Tag Archives: Ollie Watkins

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?

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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 *.

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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.

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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

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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There had been so much optimism before kick off

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

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

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

That, or Sax II.

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

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

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All over at full time – Walker the winner.

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

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

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

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At least Buzz and Buzzette got their hands on the cup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A solitary Gibraltarian flag held aloft at Griffin Park

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

Nick Bruzon

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 !!

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Who needs Pointless or Strictly Dancing for Saturday entertainment ?

Nick Bruzon

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

5 Nov

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Official highlights are now up

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

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

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

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

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

Ryan Woods celebration Leeds

Ryan and fans enjoy the moment

As for Birmingham City……

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

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

10x table

The table doesn’t lie

Nick Bruzon

As Bees beat Preston, brilliant Billy cuts to the chase about Birmingham.

29 Oct

Bring on Birmingham City. Brentford keep marching right on! Saturday’s 3-2 defeat of Preston North End saw it 7(seven) games unbeaten in the Championship and 13 points out of the last 21. Our third win over this period saw the Bees move to within six points of the play off zone. Although with the bottom three the same distance behind us, things are still far too tight to be getting too excited. In either direction.

Preston away was always going to be a tough one. With Dean Smith changing his team once more, as he has done every game this season, Romaine Sawyers was dropped to the bench in favour of Kamohelo Mokotjo. But whilst the team was different, the outcome was the same. More goals and more points for Brentford.

As ever, the BBC, Beesotted, ‘official’ etc are your places for the full match report. Or you could catch the highlights on the internet c/o Sky – at least until the league allow the club to do their thing at mid-day. Yet what you get are another goal for Nico Yennaris (that’s four now) and Romaine Sawyers hitting a beauty from the edge of the box to restore our lead in the second half.

The sun is now past the yard arm

There was no irony lost in it being a year to the day since Brentford had beaten QPR at Loftus Road and he’d scored an absolute wonder goal that night. Twelve months later and another netbuster. Whilst it wasn’t quite in the same ball park, it was still a delicious strike. How nice to see Romaine continue to prove all the doubters wrong. He took an inordinate and unfair amount of flak last season. Some fans should now be eating humble pie.

Equally pleasing is being able to see our goals/shots ratio creeping up. A lot had been made in the opening phase of the season about how we’d had the most attempts of any Championship club despite failing to find the back of the net as frequently. 13 goals over the current unbeaten run certainly suggests this stat is changing for the better.

Yet the pick of the goals was, in my opinion, the third. “An absolute peach from a coaching point of view .” Not my words but those of BBC Billy Reeves as he probed head coach Dean Smith after the game. A beautiful exchange of passes at speed between Kamo and Flo Jo saw Preston carved open as easily as a Halloween pumpkin. The move culminated in the Dutch master delivering a ball across the face of the box which Ollie Watkins slid home.

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Ollie, Flo Jo and Lasse celebrate a wonderful winner for the Bees

Three more points and Brentford continuing to impress. The only sour note being the foul on Nico Yennaris that saw the player poleaxed by Jordan Hugill before going off after a lengthy period of treatment. Dean Smith would tell Billy in the aforementioned interview that : “For me its a possible red card because he could easily have got out the way, He’s dipped his shoulder into Nico’s head.”

More importantly, confirming that Nico is ok. Although with a similar injury being suffered by Henrik Dalsgaard recently he also added somewhat tongue-in-cheek that : “I spoke to the players earlier. A few of them have got be able to take one on the chin and not go down.”

Yet it wouldn’t be a Billy Reeves interview without him asking what the fans wanted to hear. There’s no sycophancy when the BBC man has the mic in his hand. And its why we love him so much. Master of the gentle probe, he gets the answers to the questions we all want to know. And there’s only been one subject on everyone’s lips this week. “10 times better” Birmingham City. Not my words but those of Harlee Dean etc etc etc

Billy cut to the chase. As he does. “For the fans, and maybe yourself, Wednesday’s a grudge match, isn’t it?”

Deans’ answer was as expected. “No, It’s just another game” and was meet with an immediate retort. “No, it isn’t”, pushed back Billy . At the same time echoing exactly what every Brentford supporter is thinking at the moment.

The man is a national treasure. A cat playing with a mouse. And whilst Dean’s answer was ever professional, we all know full well what is at stake this Wednesday. Not just three points but consummate bragging rights. The chance to really try and prove something. Not just following that deadline day triple transfer swoop but, probably of greater ire to supporters, Harlee Dean’s nonsensical claim this week about the current Birmingham City squad compared to our own from 2014/15.

DO listen to Billy’s interview. Not just for the probing but for Dean’s responses. Our Head Coach really is in good form at present. Not surprising, given the results. And with games against Birmingham and then Leeds United to come, things could get even more exciting.

But so is Billy. We are undeniably fortunate to have a local journalist who is a true fan. Somebody who asks the same questions that suporters would if we were lucky enough to be in his position. There’s no clickbait grabbing gumph lifted from twitter and padded out into a ‘story’ . Just a steel fist wrapped up in the most delicate of sik gloves, using the microphone like some form of journalistic broadsword to cut straight to the heart of the matter.

Here’s to Wednesday night. Whilst the players will, no doubt, be as level headed as ever, expect our fans to have an extra level of bite to them. And, perhaps, more of Billy’s oh so gentle probing.

It’s going to be fun.

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Billy – the Bard of Brentford did his thing quite superbly. Again

Nick Bruzon

7(seven) and out. Bees keep flying as Blues and Eagles have wings clipped.

1 Oct

It was all about lucky number 7(seven) yesterday. Or not so lucky for some. Brentford finally laid that Middlesbrough hoodoo to rest, Birmingham City came oh-so close to being on the wrong end of a bracketing whilst as for Crystal Palace. Well… With Matthew Benham’s comments on Tuesday night about moaners still fresh in our ears, anybody not overly happy with the Bees may want to look towards Selhurst Park.

But we can only start at the Riverside where the Bees took a first ever Championship point off Middlesbrough after those well documented six, straight losses. Arguably, we could well have returned South with all three. Hats off to the 332 supporters who made the long shlep up to the Riverside. Oh to have had the opportunity to be amongst them. Instead, it was their social media updates, commentary and the Sky Sports scrolly thing for those all important goal scores.

What can you say? Wow. 2-2 and genuine disappointment not to have got the win seem to be the order of the day. Chris Mepham followed up his midweek appearance with a full 90 minutes alongside opening goal scorer Yoann Barbet. The common consensus was of another rock solid performance and a potential star in the making. If they’re good enough, they’re old enough (or whatever the phrase is). What could have been a baptism of fire has shown once more the talent pool bubbling away under the surface of the B-team. Get it wrong as we did against Norwich in the cup, and overloading a team with newbies can be a disaster. Do it right and we get a wonderful glimpse of the future.

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A full league debut to remember for Chris

Twice Brentford took the lead. Twice Middlesbrough hauled it back to level things up. Ollie Watkins scored again, aswell as setting up the first. Yoann, Chris and captain (for the last quarter) Daniel Bentley were amongst those to later express their disappointment at not quite hanging on for the win. Perhaps, but just getting the psychological monkey of unbeatable Middlesbrough off the back can only be a wonderful thing. Putting in another performance that sees us creeping up the table with five points out of the last nine can only be a huge stride in the right direction for this season.

As ever, Sky Sports have the immediate highlights and you can catch them here. As ever, Mark Burridge will provide a much better flavour once the mid-day embargo is lifted.

Sadly, no comms but plenty of passion on pitch.

So great chances, great creation and more penalties denied. We certainly don’t get the run with the refs. Talking this morning to one terrace wag who had made the trip she noted, “I thought they looked better yesterday in terms of intention and actual likelihood to score. Rather than chances that aren’t chances.

The real challenge now is turning these performances into wins. There can’t be many amongst us who wouldn’t have taken five points if offered them at 2.59 last Saturday before we kicked off against Bolton. I would have. That win, followed by the draw with Derby and yesterday’s result all well and good. The one word of caution being that the Bees are very much the divisional draw specialists . Only Fulham and Bristol City (5) come close to our 6 from 11. Even looking further afield in the Football league we are still top of the draw table.

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Yoann – thought we should have got more

Next up, International break. Hopefully a chance for Andreas, Sergi and Lasse to get back to fitness. A hope that the injury which saw Rico Henry leave the field of play early isn’t as bad as feared. Whilst Josh Clarke filled in ably at left back, Tom Field is now tied in at Bradford until Christmas. Could we be dipping back into that B-team once more?

And then, back to back home games. Visits from Millwall and Sunderland are, on paper, a chance for Brentford to further continue that climb up the table. Of locking down that Championship status for a fifth season. For all our improving form we are still just a point above Birmingham City who still reside in the basement zone. Turning form and performance into clear air will only be a good thing.

As for Birmingham, well we’ve had a bit more of an interest in them than normal on these pages in recent weeks. For obvious reasons. And yesterday saw their brave new world further hit the skids as Hull City put six goals past the hapless Blues defence. I won’t deny bristling with anticipation as, at 6-0 down, another goal was reported for the KC stadium. Sadly, it wasn’t the bracket busting 7(seven) for Hull but, instead, a proverbial consolation. But it does show what a difference GD could make with the Blues (-12) Burton (-17) and Bolton (-18) effectively another point behind the Bees (-2).

Will the Bees compete at this level for a fifth season? Could Birmingham avoid a slide into League One. Will Crystal Palace be joining us in the Championship next campaign? Should the Bees keep on heading up the table then we are likely to be joined by the Eagles. Despite a change of manager, yesterday’s 4-0 loss at Manchester United sees their Premier League record for the 2017/18 campaign read:

P7 W0 D0 L7 Goals For 0 Goals Against 17 GD -17.

A record of 0-0-7(seven) with no goals scored is the stuff of nightmares. And James Bond puns. Next up, a visit from Chelsea. Should the Eagles mange to make the net ripple, I can only assume it will be very much a Victor Tourjansky moment.

However bad Brentford fans think we may have it at times, there’s always somebody worse off.

And then some…

victor montage

And Palace have scored…. Victor Tourjansky does his thing

Nick Bruzon