Tag Archives: Ollie Watkins

Barnsley deliver a hammer blow as relegation trapdoor still beckons for the other B’s…

29 Apr

Sunday morning and it all feels a bit ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show.’ Not in the same crushing style as the punch to the gut that is an actual play-off defeat or a penalty hitting a crossbar (apparently it happened once, five years ago, but nobody ever mentions that). Yet at the same time, Brentford offered a tantalising glimpse of what might have been before going down 2-0 to a Barnsley team who benefited from what head coach Dean Smith would describe as ‘A spawny goal’ to open proceedings. With Aston Villa and Derby County drawing one apiece, had we been able to turn this one into a victory then The Bees would still been alongside them in the promotion race heading into the final round of Championship matches. Alas, it was not to be and instead we’ll have to content ourselves with aiming for what would still be a staggering 7(seven)th placed finish and the choke off to see who drops into League One – Birmingham City, Burton, Barnsley or Bolton.

Screen Shot 2018-04-29 at 07.49.05

Spawny? Or did he really mean to sneak inside the back stick from there ?

That’s not to be downbeat. Genuinely. That the team had even hauled themselves into this position following a ‘mixed’ start to the campaign is something that should be celebrated. Four points from eight games saw us not so much flirting with relegation as taking her out on a first date although fortunately she would go on to spurn our advances. The triple transfer departure, and moreso the last day style in which it happened, was hardly great for morale either. I’m the first to hold my hands up on that one. Yet soon after, magic started to happen.

The win at Bolton in late September was followed by a run that saw us fail to pick up points in only one more game over the rest of the calendar year. That being the defeat at Cardiff City which led to Ian Moose demonstrating how to make friends and influence people at Griffin Park. Despite the odd hiccup / low par performance along the way, Dean Smith and his team have kept themselves going to make this one of the most exciting seasons on record. Three points yesterday would have kept it alive for another 90 minutes (at least). Yet to come even this close is something we should be applauding. I’m sure over time we all will.

The trick now is, as with every season, how we build on this. Can we keep the squad together? Will new contracts be signed or will the likes of Ollie Watkins, Ryan Woods, Alan Judge, Chris Mepham and Daniel Bentley be on the shopping lists of those fat cats in the Premier League? Or even the Championship. Without a doubt money talks but sometimes, sitting tight can be better for your career. Just look at the Birmingham City three. Ten times better – at going down. The talk about Woodsy joining Sunderland seems almost laughable now when you see how they have fared, too.

Who’d be a club owner? Moreso with a new stadium now well under construction. No doubt there’ll be decision made which surprise us. Decisions made which shock us. That’s all to come though. For now, we’ve still one more game with the visit of Hull City next Sunday. Still one more round of Championship fixtures to see if Harlee Dean’s decision making off the pitch is proven to be as suspect as some of those choices he made on it this time around. After that much trumpeted move, there is a very real chance of the Blues actually going down. Albeit my head says they are safe, despite what the heart thinks.

Their relegation rivals have equally tough games. On paper. Burton are at Preston. Barnsley go to Derby (although we do know how County love a final day choke) whilst Bolton entertain Nottingham Forest. At least The Trotters have home advantage but they are also reliant on having to increase their goal difference.

As we saw yesterday (and the highlights are now available on Sky’s internet site), the biggest of requirements can lead to the most spirited of performances. Hats off to Barnsley. We wanted it. We needed it. But so did they. And perhaps ten times as much. Brentford were fighting for an unexpected bonus. Let’s not forget that we haven’t actually been in the play-off zone at any point this campaign. Brentford were fighting amongst themselves, going by Dan Bentley’s reaction after the second goal went in – understandable having watched this on the highlights. But The Tykes were fighting for their lives. This really was a case of do or die. Whilst it may not have been the prettiest, the hosts did what they had to. And that takes guts.

Screen Shot 2018-04-29 at 07.50.37

Dan and Henrik discuss the second goal

With Burton making it three wins in a row, next Sunday may not be as cut and dried as people think. Of course I’ll be at Brentford v Hull City. Of course I’ll be desperate for three more points to lock in a fourth, successive top ten finish at this level. But I’d be a liar if I was to pretend that there won’t also be an ear on my terrace trannie. Keeping abreast of other results and just what they’ll mean at about twenty past two next Sunday

See you there.

Nick Bruzon

Advertisements

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.

DSC01687

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?

DSC01664

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

Can anything top Tuesday ? Is your overdraft facility ready? Bring on Leeds United.

24 Feb

Brentford travel to Leeds United on Saturday afternoon, supporters still buoyant after Tuesday night’s trashing of Birmingham City whilst looking at a Championship table that sees us in tenth place. Just four points outside the play-off zone following the rest of the mid-week fixtures being played out and then Sheffield United going down at Hull City last night . For the record, a result that sees us not only keep pace with that top pack but also sees the Tigers leapfrog the Blues at the trapdoor end of the table.

It really is a bit of an odd one today. In the nicest sense. Tuesday against Birmingham City was one of those real ‘I was there moments’. The club have bigged up their ‘Brentford nights’ campaign and what a way to bring that to a (regular) season’s climax. I’ve got a feeling there may be mention in next Saturday’s programme column (for the Cardiff City game) although in the meantime, if you’d like to read more…… 😉 , there’s the post-game article here.

Tuesday night saw (and heard) a game like no other.

Now, it almost feels a bit ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show.’ Just a bit. Specifically due to the horrific £39 away ticket price being charged by Leeds. A subject which has very much been the talking point amongst supporters these last few days. Billy (Grant) of Beesotted has written a voluminous, passionate and essential piece of reading on the subject. For those who haven’t, somehow, seen this as yet then you can find it here.

Even more terrifying, those wanting to make an 11th hour trip to Elland Road can ‘pay on the day’  but are going to have to shell out an incredible £44 (forty-four pounds) for the privilege of cheering on the Bees.

Forty. Four. Pounds. Just, wow. This is all kind of wrong yet there’s not much I can say on this that hasn’t been said already. At a time when even the Premier League have embraced the ‘Twenty’s Plenty’ campaign for away fans (in no small part due to the FSF, of which Billy is a board member) then surely the League have to take some sort of action to stop visiting supporters being priced out?

It’s no wonder only 500 advance tickets have been sold for this one. The fact that the Beesotted team and the chairman of BIAS (Adam Hobbs) are amongst those publically boycotting today’s game tells you all you need to know about feelings on this. Twenty’s plenty.

Thirty’s dirty. Fourty’s naughty. Fourty Four is taking the f’in piss and would require an appointment with the bank manager.

fortys-naughty-logo-895x640

Well said, Beesotted !!

That said, hats off to those making the trip today. Here’s hoping they are in as loud a voice as on Tuesday night (and overdraft facilities have room to spare).  If the atmosphere is even half of what it was, then it promises to be a special one. Whilst I’ve a feeling that the presence of more Brentford old boys lining up against us won’t generate the same level of, erm, excitement it’s still nice to get one over any of your former heroes. With Adam Forsahw and Stuart Dallas both due to start for Leeds, here’s hoping we show them what they’ve missed out on.

Yet at the same time, there’s nothing but respect in what this pair achieved at Griffin Park. And with apologies for repeating myself, there’ll always be ‘that goal’ at Fulham. Feelings towards Adam and Stuart would seem to be the polar opposite from Tuesday night’s fun and games.

View from the stand - Stuart Dallas celebrates doing that thing.....

Stuart Dallas – one of THE Brentford moments

As for the game itself, it’s a tough one to call. Leeds United are displaying form that is erratic as their choice of club crest whilst our last road trip saw a comprehensive defeat of a Sunderland team for whom the phrase ‘dead man walking’ would seem an appropriate one. Then there was Tuesday against Birmingham. Five goals for. None conceeded. Morale is currently through the roof and singing voices are in fine form.

Will Brentford make it three in a row? Is there any chance we can come close to the level of performance against Birmingham City? With Neal Maupay now scoring for pleasure, Ryan Woods putting in a gargantuan performance mid-week, Alan Judge fit, Ollie Watkins on fire and the promise of Sergi Canos to return then who knows what might happen ?

Roll on this afternoon when we find out. Even if, for most of us, it will be c/o Simon Ratcliffe, Ciaran Brett and , of course, Mark Burridge holding it all together with his  ever eloquent commentary.

DSC00524

The Bees celebrate the fourth on Tuesday. Or was it the fifth?

Nick Bruzon

Three points, five goals and ten times better. Magnificent Bees have a night to remember.

20 Feb

What can you say? What? Can? You? Say? For once, I’m lost for words after one of the most exciting and passionate games ever seen under lights at Griffin Park. After all the talk, all the build up, all the back story and all the blag it was Brentford who ended it three points, five goals and ten times better than an utterly abject Birmingham City team. The only real question of the night being how The Bees missed out on brackets. A 5-0 demolition of our old boys being the very least warranted by as one sided a performance as you could ever hope to see. Indeed, but for a 30 second period immediately after the second half began there was only ever one team in this.

DSC00513

Alan Judge doing his thing once more

We don’t do match reports on these pages. Never have done. At least, not in any detail. I’m lazy. I’m not a journalist and, quite frankly, it’s ‘the other stuff’ that goes into a game which is what captivates. And my, wasn’t this the consummate example?

We all know what happened in the summer. Our idol, Jota, left Brentford for Birmingham City. Le magnifique Maxime Colin left Brentford. For Birmingham City. Harlee Dean, having already had the captaincy taken away from him, left Brentford. For Birmingham City. He, of all players, hurt the most. Not so much his sale but the method of departure and those subsequent comments about his new squad being ten times better than the one he had left behind.

Football fans don’t forget. Ever. Just ask Martin Rowlands. And sure enough those words came back to haunt Harlee tonight. You knew something special was in the air when, on walking into the ground, the first song heard from #BeeTheDJ was Jessie J – Price Tag . “Money money money” blasted out over the speakers as Big Bee Radio demonstrated a wonderful sense of humour you can only get at a club like ours. At a place where everybody knows everyone. Where the bond between players and fans is like no other. Where our heroes still walk the same streets we do on their way in and out of Griffin Park.

And then the game began. David Stockdale in the Birmingham goal culpable for the first as he could only help an Ollie Watkins shot from distance into the net for 1-0. Flo Jo doubled the lead before half time as chants of “Harlee, what’s the score? Harlee, Harlee what’s the score?” began to ring around Griffin Park. Neal Maupay, who must have run Ollie close for man of the match, made it 3-0 and then 4-0 with less than an hour on the clock. His second courtesy of another howler from Stockdale who had an evening to forget.

It was only the goalkeeper’s decision to start playing at this point that stopped it getting even worse for The Blues. Pulling off a couple of magnificent saves, combined with our own profligacy as the game threatened to enter testimonial levels of showboating, the scoring stopped for almost half an hour.

There were contrasting faces in the Director’s Box. Sour from the visitors. Ecstatic from our own board and guests. Louder and louder songs directed towards Harlee. Daniel Bentley amongst those unable to suppress schoolboy levels of smirking every time the chants rang out. This couldn’t go on, surely? It couldn’t get any better, could it?

Jota’s arrival had barely registered. He picked up the odd pantomime boo but it was nothing compared to the unhappiest of returns for Harlee. Still, at least he could take consolation in it only being four. Until Ollie popped up to make it five. And that’s how it ended. Stunning. Just stunning.

DSC00524

The Bees celebrate the fourth. Or was it the fifth?

Yet just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, there was Brentford Official to change the ‘win music’. Kool and The Gang /Celebrate demoted. Instead, the ultimate of trolling. Daydream Believer. The chants of ‘Cheer up Harlee Dean’ which had being doing the round most of the game, cranked up to the loudest yet. Simply beautiful and, whilst I’ve seen comments suggesting we’re better than this, it captured the mood of the supporters quite magnificently.

I’ve never seen the place stay full for so long at full time. The crowd staying behind to cheer the players on a thoroughly deserved lap of honour. Birmingham City slinking back into the dressing room, unobserved.

Brentford were, to a man, magnificent. Dalsgaard’s cross for the third goal a thing of beauty. Maupay’s build up play delicious and he was thoroughly deserving of his brace. Even Daniel Bentley pulled off a quite wonderful save late on to preserve his goal’s virginity. Emiliano Marcondes delighting the crowd with a short, but very sweet, cameo role late on.

DSC00525

Emiliano impressed late on

It was a strange night. It was always going to be. No moreso than Peter Gilham finally getting Jota’s name right. After three season’s worth of Hoe-ta, he picked his moment to call him correctly.

That was just brilliant. Brentford are now a mere 3 points outside the play offs. We’re 20 points better off than a Birmingham City team who sit worryingly close to the League One drop zone. Harlee Dean may have joined The Blues to leave The Championship.

He just probably didn’t expect to do it in this direction.

All together now – Brentford official seize the moment. Beautifully

Nick Bruzon

Bees get the point as Changchun Yatai get that Vibe. What next as Sunderland await?

11 Feb

Brentford 1 Preston North End 1. After that mini run of double defeats, here was a chance to get back to winning ways before the double header against two teams up to their hips and necks in the relegation quagmire – Birmingham City and Sunderland. Yet on a day which saw the long anticipated transfer of Lasse Vibe to Chinese Super League side Changchun Yatai for a fee rumoured to be £2m and a much changed Bees team lining up against promotion chasing Preston, in retrospect was it as disappointing as it felt at full time?

5a7e411e75c09

Any votes for ‘China in your hand’ on #BeeTheDJ ? Farewell, Lasse

No. In a word. As a fan, I’m always desperate to win no matter whom we are up against and whichever players are staring. Yet a first XI which, had it been picked during the transfer window would have had supporters screaming ‘conspiracy theory‘, more than held their own and arguably had enough chances and possession to have wrapped this one up. There was no Sergi Canos – suspended. Ryan Woods had to be content with wandering up and down the Braemar Road paddock, chatting to supporters and confirming he should be fit for the Sunderland game. Yoann Barbet was dropped to the bench whilst wunderkind Chris Mepham was awol.

Yet this was still a strong team with Josh McEachran having a very positive start before returning to the frustrating enigma that his performances so often are. When he’s on form he really is a talent and his forward passing is a joy to behold. Equally, there’s more sideways and backwards passing than down the road at Twickenham. Watching the England-Wales rugby after this one, I was half expecting our number 10 to put in an appearance. No irony lost, given one challenge he put in on Callum Robinson. Move along, nothing to see here. It’s a tough call for Dean how he crams that central midfield, who makes way and how he can get the very best from his available resources. Certainly, the arrivals of Lewis Macleod and Alan Judge were very welcome.

It was a game played out in front of a sparse crowd under drizzle soaked skies. It was a game that saw Brentford give away a goal out of nowhere. Tom Barkhuizen putting Preston ahead before Florian Jozefzoon levelled things up just eight minutes later with a goal described by Sky Sports (and you can get edited the highlights here) as a superb strike. I say this given I missed it, in circumstances described in the trade as ‘doing a JJ’. Still, anything for the cause. From then on, it was one-way traffic and I can’t wait to hear how the ever wonderful Mark Burridge described all this when the full fat package is available later *.

DSC00444

View from the Braemar: Andreas Bjelland v Preston – a Dane in the rain

With Greg Cunningham’s second yellow seeing the visitors reduced to ten men with fifteen minutes remaining, it was backs to the wall stuff. Ollie Watkins blazed just wide whilst Alan Judge came oh so close with a curling free kick in the dying seconds. Emiliano Marcondes added further threat from the bench and it is no surprise Dean came out with post-match comments that included his observation that, “We should have got three points today as our performance was good”.

Second half, it was good. Very. Although, equally, we can count our blessings The Bees didn’t go behind in the opening period. Tommy Spurr adjudged to have been marginally offside as he headed home for 1-0. But no. Instead it was that sweetest of football feelings – opposition cheers being snuffed out by the wave of a linesman’s flag. 0-0 it stayed, until Barkhuizen did the needful.

IMG_3292

It’s an early shower for you, number 3. Cunningham walks.

As for Brentford, up front remains a tough one for Dean. Neal Maupay had one, clear chance when put through one on one with Preston goalkeeper Declan Rudd. The man in black (Rudd, not the ref – if Kitman Bob is reading, what ARE the rules on that?) quick off his line to smoother the striker’s shot from eight yards. Other than that though, there were slim pickings in what you’d deem a typical striker’s chance. One thing’s for sure, with Justin Shaibu on loan and Lasse sold without being replaced, Neal is in for the long haul. That’s no bad thing either. We saw early on in the season what an impact he had off the bench. Here’s hoping that given a prolonged run of starts he’ll push on and find the back of the net on a regular basis.

My other thought is in regards to Dean Smith’s post-match observations. Both in this one and the previous two games. The 3-0 Loss v Derby saw him note that, “We had the better chances… the score-line wasn’t a reflection of what I thought was two-evenly matched teams”.

The game prior, our 1-0 Loss at home to Norwich, saw him opine how: 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”.

Yesterday, it was that we should have won. Personally, my take on it is that we could have won. What a difference a letter or two makes. At least Dean recognises the chances we are creating but as has been said a gazillion times on these pages, they count for nothing if you can’t put them away.

As has also been said, who’d be a manager? Very much a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Overall, He and his team are doing just about most things right. Certainly, there are no huge complaints from where I am sitting. Quite the opposite. We’re pushing it against the best in a phenomally tough division and more than holding our own.

Actually, there’s nothing wrong with not winning a game. We all want to. Myself included. I remember league two days. No money etc. etc. etc. I saw a reference on Twitter the other day to the Eddie May/ Micky Adams relegation season. Grim stuff. We’re more spoilt now than we’ve ever been. Moreso with the new stadium plans really gathering pace. But the football fan is never happy. We always want more. We live in hope of what might be. We all have a dream. We always want better.

I understand Dean’s passion and desire but I also know what I see when I’m watching the same game he is. Too much of the ‘we deserved to win/ should have won’ starts to lose impact after a while.

Hey, it’s a small gripe. At least he’s got faith in his team and is constantly reinforcing that positive message. If it’s the worst thing Dean does then we’re in good hands. He has tough decisions ahead, that’s for sure, and I don’t envy him picking the team to start against Sunderland. Likewise, his substitutions, whenever they happen….

But these are nice decisions to have to make. There is competition for the starting berth in just about every position. Yoann Barbet, in particular, must count himself very unlucky to have missed out this time around (albeit I love seeing Josh Clarke out there). No doubt he’ll be amongst those hammering down Dean’s door this week. Metaphorically speaking.

I’ve no clue who Dean will start on Saturday at Sunderland. Could this be Alan Judge’s time? I can’t wait to find out though. Given their own late comeback from 3-0 down to earn a point at Bristol City on Saturday, it’s not going to be as easy as the table suggests. That’s for sure.

There’s nothing more dangerous than a black cat backed into a corner and desperately fighting for survival. Bring it on.

As for Lasse Vibe, there’s not much more that can really be said. We all knew his contract was up. We all know what he has done for us over the last few years. How open and friendly he is. How enthusiastic and dedicated to the cause whilst at Griffin Park. Talking to supporters yesterday and reading through social media, I can’t see anybody wishing him everything but the best.

I can’t think of any other club or any other player where losing your main goal threat has been treated with nothing but universal good vibes. Yet that’s Lasse.

THANK YOU. Here’s to the World Cup..

* until then, here’s the post lunchtime update with the ‘official highlights’. Great job on the comms, too…

 

Nick Bruzon

 

Table makes wonderful reading as Brentford beat Bolton to tighten the gap.

14 Jan

Brentford 2 Bolton Wanderers 0. Another league game unbeaten at Griffin Park (that’s 13 now, our longest run since 1951) and The Bees a mere three points outside the play-offs. True, that gap is tighter than a duck’s behind at the moment.  The same winning margin divides all six teams from Sheffield United down to ourselves in 11th. Yet with victory (and other results going our way)  all that stands between Brentford and a place in the promotion slots, let’s not pretend things aren’t getting very exciting as we enter the second half of the season. Saturday’s trip to Reading already can’t come soon enough.

DSC00262

Form an orderly queue. Bolton were the visitors on Saturday

It was a game where victory eventually came to the team who bossed it yet nobody would have been surprised had we left Griffin Park with a point. Brentford had taken the lead just before half time. Flo Jo picking up a sweet pass from Lasse Vibe to hammer home high and hard from the cusp of the six-yard box and into the far corner of the net. It was a powerful finish to light up what in truth had been a somewhat turgid opening period. But a 1-0 lead going into the break was all that mattered and as the players re-emerged, it seemed only a matter of time before that was doubled.

Kamo fired straight at goalkeeper Ben Alnwick from yards out with the whole of the goal to aim at. Nico saw a shot bounce of the post. The Bees pressed. The Bees came close. Then the balance of play began to swing as Bolton sensed a glimmer of hope. Dean stuck to his starting XI as the pressure built.

The away fans gasped. The home support clenched buttocks. If the first half had been a damp squib then this was very much exploding into life. A freekick was headed wide, I forget who, as Bolton came oh-so close. Barbet and Bjelland the unfortunate victims of a bouncing ball as Daniel Bentley came to the rescue.  Bolton, cynical in the challenge, but desperate for a point.

And then it was over. Sergi Canos, a late sub for Florian Jozefzoon, squaring it for Neal Maupay to double our lead with the sweetest of backheels. Being honest, there had been a slight suspicion of offside from where we were sitting but nobody cared. The execution had been delicious and the sense of relief was palpable. Besides, watching the video highlights afterwards (Sky Sports have theirs up already; 12pm for the league to let us put the ‘official’ version up) there was nothing wrong with the goal. Perfect positioning and the calmest of finishes. Stick that in your pie and eat it, Ian Moose.

DSC00277 (1)

Bolton were left looking dazed and confused by the end

It’s hard to find fault on what was a wonderful afternoon. Brentford continuing their fine, fine form ahead of Saturday’s trip to Reading. There’ll be over 2,000 Bees fans at that one. A quite wonderful effort for a game where the reward for another win is there for all to see. If I have any ‘negative’ (and the word is used in the loosest sense) it would have been in the delay to making any substitutions.

Whereas the Warburton era saw you able to set your watch by his making changes within ‘the zone’ (60-70 minutes on the clock), regardless of how the team were doing, these days there seems to be almost a reluctance to switch things around until late on. Even when the opposition are turning the screw as we saw yesterday. Sitting where I was, there was a definite upping off the the ante from Bolton that might have seen us pay pay the price with the Bees continuing as was.

It’s a small observation and, ultimately, one that will be dismissed by the fact we came away with a 2-0 win. That will be proven as Dean having faith in the players he picked to do a job and their following it through. And on that point I can’t disagree – they DID. Yet equally, football is a game of fine margins. We all saw how tense it got for a while and there have been times this season when it’s felt as though we’ve been slow to react to what is happening in front of us.

But as we all know, I’m just the numpty on the terrace. I couldn’t manage a beer yesterday (it’s dry January) let alone a football team. Perhaps that is just part and parcel of being a Bees/football supporter – we’ve been conditioned over the years to fear the worst. To expect that kick in the nuts; that ultimate sucker punch. Defenders are paid to defend and they did that admirably. Chris Mepham in particular having yet another stand out game. Talk about a wise head on young shoulders. Dean made his calls and the result shows he got them right. Again.

Equally, the Warburton era saw a team picked by numbers even when perhaps a change might have been due. Jonathan Douglas (at the end) and Harlee Dean (when he was at the more unpredictable end of the scale) seemingly nailed onto the teamsheet. Dean isn’t afraid to mix things around as was seen with Sergi tied to the bench for most of yesterday’s game. With Mepham continuing to keep out more experienced colleagues.

DSC00281

Late sub Sergi – insert your own caption

But we digress. That’s the price of writing these things on the hoof. Mark Warburton was a hero to pretty much all of us at Griffin Park. He did his thing his way and we all know how close Brentford came. Likewise, we all know how things ended.

That was then, this is now. Dean Smith is the man in charge. Along with his coaching staff, he’s more than getting the results. More than building a quite wonderful team spirit. He has his team set for a second half of the season that could, if things continue, eclipse any that have come before.

Honestly, I didn’t think I’d be saying this back in September given the start that Brentford had. Players sold, bottom of the table and four points from eight games. Then, we went to Bolton and won 3-0. How things have turned since that point. Could Saturday’s win over the same opposition prove an equally telling catalyst ?

One things for sure, it’s going to be fun finding out. Here’s to Reading and that gap towards the top getting even tighter.

wpid-mind-the-gap-2014-06-23-08-03

The red and white express raced to another win on Saturday

Nick Bruzon

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.

IMG_2959

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.

Screen Shot 2018-01-07 at 08.01.45

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.

DSC00197

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.

DSC00136

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.

DSC00156

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.

DSC00205

A solitary Gibraltarian flag held aloft at Griffin Park

IMG_8328-2

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

Nick Bruzon

Best. Club. Ever. It was a very merry Christmas as doors to the ground thrown open for young fans.

13 Dec

Yours Truly writing this particular column seems almost as seasonal a repeat as BBC1 showing the Mrs Browns Boys Christmas Special. Yet whilst that is the ultimate in festive hell (with nary a ho, ho or ho in sight) Brentford was the place to be last night with seasonal goodwill and Christmas cheer in abundance. At a time when most of the football world would have had their eyes on Burnley going fourth in the Premier league (why thank you for the Fantasy Football points, number 26) or Chelsea winning a game once more, over in TW8 it was a case of all down to Griffin Park for the Junior Bees Christmas get together.

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 06.29.45

Mrs Brown – a festive repeat undoubtedly coming. Sadly, the same can’t be said for laughs

And, as ever, whilst you may have read this before it bears repeating. The squad, the staff, the mascots and the entertainers were beyond compare. Talking to the youngsters, signing player cards, posing for photos and hosting all manner of football related games. Giant jenga with Romaine Sawyers and Daniel Bentley (smart lads, bagging an indoor spot). A tour of the dressing room with John Egan . Ollie Watkins and Neal Maupay in charge of the snowball toss. It had it all. And more.

Special mention to Brentford head coach Dean Smith, too. My four year old knows what Dean does – amongst other things, he picks the players. As such, the pair of us (me and Harry, not me and Dean) had needed a long chat in September about where his former favourite Harlee Dean had gone. So I was shocked and surprised (pleasantly so) when the normally shy four year old asked him: “Why has Harlee Dean joined the naughty team”?

Let’s just say that his response was both utterly professional yet, at the same time, displaying a sense of humour that has certainly tickled Harry. Thank you, Dean.

And thanks, as ever to all at Brentford. I love this club. I love what they do for the fans. Would you get this at a Chelsea or a Manchester United? I neither know nor care. I don’t support them and I don’t live overseas. My suspicion is a no. And certainly not for free. Yet Brentford, a top half of the table Championship club, were quite happy to throw open the doors once more. And it was wonderful.

Harry is still enthusing about it this morning. And that’s only a good thing.

IMG_E2555

Sergi and Josh just running the ‘ being popular’ stall

Nick Bruzon

Post Hull City fall out is of an unexpected kind.

10 Dec

We regret that due to 3mm of snow falling in Brentford there will be no Last Word today. No update on yesterday’s 3-2 loss for the Bees at Hull City.

The Last Word apologises for any inconvenience caused.

Normal service will be resumed ahead of Brentford v Barnsley on Saturday.

TEST-CARD-F-530872

Nick Bruzon

Rampant Brentford exorcise the memory of QPR and render Fulham pointless.

3 Dec

Where do you start with that one? A 3-1 demolition of Fulham at Griffin Park on Saturday saw Brentford make it 4 points out of 6 from back-to-back West London derbies. With it, the Bees moved into the top half of the Championship table and above both our near neighbours. It was the perfect tonic following the disappointment of the final few moments at QPR earlier this week and a performance that shows just what Dean Smith’s team can do when they put their minds to it.

Ollie v Fulham

Another afternoon, another win

Mind you it was a case of very much adjusting to the game and, subsequently, each other. A hamstring Injury to Lasse Vibe early on (and no recognised striker on the bench) saw Romaine Sawyers coming on to sit up top. A so called ‘False 9’ as Dean would later refer to him. Whilst we’ve tried this one before, at QPR two seasons ago – the only time they’ve beaten us in the last 7(seven) encounters – this time things were different for Brentford. So very different.

For a moment it looked shaky. The Bees went a goal down after Fulham were given the freedom of the Griffin Park back four. The visitors were lining up to slide home one time Bee Ryan Fredericks’ cross. In the end it was Neeskens Kebano who did the needful at the back post. Daniel Bentley then kept us in it with a wonder save but from that point on it was one way traffic.

Ollie Watkins set off on a quite wonderful run through the middle of the park, covering close to 50 yards before releasing Sergi Canos to leave David Button no chance. Canos (and the Fulham defence) take the glory but full kudos to Ollie for a lungbusting run.

1-1 at half time and the Bees came out to pick up where they left off. The half had barely begun when Romaine Sawyers made it 2-1. The player may feel he was in the right place at the right time although the goal had as much to do with the omens in the stand and on the terrace. Got to love a lucky shirt, lucky fleece (amazing where you get the inspiration from) and a Trevor Extra Strong Mint. Many thanks John – the real hero of the afternoon as man in the right place at the right time with the lucky confectionary.

IMG_E2355

Lucky shirt. Lucky fleece. Lucky sweets. Nothing lucky about the win

With Fulham reduced to ten men, following the customary red card from referee Bobby Madley it really was game over. A detail confirmed with just five minutes to go as Romaine Sawyers set up Ollie Watkins to close things out. Two goals up against West London neighbours with just moments left on the clock. What could go wrong? Five minutes of injury time, that’s what!

But whereas Monday saw Brentford hit the self-destruct at QPR,  this time around there was to be no such repeat. Ball retention was the key as we passed it around, backwards and even had the odd probe to see down the clock.

3-1 it finished. What a result. What a performance. What an afternoon. There were tears from Fulham official. What a shame they didn’t get the chance to use their shiny new GIF. Please, stop sniggering.  There was even a gif in return as the ghost of the Obama meme threatened to raise its head once more. It was beautiful ! Well played the Brentford media team on hitting the perfect balance, this time.

Screen Shot 2017-12-03 at 08.34.49

A word or two, also, about Mr. Madley. We all know him of old, especially ‘that’ game at Leyton Orient. Officious, pernickety, trigger happy and more cards than a Clintons sale. Yet I thought he had a great game yesterday.

True, there were a few moments where he couldn’t help but be his over-officious self but he called the cards right – including the yellow for Sergi who had seemed to go in dangerously, albeit not connecting. But given the lack of protection we’ve had at times this season, the four yellows (including a second for Fulham’s Odoi) were spot on. As were the proliferation of dead balls awarded in an otherwise open game that was, generally, allowed to flow.

Sergi v Fulham

View from the terrace : When Sergi met Bobby

Sergi Canos was understandably named man of the match. I love watching him in action. The skill, the speed, the enthusiasm. Yet, for me I think Romaine probably just deserved it. A goal, an assist and a player very much a fish out of water in terms of the role he was asked to play. As Dean would later note on ‘official’, “I know, at times, he isn’t everyone’s favourite but I thought his performance today was excellent.

Dean, I couldn’t agree more.

As ever, the video highlights are up on Sky. Probably worth a watch before we get treated to Mark Burridge’s version. If his commentary is anywhere near as good as his post match Twitter then they’re going to be compulsory viewing when these go live after mid-day.

What a finish. What a way to celebrate rainbow laces day. Top half of the table, current kings of West London and a fine, fine performance from Dean Smiths’ injury hit team. But perhaps the biggest cheer of the afternoon was that for somebody returning from injury, Lewid Macleod. How good was it so see him back on the Griffin Park pitch? It seems an eternity since he was stretchered off at Loftus Road last season.

The road to return has certainly been a long one but, again, as impressive a display from the club in looking after our long term sick as the player in putting in all those hard yards. Nice one, Lewis.

Next up, a certain Mr. Judge? Here’s hoping….

The sun is past the yard arm so the video censors let Mark do his thing

All that’s to come, though. For now let’s just enjoy the moment and savour a fine win. Matthew Benham, back in his customary place at the front of the director’s box after a surprise ‘substitution’ against Burton, seemed ecstatic as the second half goals flew in. Certainly, those in the paddock and around the ground were. Except, perhaps, in the away end. If only they’d had a nice, new GIF.

It’s our fourth season in the Championship and, it would be fair to say, that derby day form has certainly been with the Bees. Jota in the last minute at Griffin Park, Sam Saunders with that fifth minute beauty and Stuart Dallas doing ‘that thing’ at the Cottage during our 4-1 steamrollering are amongst the many highs.

This one felt as good as any of them. What an afternoon. What a result !!

IMG_7699

Who needs Pointless or Strictly Dancing for Saturday entertainment ?

Nick Bruzon