Tag Archives: Reading

Is this a chance to get back to winning ways? Or will the table talk?

3 Feb

Brentford travel to Derby County safe in the knowledge that, a mass exodus to China aside (and Lasse Vibe is still very much flavour of the month there, per Phil Giles’ interview during the week), we know the make-up of our squad for the rest of the Championship campaign. It’s a good thing too, because things don’t come much tougher than a trip to Pride Park where the Rams have remorselessly climbed the table to the point that only Wolves sit above them. And even there the gap is closing. Yet as last night’s game between Bolton and Bristol City showed, anything can happen in this division. Anybody can beat anybody. Few people expected the Trotters to beat City but their reward for a 1-0 win was an escape from the bottom 3. The Bees don’t need to worry about relegation but that’s not to say our job is any easier. Equally though, the reward for victory could be a fantastic one. As for Leeds United, you’ll have to wait for the Preston matchday programme for thoughts on them – I’m sure we’ll all cope.

However, today is all about Brentford and Derby County. Whilst other teams have started to reel them in over the last few games, it is still our hosts who occupy an automatic place in the promotion race. At present. The gap to Wolves still 11 points and one would think it’ll take a choke worse than Wayne Rooney’s form at a World Cup finals for them to blow that one. Yet the race to second place is still wide open. Aston Villa are just a point off whilst Bristol City would have started the day level with County had they done the needful last night. Cardiff City are in a similar position, going into their own game at Leeds United today. Expect them to come away from that one with all three points.

Pressure and expectation can do funny things, though. I reference this a lot on these pages but I’ll never forget that final weekend of the 2014/15 Championship campaign. Derby didn’t need to do much more than just turn up to confirm their place in the play offs in a home against a Reading team with nothing to play for but Pride. Yet they didn’t even manage that, missing a penalty en-route to a 3-0 capitulation that saw them miss out on a promotion shot as Brentford were amongst the teams to overtake them en-route to the play offs for the Premier League. It still seems incredible, even now.

Might knowing that they have a chasing pack breathing down their own necks increase the anxiety for the home support? Could Brentford sweep in and clean up just as Reading did three seasons ago? Whilst we’ve had it tough against County in the past don’t forget we have our own, huge incentive. Prior to last week’s game with Norwich we’d been flying. Our own victory then would have taken us all but into the top six . Instead, it is Fulham who now sit in that slot whilst The Bees faced with the toughest of tasks, on paper, if we are to get back to winning ways.

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Harlee and the Judge – not a 70s cop show but a tough trip to Derby from days gone by

Whatever happens, it is just one game. One, tough game but that hasn’t phased us before. We know how well we have been playing at times. How poorly in patches. On the whole though it has been a pleasure watching Dean Smith’s team these last few months. We’ve a great run of fixtures coming up and what better incentive to hit them with than performing some sort of Ram Raid today to take the points from the hosts.

Yet bludgeoning our way through isn’t the Brentford style. There’s no crude unsophistication. A lack of tactical imagination at times, perhaps, but if we were perfect then we’d be top of the Premier League and lifting trophies. Instead, we have a team who play for each other and can play some quite breath taking football when we hit peak flow. The challenge today will be just who Dean starts with and how he sets them up.

An obvious point, perhaps, yet the first half against Norwich was as gloomy as the second was bright. Ok, we didn’t get the goal but at least we went for it. I like Dean a lot and he generally talks very objectively. But I didn’t buy his post-match analysis about Brentford being the better team over 90 minutes and deserving to win. We lost to a belter of a goal against a team who out played us in the first half. A team who out thought us in the second despite our wonderful approach play and infinite step up in both personnel and playing style.

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The Norwich game has been and gone

That was then and I don’t want to labour the point. Instead it’s just a case of taking that one on the chin rather than dwell on what was a first home defeat since August. Of, dare I say it, going again. The only other team to beat us in recent months have been Wolves, and nobody needs a lecture form me on how well they’ve been doing this season.

So we are more than set up for today. We more than have the talent in this team. Who sits up top is going to be an interesting decision for Dean. As will be choosing who provides the width, how defensive his centre midfield is going to be and whether he has anybody to offer Neal Maupay support. Then again, I wouldn’t bet on him surprising all of us.

All this shows however is that like most of us, I have no clue who Dean will start. Does Neal continue up top? Will Josh McEachran retain his place in the starting XI? Could, no should, Sergi Canos be promoted from the bench?

Roll on 3pm when we find out.

Will who now? Sergi was on fire agasint Villa, despite the torrential downpour

Could a returning Sergi see it raining goals?

Nick Bruzon

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

27 Jan

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

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

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Bolton were the last visitors to Griffin Park.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Norwich in the cup happened. Move along

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

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

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

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

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Nick Bruzon

 

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

21 Jan

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

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Lasse enjoying his goal celebration – shared this one on Twitter

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

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

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

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

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

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Yoann comes close. ish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The current table makes very pleasant reading

Nick Bruzon

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

20 Jan

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

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

Andre Gray for 3-0

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

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

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

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

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

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Bolton were left looking dazed and confused by the end

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

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

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

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John Swift. The former Bee is missing in action today

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

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

Sergi Canos v Reading

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

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

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

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

Nick Bruzon

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

 

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

Wolves prove a game too far but who was talking the most sense afterwards?

3 Jan

In the end it was a game too far. Wolves, by all accounts, romped to a 3-0 home win over a Brentford side who had picked up all 9 festive points prior to this one and had genuine hopes of coming back from Molineux with something. Alas, it was not too be. On a night that saw the most disappointing combination of results possible (a win for Birmingham City at Reading aswell as Fulham breezing past Ipswich Town) The Bees return home having slipped a place to 11th in the table.

Wolves, meanwhile, are now 12 points clear of the chasing pack and, perhaps more importantly for them, a further 2 ahead of third placed Cardiff City. That’s before you even look at their incredible goal difference of +30

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View from the opposition – somebody may need to update their graphics…

I wasn’t there. I wouldn’t profess to be. This was never on and even the radio proved to be one step too many in the end. Instead, it was the sofa and Sky Sports news. 0-0 at half time and Brentford under the cosh but hanging in there. Could we perform a second half smash and grab? Then the last few days took hold and the next thing I knew Mrs Bruzon was rousing me from my slumbers. Up and down the country, full time had been called. Through bleary eyes, the score was all too clear. Well done Wolves. Hard luck Brentford.

So I’m not best placed to give any manner of significant opinion on this one. Instead, I’ll leave it to social media and other sources to pick the meat off the bones of this one.

Dean Smith summed things up in his post match interview when speaking to the BBC. Their match report notes his comments that: “They pulled Costa off and then could put Cavaleiro on. That’s what you can do when you have £40m to spend. They should make a difference….Dan Bentley’s pulled off some very good saves to keep it at 0-0 and I was almost surprised to see the free-kick go in as he very rarely gets beaten from that distance….They showed their class in the way they finished. But, in the end, it was the manner of the way we conceded that disappointed me.”

Whilst pulling off Costa or bringing on Cavaleiro is not an option available to him, at least Dean can take solace that Emiliano Marcondes is now officially a Brentford player. The much touted Dane was on the bench for this one and whilst he didn’t put in an appearance, I’m sure we’ll get our first glimpse of him in action on Saturday. Expect him to be one of several changes as tired legs get a bit of a break.

Twitter was the usual wealth of opinion with a most respected of opinions, that of commentator par excellence Mark Burridge, top of my list. If anyone knows a thing or two about watching the Bees it is him.

For Mark to draw this conclusion tells you all you need to know about the quality of our opponents. The fans were quick to opine aswell.

As for the players, ‘That phrase’, is appearing once more in various guises.

Whilst video whizzkid Sean Ridley is clearly enjoying his post-Brentford career with a change in direction. Sean, I hear you.

Even waking this morning, Wolves are everywhere. The quite wonderful Miles McClagan sharing this one c/o his account @TheSkyStrikers (which is well, well worth a follow for lovers of all things programme / odd / both).

So Brentford lost. Wolves are rampaging at the top of the table. Fair play to them. Here’s hoping we get a chance to play them next season . If for no other reason it will mean The Bees have made it into the Premier League.

Until then, there are still two interim positives. First up, the FA Cup third roiund on Saturday. Perhaps a chance to see the aforementioned Marcondes in action. Not to mention a certain Alan Judge.

And there’s always the bottom of the table. Tentimesbetter Birmingham City are still deep in it.

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Nick Bruzon

Bees have to settle for another point as Birmingham lose (but win the sack race).

17 Sep

Brentford 1 Reading 1. Eight league games down and the Bees still to register a win. Yet a point was, at the least, sufficient to take us above a Birmingham City side who lost their sixth successive game and consequently sacked manager Harry Redknapp. Oh please, stop sniggering. And with basement club Bolton Wanderers losing again, it puts even more significance on our own trip to the Macron this Saturday.

What can you say about our own performance at Griffin Park? Well, the first half was as good as the second was poor whilst referee Tony Harrington had a stinker. It’s a shame that the highlights now available on Sky don’t show either of the two seemingly nailed on penalties denied the Bees – Romaine Sayers in the first half and Neal Maupay in the second. Gut reaction to both was that a spot kick should have been awarded but, instead, he ruled in favour of Reading.

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Reading were the latest visitors to Griffin Park

As for their penalty to equalise Josh Clarke’s sublime opener, it was about as soft as they come. Rico Henry alleged to have shoved Tyler Blackett as a free kick drifted past and into touch. The Reading man pulling off a Norman Wisdom pratt fall to fool the ref and present his team the chance to level things up. It was a chance that was gratefully accepted.

But again, we’re hanging on arbitrary moments of refereeing indecision. The game should have been put to bed long before that. The Bess dominated and the goal from man of the match Josh no more than our pressure and play deserved. An exchange of passes with Neal Maupay in the box saw him fire home from a tight angle with defenders bearing down.

At the risk of cracking out the ‘déjà vu’ line once more, this is exactly what we got. Tons of possession. Tons of pressure and despite a first half lead (Reading still remain the only Championship club not to get a goal in the opening 45) there was a sense of the inevitable about what came next.

Whilst Jaap Stam read his team the riot act, Dean Smith seemed to have read his a bedtime story. Talk about the game of two halves. The pressure game disappeared and instead we seemed content to try and contain. To be fair, this was working ok until the ref intervened. And at that point you then pay the price for not killing it off.

Dean would later lambast Mr Harrington and his officials to the BBC, telling them that: ”Two of our boys have been tackled from behind and we get nothing”. “Three of their players were already on bookings and some of the tackles were just allowed to go on. All we are asking for is consistency. I didn’t think the referee was very good today”. “We are talking about five big decisions and only one has been given and that can’t be right at this level with professional officials”.

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The Bees had to rely on themselves rather than the officials

Fair enough and true enough. But it goes back to the same old adage about taking chances when they present themselves. Yet again there seemed this endless desire to pass it across the face of the box and walk it into the net when just shooting would have been the order of the day.

Here are three more quotes for you.

7(seven) year old supporter Felix Watts summarising at full time : “The only thing we had to do today was shoot. Really quickly. When they were in the penalty box at Griffin Park all we had to do was shoot but we kept passing it.

Fulham manger Slavisa Jokanovic after his team’s midweek 2-1 win over Hull City: “You cannot create 100 chances before scoring. You must be clinical and show more quality…..This is a similar story (to other games this season), we are dominating. I was worried and it was not a healthy game for us and our supporters.

Dean Smith (in an article you can read in full on ‘official’) : “We are eight games in and I haven’t seen a team that is better than us so far. I feel we were on a par with Wolverhampton Wanderers, who are a really good team, but we are still waiting for our first win.”

I’ll leave it to you as to who is talking most sense at this point.

Genuinely, I feel for Dean. His team aren’t getting the breaks. Reading had only two chances of note and took one. His team WAS denied by a referee set to ‘random’. At least he has said his piece on that, no matter what retribution may follow.  Watching from the stands, it was infuriating how many decisions seemed to go the wrong way. Having now seen the full highlights (below) with the mid-day curfew having been met, the non-penalties look even worse. The foul on Romaine especially whilst the decision to penalise Mauapy at the end one I’m still struggling with.

One can symapthise with Dean over the refereeing performance

But at the same time the malaise and self-pity now seems infectious. The second half performance was just phoned in with little attempt to change formation or tactics and we paid the ultimate price.

Did the Bees deserve to win? Probably. Dean can count himself very hard done by. Yet by the same virtue results have to be earned. Stats, possession and percentages count for naff all compared to balls in the net. We are only eight games in but if we are talking stats then an average of 0.5 points per game is not the mark of a team better than the third of the division we’ve already played.

Still, let’s look positive. We’ve received £12million from Birmingham City (going on the figures quoted in Ben Burgess’ programme column) for three players who are yet to pick up a point. The Blues lost again – that’s all three since they concluded their transfer business – and Harry has now been shown the door at St. Andrews following his team’s 1-3 home defeat to Preston. Hey, at least they got their first goal since the window slammed shut.

“Another rebuild. More turmoil after bringing in all those players. No time to gel. #Crazy. #JustCrazy”. Not my words but those of BBC roving reporter Clem on Twitter as the news broke of this and two other sackings yesterday as Chesterfield and Port Vale also pulled the plug.

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Clem’s gut reaction says it all

This, some something he would later change to: Horrible run. But is this chopping & Changing really workable? 

Sadly, I fear it is . In this instance.

Birmingham City have now slid beneath The Bees with only Bolton Wanderers keeping the pair of us off the bottom. The same Bolton Wanderers we travel to on Saturday. However, the Blues moved quickly  with Lee Carsley taking temporary charge at St.Andrews. We all know what he can do and you can bet your bottom dollar that he’ll get them firing quicker than you can say ‘transfer window.’

Lee more than steadied the ship at Griffin Park after the woeful Marinus experiment came to an end, even scooping the October 2015 manager of the month award. There were many who hoped he would stay on full time although that was something never in his scope, a point that was made clear from the off. But now Birmingham have the opportunity to benefit from a similar stint – presumably until Steve Bruce becomes available soon.

Lee will no doubt re-inject some vitality and confidence into Birmingham City. The big question is whether Dean can do the same to his ‘unlucky’ Bees before the chance to nail Bolton to the bottom presents itself on Saturday.

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A point sees the Bees rise above big spending Birmingham

Nick Bruzon

As Bees prepare for a Royal visit, Dean remains confident. But can we win?

16 Sep

Tuesday 27 September 2016. It finished Brentford 4 Reading 1. It was a score that came just weeks after a draw at Aston Villa and a previous home game that had seen us thump Preston 5-0 at Griffin Park. Yet it was the game against the Royals which produced what these pages described as one of the great performances as Josh Clarke ran riot, noting “How it was only four I still don’t know. Hats off to Dean Smith and his team for a display of simply scintillating football.”

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Last time out Reading’s lurid kit was about as awkward as it got for Brentford

Needless to say that 12 months on we’d love those sorts of results. The W column is fast becoming a somewhat awkward monkey on the back with only Bolton Wanderers, who we play next Saturday, able to match the Bees in so far failing to pick up three points. Yet victory today would put the Bees to within a point of a Reading team that, it would be fair to say, are yet to match the heights of last season where the third placed side got all the way to the play-off final before going down to Huddersfield on penalties. There is no crueller way to be denied, that’s for sure.

Still, there’s no time for tears. That’s Reading’s issue and if they are failing to adjust then surely something to try and take advantage of. We’ve all heard the talk of how well Brentford are playing, how unlucky we are being and that there is nothing to worry about. It was a point that Dean Smith made in his Thursday press conference where he noted: ”We are all disappointed with the results but we are not disappointed with the performances. We concentrate on getting the performances because usually the results follow but it hasn’t been the case. I’ve been at clubs when they have been in trouble and we certainly aren’t”, albeit he would later acknowledge that, “the longer you wait for that first win then the more pressure can build in the supporters’ eyes.”

The question is, can we do it? Although Dean would go on to say that “Whoever plays the best will win” (and you can read his piece in full on ‘official’) that’s not necessarily the case. Just look at the Ipswich game. Indeed, it seems contradictory to what has been said before. We’ve been told how well we’ve been playing this season and how we are bettering opponents such as Aston Villa and Sheffield Wednesday yet we are still to break the duck.

Something has to give soon and one can only dream of a report performance from that of 12 months ago. It was a game where 10 of the current squad played a part in producing some quite wonderful football. Should Dean get it right today and the pieces click then we are more than capable of doing the same again. Personally, I’d be well happy with a scrappy 1-0 and an 89th minute winner off of Nico’s backside. Please note: any backside will do.

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View from the terrace – Brentford were on fire at both ends last time we had a Royal visit

I’m not overly happy about being bottom three. Who would be? Yet the fact remains that this is only mid September. We are only 7(seven) games in. We’ve been told how strong the squad is. A few wins and it all changes around. The gap to 5th place is only 9points. Just when do those wins come? And how?

The BBC preview, which you can read here, certainly favours the Bees. Amongst other things, they have a whole series of stats including the facts that Reading are the only Championship side yet to score a first-half goal this season whilst 1972, 22 games ago, was the last time they kept a clean sheet at Griffin Park.

I’ve got a feeling that today we’ll be making that stat 23 and going home with all three points in our pocket. Bring on 3pm when we find out.

See you there.

Nick Bruzon

Harlee to Birmingham? Jota to Fulham? Brace yourselves after overnight update

30 Aug

The talk on everybody’s lips these last few days has been the prospect of Jota leaving Brentford for, of all places, Fulham. Unthinkable in the eyes of many. The ultimate smack in the face to others. Or just good business for a player whose contract is fast expiring? Then, yesterday, radio silence. Indeed, all the talk was about Harlee Dean. His apparent medical at Birmingham City with a £2million fee having been agreed. So what to believe as the transfer window creaks closer to that ‘slam shut’ ™ ?

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This is our sort of Jota / Fulham story

Centre back is, of course a position we are well catered for whilst somewhere we’ve struggled to lock down in recent weeks. Harlee is (or was ) club captain and is player of the year. Rightly so based on last season although, equally, it was a campaign that saw him massively raise his game from those moments of ‘random error’ we’d seen in the past.

That’s part of learning your trade. Learning the game. He is still only 26 and it seemed as though we finally had the player we had all hoped he could be. Consistent. Strong. Mature. But with contract running out it has put Dean in a hole. And it is hole that Harry Redknapp and Birmingham City would seem happy to start shovelling cash into.

Funnily enough, looking around cyberspace there isn’t the doom and gloom one might expect. Certainly not compared to the Jota / Fulham story. There is a resigned expectation to this one, with suggestions that the player is being offered substantial wages at Birmingham City whilst the new contract on offer from Brentford was still below the top earners at Griffin Park.

From many respects, the emotional attachment to losing our longest serving player (and one only on an upward trajectory) is balanced out by the thought that at least he can better himself financially – if not in terms of destination. That at least it gives us no choice but to stick with Yoann Barbet and John Egan as our regular, first choice centre-back pairing.

It might makes Dean’s job that bit easier and, whilst maybe not the centre back that many would prefer to see go, given the player’s contract situation then perhaps this is the best way to close out an awkward situation. Whilst, of course, giving Harlee a new challenge and the financial rewards he may well feel he is due.

And if not, at least then we can focus on a first choice pairing by the time the Villa game comes around. Leaving two players to keep the B-team warm. Regardless of any sale, Dean Smith needs to stick and stop twisting.

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Harlee – heart on his sleeve. As ever

As for Jota, well this now gets interesting. And not in a good way. Specifically on account of a long conversation I’ve had in the small hours with the team at Beesotted who have been advised by a source in SW6 that the move is looking as though it will be on. Yes, you read that correctly.

Ordinarily we don’t do transfer speculation on these pages. Yet this one is well beyond the norm. And in trying to corroborate this story – basically, is it true or is it bullshit? – it seems as though there may be some substance. Their sources at other clubs are well known to be very accurate, as are their stories in general.

And in this instance their SW6 contact suggest that some sort of movement may be imminent. That an offer is about to be submitted. From a club who have just coined in £6.5million from selling Sone Aluko to Reading. Although, of course, even if it is then would it be sufficient to force Matthew Benham’s hand?

Middlesbrough have already been knocked back. As was also proven with Scott Hogan to Villa Park, we leave things late and we don’t give away our prize assets for small change.

IF he goes anywhere – Fulham, Boro’, other, then the one thing you can say is that it won’t be for nothing. Other than that, we’ll just wait for Dave, Billy and team to bring us the big facts as they learn more.They know I’m writing this. I’m not stealing any thunder here.

It may still prove to be a massive wind up. Our respective sources do all have form at this sort of thing. The name Brian Guest springs to mind. But, equally, if it is going to happen then let’s just brace ourselves.

Today could be a long one. Do check the Beesotted website where their update is now live. No doubt they’ll be updating their own story further with what they know and, of course, if/as either story develops.

In the meantime, strap yourselves in…..

Jota v Forest

Jota. Look away Brentford fans. It might get ugly

Nick Bruzon

One out of three ain’t bad. Ian Holloway does it again as Huddersfield make it so (sorry).

30 May

That really is it. Football is over for the season. Congratulations to Huddersfield Town who made it up to the Premier League after beating Reading on penalties. For the Royals, a return to Griffin Park awaits as they endured a pain us Brentford fans know only too well – play off capitulation.

In truth, the first ten minutes aside, it was a dreadful game. Huddersfield came flying out of the blocks and looked like they were going for broke. Yet after missing two gilt edged chances from Izzy Brown and Michael Hefele it soon settled down into a game of cat and mouse. Cagier than a cage fight between Nicolas Cage and Xander Cage, it was two and half hours we’ll never get back.

But frankly, who cares? Whether you win on penalties or in a 4-3 goalfest, the net result is the same. Promotion for one side and tears for the other.

So football aside (and largely because there wasn’t any) what did we learn from yesterday’s game? Well, apparently Patrick Stewart was there. Yes, I know, you probably missed it too.

The Star Trek and X-men actor being to Huddersfield as Rhino from the Quo or Cameron Diaz (allegedly) are to Brentford. And once the cameras had picked him up, that was it. We saw as many shots of him as we did of Reading fans crying. Yes Sky, we get it – there’s Picard. Again. All we needed was a ‘make it so’ pun for a full house.

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What a miss from Izzy Brown

We learned, once more, that penalties are a most wonderful thing for the neutral to watch. Yet for the players and fans the most painful of all ways to decide promotion. Unless you are on the winning side in which case seeing your fate revealed at the exact moment of that one, decisive kick must be the most incredible feeling ever. Again, something us Brentford fans can’t really relate to. Play-off success (8 doomed attempts so far) or promotion sealing penalty kicks being something that we don’t overly talk about.

But the real talking point to come out of it was that Ian Holloway is to making pre-season predictions as Donald Trump is to tact and diplomacy. We’ve already mentioned his efforts for Sky TV on these pages many times. Holloway, not Trump. Indeed, they form much of the thrust in the current 2016/17 Championship season review. That’s available now on e-book, with all proceeds going to the Community Sports Trust.

But a focus on Holloway is no surprise given his prediction of Brentford to finish 22nd, and the narrative:  “Brentford are regressing. Mark Warburton got them punching above their weight. They still haven’t replaced Andre Gray and Alan Judge will be missing for the start of the season. They could be in trouble”.

Well, that one was thrown royally back in his face. We did the double over QPR, including a 3-1 win over his side at Griffin Park, as the Bees finished 11 points and 8 places above the not so super hoops. Our own management had immediately poo-poo’d his prediction at the fan forum and how great to see the confidence rewarded.

But for Huddersfield Town, he predicted even worse. They came out at 23rd in his table and his own summary of their fate was: “I haven’t seen much progression from the club during the back end of last season. David Wagner is pretty inexperienced and if results turn, then they may struggle to turn things around”.

If 22nd to 10th was a mile out, then 23rd to the Premier League was  his failng to hit a barn door with banjo in a brewery. An incredible miss on the punditry front.

It was a point well made in the aftermath of Huddersfield triumph. Not by the fans but the manager, who offered “Ian Holloway , all the best for the next season” . And the team, chanting “There’s only one Ian Holloway” as they celebrated in the dressing room.

Hey, at least Ian got basement club Rotherham United right. One out of three ain’t bad, I suppose.

Congratulations David Wagner. Congratulations Huddersfield. Tough luck Reading. We’ll see you at Brentford next season.

And, as noted earlier, season 2016/17  is now available for download on e-book in the retrospective: Welcome Home, King Jota (Brentford FC season review 2016/17)

Priced at just £1.99, all sales are being donated to the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust.

Likewise any sales from the previous titles – Celebrating like they’d won the FA Cup (2013/14), Tales from the football village (2014/15) and Ready. Steady. Go Again. (2015/16) – are also now going to the BFCCST.

Containing the least bad of the blogs from May 16 to May 17, you can pick it up, here. It’s all for a great cause and, hey, you may even enjoy it, Unless your name is Ian H…..

Nick Bruzon