 just won’t go. It’s one of those lovely problems to have, that’s for sure, with Chris Mepham’s form and the return of Alan Judge adding to his quandaries.

Reading, on the other hand, are missing John Swift whilst centre back Paul McShane is also reported as out. The Royals are very much off their A-game, form wise, although at least they have made it through to the fourth round of the FA Cup. In another battle of Championship v League 2, they made it through (unlike the Bees) and their reward is a trip to Sheffield Wednesday on Friday night.

With that to come and their own progress requiring Tuesday evening’s replay against Stevenage, could players be rested? Might if be a case of that old cliche being turned on its head and the Royals concentrating on the cup, now they are effectively out of the league?

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John Swift. The former Bee is missing in action today

One can dream. I’m still expecting a tough one today. The trapdoor to League One isn’t actually that far off for Reading. They’ll be as keen to secure those points as we are. Yet along with form, Brentford will have massive support on our side. Close to 3,000 tickets have been sold to the visiting support . With less than 15,000 turning up for their last league game at the Madjeski, a defeat at the hands of Birmingham City (clearly ten times better than the Royals), the 24,000+ capacity ground could feel a very empty place for the home team.

Certainly, it’s a stadium that has been a happy hunting ground for the Bees. Along with the aforementioned 2-0 win, let’s not forget the following season. Dean Smith’s first in charge saw that wonderful 2-1 victory. It was a win that was lit up by Ryan Woods and Sergi Canos. Goals that fall very much into the category of ‘best we’ve seen in recent years’ (see also: Stuart Dallas at Fulham and Nico Yennaris at Birmingham).

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Sergi. Great goal, great shirt, great hair (then)

That’s all in the past though. If it meant more points, I’d happily settle for 1-0 and a deflection off Josh McEachran’s backside. Scrappy finish or 25 yard piledriver, they all count the same.

Roll on 3pm when we find out which it will be. Roll on 5pm when we see just how those ‘other results’ have gone. Could Brentford continue to climb up the table? Might we be saying a small word of thanks to our rivals?

I can’t wait to see how this all plays out.

Nick Bruzon

Ryan’s wonder goal set a very high bar. That Sergi then cleared.

 

Success for Gibraltar in FA Cup. Defeat for Brentford at home to Notts County.

7 Jan

Brentford 0 Notts County 1. A result that it sure to cause a few rumblings on the Richter scale of FA Cup shocks. None moreso than because it means Gibraltar, currently placed 205th in the FIFA World Rankings, have representation in the fourth round. Size and reputation counted for nothing with talismanic Gibraltarian International Liam Walker proving key to the Magpies’ cause. He came on at the death to ensure County broke Brentford hearts and condemn the Bees to defeat despite throwing the proverbial kitchen sink at the visitors. A shame it hadn’t happened 90 minutes earlier.

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There had been so much optimism before kick off

I’ve seen Liam in action twice this season and neither appearance has been a happy time for the Brentford. The first being the occasion of a World Cup qualifier at the end of August. Despite his best efforts – very much the star performer for Gibraltar in that one – Belgium finished it by taking their visitors beyond brackets and close to double figures with a 9-0 win in Liège.

It was the same day Maxime Colin and Jota joined Harlee Dean in the triple transfer to Birmingham City. Fortunately, things would eventually settle down for the Bees on that front and form would return, quite spectacularly. Not so much for the Blues. Equally spectacularly.

On Saturday, the boot was on the other foot. It was the away team, again inspired by Walker, who came away with a result that the bookmakers had failed to anticipate. It was the home team – picked by Dean Smith – with a performance that was dialed in against one of spirit, fight and a desire to win that the Bees had failed to anticipate. They’ll have been dancing in the streets of Gibraltar last night.

That, or Sax II.

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Yet it proves, yet again, what happens when you underestimate the opposition. See also: Walsall at home in the third round two seasons ago. As expected, changes were made but there was enough first team experience in the starting XI and on the bench to have done better. Much better. It was an opportunity for players to step up, seize the opportunity and shine. Sadly, the only ones to do that were Notts County.

All the talk in the media would be of Jon Stead’s goal. True, it was very special. Yet it should have been as much about Notts County putting in a complete and consistent team performance. From the moment of kick off to the Walker inspired denouement. The Magpies showed it in spades. The Bees looked second best.

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All over at full time – Walker the winner.

Dean Smith would use his post match interviews to declare, “It was probably not what we deserved”, adding “I thought we had the lion’s share of possession and bossed the game for large periods. I certainly didn’t think we deserved to lose.”

As has been said oh so many times, that’s just not how football works. I’ve got huge respect for Dean but he’s wrong on this one. Chances count for nothing. Neither do possession stats. Balls in the back of the net are the only thing that matters as a means of measuring progress to the fourth round on paper.

For the record, the game ended with possession of 53%- 47% in our favour. Less a Lion’s share and more a narrow margin. The goal charts ended 1-0 in Notts’ favour. Equally narrow but that’s all they needed.

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At least Buzz and Buzzette got their hands on the cup

I suppose we can concentrate on the league. And that IS a good thing from some respects. IF we are going to go for it. The gap to the bottom three surely already too huge whilst the play-offs are just six points away. A concerted surge towards the top and this will be nothing more than a statistic in the record books. At least, for our top brass.

Yet for the fans, the FA Cup is still huge. And the chance for a run in this oldest of tournaments is always something to get supporters salivating. Tin foil trophies had been made in the morning. Some long journies undertaken to get to Griffin Park.

We had the ability to win it but too often the Bees looked out of shape. Captain Josh McEachran unable to lift his team. With Lasse Vibe and Andreas Bjelland missing (in the the club shop), Ryan Woods missing (in the pub, but on the soft drinks) and Nico Yennaris just missing, we lacked our solid spine. Players had the chance to make a name for themselves. They didn’t take it.

On the flip side, Emiliano Marcondes, making his debut, showed those first flashes of the potential we have all read so much about. Indeed, but for that Walker inspired backs-to-the-wall performance in the final few moments, things could have been different when the Dane’s header came back off the post.

But with County looking solid as The Rock, not even the wonderful Alan Judge could make a difference. He looked sharp, fit and fast as he made a long overdue and thrilling return to the side. There was no challenge shirked and one moment of genius to free fellow substitute Ollie Watkins that had the crowd on their feet, anticipating a goal. Sadly, it wasn’t to be.

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Alan Judge in full flow – very much a sight for sore eyes

We’ve lost in the Cup before. We’ll do it again. The saddest thing about Saturday was that lessons of the past should have been learned. Yet when the club hadn’t even put FA patches on the first team shirts, perhaps our longevity in this tournament was pre-ordained.

At home, our own third round ritual of making the tinfoil trophy ended with it the replica cup being consigned to, then retrieved from, the dustbin. “Daddy. Do we have to throw it away? Can’t we keep it for next year?” asked HB. Not even I’m that mean and so it was duly salvaged. With optimism like that, it’s tough to be overly despondent this morning. It’s just a shame we’ll have to wait 365 days to feel it once again.

All that remains to be said is congratulations to Notts County, Liam Walker and Gibraltar. The FA Cup loves to throw up a story and with the Magpies in wonderful league form too, could this be the year they are the underdogs to make a run towards Wembley?  The year that Gibraltar, whose previous international ‘highlights’ include conceeding the faster ever International goal (Christian Benteke in 8.1 seconds in the opposite fixture with Belgium) and equalising against minnows Scotland in a Euro 2016 qualifier at Hampden Park, make that next step up on the World stage?

That’s my one consolation from this one. And I’m clinging to it.

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A solitary Gibraltarian flag held aloft at Griffin Park

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Another Brentford cup run consigned to the wastebin of Griffin Park history

Nick Bruzon

Bees don’t give a hoot about the Owls. Will Wolves have more bite?

31 Dec

Well there you go. What a way to finish the year. As comfortable a win as Brentford could have ever hoped to achieve, despite coming up against a Sheffield Wednesday team who had proven to be more than a thorn in the side at Griffin Park in days gone by. We’d not beaten the Owls at home since a 2010 League One encounter (Charlie MacDonald grabbing the only goal of the game in that one). But a 2-0 Championship win saw that statistical relic consigned to the dinosaur’s graveyard. It really was THAT much a cruise control performance as one could hope to see.

As ever, ‘official’, Beesotted or the BBC are your places for the full fat match reports. Which is no bad thing, given any Wednesday fans still here are likely to get more joy reading a tale from the Brothers Grimm rather than any looking at any in depth analysis.

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A cheap set up for brackets

Looking on from the sidelines, it was a game that was never in doubt from the moment Lasse Vibe made it 1-0 on the 20 minute mark. Picking up the ball from Nico Yennaris, he fired home from just inside the box to send the Bees on their way. Dean Smith would later admit that, “We didn’t find our fluidity for the first 20 minutes but once we got the goal we moved up a level.” He’s spot on. From that point, there was only one team in it. The points were as good as ours. Or should have been.

However, complacency is the mother of all f*ck ups and lord knows we’ve had our issues throwing away leads this season. But not this time.

With Wednesday offering little, the Bees continued to press. Sergi Canos in particular coming close with one marvellous effort from distance which was the highlight of an otherwise quieter game for the ever popular Spaniard. Eventually, it was Flo Jo who doubled the lead with a quite marvellous finish from a Maupay through ball. 2-0 up, 7(seven) minutes to go and not even Brentford could mess this one.  Surely? We didn’t.

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The Bees kept going for goal until the end

Next up, a trip to Wolves on Tuesday night. The Molineux outfit are an incredible ten points clear at the top of the table following their own last gasp win at Bristol City yesterday. It’s effectively 11 if you factor in goal difference. Could that huge gap play into our hands? Might suspension (captain Danny Batth being sent off at Ashton Gate) and changes after that tough Christmas break play into our hands? Or will it be a case of pedal to the metal for the runaway leaders?

Dean Smith has his own decisions to make.  Chris Mepham had another wonderful game. The apparent ease with which he has adjusted to Championship life making a mockery of his relative inexperience at this level. He looks as in control and comfortable as his senior partner, the World Cup’s Andreas Bjelland.  Here’s hoping Dean Continues to show faith in the Welsh U-21.

Nico Yennaris once more looked totally at ease in the right back berth. Although Henrik Dalsgaard is still on club shop duty as he recovers from injury, Josh Clarke is now fit again. He found himself alongside Alan Judge on the bench for yesterday’s game and so might hope to start. But then who makes way in the middle for Nico? Josh McEachran being the obvious candidate, positionally, yet his own distribution in the first half was as controlled and calm as one could hope to see.

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Next stop, the bench.

Then there’s Lasse Vibe. You can’t put a price on goals and he’s scoring them for fun at present. The brace against Norwich City was followed up by one against Villa and then his latest yesterday (one which you can see on the Sky highlights, available now). Long may we be able to hang on to the great Dane – especially on this kind of form.

Alternatively, feast your eyes on the action c/o Mark Burridge and the official highlights, now up.

A great way to end the year.

Yet with the transfer window about to creak open, he’s one of several candidates that Brentford fans will no doubt spend the next month sweating on. There’s always some pain to get in the way of our enjoyment. But that’s football. Should anything happen off field over the coming weeks, in or out, then if there’s one thing we’ve all learned by now it’s that Dean Smith and his team keep on going – whoever is in the starting XI.

Still, all that’s to come. If at all. For now, let’s just enjoy our third win on the spin. Let’s enjoy Brentford ending the year in tenth place in the table and (say it quietly) just four points outside of the play-off zone. Can we push on? Will we hold station? Is it going to be an FA Cup run this year following the damp squib of our surrender to Chelsea last season?

That game against Wolves and then Saturday’s cup tie with Notts County could well prove to be of huge consequence.

And I can’t wait ! Roll on 2018.

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Sergi – could be key over the coming weeks

Nick Bruzon

 

Brentford leave Aston Villa feeling under the weather. Again.

27 Dec

“I think it’s hard, no disrespect to Brentford, Barnsley, but this is a different kettle to those clubs where there’s no real expectation… Staying in the division is probably the expectation”. Not my words, but those of Aston Villa manger Steve Bruce in the build up to the visit of his team to Griffin Park.

How they had a hollow ring as yet another former Premier League club under-estimated ‘teams like Brentford’. The Bees made it 6 points from 6 over Christmas with a fine 2-1 win under the floodlights (and the rainclouds) at Griffin Park on Tuesday night. It was a victory that, but for a brief flurry in the dying moments, was never in doubt. Brentford, inspired by Sergi Canos and shored up by the quite sublime Chris Mepham, blew aside Aston Villa as easily as though they were a crisp packet caught in the breeze.

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Raining (goals) at Griffin Park

Canos – possessed once again by raw energy, blistering pace and consummate skill – did everything but score the goal his performance so warranted. As it was, he played a key role in our opener. Winning the ball back to find Ryan Woods, the Ginger Pirlo’s pass was met by Romaine Sawyers who fired it hard and low from outside the box into the bottom corner to give Brentford the lead with just over twenty minutes gone.

It was as precise a finish as one could hope to see and another moment of genius from a player who continues to impress. That’s five goals now this season for Sawyers and Brentford really are scoring from every angle. Whilst Josh Onomah would level things up for Aston Villa just before half time, normal service was restored soon after the break. Lasse Vibe followed up Friday’s brace at Norwich City, firing home the loose ball in the box as Villa failed, quite spectacularly, to clear a Canos corner.

Watching the highlights on Sky afterwards (and they are now available on the internet until the official, Mark Burridge infused version can be released), the phrase “I can’t quite believe the shodiness” is used to describe Villa’s defence. They’re not wrong but you’ve still got to be there. You’ve still got to put them away. And Lasse did that to send the Griffin Park crowd wild.

It was a game played out in quite torrid conditions. The rain didn’t let up for the entire 90 minutes and so fair play to Dean Smith’s Bees for just getting on with it. The visitors, on the other hand, struggled to find cohesion and to find shape. They were second to everything, including the final result. But you can only play who you are up against and if the Bees continue to face teams like Aston Villa then happy days.

Just because you once won the European Cup and played in the top flight, doesn’t give a divine right to ‘be any good’. You can’t just win by turning up. The footballing world has long changed and if dinosaurs like Steve Bruce want to keep on living in Jurassic, rather than Villa, Park that’s just fine by me.

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The rain, and Flo, didn’t let up

The ironic thing being that this is now the second time in 11 months we’ve done a job on Aston Villa at home. Who could forget the 3-0 humbling handed out back in January, just about the time of Scott Hogan’s sale?  To misread the opposition once is unfortunate but to do it twice is downright shabby.

Still, that’s not my concern. Long may it continue. Dean Smith and his boys got it bang on last night. The aforementioned Mepham, who made his mark on Hogan early then never looked back, and Andreas Bjelland were both sporting ‘blood’ shirts by the time Keith Stroud ended the six minutes of injury time. There was no quarter given at the back where Nico also shone, covering in the right-back position which he first filled what seems like all those years ago. Flo Jo, Romaine, Ryan. Dan Bentley pulled off a couple of fine saves when they were needed.

To overly single out anybody would be unfair. It was just that sort of night where everybody did what was expected. Even Norwich City, who had earlier beaten Birmingham City to leave them rock bottom of the division. With Brentford now in 12th place on 34, that’s twice as many points as the hapless Blues who are 3 from safety on just 17.

Those comments about being ten times better are looking a long way off at present. Oh well, that’s their problem. We’ve got bigger fish to fry and with another home game approaching, the visit of Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday, here’s hoping for more of the same from Dean and his boys.

And, could we perhaps see Alan Judge at some point? One of the loudest cheers of the night was reserved for his announcement on the substitute’s bench. If not Wednesday on Saturday, then by the time we’ve hosted Notts County in the FA Cup I’ve a feeling we’ll have seen him in the red and white once more.

That, if anything, would be THE miracle of Christmas. At least, in TW8.

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Captain Nico – too many mince pies or making the best of the conditions?

Nick Bruzon

Move along. Nothing to see here. Bees go for a Burton.

22 Nov

We didn’t play very well at all. That’s the worst performance of the season.” Not my words but those of Brentford manager Dean Smith talking to BBC Billy Reeves following Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw at home to Burton Albion. He’s being kind. With back-to-back West London derbies approaching at QPR, then home to Fulham, it would have been the perfect time to pick up those shooting boots and get another win under the belt. Instead, the Bees limped to an insipid draw in one of the dullest games to grace Griffin Park in years.

Many gave this one a wide berth before kick off. The declared crowd of 7,957 was, presumably, a figure that included all season tickets. Looking around the ground there were as few people there as opportunities on the pitch. And that’s just in the away end where Burton looked as though they’d brought less than Aldershot.

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You’re so loud you sound like Aldershot.

If you were there, you know you’ll never get that time back. That’s football. Nobody impressed for Brentford, with Dean Smith apparently reading the riot act at half time. It was an act that must have fallen on deaf ears as he was forced into a double substitution just minutes after the restart. Woods and Yennaris off. Mcketch and Sergi on. Moments later came the one bright moment of the night. Flo Jo’s free kick from distance finding the back of the net and prompting an ecstatic celebration from the player, into the home dugout.

Tedium soon returned and despite their making no effort all evening, there was a certain inevitability about Burton scoring an equaliser. Instead of going for it, Brentford sat back. Brentford passed it sideways. Brentford faffed around. Brentford conceded the softest of headers at the back post with 12 minutes remaining. 1-1 it finished. Move along, nothing else to see or say.

Positives ? Well, we can look to 1 defeat in 10 games. We can look to Brentford remaining above QPR and Fulham in the Championship table, despite the Cottagers 5-4 win at Sheffield United. We can look to another point clear of the bottom three, surely the first priority for any side in this division at the start of the season. We can look to Dean Smith retaining faith in Neal Maupay after journalist Ian Moose made those quite pathetic and very public comments at the weekend.

Likewise, if we were going to have a below par performance then get it out of the system now. Whilst Dean would name an unchanged team for the third successive game, his own thoughts – which you can hear in full on Billy’s interview – were that perhaps he should have freshened things up a bit.

Personally, I’d have loved to have seen Sergi start. He was the one player to slightly liven things up. I’d also question Dean’s choice of substitutions but what do I know? I’m not going to sit here and slag off individuals. Moreso when collectively the team had a very off (and, to be fair, out of character) performance.

It was an odd one. When the highlight of the evening was marvelling at the efficiency of our ticket office in sorting out the faux pas that arose after one supporter 😉 discovered upon trying to enter the ground just before kick off that they’d bought their group of guests tickets for New Road rather than the terrace, then perhaps we leave it in the record books. They’ll show it ended with a 1-1 draw and another point for the Bees.

Perhaps that’s what we take from this game. The point and ever increased admiration for Mads and the ticketing team. Certainly, it makes slightly better reading than the tumbleweed moment we witnessed. Move along, nothing else to see. On an evening that had been promoted under the ‘Brentford nights’ banner it ended up being a bit of a ‘Brentford nightmare’.

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Oh well. Supporters’ picking this one apart won’t change anything. That’s Dean’s job and no doubt he’ll focus on doing that this week. Certainly, he was quite vocal in recognising our and his faults.

Instead, we’ve got Monday night’s trip to QPR to look forward to. With the not so super hoops losing again (this time 2-0 at Derby) and a large contingent of Bees jumping on the 237, we’ve a great chance to continue our recent good form against Rangers. Just as long as the players turn up.

Nick Bruzon

“Thrilled for Woods” as Brentford beat Leeds United whilst Birmingham City learn their 10 times table.

5 Nov

Thrilled for Woods”. Not my words but those used by one New Road observer outside The Griffin last night to summarise a wonderful 3-1 win for Brentford over Leeds United. And with a Birmingham City side featuring Harlee Dean going down 2-0 at Barnsley, it means the Bees are now ten points and ten places better than the Blues in the current Championship table.

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View from the Braemar – Ryan Woods and team mates also thrilled

But enough about Birmingham City. For now. Brentford deserve all the attention as the unbeaten run moves to 9 games – a period which saw us notch up a fifth win with Leeds United put to the sword in as one sided an encounter as you could hope to see. But for a brief period in the second half when the scores were levelled up, our illustrious opponents barely got a look in.

By that point the game should have been out of sight. Neal Maupay had given us an early lead, heading home after twenty minutes following a complete howler from goalkeeper Andy Lonergan. Going to gather a Barbet cross, he got his hands to the ball before spilling it straight in front of the lurking Frenchman. There was no be no (second) mistake. 1-0 and cruising.

So comfortable was it that the Bees could even afford to miss a penalty (plus ça change) on the stroke of half time. Ollie Watkins firing high into the away support after Maupay was adjudged to have been felled in the box. No matter, going in a goal up and dominant, surely we’d learn the lessons from early season and continue to turn the screw?

Alas not. With Leeds clearly coming back into it, Dan Bentley made an almost like for like repeat of Lonergan’s earlier faux pas. The only difference being our man didn’t even get his hands to the ball and that was it. 1-1 and game on Leeds United. Yet unlike earlier in the season there was to be no capitulation. Quite the opposite.

Rather than struggle though the rest of the game, the Bees kept going and going. The magnificent Yoann Barbet, as unlikely a successor to Sam Saunders as one could expect, eventually restored the lead with five minutes to go. His free kick going low into the corner from the toughest of angles outside the box. And with Brentford fans still celebrating , the best was yet to come.

Ryan Woods, who had been pulling strings all evening, fired home a quite exquisite shot from outside the box for our third. Mokotjo picking out the midfielder perfectly and the Ginger Pirlo stroked it home with one touch. A laser guided rocket of a shot and all the more impressive for striking a ball coming straight to him without even needing to take an initial touch . Just beautiful.

In truth it could, and should, have been more. The penalty aside, Leeds were twice saved by the woodwork in the second half. First Watkins and then Nico Yennaris rattling the crossbar from distance. Does Nico shoot from anywhere else? Do check out the internet highlights – whether on Sky now  or later in the day when Mark Burridge’s version is released.

Official highlights are now up

The only downside was an injury to Andreas Bjelland who failed to appear for the second half. Like the absent Henrik Dalsgaard, his appearance for Denmark over International break in that World Cup qualifier potentially now in question. On the plus side, another chance for Chris Mepham to come on and impress. Again.

What else can you say about this one?  Well, the spirit in the Bees camp seems as positive as ever. Certainly judging by the post match banter on Twitter. What a delightful change from those accursed promises that “We go again“.

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Likewise, the onetime ‘curse of the cameras’ now seemingly something that been confined to the wastebin of history. The Bees can’t seem to lose when we are on TV these days. No bad thing with a televised trip to QPR coming up later this month and then ‘that’ game with Aston Villa in December. Hmmmm.

But that’s for then. For now, lets enjoy the moment. What an evening and what a finish – both to the game and for Ryan.

It wasn’t just that aforementioned observer who was thrilled for Woods but all of us. You could see what that goal meant to him and the fans. What a wonderful moment of celebration at Griffin Park and what a privilege to be part of it.

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Ryan and fans enjoy the moment

As for Birmingham City……

Harlee Dean can’t imagine how his nonsensical claim about them being ten times better than his former team mates has further galvanised Brentford and added to our momentum. Like Russell Slade’s moan that “They celebrated like they’d won the FA Cup”, it is something that will go down in Brentford legend.

Like Slade’s moan, could it inspire us to make further history? The table certainly suggests that the Bees are on the up.

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The table doesn’t lie

Nick Bruzon