Tag Archives: penalty

I’ve seen them given, Clive. Just not like this.

10 Mar

Finally. Games in hand have played out. If anything, Brentford and Swansea City are now the ones with the opportunity of playing catch up. Watford the team looking over their shoulders. Current occupants of second place in a Championship promotion race that is going to run and run. Last night’s 1-1 draw at Blackburn Rovers meaning the Swans are now three points ahead of the Bees with both teams having played 34 of our 46 games. Only goal difference keeping them behind The Hornets who have, of course, played that extra fixture. Whilst, personally speaking, I’m a firm believer in the ethos that points in the bag are better than games in hand there is extra comfort to be gained by the fact that our goal difference currently is clear of both our main rivals. Hopefully we’re all a bit less stressed now. Blips happen to the best of teams. Even in the top flight Liverpool are turning Fortress Anfield into an all you can score buffet for visiting teams whilst normally indestructible Manchester City ‘lost’ a game at the weekend (not a typo). 

I’d rather be second than fourth. No question. Prefer 66 points to 63. Only a moron would say otherwise. Yet the doomsday scenario being played out by so many after our own  disaster showing against Coventry City has failed to materialise. Swansea having three games in hand at that point and the potential to go 8 points clear should they win them all. They didn’t. Instead, were humped soundly by Bristol City and Huddersfield Town. Turned one point into three c/o of 96th minute penalty awards that were straight out of Dodge City. Fishier than Michael Fish eating fish and chips. Then, last night, another one awarded although this time in the first half but when a goal down. A penalty that was as soft as any other we’ve seen awarded recently. I’ve seen them given, Clive. Just not with this regularity. Alan McInally reporting for Sky Sports aghast at what he’d just seen after Andre Ayew made it four goals from the spot in as many games.

Penalty to Swansea. Awarded whilst listening to pop music’s Dodgy

Good luck to them. As we said before, Brentford wouldn’t turn down the opportunity if offered. We’d be right on the spot, trusting Ivan Toney to do his thing. That so many have been awarded , and in such controversial circumstances, is of course going to frustrate. That’s the polite phrase. Shonky refereeing to those looking in. The EFL powerless, impotent, silent.  We can’t change that. We still have plenty of opportunity to wrestle control of our destiny. 12 more games. That’s a lot of time and a lot of points. Even if we need to do it from open play. Err, Bryan Mbeumo at Norwich anyone…? Besides, I’m still firmly of the belief that this one is going to go all the way to the wire. If for no other reason than Watford visit Brentford then host Swansea in their final two games. 

All being well, things will be a lot clearer by then. If the recent run of LLL was stressful for some think how that final brace of fixtures is going to be? That’s a level of angst I don’t want to be part of although can only presume things will head that way. None of the teams around us will drop that many points between now and then.  At least we got back on track with those defeats of Sheff Wed and Stoke. Next up Blackburn Rovers on Friday.

Cripes, that trip to Ewood Park is going to be tough. By all accounts they should have won last night. We all know our own injury situation at the back. That said, we all know our own goal scoring potential going forward. The choice being faced by Thomas Frank over who from Tariqe Fosu, Bryan Mbeumo and Sergi Canos to start with a tough one. A nice one, I suppose. For me (straps on tin hat) the later had been the most consistent performer this season from the three although nobody could deny the game against Norwich City was one where he was at anything than his best. I still stand by the fact that the abuse he came under was way out of line and totally out of order. If nothing else, there were enough others who went awol in a game against the runaway league leaders. But we’ve done that one to death. 

Brentford may well lose again this season. Sadly. That’s football. As noted earlier, even Manchester City got a nil return on Sunday. It happens. Liverpool have hit such a rough patch of home form that even Fulham picked up three points over the weekend. Swansea City have fluctuated between whipping boys and relentless winners over the last five games. The only consistent thing about the beautiful game is its inconsistency. Nothing can be predicted. Although if everyone could just stop awarding Steve Cooper’s team penalties, that would be nice. As a side note,  those bemoaning Barnsley inflicting one of our own defeats in the blip period may care to notice the Tykes now sitting in the play-off spots. Talk about a surge up the blindside. 

We can talk about others in the same breath as we do ourselves. That’s not obsession. That’s a fact. That’s what makes football so exciting. So addictive. Delivers the agony and ecstasy in equal measure. We can be at our best yet still be undone by outside influence. Be ropey as but nick the points and then see our rivals do everything but score. Of course we have to focus on Brentford as a priority. Of course we shouldn’t get overly upset about what the others do, as long as we continue to pick up the points. Yet with our destinies so inter twined, it’s hard not to look at the other games with microscopic interest. Luton v Swansea on Saturday and Cardiff v Watford will be two such games. Moreso with our own game taking place on Friday night. Fingers crossed we’ll be back in automatic by the time our nearest and dearest kick off. Fingers crossed….

Nick Bruzon  

Were you guessing? Gavin does what Gavin does in a frustrating end to the week.

7 Mar

Well yesterday was about as frustrating and infuriating as it gets. But enough about having to watch And and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway with Mrs B. A soul destroying and futile exercise without an audience present. If that’s even your thing in the first place (it isn’t). Noooooo… they’re ‘dancing’ with a cartoon cat and mouse whilst Tom Jones is wandering around with a giant butterfly net. Make it stop. Please make it stop. Yet if that was a painful exercise then the same could be said for Brentford fans who had earlier tuned in to the day’s live Championship matches on Sky earlier. Watford and Swansea City got the expected wins over Nottingham Forest and Middlesbrough, no complaints there, but the manner of their respective victories left a sharp reminder that football has more twists and turns than a game of snakes and ladders. Left Neil Warnock set to explode and surely facing sanction for saying what we were all thinking.

As painful as anything that had played out before

Watford now three points clear of Brentford in third. An extra game played. A 1-0 win coming courtesy of a strike from Adam Masina that seemed to go straight through the legs of Forest goalkeeper Brice Samba. The goalkeeper then receiving lengthy treatment after appearing to take some sort of knock to the head in the build up but eventually able to continue. It was never in doubt. The Hornets did what they needed to. The visitors spending the afternoon being stretched at the back and unable to make inroads up front. Well played Watford. We’d have been ecstatic to pull a result like that out of the bag.

However, that was nothing but the appetiser for the main event. Swansea City v Middlesbrough which, to my surprise, had full match coverage on Sky. Excellent. Sit back on the couch with a Guinness and a hot cross bun to hope for the best but fear the worst. What we got was as awful as Mrs Brown, her boys, Tom, Jerry, Dec, Ant and the England supporters band teaming up for a musical medley. We got Gavin Ward….

Remember Swansea’s game at Stoke City midweek? The scores locked at 1-1 until they were offered a 96th minute penalty after the softest of non-challenges? Of course Andre Ayew converted. That’s what he does. Well, yesterday saw more of the same, It saw Neil Warnock livid at full time after Middlesbrough were denied one point, possibly three. It saw Marc Bola have a wonder strike chalked off for Boro’ after Yannick Bolasie had, apparently, fouled Jay Fulton after playing the ball through. It saw the scores locked at 1-1 until Swansea were awarded a 96th minute penalty after the softest of non-challenges? Of course Andre Ayew converted. That’s what he does.

Even more frustrating this time around (the ex Brentford connection aside) was how it happened. George Saville taking the ball off Jake Bidwells’ toes and clearing for a corner before the defender went over. Ward pointing to the flag until changing his mind and under protest deciding it had been a foul. 2-1. Six points in the last two games where both had been heading for 1-1 draws. That’s football. You can’t blame Swansea for taking their chance. Do you think we’d have turned down the opportunity to take both penalties? Of course not. Doesn’t make it any less shonky though. Dodgy refereeing playing havoc with what is about as tight a promotion race as they come. This, from @VickiLee_1 on Twitter, summing it up in a nutshell

Neil Warnock summed up Gavin Ward and the two game changing incidents incidents in quite direct style, saying first about the Bola that Ward ”thought it was a free-kick to them. He hadn’t see (Yannick) Bolasie won the ball. It’s either a penalty or a goal. He’s blown the whistle before Bola’s shot hit the goal and gave a defensive free-kick.”

As for the penalty… :“I’m a little bit bewildered about the penalty. He pointed for a corner kick but he assures me that when he thought about it he thought George didn’t get any of the ball and he thought it was a penalty. I asked ‘Why did you point to the corner flag? Were you guessing?

Were you guessing?’ If ever Mr Ward writes his autobiography then there’s the title. No doubt the Middlesbrough manager will be fined for his comments. His full interview a masterclass in straight talking. That’s what the EFL do though. They’ll protect their refs to the last and hit the managers for speaking up. I was incensed after the penalty award at Stoke. So was Warnock, by the sound of it. This was equally poor. Swansea riding their luck and taking the opportunity offered. They’ll argue they kept going until the last second which, of course, they did. Yet once more offered the big helping hand of refereeing incompetence makes your task all the easier to achieve. Now, they sit two points ahead of Brentford with Tuesday’s trip to Blackburn Rovers next on the agenda. There’s still one hell of a long way to run in the promotion race. For once, we’ll be hoping Adam Armstrong closes in on Ivan Toney at the top of the Championship goal scorers charts.

Sour grapes? Yes. By the bucketload. As much about the circumstances that have played out. About referees unable to distinguish between fair means and foul. “By that reckoning they should get promotion, shouldn’t they? If they keep getting the right referees.” Not my words, Carol. The words of Neil Warnock.

Equally, with 12 games to go, and the Swans travelling to Vicarage Road for the final game of a tough run in, let’s not get too downbeat. Blackburn have a key role to play this week, we then visit them on Friday, but it will only be one step in the journey. Neither result will be definitive. Whichever way they go.

Albeit, if we could avoid any dodgy decisions that would be just great.

Nick Bruzon

Frank IN. Sense!! Bees do it again amidst festive fixture pile up.

2 Dec

Well wasn’t that the performance? Brentford made it three wins on the bounce, eight unbeaten with just three conceded over that period and up to fourth place. Just two points behind current table-toppers Norwich City after a 2-0 defeat of Rotherham that never, really, looked in doubt once the game had begun. Whilst the first half may have been frustrating for many, the Bees kept going and eventually grew into another game where the opposition’s primary objective had been survival. With the FT index mk.ii starting a game together, both players scored to present Thomas Frank further selection headaches (of the nicest sort) for the visit of Blackburn Rovers on Saturday. Marcus Forss grabbed the first before Ivan Toney made it 13 for the season with a calm finish from the penalty spot to wrap up the points and return to the top of the Championship goal scorers charts. 

Marcus shared this one on Twitter at full time. As cool as you like.

We don’t do full fat match reports on these pages. We’ve all seen the game and there’s the BBC or Brentford ‘official’ for anyone wanting in depth. For me, the key takeaways were another team rejig that has, once again, proven we have a Plan A, B and C. The absence of Henrik Dalsgaard was barely felt with Tarique Fosu able to bomb up and down the flank in lieu of the Dane. Indeed, whilst the opening goal was notable for the interplay between Toney and Forss (what teamwork for Ivan to pass rather than shoot himself), the patience, the feint and the delivery of that ball into the box from Fosu was magnificence served up on a silver salver. Bees fans being spoiled to ambassadorial levels by a team goal that would have had the ‘Frank Out’ brigade and Canos bullies on their high horses once more as if their managerial credentials had somehow been borne out.

Yet it was Sergi himself who set up the second goal. Forss feeding the Toney before he found Canos. The Spaniard’s timing and pace were electric as he burst clear in the box. This was it. 2-0. Just the keeper to beat until….. Nooooooo! Brutally scythed by Rotherham substitute Mickel Miller with the goal gaping, referee Tim Robinson had no choice but to award the spot kick. At the same time booking the hapless Miller for a second time in the 11 minutes since he had entered the field of play and promptly returning the player from whence he came. He sent him off.  

There was no mistake from the spot. I won’t deny Ivan’s approach to penalty taking gives me the heebie jeebies. A slow, measured almost walk up is one that is contrary to everything we’ve seen about running full tilt at the ball before striking. The files of football bloopers filled with strikers attempting ‘comedy run ups’ only to be left with copious amounts of egg on face (or is that just FulhamL ?). The first time against Millwall had heart in mouth. This was no different. Perhaps it is just Brentford and penalties in general? Yet with the shot eventually released, execution like a tracer bullet speeding towards the bullseye, there was once again no doubt. The net bulged. The 20 directors and officials celebrating like we’d won the FA Cup.

As for the Toney and Forss pairing, well I can’t wait to see which way Thomas jumps when Blackburn come to Lionel Road on Saturday. With Forss playing up top and Toney just to his side in our attacking front three, the interplay between the pair of them more than provide its worth. Marcus has tremendous amounts of confidence and we all know how hard (and accurately) he can strike a ball. It’s a quite lovely team decision we have now been presented but with the visit of the Championship’s most devastating attack (Blackburn have scored 27 from 14 games, Adam Armstrong going neck and neck with Ivan for the golden boot) will he stick or revert to our more familiar starting XI? May he have no choice given Henrik wasn’t even on the bench? Given our 9 games over December and the festive period, changes are sure to continue.

One thing you can say for sure is that Vitaly Janelt gets the nod. He’s looking stronger and stronger each game. I love his approach (almost as much as his post match interviews) and can’t believe we’ve unearthed yet another one. Whilst we miss Christian Norgaard, and who wouldn’t, the German is making himself very, very hard to dislodge. Our Triple J in midfield once more banging the drum for Brentford and Thomas Franks’ tactical genius.

As for Thomas, I’ve always been a fan. I’m one very much of the ‘marathon not a sprint’ approach to football. Of realising a league campaign is 46 games long and every side has blips. Of knowing that when we’ve been awful (Stoke City away and that second half againat Preston) it is the exception, not the rule. That no team has a divine right to win every game. Nor will they. At any level. His enthusiasm is infectious. The mentality instilled in his squad really paying dividends. The Bees making their way up the table and improving on last season’s record every game. At the played 15 point in 2019/20 we’d picked up 21 points and were sitting in 13th. This time around we’ve 26 points and are already up to fourth.  ‘Frank out’? Take a look at yourselves.

Fans are entitled to opinions. Of course they are. Football would be deadly dull if it was full of blind lemmings towing the company line and singing everything is awesome. Well, you know what? At present it is. Show me any team that could lose like the likes of Benrahma / Watkins and overcome play-off pain then expect to immediately find their feet? It has taken us a few games but we’ve plugged away, the defence is looking rock solid and our attacking options continue to grow as the new look line up gel. Only Blackburn, Bournemouth and Reading have scored more than us. I don’t get the line of nonsense directed towards Thomas from certain quarters but in this strangest of seasons, he and the squad are doing more than ok. Everything IS awesome. Everything is cool when you’re part of a team. Events at the Lego Community stadium continuing to prove this. 

from one lego house to another

Let’s finish on a high, though. In what has already been a topsy-turvy season, Brentford are the division’s form team. We’ve won three on the bounce including two midweek trips to Yorkshire and a local derby. I’m absolutely ecstatic to have taken 9 from 9 over that run. Now we have the Championship golden goal shootout to look forward to. Even better, there will be fans present.

To everyone that got a ticket, ENJOY and make yourselves heard. Lionel Road is going to be rocking on Saturday. 2,000 supporters are going to sound deafening. Here’s hoping Simon got his email !

And finally…. Yesterday we put up the link for the Brentford pub Top Trumps. Today’s item of choice is a Nico Yennaris 28 football shirt. Anybody interested in picking this one up can do so here. Thanks for looking.

Until then, here’s to another three points. Here’s to us looking to continue our climb. Perhaps there may even be half an eye on Luton v Norwich tonight….

Nick Bruzon 

More chance of getting ‘that’ unicorn tattooed on my butt than this happening.

10 Nov

International ‘break’ is on us. Good news. The players and the lazy bloggers amongst us finally get a rest. Assuming they aren’t picked to represent their country (the players). Brentford updates are a little thin on the ground at present and, whilst we normally take this time to catch breath, the latest ‘loan round up’ had news from the West Ham – FulhamL game. And, perhaps, a missed opportunity? On the International front there may also be some unexpected respite for our own tired legs, with Denmark now subject to travel restrictions. 

First, loan round up. Yes, we’re still going through the motions and reporting on Said Benrahma. Come on official, whilst technically he’s on loan we know its over. Let’s stop this charade. There’s more chance of me getting a tattoo of Marinus and the unicorn on my butt than there is of him coming back to Lionel Road at the end of the season. He’s at West Ham now and so good luck to him. And them. Enjoy.

He’s not coming back, sorry

That said, having gone down the road of including Said in the loan piece (which you can read here in full) then it’s only fair that we all reflect on the circumstances of that one. ‘Official’ noting how Benrahma, “Set up Tomáš Souček for The Hammers’ injury-time opener before then giving away a 97th minute penalty for a foul on Tom Cairney; Ademola Lookman chipping the resulting effort straight into the arms of Łukasz Fabiański”.

Chipping the resulting effort? Talk about underselling it. That’s like saying Donald Trump seems mildly perturbed by the U.S. election result. The FulhamL player is widely acknowledged to have taken one of the worst penalties of all time.

I suppose, to be fair, we should be thankful that Brentford haven’t gone down the ‘Obama meme-wars’ route of a few years back with the Craven Cottage club. Instead, diplomacy was the true champion….this time around.

Putting that all to one side doesn’t mean we can’t opine though. Or, more importantly, watch it again. And again. Just because.

Over on Social Media, Lookman spoke up on the matter. He posted a tweet explaining, “After yesterdays mistake, I take full responsibility and onus for it. To my teammates, manager and the supporters I vow to put the next one in. I will not let one failure hold me back. @FulhamFC.

As Adam Devlin, cutting to the chase as ever, noted on Twitter : ”This is a new one — the apology without apologising apology”.

And I can’t top that. So we’ll move on to Denmark. Fast. With the Danes due to play Iceland this week, and the current 14 day quarantine period on individuals returning now in place, the squad has been updated. Neither Henrik Dalsgaard or Mathias Jensen will now feature on Wednesday. Likewise Mads Bech Sørensen for the U-21s. What this means for the rest of their games remains to be seen but you can read the latest, here.

Obviously it’s a huge shame for the players but in the longer term, could Brentford be the beneficiaries? Let’s look at whatever positives can be taken from this situation – not many, granted. Yet with the injuries and the games coming thick and fast, could this be a rare silver lining in the longer term storm that is the never-ending Covid situation? 

I’ll take what I can get. Football sucks as it is at present. Certainly compared to normal. Losing more players to injury or exhaustion would only be another kick in the butt. Tattoo free, of course.

Nick Bruzon

Penalty? This is football, not Frozen.

30 Jan

Big love and huge thanks to all at Nottingham Forest. The reaction to the column on their victory at Brentford on Tuesday night was top draw. The jist of the piece being that the ref had a stinker, Brice Samba wasted a LOT of time and started it early, that Forest played to a plan and, ultimately, were both quicker and stronger than us when it counted in a game of very few chances. They got a goal. We didn’t. They won the game. Well done. Well done everyone. They deserved it. That’s how football works

Yet the ‘not mentioning’ of a penalty that wasn’t given after Lewis Grabban fell over in the box during the second half was what has provoked an outburst of self-righteousness that I’ve not seen in a long, long time. Yes, in reaction to my piece but also on social media in general. My word, get over it. And then just when you thought they had, up popped another one. Let it go. This is football, not Frozen. I’ve not seen a saltier reaction from a bunch of supporters since Birmingham City were thumped 5-0 after Harlee Dean and his infamous 10 times better comments. 

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Nottingham, yesterday

Here’s the thing. If Forest fans are, for some reason, so desperate for me to include an opinion on a non-incident in a game that they won then I’m happy to give it. Gut reaction in the stadium was in line with them. The usual comments were made in such a situation, “Move along, nothing to see here”. Honestly, I thought we’d dodged a potential bullet. But then no surprise given the ‘performance’ of referee Tim Robinson who was the only person letting just about everything go. Including the ongoing time wasting. 

Yet on reflection, and having seen the challenge once more from the more relaxed confines of the sofa once I’d got home, revised opinion is that this was 50/50. At best. Sure, the players touched but this is football. A physical game. Something the visitors were so keen to demonstrate for huge swathes. Grabban goes down but there’s certainly no shove or trip. It wasn’t penalty but just another non-incident in a game that was an insomniacs wet dream. A turgid flat pancake of a performance that needs to be consigned to the dustbin of history and which Thomas Frank will have to use as a learning curve in order to get Brentford back to their best. The opposition didn’t sit back and roll over ; we had no answer to their advance. That’s a fact. 

Of course Forest fans think it was a penalty. It was a 50/50 so you will only lean towards your own team in that situation. But it wasn’t. Sadly for them.  If anything, and don’t cry, should Robinson have deemed it to be a non-penalty then really Grabban should have been booked for simulation. That’s not me being a bitch but the rules of the game. That’s also a fact.

The Ironic thing was that I actually used my programme column to big up Nottingham Forest and their supporters. Genuinely, I’ve a lot of love for the club. Very much one that those of us over a certain age grew up watching and who dominated early 80s football. The exact words used being, “Yet all of this achieved without the sense of entitlement shared by the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal supporters. With a level of modesty so missing from those watching their respective ‘miracle ofs..’ from the Anfield Kop.

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From Tuesday’s programme column

Hmm. I stand corrected. Certainly based on the post match whining and moaning all over social media. Honestly, I don’t care and don’t mind. It’s football and of course fans have an opinion. Of course supporters will see the good in their team and turn a blind eye to the other stuff. Frankly, it gave an additional nudge to visitors on the blog site (Perhaps the hit-seekers at sites such as Football League World need to follow suit rather than write another ‘Three things you do/don’t need to know about three players who will/won’t be a big addition to your club’ piece). So big thanks there.

It just got me thinking of what they’d have been like had something gone against them. Had they even lost the game. But they didn’t. And you know what, I hope Forest do keep this up. Their winning ways and style, that is. With games against West Brom and Leeds United coming up, they could be just what we need to soften up our divisional rivals. If nothing else, and the play-offs looking like potential options for both teams, who knows how valuable both this and their similarly achieved 1-0 win at The City Ground back in October may prove to be in the long run.

That is, assuming Leeds don’t fall apart. Again.

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October’s game was just as rigid

Nick Bruzon

 

It’s much more fun to win this way.

20 Oct

The greatest come back since Lazarus? Burton Albion away? Liverpool in the Champion’s League (take your pick of those – you may have heard mention of their particular ‘miracles’). The intensity of the turnaround at Griffin Park yesterday probably tops the lot. Whilst not a European trophy lifting moment or matching the relentlessness of our comeback against The Brewers, for Brentford to turn around a 2-0 deficit with 6 minutes left on the clock but end the game as 3-2 victors over Millwall was pretty, pretty good. Thomas Frank, unable to curb his own enthusiasm at full time, was quick to note that “It’s much more fun to win this way”. The boys in blue arresting a run in form that had only seen us win once since late August.

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Brentford – unbeaten in anniversary blue

And he’s right. They were words uttered on a full time touchline stroll as fans gave the head coach and his team a standing ovation. There were hugs from Saïd. Even handshakes from Matthew Benham as everybody came together once more to enjoy one of those moments that makes Griffin Park SO, SO special. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Imagine turning your back on all of this because it isn’t the set up of previous decades. Imagine not wanting to be part of this last hurrah. Imagine booing the head coach and demanding his head week in, week out. 

We aren’t Liverpool. We aren’t going to win every game every week. Sometimes we are a bit rubbish (Forest away last time out was tough viewing). Sometimes we are awful. That’s football. Yet when it all comes together there’s no place on earth I’d rather be. With my family . With my friends. With my team. A place where despite the many changes we’ve seen in recent years, on and off field, the heart of this football club is still there. Still beating strong. Still pulling us all together in a communal outpouring of joy the likes of which is still sending shivers running up the spine over 12 hours later.   Instead of joyless negativity then, personally speaking, my own preference is to focus on the positive and yesterday was about as positive as it gets.

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A belated and very happy birthday to my good friend at full time

What a game. What a start. What pressure. Ollie was returned to the right side of the pitch as Niko Karelis got that first start which had been suggested in yesterday’s article might be coming. Every now and again we call one right – it can happen. The set up looked much more balanced than at the City Ground. Surely it was only a matter of time before the goal came. Pressure built as The Bees turned the screw. Millwall not getting a look in. Karelis hit the post early on before referee Stuart Attwell then pointed to the spot for what seems an innocuous incident at best  – at least on first viewing – but let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth. 

Urgh. We did. This is Brentford, innit. Ollie Watkins seeing his penalty well saved by visiting ‘keeper Bartosz Bialkowski. There was worse to come. Just before the half ended, Karelis went down with what looked like a sickening injury and was eventually stretchered off. The visiting fans showing their class, waving him off and singing cheerio as the rest of the ground gave the customary respectful applause reserved for such incidents – regardless of the team. 

And as the team readjusted, the Lions pounced. They’d not been in the hunt yet a rare foray into the Brentford box saw Raya unable to fully clear Molumby’s effort and Tom Bradshaw stabbed home from close in to leave the half time cuppas with a very bitter after taste. Typical Brentford. Dominate. Come close. So close. Slip up in a rare moment of defensive absenteeism. Stats and possession count for nothing if you can’t finish. Millwall giving the consummate demonstration as they took their one chance with aplomb. And their second. 

Mr. Attwell pointing to the spot once more after the teams had emerged. This time, Ollie Watkins adjudged to have wrestled his man to the ground. Raya unable to equal the save pulled off by his counterpart between the sticks and Jed Wallce doubled the visitor’s lead.  Painful stuff. Familiar stuff. Brentford dominant but somehow on the wrong end of the scoreline. “Where’s the midfield?“, shouted one supporter. “Up there with Natalie” replied another.

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Dougie was back for this one

Just as goals scored rather than possession and stats being the only true indicator of whether a team deserve to win is one mantra I live by, so is staying and playing until the end. So often we’ve ‘done a Brentford’ and spannered ourselves late on. See: Bristol City just last time out. Even more often we’ve taken it to the wire and pushed on. See: just about any goal Jota ever scored or Thomas and his own brand of attacking substitutions – last season in particular seeing him opt to go big rather than bringing on defensive subs in order to close out a match. And what a way to do it.

First up, Josh Dasilva. The midfielder coming off the bench to fire home from just outside the box with 84 minutes on the clock. It was a strike of precision – just as he had done against Bristol City – and gave hope for a barnstorming finish as we looked to pick up a point. Four minutes later, it was all level. Bryan Mbueno the man as his beautifully place shot from Dasilva territory seemed to drift over the defence, past Bialkowski and in to the far corner of the net. 

It all felt very slo-mo ; all very surreal. A split second wait for the random officials to wave a flag – it had happened early on in the half with Ollie called ‘offside’ as he found the net – but no. Nothing. Except an eruption of joy from fans and players alike. Get!! In!! We’d done it. Saïd Benrahma with the assist, along with an apparent deflection too, and a point all but assured. 2-2 from the unlikeliest of situations. Just please don’t cock it up from here. Please don’t ‘do a Brentford’. 

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Fans and players celebrate

You could see from the looks on the player’s faces what this one meant. How hard a level that they, and we, knew this battle had been fought at. But wait, like a  4am infomercial for the greatest hits of Country or a butcher’s knife kit, there was more. If Josh and Bryan had provided the ten CD set, it was none other than leading scorer Ollie Watkins who weighed in with the bonus extra. And what an extra. So much better than a 12 track disc of County duets.

With four additional minutes shown on the board, there WAS still time. Time for huge handbags in front of the Millwall fans as Attwell once more lost control. Time for passions to rise to even more intense levels than had already been seen. And when it came, with Ollie guiding home in the last of those additional minutes, Griffin Park exploded. The noise incredible. The relief, palpable. The joy unconfined. The noise intense. The smiles broad. The Lions silenced. The perfect payback for Karelis. The perfect reward for Thomas Frank who has come in for all levels of dog’s abuse so early in to a season in which his new squad is taking shape. Is readjusting to life without Maupay. The reaction from captain Pontus said it all. The grins from Ollie and Saïd, beautiful. Brentford up to 13th and now six points off the play-off zone. 

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Yesssssss. 3-2. 

With little over a quarter of the season gone, both ends of the table are still a long way off. We’ll play well and lose. We’ll pick up some jammy points along the way. I’m still not sure which way this campaign is going to go but it’s going to be fun getting there. As has been seen this season with the likes of Derby County, Barnsley and Middlesbrough, when we get it right we are simply wonderful. To that list you can now add Millwall. 

What a performance. What a result. What a moment. What a game that, you know what, we deserved to win.

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Nick Bruzon     

Drastic action at Bolton but great news at Griffin Park. And six years ago today….

27 Apr

What can you say? One has to feel for the Bolton Wanderers players, compelled to take the drastic action which has resulted in the game with Brentford being cancelled by the EFL on Friday evening. On the flip side, there was wonderful news out of Griffin Park yesterday with the news that we  have been voted the best place for families to watch EFL football in London and the second best in the country as a whole. Whilst, of course, it was six years ago today that Doncaster Rovers came to Griffin Park…..

There’s not much to really add on the Bolton story at present. With the players going on strike after not being paid for March, the decision to play the match was taken out of the club’ hands. Given the proximity to the end of the season, one can’t see this one going ahead now and our final road trip of the campaign will, in all probability, end with the game being declared a nominal 0-3 win to the Bees. Unless, of course, Bob tells the EFL that he’s packed the brown and orange. In which case it’ll be a point each.

That said, the EFL have just come out this morning (10.30) and told the club that they need to fulfil their fixtures. Whether , when and how this is feasible remains to be seen, of course.

Nobody comes out of this smiling. The players and supporters up at Bolton have been through the ringer this season. They are a club with nothing but friends in the wider football community and to see them in this predicament is awful. For Brentford, the players and fans have already travelled. More were due to be heading up today. What the league will do about their travel costs I have no idea, although an educated guess suggest naff all. Who cares about fans or players though ? One things for sure, we haven’t heard the last of this and whilst we’re all hoping for a happy conclusion things are not looking good at the moment.

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Good times at Bolton in days gone by

Back in West London, The Bees were yesterday one of just nine clubs to be given an EFL Gold award for family excellence and matchday engagement. The “Outstanding and extraordinary quality of the family experience provided” was specifically noted as we were ranked second best in the entire EFL.

This is just incredible news yet fully deserved. I can vouch first hand for all the great work that has gone on over the years. As a parent myself (did I mention?) the way Harry has been treated and been able to get involved in his five years has been nothing short of extraordinary. Kit shoots. Mascot. Meet the players. Open Days. To name but a few. The constant approachability of staff and players makes being part of the football club seem like second nature. Oh look, there’s Neal Maupay popping into the local curry house for a post Leeds United meal. As you do. And nobody cares because its just the norm for us.

We’ve got #BeeTheAnnouncer. #BeeTheDJ (where love will still tear us apart). The family enclosure and the Bee Block. Buzzette is quite possibly the most engaging of all the EFL mascots and the kids love her. As do the grown ups. I still pray for the day she meets Kinglsey of Partick Thistle.

Quite frankly, if it wasn’t down to the way that the club treats our families and youngsters I wouldn’t be able to go to football. Harry absolutely LOVES it. He has bought into Brentford in a way I could never have envisaged. Mrs Bruzon has bought a season ticked for 2019/20. This is all down to the wonderful atmosphere, the family friendly vibe and the way that everybody from fans to staff to players to chairman to owner makes us all feel so, so welcome. 

Thank you!!! 

The players have always typified the family spirit at Brentford

The players have always typified the family spirit

And finally, it was six years ago today. On a personal note, the ill fated appearance on Soccer AM prior to the Doncaster Rovers game. The nil points in the penalty shoot out game at the end ( a season’s worst, apparently) should have served as a warning. Following that, was the promotion deciding game. Something. Something. Something. Penalty. 

I forget the exact nature of the events that followed. If only somebody had mentioned it. Ever. Still, it would be fair to say that despite the heartbreak that followed at full time, things have worked out for the best in the long term. Not that we knew or felt that back then. It is amazing how time can heal although I’ll never, ever forget the pain of seeing that ball hit the bar. Of hearing the resounding thud of leatherette on woodwork. Of having to watch the subsequent celebrations from the away end. Of seeing The Griffin deserted at full time.

Interestingly, despite the consequent promotion and fall from grace, Doncaster Rovers look like they may be in with a chance of crossing paths with us once more. With just two games to play, they are currently sitting in the final League One play-off place. I’m still hoping Charlton Athletic scoop those particular honours, for reason as previously noted.  However, should Rovers triumph it will set up an intriguing and long awaited chance of getting one back.

I’m already guessing who next season’s final game at Griffin Park will be against….. 

Natalie lines up on Soccer AM

Not even Natalie scored that day

 Nick Bruzon

Leeeeeeds. Leeds are falling apart. Again.

23 Apr

Not just my words but those of the Brentford fans ringing around Griffin Park through most of the second half and well after full time last night. This, after the Bees beat Leeds United at home (yet again) by two goals to nil and, in the process, dealt a massive blow to the visitors hopes of automatic promotion whilst offering a huge boost to both Norwich City and Sheffield United in the top two slots.

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Sergi and Ezri celebrate

Whilst, naturally, anybody looking in will focus on Leeds United hitting the skids so close to the line (let’s not forget their incredible home reverse against 10 man Wigan on Friday) take nothing away from a Brentford team who were up for this from the off. One penalty shout aside, Leeds offered nothing. Even then, referee Keith Stroud called ‘no foul’ as Julian Jeanvier and Patrick Bamford came together in the box. Whilst it looked an iffy one for The Bees from where I was, on the half way line, the man in black was perfectly placed. Move along, nothing to see here.

But that’s football. They’re the breaks. We’ve had copious stonewall shouts denied this season. Duffers given against us. Ultimately, as was the case at Elland Road, a spot kick decision went our way. Leeds heads dropped. The Bees kept going and who else but that man, Neal Maupay, to give us the lead just before half time.

Sergi Canos (a deserving man of the match) played it through the middle to the talismanic Frenchman. He made no mistake as he got on the end and, running through on goal, steered it past Casilla for 1-0 Brentford. The crowd erupted as Neal made it deja-vu in front of the Leeds fans with a mirror of his celebration after putting us ahead in the reverse fixture. It was also a mirror of their reaction with several making hand gestures that, presumably, were to recognise how many times he had found the net against them.

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Pick that one out ! (thanks, Matt Davis

It was a strike that takes him to 24 league goals for the season, a figure which is the best from a Bees’ player since Nicky Forster reached the same total back in 1994-95. Only Tammy Abraham (Aston Villa) and Teemu Pukki (Norwich City) lie ahead of him on a Championship top scorer’s race that is sure to run until the very last kick of this season.

If the Brentford fans went in for their HT cuppas in ebullient mood, things were to get even better soon after. Sergi Canos doubled the advantage as he finished off a wonderful move involving Watkins and Maupay to dink it past Casilla for 2-0.

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Yessssss. 2-0 !!

The celebration from crowd and players alike said it all and was the perfect reward for a top class performance from Sergi. This was him at his very best although – to be fair – you could say that in regards to just about every player in the team yesterday. 

From that point there really was no way back. It was a two horse race where Leeds couldn’t even come second. Brentford played with confidence and calmness whilst Bielsa’s boys visibly wilted under pressure. When they did get through, Luke Daniels was authoritative. The defence an impenetrable wall of red and white. Mads Bech having his best game in a Brentford shirt by some distance. Jeanvier and Konsa were rock solid throughout. Moses and Rico pushing up the flanks with abandon. 

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View from the Braemar – Josh also impressed when he came off the bench

As for Romaine Sawyers in the middle. My word, it was one of THOSE games. Filthy flicks and silky tricks had the fans drooling. On this sort of performance I’ve no doubt that Dean Smith will be itching to get his hands on the player once more when the summer transfer window opens. It really was sublime performance and one of utter confidence.

There’s not much more to say here, really. Brentford were magnificent. We’ve beaten Leeds United more times than I care to remember in recent times. Last night was probably the best of these. Not only the way we played but a wonderful riposte to all this ‘tinpot’ jibes and conspiracy talk after the game back in October.  Don’t let one potential penalty call take anything away from how we played yesterday. The crowd were up for it from the off and kept going all game. Even Mr. Benham made his way on to the pitch at full time, heading down the touchline towards the dressing rooms.

The Championship promotion race may have a few more twists in it but I’m not sure where these will come from. Sheffield United play bottom club Ipswich Town next whilst Norwich City only need one more point to absolutely guarantee it. Goal difference for both teams is already significant as to make that three point gap from Leeds in third to  the Blades in second, effectively four. 

Still, that’s their problem. For Brentford, there are two games left to get the four points needed for another top ten finish. We’ll need results to go our way, too, but put in any sort of shift like we did yesterday and I wouldn’t bet against even that happening.

Bring on Bolton and then Preston for our last hurrah of 2018/19. If they’re even half as much fun as yesterday then it’s going to be a cracking finale. See you there.

 

Nick Bruzon

Uncanny parallels on a day of Gayle v gale as the run comes to an end.

17 Mar

And with that, the home streak was over. After 7 (seven) straight wins at Griffin Park, Brentford went down to West Bromwich Albion 1-0 in a game dominated by two goalkeepers and awful conditions. On a day windier than a naughty puppy at Christmas after snafflling an entire family size tub of Roses, it was West Brom who played both the conditions and the ref to win the game with their one moment of true quality – Kyle Edwards embarking on mazy run through the midfield and the Brentford defence to steer it past Luke Daniels six minutes into the second half. Elsewhere, there was more than a passing interest in how our own FA Cup conquerors, Swansea City, would fare in the next round at home to Manchester City. It would be fair to say there was no irony lost in how that one turned out. But we can only start with matters at Griffin Park.

The writing was on the wall before the game even kicked off in anger, if we’re being honest. And not just the appointment of Andy Madley as our ‘referee’. There was that lowest of low tricks at the toss – changing ends. I’m not a fan of having to kick ‘the wrong way’ in the first half. It doesn’t feel right and gets everybody’s back up. Especially given it meant we’d spend the second period kicking into the wind. And it was strong, very strong. The trees behind the away end were bending double whilst three balls were lost over the stadium roof after being hoofed high into the gusty stratosphere.

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View from the Braemar – West Brom had it when to counted. Sadly.

It was a bad start to the game but entirely understandable given the circumstances. Despite pressure and chances, the Bees were unable to find a way past Sam Johnstone in goal for the opposition in that opening period. It was another game where we went for it from the off.

Yet where previously we’ve had the ability to step it up in the second period, this time there was no way through. The elements providing a massive help to a team who defended with strength whilst cynically running down the clock at every opportunity. The ball was kicked away whenever possible, the ref allowed The Baggies to get in his ear and under his skin, throw ins were delayed and dives that would have had Tom Daley smiling were common place.

Much as against Sheffield United midweek, Brentford were locked out by well drilled opponents. When the chances came, the ball didn’t quite fall right or Johnstone was on hand to pull off top drawer saves. One in particular, from a Yoann Barbet free kick, had the fans out of their seats for 1-0 Brentford before the diving’ keeper’s outstretched palm managed to guide it to safety at the explosion of the ‘goal’ celebration. Canos and Maupay also came close but it wasn’t to be. 

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View from the Braemar – Yoann comes close. So close.

When West Brom had their own opportunity, Edwards took it with style. There can be no complaints about the way he started and finished the move. Even if there were plenty afterwards as the clock headed towards it’s inexorable denouement with all the pressure and tension of a losing Countdown contestant trying to make a last round word out of JKXDZBEIO.

More so, when referee Madley followed a strong first hour with a final thirty minutes which suggested his focus was anywhere but on ensuring the game could flow. His own performance very much going to the dogs as Brentford battled against Dwight Gayle, a roaring gale and a rogue ref.

So after the play-off dream had briefly raised its head in recent weeks, we’re now nine points off the top six with nine games to go. Given the way this team can play, I’m not going to say it’s over until it’s over. But being realistic, things are going to need a remarkable swing.

On the plus side, we’ve got international break to all catch our breath and recuperate before that final push begins at the end of the month with two away games – Wigan Athletic and then a midweek trip to Swansea City. At the very least, another top ten finish is more than attainable. Another finish over the likes of Birmingham City and QPR well within our grasp.

Yesterday was frustrating and notably so, given the conditions we had to watch the game in. Whilst I’d never trade being at Griffin Park for TV, there was a pang of jealousy about the comfort of those watching ‘on screen’ from sunnier climes.

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Not exactly TW8….

Still, if it was all about the comfort then you may aswell stay at home. Something a group of West Brom fans must have been wishing after putting on the worst pre-match display for TV’s Soccer AM since, well, that day we don’t talk about against Doncaster Rovers.

With football done, it was back home to catch up on the FA Cup action. In particular, the game between Swansea City and Manchester City. That one being of particular interest to Bees fans after we’d seen a 1-0 half time lead at the Liberty Stadium in the previous round turn into a 4-1 fifth round exit at full time. The catalyst for that one being turned around was, of course, the unfortunate equaliser where a free kick had beaten Luke Daniels, hit the post, struck the back of the still diving goalkeeper on its return and deflected straight back into the net for 1-1.

So there was no irony lost as Swansea saw a 2-1 second half lead at the Liberty Stadium turn into a 3-2 sixth round exit at full time. The catalyst for that one being turned around was, of course, the unfortunate equaliser where Sergio Aguero’s penalty had beaten Kristoffer Nordfeldt, hit the post, struck the back of the still diving goalkeeper on its return and deflected straight back into the net for 2-2.

That the penalty decision, like Aguero’s late winner, had probably been made the wrong way can only have added to the sense of frustration felt by the home fans. Tell me about it. Yet another two fingers up delivered from VAR or, more the case, the lack of VAR. The FA Cup only allowing the system to be used in games players at Premier league grounds. Nothing like keeping the competition consistent, eh? 

For Manchester City, an incredible opportunity to scoop a quadruple still awaits. For Brentford and Swansea City, we’re back to the drawing board. The Championship play-offs remain a mathematical possibility but are going to take an incredible combination of wins and favours from other teams.

 With Leeds United and Frank Lampard’s Derby county still to visit, who knows what might sill happen…..

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