Tag Archives: Ollie Watkins

To cap it all, they had a drum. A f***ing drum.

31 Mar

It really was that bad. Brentford and Wigan Athletic played out as insipid a 0-0 draw as one could imagine when Championship football returned on Saturday afternoon following the International break. The scintillating football which has been a trademark of Thomas Frank’s team in 2019 nothing but a distant memory in a game that was as awful as the smell wafting over the DW stadium. For the record, chicken manure from a local farmer – no manners, but what a critic. To borrow a phrase. Instead, it is nothing more than a case of scratching around for positives as the Bees are left chasing a fifth, successive top ten finish and a midweek trip to Swansea City. This before Frank Lampard’s Derby County ™ are next up at Griffin Park.

I’ve watched the highlights. If anything, the 1minute 47 seconds offered up by Sky are overly generous. The other 88 mins 13 were as turgid as it comes. Wigan were determined to strangle any life out of the game. Brentford, unable to find a way through as any attacking intent was choked out of the game. Paul Cook’s team administering a vice like grip around the throat of the Bees. Whenever Neal Maupay got in the box there were three men on him. Saïd was closed down every time he got on the ball. Several players seemed off the pace (first half Henrik and Ollie in particular – sorry, but..) whilst the team were desperately crying out for the fluidity of Romaine Sawyers to guide the ball through the midfield and open up play. And, Wigan had a drum. A f**king drum. At home. That was worse than anything we saw on pitch or smelled off it. At least we had Harry Potter up our sleeve to counter the moribund banging. Nice work, Simon.

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A lone drummer is no substitute for a home atmosphere

Instead, we ended the game with a solitary shot on target. According to the stats. I was struggling to remember even that although the highlights have duly offered it up. Our hosts had three, with Brentford very much grateful to Luke Daniels for keeping us in the match. Three times he retained parity including one effort from distance in the first half that looked as though it might catch him unawares and drift in to the top corner. Instead, it was guided to safety as our virgin goal remained unblemished.

Thomas was bang on the money at full time when he noted “It was a game of very few chances and I think it was a fair result.…. Our normal fluent play between the lines just wasn’t there and we weren’t good enough to play around them”. Not ideal reading but it was exactly what happened and infinitely better to have a head coach who acknowledges what we could all see rather than trotting out the usual “We deserved to win this”.

Look, it wasn’t great. There’s no real action of note to talk about and to compound matters, we lost Yoann Barbet just a few minutes into the second period. He’d needed treatment late on in the first after a nasty looking fall and was clearly limping as he emerged after his half time cuppa. The boos from the home supporters whilst he was being treated both unfair and uncalled for. Something that was consistent with any of our players going down after a lot of rough treatment.

There was little protection offered from the man in neon yellow, referee Andy Woolmer in a game that ended with him blowing up for fouls on 33 occasions. Just to put that into context, there were only 20 awarded as Birmingham City L went down at West Brom on Friday night and 21 as Frank Lampard’s Derby County came one short of hitting 7(seven) goal brackets against Rotherham.   

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View from the away end – about as close as it got

So Wigan stifled it. Brentford were off the pace. But can we take anything positive from this one? Well, the fact that Wigan played with such a negative style and formation shows the threat presented by normally free-scoring Bees. Indeed, as the clock moved on it felt like the sort of game that so many times in the past we’ve seen the team lose 1-0. At least this time around, Luke kept us in it with a number of saves that were as smart as the all red goalkeeper’s kit he was sporting. 

There was a return to match action for Lewis Macleod, too. His appearance as a late substitute for Josh Da Silva being the latest attempt to relaunch what should be such a promising career but one which has, sadly, been blighted by injury after injury. How unlucky has Lewis been? Here’s hoping he can put a few games under his belt and then hit the ground running next season. Indeed, even Josh starting this one and a very accomplished performance from Mads Bech Sörensen off the bench being further testament to a B-team system that is seeing players segue through to the match day squad.

What else. It was another game unbeaten in orange / brown (what jinx?) whilst the pub before and after the game was quiet magnificent – despite the bizarre formation of a canteen style queue to order the drinks. This a phenomena I’ve now witnessed twice in less than a week after having never experienced this previously. How has this been allowed to happen? Why? Did I miss a memo ? It’s quite bizarre.

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Wigan – great beer, despite the queue

The lack of social element aside,  how do you see the full contents on offer across the whole bar front when approaching a fixed point in the corner. Moreso, when you are staring at the back of the prior punter? Why can’t the staff work out who is next up without looking ? Even then, service was still granted by answering the question “Who’s next?”.  Err, me. I’m at the top of the queue. All that was needed was a plastic tray for the full school dining hall experience . Still, as an away fan it made an alternative to being greeted with the words ‘Ow Much..?’ from the previous transaction ringing in the ears.

We digress, as ever and that’s a rant for another day. For now, we’ll file it alongside waiters describing coffee as Expresso and made up coffee words (what the hell is a ventissimo?). Team GB. The faux-verb “To medal”. Mrs. Brown’s Boys. People who think Roger Moore shouldn’t top a ‘Best Bond’ list. Star Wars Day  – that’s the one after May the third.  Ian Moose. iPod headphones. The England Supporters band. Indeed, any form of musical interlude at football. See also: goal music, drums, Mr. Portsmouth and his bell. John Bishop (he’s from Liverpool, apparently. If only he’d mentioned it in his routine). Use of the words Derby County preceded by Frank Lampard’s….

And relax. All of a sudden, a 0-0 at Wigan doesn’t seem so bad. Despite the drum.

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Thomas salutes the fans at full time

Nick Bruzon  

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Tigers mauled by the Bees as Saïd inspires mayhem.

24 Feb

It really doesn’t get much more enjoyable than that. If Aston Villa had been fun, this was next level excitement. The memory of Swansea City in the FA Cup well and truly exorcised by a rampant Brentford side, inspired by Saïd Benrahma. Three wonder goals and one assist for the Algerian put a huge dent in the scoreline that saw Hull City heading towards brackets and lucky to leave with just a 5-1 reverse to their name. Brentford were scintillating. Magnificent. Insatiable. Choose any positive adjective and it applies to this.  A second five goal haul in less than a month at Griffin Park (and our third this season) were the very least Thomas Frank and his team deserved after a performance that was very much men against boys.

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Saïd definitely enjoyed this one

Where do you even start with this? Benrahma will understandably grab the headlines. His goals and approach play dictate that. Peter Gilham losing himself on the public address system, prefacing the announcement for our second goal and Saïd’s first with a shocked “Wow!!”.

But it was stunning. Waltzing through a crowded penalty box. Dancing around the Hull City defence until the smallest of gaps opened up, he pinged it into the top corner.

It took the breath away. The crowd erupted. The Bees turned the screw.

Saïd had already set up our equaliser, opening up the Hull defence to free the General. Kamo made no mistake as he virtually passed it in from distance. Parity restored after the visitors had, to be fair, controlled the lion’s share in the early stages. Their goal had threatened and eventually came via the head of Fraizer Campbell as a rare slip from Yoann Barbet gave the Hull man all the room he needed and left Daniel Bentley with no chance. Yet from that moment it was game over. Albeit the Tigers has no idea what was about to be unleashed.

The third came just before half time. That man Benrahma firing home as 0-1 down after 25 minutes became a 3-1 lead when the players headed in for their half time cuppa. There was a serious danger of the supporters running out of ‘goal sweets’ at this rate (one Haribo Supermix every time the net ripples, being the tradition in our block). There was a serious danger that the brackets would need to be defrosted.

Moreso when Maupay made if four just after the break, guiding home from close range after top work from Ollie Watkins. Watching the build up on the highlights (available now via Sky’s match report), the work Neal does to even get in position is great. He delivers the pass that sets the move in motion before breaking up field through the middle to get on the end of the eventual finish. The finish may have been (relatively) simple but it was all about the approach play

Peter Gilham was practically self-combusting at this rate. Freestyling on the mic with all the panache of a man who knew how exquisite this performance was turning out to be. How wonderful the interplay across the team was. Sergi roasting his man time and again. Romaine having one of those beautiful games where the passes flowed as sweetly as honey off the back of a spoon. Liquid football. Ollie and Neal linking up the play as Moses continued to push up on the other side. 

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The high-flying Bees were rampant

We said after the Aston Villa game how good this team can be when they get going. That time, they were only rewarded with one goal. This time out, it was carnage. The fifth and, ultimately, final strike being on a par with everything that had come before. Whilst the second took the breath away at the time, the hat-trick strike was just beautiful.

Romaine’s pass through was stopped dead, Saïd spun and curled it from the edge of the box into the top corner. One touch. Barely looking up as he hit it. Pure instinct and what a finish. What a celebration as he ran full tilt towards the dugouts to celebrate with Thomas.

You could see what this one meant to them both. Likewise at full time where the players did the lap of Griffin Park to rapturous applause. Every one of them enjoying the moment, talking to the fans and enjoying very well deserved acclaim. It really was a devastating afternoon and one had to feel for the visitors, now facing a long shlepp home.

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Thomas celebrates with the fans at full time

Brentford remain 16th, with the prospect of a trip to Sheffield, Tuesday, and then the visit of “The team from West London” (as PG called them) next weekend. The table above us is really getting congested now with the gap to the top ten now just four points away and, for the dreamers amongst us, 10 points to Bristol City in sixth.

Whatever happens, if the Bees carry on playing like this there’s going to be a lot of fun between now and May. For all that the Hull fans like to sing about “Getting mauled by the Tigers“, this time around they were made to look as dangerous as a restaurant cat. Claws very much clipped as Brentford ran riot.

Tuesday is about as a huge an ask as they come but what momentum to go into the game with. And then there’s the small matter of Saturday. See you there. 

Now, let’s go and watch those highlights once more…

 

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The only mauling on Saturday came from the Bees

Nick Bruzon 

Club and fans help take the edge off cup disappointment.

20 Feb

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

Bliss Manchester City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Lemonheads do their thing in Kentish Town

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

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

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

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The bottom lip is beginning to quiver.

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

See you there.

Nick Bruzon

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

18 Feb

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

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

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Swansea had come forward early but made little progress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Even the scoreboard was trolling us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nick Bruzon 

Magnificent Brentford obliterate Blackburn. What an afternoon at Griffin Park.

2 Feb

My word. That was incredible. What an afternoon. What a game. What a result. Brentford swept aside Blackburn Rovers in a phenomenal display that saw a 0-2 deficit with just 7(seven) on the clock turned into an eventual 5-2 thrashing. We’ve handed out some football lessons over the last few seasons – the likes of Leeds United, Birmingham City and Aston Villa amongst those to feel the pain of a full force red machine – but this was something else. Moreso given the quite horrific start to proceedings.

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Brentford were head and shoulders above Blackburn at Griffin Park

We don’t do full fat match reports on these pages and now isn’t the time to change that record. If you were lucky enough to be there you’ll know how scintillating Brentford were. How irrepressible Said Benrahma was. How desperate were an opening eight minutes that saw Bradley Dack and Danny Graham hand in-form Blackburn an early lead with Daniel Bentley beaten twice. And then the Bees woke up.

Benrahma got our first after a wonderful exchange of passes. The Rovers defence sliced open with all the precision of a surgeon. The execution, clinical. That the goal came so soon after having shipped our second almost nullified the effect of going down so early. The crowd shifted from moan to buzz to noise.

The Bees kicked on. Harrison Reed in the Rovers midfield kicked off. It was symptomatic of his afternoon, tumbling under the most innocuous of challenges and doing his level best to wind up the Brentford players. But they, and the ref, were having none of it. Instead, all he got was a chorus of boos for his trouble. 

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Cheer up cheater Reed. Captain Romaine makes his point.

With Benrahma also finding the crossbar from out wide, Brentford went in 2-1 down at half time but very much in the ascendency. And when they came out for the second period, things escalated to the realms of fantasy football. Ollie Watkins levelled up from distance (something which seems to be very much his thing at present) as the Bees continued to turn the screw. 

Attacking with confidence, flair and swagger there was only one team in it. With Blackburn forced to withdraw both their goalscorers they could do nothing but try to soak up the relentless pressure. A kitchen sponge would have done a better job. 

Ollie Watkins got his second and our third on 73, heading home after David Raya made a mess of a high ball in the box. Five minutes later Neal Maupay doubled the lead after another slick passage of play from Thomas Frank’s free-flowing Bees. And with Brentford refusing to slow it down, birthday boy Sergi Canos completed the rout in the final few minutes.

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Size doesn’t matter – the Bees kept pushing up until the end.

One can’t underrate the beauty of our play or the tremendous character shown by the team. To go two down so quickly against a Blackburn side coming into the game on such a great run of form could have been the catalyst for disaster. Instead, it was a metaphorical boot up the backside that resulted in us being privileged enough to witness one of THE Brentford performances. 

The goals are up on Sky already – they’re every one of them worth a watch. Ollie Watkins ended this one being nominated for Sky Sports ‘goal of the day’. Frankly, it could have been any of the five. Trying to pick a Man-of-the-match from that one is a task akin to the judgement of Solomon. Ollie? Said? Kamo? Romaine? Yoann? Any of them.

Neal was as formidable and ballsy as ever. He must be nightmare to play against. Talking to one Braemar Road observer in the second half, he commented that we probably haven’t had such a tenacious (that’s the polite version) player since the likes of Terry Hurlock. There is no quarter given. Whether in the challenge, the build up or the finish. 

Honestly, I can’t was lyrical enough about this one. It was a finish and performance that put me in mind of Birmingham City last season. The 5-0 rout. Fans lined the pitch at full time as the players walked off to a heroes’ serenade. Thomas Frank, his arm around Neal Maupay, amongst the last to exit this arena of joy. How wonderful for him to see his own plans coming together after that horrific run of form that coincided with his own step up into the head coach role. Yet he has stuck to his principals, taken a horrific amount of flak on the chin but won those dissenting voices around. That’s now 9 games unbeaten and the goals flying in for fun. These 5 came after the 3 against Barnet, the 4 at Rotherham United and another 3 at home to Stoke City. 15 in four games – that’s just ridiculous.

The only question now being how Tuesday night can follow this? A visit from Barnet in an FA Cup replay, our lesson learned, could turn into a massacre IF Brentford continue with the same flair and attacking intent. It’s no gimme of course but I can’t wait to see if we can pick up then where we left off tonight.

What a performance.

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The smile says it all as Brentford go 4-2 up

Nick Bruzon

Tie of the round sees Sparkes fly as Bees sting Bees

29 Jan

We are all, presumably, bang up to date with events for last night. If you weren’t at the game, the TV option presented a warmer alternative whilst there was also Mark Burridge and co on the iFollow commentary. Yet it was one of those where a final score of Barnet 3 Brentford 3 doesn’t even begin to do justice to what was as pulsating an FA Cup tie as one could hope to see. Albeit with the winners now facing a tough trip to Swansea City in the fifth round, having to go the extra mile of a replay on Tuesday night was probably the last thing anybody wanted. Given the way this one ebbed and flowed (BBC Sport describing it at full time as ‘simply brilliant’) from some perspectives one could almost argue that for either team to still be in with a chance of winning should be cause for relief.

Barnet will be disappointed. Brentford frustrated. The hosts fought back from a 1-0 half time deficit (Ollie Watkins guiding it home from distance late on) to take the lead with a quick fire brace from Shaq Coulthirst. Game on and then some. It was pulsating stuff. Neal Maupay restored parity from the spot after Watkins was adjudged to have been tripped out wide. It was about as innocuous a connection as has been seen, with the player quoted as apologising afterwards for what looked like minimal contact. At best. Certainly we’d have been as incensed as the Barnet fans seemed to be on social media afterwards had it gone the other way. Yet how many times have we been victims of refereeing inconsistency? Far too many to count and whilst it looked shonky in hindsight, Maupay made no mistake as he added another million or so to his valuation. It was as cool and precise a penalty as you’ll see.

With that Brentford pushed on. A quite wonderful ball from Henrik Dalsgaard into the feet of Sergi Canos freed the Spaniard for 3-2 up. It was a wonderful pass and a calm finish under pressure. Surely that would be it? Or not. Just moments later Dan Sparkes stepped up to curl as magnificent a free kick as the Barnet fans could have dreamed of around the wall and past Luke Daniels. It was an incredible a strike and what a tie to get it. The crowd erupted. And rightly so. Full credit to the hosts who showed no signs of giving up despite Brentford’s domination.

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Brentford official capture the moment that Sergi restores our lead

So it ended 3-3. Brentford will point to also hitting the post three times – a header from Yoann Barbet and two from Moses Odubajo. The first of these, had it gone in, would have been a curling left footer to perhaps surpass even the brilliance of Sparkes’ free kick. Barnet will understandably point to the penalty spot and question, again, how referee Andy Madley was able to, ermmm, point to the penalty spot. Given the inconsistent use of VAR throughout the tournament – surely that in itself was a call for an all or nothing approach? See also: Everton at Millwall.    

Brentford should have won. Could have won. The defence seemed off the pace and out of sync. The midfield minus Kamo and Sawyers (although the later did appear from the bench in the second half) were out of touch with the game. On a slick looking surface there should have been more than enough to put this game to bed and lock out the non-leaguers. Instead, Barnet were fully deserving of their draw. They won’t make it any easier in a replay where Thomas Frank will be hoping that the old adage about lower ranked teams taking their chance when it presents itself proves true. On last night’s showing, I wouldn’t be so sure.

So what else happened? Well, kudos to Chris Wickham. I saw a great quote from Mark Burridge on Twitter prior to kick-off, noting how none other than John Motson himself described Chris’s run through of the Brentford line up saying: ‘Thank you, that’s the best explained team formation I’ve ever been given” . What wonderful words from one of THE most respected voices in football. 

It was a moment which also captured our good friend and favourite pantomime villain / ongoing critic Ian Moose in the background of the shot. In typical pose. And I don’t mean the one about taking selfies with footballers before wishing them happy birthday. Hey, at least he’s consistent. Although please chew – it doesn’t need to go in whole.

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Motty and Chris do their thing as Ian Moose does his

Then there was the fifth round draw. An away game at Championship rivals Swansea City has about as much romance, of the cup or otherwise, as a Valentines card and bunch of flowers from petrol station forecourt. I’ve no doubt they are thinking the same. Ironically, a game against the same opposition as we were due to play that weekend. The same opposition that we allowed to race into a 3-0 first half lead in early December before almost rescuing a game that ended 3-2. As I can’t imagine it’ll be one that is selected for TV, if we actually win the replay, at least it should be a traditional 3pm kick off. 

On the plus side, we were spared another trip to Chelsea. Assuming we make it through on Tuesday night. See you there.

Nick Bruzon    

Romaine and Kamo lead the charge as magnificent Bees dominate and ‘jinx’ rules are established.

12 Jan

Brentford 3 Stoke City 1. Where to even start with this one? It was a performance that was every bit as dominant as the reports will suggest. It was a game that saw Thomas Frank make it 6 unbeaten as his team scored two quite magnificent goals following a calamitous o.g. opener from Ryan Shawcross. Yet most importantly, we got as emphatic an answer as one could hope to the question, “Does the ‘manager-of-the-month’ curse travel if the winner changes clubs after being nominated?”. This, after Nathan Jones had of course scooped December’s League One honours for his ongoing heroics at Luton Town.

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Stoke were second to everything all afternoon

Brentford were magnificent. Slick. Irresistible. Irrepressible. Like a greyhound out of the traps, they were in the face of the visitors for the off. Much like the ball. With just 7(seven) minutes gone the Bees were ahead after an attempt to clear a corner (correctly taken ‘not short’) was simply hoofed into the face of Shawcross and returned straight back in the direction it had come . With interest. Boom. One-nil Brentford and more to follow. Neal Maupay almost made it two, forcing Jack Butland into a full length save to push the Frenchman’s goalbound strike from just inside the corner of the box around the post. 

With Brentford continuing to push (up) it wasn’t long before the lead was doubled. There was little over a quarter hour on the clock when Said Benrahma made it two. An exquisite first time connection from a slide rule pass into the box, delivered with aplomb by Romaine Sawyers, saw the ball steered wide of Butland for two. The crowd erupted. Benrahma followed suit, running half the length of the pitch to celebrate with his family. You could see the what this one meant from the smile on his face. It was a delightful moment but one which owed as much to the ball played in from his captain. 

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View from the Braemar – Said celebrates

Romaine may not have made the headlines today but he had a a game he’ll never forget. There were tackles, passes and sublime moments of skill that looked as though they had been made with the proverbial ‘ball-tied-to-foot with a piece of string. He was every bit of his very best, turning in a performance that has to be amongst his top three in a Bees’ shirt. Equal praise must be handed out to Kamo, who absolutely bossed the midfield. Looking through supporter comments on social media afterwards, MOTM award seemed to be very much a two way battle.

Yet nobody should be overlooked after Brentford put in what was about a complete a performance as they come. Thnas Frank will sleep well tonight, that’s for sure. Nathan Jones will still be having the nightmares that must have begun to haunt him within a minute of kick off.  Benik Afobe pulled one back in the first half but it was his and Stoke’s only meaningful contribution all afternoon. The rest of their game saw a reversion to the agricultural style of play we’d seen in the corresponding fixture up in the Potteries back in August.    

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Romaine was flying today

And then Rico Henry happened. The second half started much the same as the first had done. All Brentford. The highlights are up already c/o Sky but they don’t even begin to do justice to our play or the build up to Rico’s sizzling run that saw him cut into the box, keep on cutting before unleashing a low drive into the bottom corner. If the crowd had gone crazy for Said’s they were all on their feet for this one. What a move. What a noise. What a goal. 

It could have been more. Neal Maupay and Ollie Watkins both hit the crossbar in a period that saw Brentford continue to take the game to their opponents. It finished 3-1. It could have been more. Like Oxford in the cup, it was never in doubt. The defensive trio of Jeanvier, Konsa and Barbet as rock solid as they have been since Thomas Frank changed our formation and his fortunes.

One does have to wonder how Chris Mepham will get back in to this team if they continue to play like that. The confidence emanating from the back line flowed through the entire team. Frankly, this is the easiest post-match column I’ve had to write in months – we really were that good.

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Neal pushed but didn’t get a goal his performance deserved.

How nice, also, to see the goals starting to come from other areas of the pitch. To see chances created by players other than Maupay. To see Jeanvier really starting to deliver and Kamo back to last season’s best. 

The other thing to come out of today’s game was an answer to the question posed in the previous column. Namely, “Is the manager of the month curse transferable? Or does it stay with the winning club”. This, after Nathan Jones – then of Luton Town –  was named as one of the nominees for League One manager of the month for December. He subsequently took up the reins at Stoke and picked up the award itself on Friday. Just over 24 hours later the trophy holder proved that the jinx travels. He saw his new charges played off the park to add another notch in the ‘L’ column whilst Luton picked up a point in the League One top-of-the-table clash with Sunderland.

But, to be fair, the Bees were so good today that Thomas Frank could have run over a black cat on the way to the ground whilst ducking under a ladder and we’d have still got the win. Even Mrs. Bruzon was allowed back into Griffin Park (by Harry) to see us at our very best.

Long may it continue. Roll on Rotherham next weekend when we find out.

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Mrs B. and Harry enjoy the moment as Rico makes it 3

Nick Bruzon 

Is something rotten in the state of Brentford?

9 Dec

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

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

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No minutes on the clock and already a goal down. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Neil Shipperley. Never forget

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

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

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

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

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Raining (goals) at Griffin Park v Swansea

Nick Bruzon

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

28 Nov

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

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Incredibly…. You HAVE been warned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Err, yes. Sheffield United.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roll on West Brom when we find out.

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The floodlights providing a rare bright moment

Nick Bruzon

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

11 Nov

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

Defensively challenged

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas talks

Nick Bruzon