Tag Archives: Reading

Top of the what now? Bees relish their Royal appointment.

11 Feb

Wow! Just wow. Brentford were at their very best to win 3-1 at Reading on Wednesday evening and overtake Norwich City at the top of the Championship table. The. Top. The penthouse suite in the promotion hotel. There’s still one heck of a way to go but after putting in about as resilient a performance as they come, against Premier League chasing opponents who took the lead and dominated proceedings in the first half, one can’t help but feel excited. Next up is a home game with Barnsley on Sunday lunchtime (given their own FA Cup tie with Chelsea tonight) followed by the midweek trip to Loftus Road. With them, the chance to improve on current figures that see us 21 games unbeaten in the league, Ivan Toney now up to 23 goals scored in the league this season and 25 points out of a possible 27 earned in the last 9 games. 21, 23, 25! What comes next in that sequence? Thankfully, for once, this isn’t part of the home schooling routine but more the excitement which seems to greet every game at the moment.

“What a team” – the words of Ethan Pinnock

For now though, we need to start by catching up on events last night. Thomas Frank shuffled his squad, with Josh Dasilva returning and Mbeumo / Fosu occupying the flanks. Sergi Canos and Samman Ghoddos having to be content with places on the bench. The former in particular perhaps disappointed after his excellent run of recent form but fitness and the squad come first. Besides, his entry into the fray  just after the hour coincided with Brentford continuing to turn the screw after holding off Reading for so long.

As seems to be the way at present, we conceded first. Thankfully not in the third minute and it was one from the penalty spot with Henrik Dalsgaard adjudged (and that’s the most generous word I can come up with) to have brought down former Bee Josh Laurent. He only ever played one game for us, ‘that’ Marinus inspired nightmare in the league cup at home to Oxford United, but the potential we saw was on evidence last night. He, and the Royals, were not here to make up the numbers even if the decision to award the spot kick seemed a soft one. Nobody complained, David Raya got his hands to it but Lucas Joao hit it too well and the hosts were ahead. 

In truth, it had been coming and if the award of the penalty itself had felt iffy (they always do when you are on the receiving end) there was no bitterness towards Reading who had been well on top. Then, things changed. Brentford pushed up (somebody needs to make a chant about that when we are allowed back in) and found their feet. Having spent 25 minutes being carved open we started to play. Josh Dasilva electric as he cut in from the right, waltzed through the defence and into the box before striking a beauty across the face of goal and into the opposite corner. It was a thunderbolt of a run and shot. A beautiful goal and one which really needed fans there to witness it. 

Alas we were all confined to barracks although at least had Mark Burridge and team to guide us through the action on i-follow. They had been sorely missed by many for the trip to Middlesbrough at the weekend but despite being stuck out in monitor free isolation at the Madjeski (not even given team sheets) were still on hand to do their thing in the bitter cold. And they had to be on their toes as Dasilva’s strike, sublime though it was, only seems to shake Reading back to life. David Raya and Ethan Pinnock both keeping the Bees in it as we were pushed onto the back foot for the last ten minutes of the half. The later in particular pulling off one quite incredible tackle that had penalty written all over it , were it not for the absolute precision in his timing.

1-1 at half time and if the first period had seen opportunity knock, the second felt very much as though both teams wold settle with a point. To be fair, it would still have been enough to see us overtake Norwich on goal difference but this team never say die. Never stop running. Had strength on the bench with Sergi providing a much needed breath of fresh air for in place of Mbeumo for the final half hour. Ghoddos adding further energy on 80 as the Bees wrapped things up in style late on.

First, it was Josh Dasilva. Again. Ivan Toney chesting the ball into his path with the deftest of touches , allowing the midfielder to lash home from close range. The finish was perfect but the build up play exquisite as Ivan made it all look so, so easy. 86 minutes gone and Brentford finally in front. With the clock reading 88 we were out of sight. A fierce drive from Sergi only able to be parried out and Ivan turned from provider to poacher, gobbling up the rebound before anyone could react. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe this man. Truly, truly incredible. Dean Holdsworth scored 38 in our own  ’91-’92 Third Division Championship season (all competitions) but one has to fear for the safety of that record should he carry on at this rate, given he’s already just up behind the total Deano scored in the league.

Josh equalised and then steered us into the lead

Four minutes of injury time became six but there was no danger. No feeling of stress or angst as the Bees held firm. It was an absolute huge result, make no mistake about that. The run and stats are impressive but now it is all about keeping the position at the top of the table we’ve finally been able to claim in our own right. Our own games in hand have played out and we’ve reached the summit with a little bit of clear air. There are still 18 games to go and now all we can do is chalk them off, one by one. Barnsley are next up on Sunday in a game that could take place with us having been replaced at the top given Norwich entertain Stoke on Saturday afternoon. And we’re assuming a game with Stoke could ever be described as entertaining. No doubt the Canaries will have a point to prove and its going to be very interesting which way this one plays out.

Still, that’s their issue. For us, the top of the table is now home. What a fantastic performance last night. What a team. Here’s to more of the same. Starting with Barnsley.

Can we reach 22…..?

Nick Bruzon 

Bees keeper puts in killer performance as strikers blitz Boro’.

7 Feb

Where to even begin ? How about in my bed? Don’t turn away – it’s not like that. Genuinely, I woke in the middle of the night from a terrible dream. Fate had conspired to see us in the play-off final once more. We were playing Fulham once more. For reasons unknown our opponents had rocked up wearing Sumo suits so we couldn’t get near them. Keith Stroud choosing to ignore this flagrant breach of the rules. Despite the score being 2-2 with half an hour left, they then started scoring goals. 3-2. 4-2. Ten minutes to go, somebody changed channels and I woke with a jolt. I never found out if we won or otherwise. Whether the team was broken up after a second successive defeat at the W place. Yet what I will take from it was that it was horribly vivid. Felt devastatingly real. A combination of last season and that game at the Millennium rolled in to one. Thankfully, it was nothing more than nonsense. The yin to a quite incredible yang of our 4-1 win at Middlesbrough. Three points which see us leapfrog Swansea City and offered the opportunity of topping the table. Victory against Reading on Wednesday night, our game in hand, will see us overtake Norwich City at the summit. Cripes, this is getting exciting. 

It certainly was

Yet if anything, that dream has reminded me that settling for the play-offs is not an option this time around. I can’t go through that again and, the way this team are playing, I don’t think we’ll need to. That’s now 20 games unbeaten and one of the biggest potato skins on the calendar, Middlesbrough away, has been negotiated. Not only negotiated but sliced into the air and volleyed into the recycling bin. Brentford were immense. Magnificent. About as devastating as we get. Quite honestly, it could have been brackets. 4-1 doesn’t begin to even tell half the story of a game that was about as poles apart form that awful 0-0 at Lionel Road as it is possible to be.

If nothing else, how often do you see a 2 goal striker (Ivan Toney with another brace) in a scoreline of this magnitude miss out on Man Of The Match to the winning team’s goalkeeper. A goalkeeper who, move along nothing to see here, made a rare slip to gift our hosts a third minute own goal? It could have been curtains for Brentford yet just like the game with Bristol City during the week, it only served to inspire us. What came next was about as brilliant as it has been all campaign. 

Brentford pushed up. As did Middlesbrough, to be fair. Both teams going for broke and David Raya, having got whatever it was out of his system, playing just about the best game we’ve seen him have for The Bees. Brilliance and bravery in equal measure. Bolasie amongst those thwarted before Ivan Toney eventually levelled things up on 38. The goal had been coming and Tariqe Fosu was in no way offside – it was marginal, ok – as he took the ball from Ivan, cut down the flank and returned it into the box for the simplest of tap ins. Simple , of course, if you are on this sort of form. 

1-1 and Brentford on top. Another goal was imminent although it was Middlesbrough who should have had it. A point blank double save by Raya from Britt Assombalonga and then George Saville underlining the sort of game our number 1 was having. The net should have been rippling. Neil Warnock should have been hugging his assistant in delight. Thankfully for all of us, not least the assistant, we were spared that sight by the sheer, unadulterated brilliance from the Bees’ ‘keeper. He had no right to get even half-way close yet pulled it off. The goal intact, unlike his own more delicate parts. A very painful looking boot to the groin area the price to pay for keeping us alive. Ouch!!!

“PS: that hurt” – not my words but those of David Raya when he published this photo

Half-time couldn’t come quick enough. A chance to regroup. To dry off from the biblical downpour. To massage the more tender spots. To decide which way we would approach the second half. At full pelt was the answer. Just as we’d done against Wycombe and Bristol City, it was back out and fly at the opposition. With Raya pulling off his one man heroics whenever they had a sniff it gave us that belief to keep going for it. And what a way to do so.

Vitaly Janelt made it 2-1 on 58. A shot from the edge of the box so telegraphed that we were already shouting ‘Gooooallll’ before it even reached him. Ivan Toney teeing it up so beautifully that it looked like something out of a video game. The finish was equal to it. Hard and true to the bottom corner. My word. What a strike. What goal. What a team. He buried it with all the finesse of an undertaker. Bettinelli in nets left for dead. 

2-1 became 3-1 minutes later. This time it was Matthias Jensen who capitalised on a slip and raced clear from half-way. Brentford were 3 on 1 yet, if anything, he had too much time. What to do? Pass or continue? Shoot or round the keeper? He went with the later and despite defenders rushing back, there was no mistake made. It was cool as you like and one of the hardest of chances to take. I really thought he was going to Clayton it. Much as we absolutely loved Donaldson in our house, and still do, he would sometimes overthink the moment when clean through the middle and bearing down on the goalkeeper. Yet here was no faltering. No hesitation. No doubt. If there had been any nerves then they weren’t showing. Surely things were now safe?

Perhaps, but it didn’t stop Brentford from carrying on. Rico Henry saw a shot on goal tipped onto the woodwork by Bettinelli but the ball only found its way as far as Ivan Toney. On this form, there’s only one place its going to end up and that’s in the back of the net. Boom 4-1. Game over, man. Game over. Except even then, he could have had the hat-trick as he steered another just wide. Jensen could have grabbed a second as a shot from distance hit the post and went the wrong side. It was that strong an attacking performance although one matched by our hosts. They never stopped either and on another day, with a different keeper in the way, could well have got three or four themselves.

Smiling assassin Chuba Akpom coming close as did George Saville on a number of occasions. The later in particular crudely exposing himself as somebody who hasn’t been able to progress since his time at Griffin Park and, perhaps, going for the snatched attempt rather than the more patient approach when opportunity presented itself. The again, on this form I think that David Raya would have stopped a juggernaut. 

I’m not sure what else to say about this one, really. The excitement from the players on social media said it all. The genuine pleasure from Thomas Frank, who’d got so wet in the conditions he had to change jackets at half time, a joy to behold in his post match interview.

Twenty games unbeaten in the league a quite incredible run of form and one which only sees our team looking stronger and stronger. Nine points and 14 (seven times 2) goals from our last three games are quite amazing statistics for any team at any level. Norwich City surely looking over their shoulders now. Swansea City the third team in this two way tussle. Yet unlike last season, when our run was just a tad too late in the end, this time around we are moving early. We are destroying all in our path. We’re loving out football. Oh, I can’t wait for Reading on Wednesday. It won’t be easy and we shouldn’t be over confident. Very much a case of ‘each game as it comes’.

Equally though, let’s not deny ourselves the opportunity to enjoy watching this team at their best. To celebrate Brentford at their finest. Saturday at Middlesbrough was all about that. The play-off nightmare long since dissipated into the ether. Carry on like this and we won’t be having it again.

Whose coat was Thomas wearing…….?

Nick Bruzon

Time to say, “Enough is enough.”

13 Jan

Get well soon, everyone. Is it time to call a halt to football for a while? Brentford were the latest in a growing list of clubs to see games cancelled yesterday due to the ongoing Corona Virus outbreak. Cripes, words that have actually surpassed ‘Rail replacement Bus’ , ‘Mrs Browns Boys and ‘England Supporters Band’ as the three most soul-destroying in the English language. Following Monday’s latest testing, the Bees have reported further positive results to the EFL and, as such, been asked to close our Training Ground aswell as carry out additional tests. The immediate consequence of this being our own confirmation that we are now unable to complete the games with Bristol City (tonight) and at Reading on Saturday. As is the way,  these games will now have to be rearranged. Somewhere. Likewise the trip to Swansea City on 23rd January, although that’s as much due to both clubs involvement in the FA Cup – us with Leicester City and the Swans against Nottingham Forest.

This is getting ridiculous now. At the very least an extension to the season is needed. Realistically, we need to call a halt for a few weeks. This is no longer isolated and ad-hoc. Where does health and safety take a priority? Not just of players but all those still involved behind the scenes on a match day. With the rest of the country being forced into stricter and stricter controls for our own benefit, why are the clubs still being put into a situation which seems to be spiralling out of control at present?

Sick (ill) Bees – and we aren’t alone

I love football. I’m desperate for it to go ahead. To have some feeling of normality and light at the end of the tunnel. But this is no longer normal. This is no longer isolated amongst a small element of the football community. Bristol City have already pulled their game with us due to players feeling unwell. Like other clubs, we’ve actually pulled them now due to genuine cases. No irony lost there and I don’t retrospectively change my opinions or what was said at the time on the circumstances surrounding what happened at Ashton Gate. At least they are healthy. However, its not the time for point scoring or ploughing on with an ever growing fixture list. Some clubs left trailing with even more games to somehow cram in to an ever decreasing list of dates.

If we’re talking irony, look at how this happened over November and December. Game followed game followed game. Now we’re left in a situation in January where we kick our heels as the club hope players, staff (and head coach Thomas Frank) recover as quickly and as healthily as possible. If nothing else, let’s not pretend Bryan Mbeumo hit the ground running upon his return from a positive test last season. We all have eyes and we  all saw how his own from dropped away. 

As it stands, the only other games this month will be Luton on January 20th, Leicester City in the cup and then home to Wycombe on January 30th. Assuming, of course, the authorities don’t call a temporary halt to proceedings.

The rising infection rate requires action. Now”. Not my words, but those of the government propaganda advert playing out across the radio on an hourly basis. It’s come on just now (6am). Sitting here doing my day job from the kitchen table, it’ll no doubt be washed down another half-dozen times over the course of the day. At least. The news is telling us it’s likely we’re not even going to be allowed to exercise in public with one other person for much longer – the current extent to our freedoms – yet football carries on regardless. Why is nobody thinking of their health and well being? Marcus Rashford is effectively doubling up as the leader of the opposition, yet football carries on regardless.

Perhaps I need to turn the radio off. It’s not been a good start to the day. It’s only going to get worse when I have to find three hours from nowhere to do home schooling. Sorry to whinge. First world problems – at least I have a job and some food on the table. I’m fully aware others have different challenges oaf their own. As much as anything else how to occupy spare time. That’s not to pretend things are easy for anyone at the moment.

Yet mentioned because as much as anything else, it is the strange normality of crowd free football that helps us keep us going. Gives something to look forward to at the weekend or the end of the day. I’d love more of it, being quite selfish. But, perhaps, now somebody has to have the balls to stand up and say ‘enough is enough’. Even if its just for a couple of weeks.  

Get back to me on that one. 

Perhaps time to turn the radio off

Nick Bruzon

Bees take their chance in style as Boris misses his.

20 Dec

I’m afraid we must look again at Christmas. As Prime Minister it is my duty to take difficult decisions to do what is right to protect the people of this country. Given the early evidence we have.. it is with a very heavy heart I must tell you we cannot sit through Mrs. Brown’s Boys and it is cancelled with immediate effect”. Not my words. The words of.. Actually, they are mine. If only Boris Johnson had come out with that bit of good cheer last night it may have taken the edge off his Christmas shut down. Alas, no. Instead we were reliant on Brentford to do the business and what a way to put a smile on the face. Bryan Mbeumo leading the charge in a 3-1 defeat of Reading that sees us overtake the Royals and move up to fourth. The Bees now on the longest unbeaten streak in the country (13 games, compared to Liverpool next up with 10 ) and all set for the visit of Newcastle United in the league cup quarter finals on Tuesday.

If only

It was a performance that deserved an audience, that’s for sure. Brentford rather than Boris or Brown. Blinkin’ Covid meant another game having to be played at Lionel Road behind closed doors but such was the excitement at the goals flew in, even sitting on the sofa felt that bit less frustrating . Mathias Jensen getting the first with barely ten minutes on the clock. Man of the month Sergi Canos playing a delightful ball through to the Danish international who shot straight down the corridor of saveability. Somehow, Cabral in goal for the Reading allowed it to go straight through him like a dose of salts. All he could do was turn and watch it bobble over the line. It should never have gone in but they all count. Take the festive gifts while you can or applaud the devious nature of Jensesn’s shot. Either way, the scoreline read 1-0.

Soon it was two. And then three. With less than a half hour played Bryan Mbeumo had put the game to bed. His first, magnificent. Josh Dasilva playing a cross field ball that put me in mind of Nico Yennaris to Jota against QPR. The result was much the same – a wondrous goal. Mbeumo picked it up in his stride, shimmied then unleashed a blockbuster from the corner of the box that left Cabral no chance It was just unreal and goal that deserved to be seen in person. Nevertheless, you could see what it meant to him from the celebrations with Josh and captain for the day, Ivan Toney.

Yessss!!!! What a goal !

Then it was three. This time, Toney turning provider. Bryan in the box, opening up the Reading defence as though it were nothing stronger than poorly wrapped Christmas present held together with value brand tape before firing low past the hapless Cabral. 3-0. 29 minutes gone. Game over man. Game over. More importantly, a return to the Bryan we know and love. Like Sergi, good players don’t go bad overnight. Whilst his name hasn’t been a familiar one on the scoresheet in recent months, this is what he does and what a way to do it ! The squad joining together to keep this fine form going.

Half time came and went. The defence somewhat testing the squad set up to the max. Having started with Fosu in place of Dalsgaard and Charlie Goode for the suspended Ethan Pinnock, Dom Thompson came on for Rico Henry. How he keeps going I’ve no idea but a well earned rest ahead of the Newcastle game. Further changes followed and so perhaps no surprise that , with the foot off the gas a tad, a consolation goal was conceded. But, you know, that was it. The lead could have been extended late on with flurry of chances somehow being kept out by the Reading woodwork and defence. Thomas balancing his changes and his squad to perfection once more. The record books showing a 3-1 victory that pushed Brentford up to fourth in the Championship – three points off second placed Bournemouth. That’ll do me.

Next up, Newcastle United. They’re hot off the back of being tonked 5-2 by Leeds United (the ‘wrong’ team falling apart in that one ) and then being held 1-1 by FulhamL. A chance for the Magpies to restore some pride or Brentford to record a fourth victory over Premier League position this season? Either way, it should be a Christmas cracker. Don’t forget the early kick off for this one . 5.30pm on Sky the time and place, unless you are a director, journalist or club official. Here’s hoping the 200+ can roar us on to victory inside the stadium. Back home, we’ll be screaming at our TVs. And not, for once, because Mrs. Brown is on.

On a day where Liverpool grabbed the main headlines with their 7(seven) – 0 bracketing of Crystal Palace, perhaps the result at Lionel Road will be the one to have far reaching top flight consequences. Talking at full time, Thomas was full of his customary good cheer as he noted, “When you look back at the end of a season there will always be some defining wins, this could be one of them”.

Too true. This time last season we’d just lost at Sheffield Wednesday. The Bees had slipped to ninth and had 30 points. A year later we’re on the rise, with 35 points from the same number of games and sitting pretty in the play-off zone. All this, despite the intensity of game frequency and the inevitable squad rotation that has to go with this. We’ve been saying all season this will be key. That the league (cliché alert, cliché alert) is a marathon not a sprint. How Thomas and his rivals manage resources and know when to rest tired limbs will be the answer to who goes up. So far, we’re doing just fine. With Christian Norgaard on the bench yesterday, there’s the prospect of even better to come.

See you on Tuesday. Even if it is on the sofa.     

Enjoy the goals, again….

Nick Bruzon

A royal appointment and a contract extension nobody asked for.

18 Dec

So awful that it is physically painful to sit through.” Not my words. The words of Sean O’Grady writing in The Independent. You may think he was describing the recent Brentford – Middlesbrough game or looking through the #frankout twitter feed. But no, worse than that. The Mrs. Browns Boys 2018 and 2019 Christmas specials. Please note: your definition of the word ‘special’ may vary. Now 2020 has given us the ultimate kick in the nuts. Bad enough that Corona virus will see us once more locked out of Lionel Road for the visits of Reading and Newcastle United (at the very least), Thursday saw even worse news when it was revealed everybody’s favourite mammy has been given a huge contract extension until 2026. Now, it seems, Mr O’Grady’s torment is to continue every year until well into the next decade as, Mrs. Browns Boys, this most awful of shows will run and run.

This latest crime agasint comedy, which broke in The Independent yesterday lunchtime, saw Brendan O’Carroll quoted as saying… “We’ve been doing it for nine years already — which is six more than The Royle Family had and more than Morecambe and Wise”. He added… “I wanted that because if it’s not good enough for Christmas Day, then we shouldn’t be making it”. You can read the whole horror story in the Independent online.

Where do you even start? Brown’s not fit to wipe Jim Royle’s arse. As for putting himself in the same bracket as Morecambe and Wise, that’s on a par with Harlee Dean saying “We’ve got quality in that squad. I’ve been in teams where we’ve finished fifth in this league and missed out on promotion by play offs. and this squad is ten times better than that.”

If its not good enough for Christmas Day??? Its not good enough for ANY day!! This tedious opium for the confused. This one joke routine – wig/cardigan/potty mouth  – repeated again and again and again. An alleged comedy which serves no better purpose than to plug unplanned gaps in the schedule. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. What dirt MUST O’Carroll have on the BBC to justify our licence feed being chucked at this year on year on year? How is it still going? Like a cockroach, the show would be the only thing to survive a nuclear war. And we’ve said that before, too, but if he can repeat his joke then appreciate the irony of us doing the same.  

Cripes we really must have been misbehaving this year to have that inflicted upon us. Talk about getting on Santa’s naughty list. There was me hoping for some Brentford training gear (if you are reading Kitman Bob….). Instead, we’ve had this thrust upon us. 

All of which neatly ignores the fact we have’t discussed midweek on these pages as yet. Brentford got the draw at Watford. Ivan Toney scored another ice cool penalty in a 1-1 marred by the somewhat dubious red card confusion which, eventually, saw Ethan Pinnock dismissed. Notes and thoughts on that one are in the matchday programme – either Reading or Newcastle United. I honestly forget which – they come thick and fast at this time of year but there’s been a lot of 11th hour scribbling.

Now, we have Reading this weekend. One point and one place above the sixth placed Bees. The top of the table in both teams’ sight. Brentford unbeaten in 12 games. Ivan Toney clear of Adam Armstrong at the top of the goalscoring charts. Yet when things couldn’t get worse than Mrs Brown, they have.

Keith Stroud is our referee. You know, the one man we don’t want to receive a card from at this time of year. Rico Henry in particular, even if that one was eventually rescinded.   

Much like Mrs Brown at a variety show, this is a royal appointment nobody needed.

Keith Stroud…..shudders

Nick Bruzon

Move over Cameron Diaz. Bees face their own ‘Bullseye’ moment.

15 Dec

Easy come , easy go. Not so much the latest Tier 3 restrictions imposed in London which means Brentford fans miss out on the chance to visit Lionel Road for the Reading, Newcastle United and beyond games. Urghhh. More, the world of celebrity support. With the Bees due at Watford for a crucial top six six-pointer this evening, none other than England cricket legend Monty Panesar popped up last night to pledge his support for Thomas Frank’s team. Could we have another superstar to join the ranks of Dean Gaffney, Rhino from the Quo, Adam Bluetone and Natalie Sawyer? Or is this merely a short term love affair, given Monty’s apparent support of Luton Town?

I’m all good with this. Fully fledged transfer or short-term support at the expense of the rivals. Luton and Watford have never been the best of friends, he says politely. Personally speaking, as a Brentford fan there’s no finer sight than watching FulhamL or Quarter Pound of Rubbish imploding. Of seeing Birmingham City self-destruct (Dean o.g. “Apologies to those who travelled. The fans deserve better” ) or Leeds United fall apart. Again. Whomever it is inflicting the fatal blow. So if Monty wants to  follow suit and give us an extra cheer, regardless of whether his motive is genuine affiliation or interim support, then go for it.  Half and half scarf, anyone?

Monty is a Bee. Perhaps for one night only?

And we’ll need all the support we can get. Thomas Frank used his press conference to highlight the challenge presented by Watford. “It is a top six game against one of the relegated sides who have transitioned well. They are one point off the automatic promotion spots so it is going to be a very tough task. In terms of conceding goals, they have the second best defence. They defend extremely well and play with an experience that makes it very difficult to beat.

As ever, there was that wonderful turn of phrase. The performance of Vitaly Janelt, fast becoming a fan favourite, was noted by Thomas who described how, “He has hit the ground sprinting” but those of you fed up with substitutions better look away.. “It is about trying to balance between getting the core in the team right while still freshening it up in some positions. We have to use the subs well because freshness will be a big part of success throughout the season”. Not my words. The words of Thomas Frank.

And we all know why. So get used to it. Tonight won’t be easy, that’s for sure. But it is one of those where the opportunity is wonderful. A chance for Brentford to leap frog Watford in pursuit of an ‘automatic’ place. We’re no pushovers ourself, of course. 11 games unbeaten and Ivan Toney scoring for fun. The defence generally locking things out game on game whilst the win at Nottingham Forest on Saturday saw attacking intent of the highest order. Brentford will present as big a challenge to our rivals as they do to us. 

If only we could get in to see it. The trip to Vicarage Road always an enjoyable one (aside from trying to get out the car park at full time). Alas, visiting fans are nothing more than a flight of fancy at present. A pipe dream up there with seeing Cameron Diaz wearing a Brentford shirt. 

Even home support has been knocked on the head as quickly as it was dangled in front of us. A two game carrot cruelly snatched away as London moves back in to a Tier 3 restriction from Wednesday. Those fortunate few (4,000 fans and 200 directors) to have been present for Blackburn, Derby and QPR respectively now back on the Follow or Sky Sports – as is the case tonight, with an 8pm kick off. Those lined up for Reading on Saturday seeing the opportunity now denied them. Even worse, the visit of Newcastle United for the league cup quarter-final on Tuesday also impacted. Another to be played out in front of no more than Matthew Benham, the board and a handful of journalists. Urghhh. Frustration, he wrote.

And then Sergi popped up to say his thing on Twitter. Positivity coursing through his veins, as ever.  “You really made a difference when you all came to the stadium. We will miss you but we need you behind us for the games coming up! You can still make the difference from home. POSITIVE and TOGETHER! Come on @BrentfordFC

From the seat in my kitchen, I’m struggling to match him this morning. Having finally seen supporters inside Lionel Road it felt as though we had that extra lift. As though things were heading back to some small semblance of normality. Now we’re back to square one.

Backing the team is no issue. As ever. Being there to do it in person a real highlight. Now it has been taken away once more. A crappy year getting crappier. Much like that moment at the end of Bullsye. “We hate to do this to you”, Jim Bowen would say (oh no you don’t), “but we’ve got to show you. Look at what you could have won…”. 

Rather than a speedboat it was a chance to watch an actual game of football.

Look at what you could have won…..

Hey. I’m the lucky one. Part of the 4,200 who have been afforded the opportunity. I get that and am truly grateful for being amongst the first fans in. I can’t begin to imagine how awful it must have been the last few days, knowing you had a ticket for Reading but also hearing the news updates and waiting for the inevitable axe to fall. Gutting. Yet even watching a game on TV with the fans present has felt ten hundred times better than seeing it played out in front of an empty stadium. Now we are back to square one.

As Thomas himself said, “We are sad we can’t have fans for the next few games. I can’t wait until we are done with Coronavirus but we will carry on”.

Too true. Until then, its back to the sofa. Sitting there, in spirit at least, with the rest of our fans and, perhaps, Monty Panesar. Metaphorically speaking.

Roll on 8pm See you there.

Nick Bruzon

Ten out of Ten, so far. In a manner of speaking.

5 Nov

Ten games played all round. The table has now ‘taken shape’ . Brentford sit in tenth after Tuesday’s night’s 1-1 draw with Swansea City. A late goal from Andre Ayew denying us all three points. An even later one in injury time from the same player denying the visitors similar. This, after Ayew’s header home was adjudged to have been from an offside position. Elsewhere, Wayne Rooney’s Derby County are in early trouble whilst pacesetters Reading have now made it two defeats on the spin. With play-off contenders Middlesbrough up next before the two week international break ( what break??) the Bees remain well in contention for another promotion push. What have we learned so far though?

As we’ve seen the last few games the injuries are already biting. Squad rotation over the entire season is going to be absolutely key. Not just for Brentford but any team with realistic ambitions to stay afloat in this division, let alone make a run for the Premier league. Mads Bech Sorensesn joined Pontus Jansson on the missing list at centre back. Christian Norgaard is amongst the other big names currently awol thanks to the non-stop run of games our players are being obliged to undertake. Whilst we have squad depth, let’s not pretend that we are better with those players missing. I can’t imagine they will be the last, either.

Being blunt, we were lucky as on Tuesday night. Swansea City will probably feel hard done by following a game in which who else but Ivan Toney grabbed the opening goal. That’s ten out of ten  for the free scoring front man as he guided home from close range with 36 minutes on the clock. Again eluding his markers for what then seemed the simplest of finishes. Yet in truth it was a goal against the run of play and even having gained the lead, it never felt comfortable. David Raya keeping us alive before and after until, eventually, Ayew restored parity with a quarter hour to go. Even Thomas Frank would admit afterwards that “I don’t think we hit a good level” but the final score is the one that counts and that shows that the visitors failed to stretch their lead at the business end.

Man of the match Raya kept us in this one

Ok, so we were lucky. A lot of players had an off game. No excuses from me. We’ve had long enough to adjust. Ghoddos and Canos in particular below their best as we were looking for some oomph. The plus points being the form of Raya, Rico Henry, Ethan Pinnock and Toney. Not to mention Marcus Forss from the bench.

For me, the revelation of our two front men (Ivan tops the Championship charts with ten goals from ten games) has been the absolute golden bonus of a frustrating season. Frustrating, mainly because we remain locked out of our new home. Watching it all on tv is fine but no substitute for being there. No way to generate proper atmosphere. No way to try and assert any semblance of home ‘advantage. It’s tough for the players, the club, the balance sheet and especially the fans. Much as I love listening to Mark Burridge and Marcus Gayle, what I really want is to be hearing Angry Dad reminding the officials how to do their job. To hear HB cheering as Ivan slams home another goal. To hear Peter Gilham doing it for real on the p.a. system. 

We’re all in the same boat.I have to be thankful that we are quids in from Ollie Watkins’ inevitable departure yet, if anything, the goals are flowing even faster. Not just from Ivan but Marcus, too. We’ve been unlucky (Birmingham City), shot ourselves in the foot (Norwich), ridden our luck (Swansea) and plain awful at times (Stoke and Preston). Yet the wins have also started to come as the team adjust to new surroundings, new colleagues on pitch and a BMW now missing its B and W.

At the back, David Raya is back to his best whilst Rico Henry continues to astound. Ethan Pinnock looking like yet another top draw signing. We saw him grow last season and he has only continued that progress. Get the flanks right and I still think we’ll be ok. Of course, it would be lovely to clone Josh Dasilva in the middle but that’s not how football works. Thomas has the most almighty struggle in having to juggle fit players whilst waiting for the injured to recover.

I’d love to be higher up of course. Who wouldn’t? The table doesn’t lie though and if we are honest with ourselves, tenth place is reflective of our form. Great goals and pleasing wins combined with the challenges of injury and self-inflicted debacle for a team readjusting to new faces and a possible hangover from last season. Yet, more importantly, we are only four points off of second place in the table. Two points outside of the play-off zone.

Besides, look at those others we may have earmarked as promotion contenders when the season began? Wayne Rooney’s Derby County are languishing in the trapdoor zone. Wycombe Wanderers overtook them last night thanks to a last minute own goal at Birmingham City (not from whom you’d think, either) meaning only ‘minus point’ Sheffield Wednesday are below them. Nottingham Forest have had an absolute stinker and are only now starting to find their feet. A mere six points cover the 15 teams from second placed Swansea down. I’d much rather be in that pack than sitting outside of it. The wins and the run will come and, at the least, we know we can rely on goals. Whomever starts up front for Brentford. Get the midfield balance right and we’ll be just fine.

Middlesbrough on Saturday will be absolutely huge. A win for Brentford will see us overtake the fifth placed team as we go into that two week break from league action. Will see us end this part of the season on a high. The injured will at least have that additional chance to regain their fitness in the buffer zone of no further games being missed. Those selected for their country will hopefully come back in one piece. Hopefully.

In short, we’ve been awesome and at times we’ve been awful. The goals are flying in. The injuries are biting. But we remain just outside the promotion pack. The new signings are bedding in and we’ve  overcome the challenge of replacing Ollie Watkins in some style. If we can get the Benrahma piece right then we’ll be just fine. Getting on the players backs won’t help any but that’s part and parcel of football. I just wish we were there to cheer them in person. Maybe in 2021……

Longing for a stadium full of fans rather than empty seats

Nick Bruzon 

A Krul blow for the Bees.

28 Oct

Ouch. So close yet stung at the death as Brentford were denied a place in the top six. A late equaliser from Norwich City saw a game in which we could have been well out of sight end in agony. A wicked deflection off Mads Bech Sorensen left David Raya with no hope as Kenny Mclean’s 87th minute effort down the corridor of saveability was given new direction and hit the back of the net. Yet being completely honest with ourselves, it was the quintessential example of the old adage that goals, rather than possession and shots, are what win games. A second would have out it out of sight – and there were the chances – but instead it was a case of leaving the game on levels terms. Of knowing that after Saturday’s trip to Luton Town and the  visit of Swansea City next week we’ll be at the ‘played 10’ marker . That, of course, where the table will have officially been deemed to have ‘taken shape’.  

It had all looked so, so promising after the frustration of Saturday. The formation had a much more recognisable look to it as whatever had happened in the Potteries stayed there. Brentford pushed and whilst Norwich City had their own threats, it was that man Ivan Toney who did it again. With Marcus Forss answering the 4-4-2 question by starting on the bench, the Championship’s top scorer going in to this one made it 8 with little less than half an hour gone.

Bryan Mbeumo cutting down the right played a low ball in to the box which entirely bisected the Norwich defence. Toney worked his own position magnificently and was left unmarked to steer it home for the opener. 1-0 and Brentford in front.

Official capture the moment on Twitter last night

We pushed on. Emiliano came close. Toney himself must be wondering, even now, how he was denied a second. His perfectly placed header curling away from Tim Krul and in to the far corner of the nest yet, somehow, the Norwich keeper almost hyper-extending his arm to claw it away. A quite magnificent save that he had no right to be even half-close to, such was the placement of Toney’s effort. Yet credit to Krul – he got there.

Half time came and went. With it, Brentford kept going. Henrik Dalsgaard with the golden moment in a flurry of chances in the second period. Unmarked six yards out, the ball fell perfectly yet rather than sending Peter Gilham into another bout of vocal gymnastics his low shot found Krul. If Toney’s chance had been the better save, this was another that we’ll feel should really have seen the lead doubled.  Alas, it wasn’t to be.

Whilst recent seasons have seen the Bees get better at hanging on to leads, October has seen Norwich City do their thing late on. They’ve picked up 3 points at the death in their last three league games – Wycombe (91st minute winner), Birmingham (87th minute winner) Rotherham (95th minute winner) and whilst this wasn’t victory, it was another late, late hammer blow from the Canaries. The only consolation being they couldn’t push on for the win but, by that point, Mclean’s tiddler from outside the box had already done the damage.

To compound the frustration, over in the Blackburn – Reading game Adam Armstrong scored two goals for Rovers to take him one past Toney at the top of the Championship scorers chart. Whilst, like league placings, that’s still too early to get overly excited about, it looks like we may have the makings of another Mitrovic – Watkins battle on our hands again this season. That could be fun.

This hurts but like the  Stoke City game it all depends what we take out of it. No player misses on purpose. Nor can you legislate for freak deflections. Credit to Krul, too. That save from Ivan. Wow. Yet if ever we needed a reminder of those moments on which a game can turn, this one had them in spades. A draw was the fair result.Mainly because both teams scored a goal each. Albeit the frustrating one. We’ve a day more than Luton Town to recover with the Hatters entertaining Nottingham Forest tonight before our own trip to Kennilworth Road on Saturday.

The games don’t stop coming. The catch up from the Covid outtage is relentless. Incessant. It’s no wonder squads need to be rotated and players pulled off early. That injuries are occurring. Managing that, as much as our opponents, will be key to how we perform. I’d love to see Josh Dasilva play every minute but its just not going to happen. Christian and Pontus are amongst those already out of action. The sale of Said would have hit any team. The point being that this season is going to be very different from last. Not just for Brentford although the obvious thing is to focus on ourselves. Who amongst us would honestly have called Reading as early pacesetters? Their 7(seven) wins out of eight propelling them to the top of the league. Perhaps for now but maybe longer term.

The point being that last night we had the opportunities, couldn’t take them and in the end looked to consolidate, for understandable reasons. It didn’t quite play off. However much of a freak the goal was, they all count.  We can cry about it and rue those missed chances. I won’t deny the groan that went up from where we were watching as the ball deviated towards goal. We’ve just done a Brentford, the immediate thought that came to mind. 

All that counts now is to try and be philosophical in the broader context of what is going to be a physically demanding season. Stoke was self-inflicted. Yesterday was a night where the footballing gods decided not to smile on us. Where destiny was in our hands but opportunity refused to knock. We can’t change it but we can try to restore some satisfaction on Saturday. See you there. In spirit.

View from the laptop – Krul somehow breaks Brentford hearts

Nick Bruzon

When you phone in a performance, look what happens…

1 Jul

Brutal. Brilliant. Together. Brentford blitzed Reading 3-0 where, but for the last line of defence, it could easily have been more. The hosts not getting a look in as the gap to ‘automatic’ closed further. West Bromwich Albion sit a mere two points ahead of us heading into their own game at Sheffield Wednesday tonight whilst Leeds United limped to a 1-1 draw with Luton Town. Most generous hosts. 

With the stress over getting the I-Follow on the TV dissipating ten minutes in (it worked, far too easily, when I’d tried previously so was obviously going to fail when it came to a ‘live’ game) there was nothing more to do than sit back, pop a beer and ready the ‘goal sweets’. It wasn’t long before that bag of Haribo ‘Starmix’ saw a Tuesday evening debut. The Reading defence breached by Bryan Mbeumo after the Bees had been banging on the door all game.

With the BMW finally starting a game together for the first time since lockdown, it was Ethan Pinnock who provided the assist. A corner being headed back for the wide man to steer home. Get in. It felt as though it had been coming but pressure, possession and stats count for naff all if you can’t take the chances when you create them. All the shots on goal are deemed meaningless if you can’t keep it tight at the other end. A lesson so ably demonstrated by Leeds United later in the evening as their 75% ball retention and 23 shots to their opponents’ 3 could only result in a 1-1 with bottom club Luton Town.

Screenshot 2020-07-01 at 07.13.11

Football on the big screen. Goal sweets in hand

Half time came and went. A first foray into I-Follow deemed what could well be described as a successful one after those initial teething troubles. Whether we could say the same for Mark Burridge and Mick Cabbie in the commentary box is a matter of debate. And that’s not meant as a critique of their skills.

Rather, that they did quite wonderfully holding it all together after a tech failure just prior to kick off meant the dynamic duo were obliged to commentate via mobile phone. It was like taking a step back in time an early 80s UEFA Cup match coming at you from close to the Iron Curtain, with commentary being delivered ‘down the line’.  

Bonus points to Mark for his use of the early evening ‘For those of you just coming in late or from work’. With the unique sound that can only come from phone commentary, shut your eyes and it could have been World Cup Argentina ’78. As @the_mattfinish on Twitter would also compare : Motson’s commentary of the Platini goal had this same crackly greatness.

But whilst Thomas Frank’s boys may be playing with the same confidence as World Champions, 1-0 at half time was still only 1-0. As we saw against West Bromwich Albion on Friday night, we rarely have things our own way all game and, sure enough, Reading matched the Baggies by coming for us in the second period.

However, the Bees were also able to ensure a repeat with another clean sheet being earned. Pontus Jansson with the one notable clearance to keep on lockdown at the back whilst the attackers did their thing at the other end.

First, Josh Dasilva. The midfielder following up his own shot to beat the home defence to the ball and double our lead just after the hour. What a man and what a performance. With Christian Norgaard equally strong, and named man of the match at full time, the Bees looked solid throughout. More importantly, 2-0 and any pressure off. For the supporters if nothing else. Brentford back in in the driving seat. Reading nothing more than passengers. Shares in Haribo going through the roof. 

With Thomas Frank taking full advantage of his expanded substitution allowance, changes were made. They allowed the team to push up (Brentford) and yet another late goal for the Bees rounded things off in style. This time, Joel Valencia the man as he lashed home an absolute beauty from distance with the clock entering Jota time. 3-0. Game over, man. Game over. Brentford clear in third. West Brom within touching distance. 

A further bonus then delivered later in the evening as the scoreline from Elland Road came in. It was a result that barely anyone saw coming. Yours truly especially. All gifts gratefully accepted though and whilst one would suspect that Leeds United are all but up (not even they’ll choke this) there’s always the morale boost of watching them wobble. Of being able to sing that Joy Division song.

Screenshot 2020-07-01 at 07.18.54

Fail to take the chance ; pay the price… The BBC stats tell a sorry tale for Leeds

Fulham finally got back to winning ways but still sit behind us. Nottingham Forest play tonight so have the chance to overtake them with a win at home to Bristol City. Things really are that tight now. Every win counts. Every notch on the goal difference chart could prove vital. Brentford have the momentum but we have to keep it going. Of course the supporters are going to look ahead to what ifs and those permutations when ‘x’ beats ‘y’.

That’s part of being a football fan. Thomas Frank seems to be taking a much more grounded approach and is focussing on nothing more than the next training session and the next game. Acknowledging at full time that whatever is coming next is always the biggest one. It is not about yesterday or tomorrow but ‘now’.

And that is home to Wigan Athletic. Like the Royals, they are currently languishing mid-table. Does the fact they have nothing to play for beyond pride bode well or is a side under no pressure perhaps the most dangerous of all? Roll on Saturday when we can find out. 

That’s for then. For now, we can reflect on a job very well done. It wasn’t so much that Reading were awful but Brentford were, quite simply, awesome.  We’ve put ourselves into a position where defeat or a draw for the Baggies tonight will see the Bees go second should we manage to pick up maximum points against Wigan.  

Perhaps even Thomas Frank may have half an ear on proceedings at Hillsborough this evening. I know I will…

 

Nick Bruzon

The latest round of fixtures is as big as they come. Here’s why.

30 Jun

How different does the Championship table look since the restart? Brentford head to Reading tonight, hot on the heel of Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion in automatic whilst Cardiff City have now hit the top six. Nottingham Forest have overtaken Fulham to close in on the Bees whilst the hapless Cottagers must now go the next three games without scorer Aleksander Mitrovic. This, after the front man was yesterday given a retrospective ban following his use of the elbow at Elland Road. It is understood that Fulham are not appealing. Neither will they be speaking to the FA to contest the punishment. 

Screenshot 2020-06-28 at 15.28.07

The verdict was ‘violent conduct’

All of which means that not only are Brentford faced with a quite wonderful opportunity at the Madjeski at 6pm this evening (please don’t forget the early start and try to sign in to I-Follow early) but there is added incentive for Ollie Watkins. 

Whilst most observers were marvelling over Saïd Benrahma channeling the spirit of Paul Daniels against West Brom  – i.e. his magic tricks rather than dodgy hairpiece – Ollie went top of the Championship goalscoring charts after converting the game’s only strike. Although he and Mitrovic both have 23 goals, Ollie has now overtaken the Fulham man on ‘assists’. And with the free-eating frontman out of action for the next few games, what an opportunity for Ollie to move clear.

DSC06749

All being well, a scene that will play out tonight

If anything, the golden boot threat could come from former Bee Lewis Grabban. He is up to 19 as Nottingham Forest turn up the heat. The Tricky Trees are the ones to keep a wary eye on now and a home game with free falling Bristol City tomorrow night will surely have the goal hungry striker licking his lips. What must he be worth at present? 

Still, it all counts for nothing if we can’t beat Reading this evening. That’s the eternal ‘if’, of course. Things that look like a given on paper rarely play out as simply in real life. This isn’t to say I’m not confident about our own team’s ability, because I am. We’ve picked up like we left off and it takes huge guts and ability to beat the first and third placed teams. Moreso in these quite bizarre circumstances of crowd free football. But they’ve been and gone. The table doesn’t lie and all they mean now is that we are up to third. Fine though those wins were, they have been and gone. Now is the moment to keep the heat on West Brom and Leeds. 

Moreso given that I can’t see anything beyond ‘home win’ at Elland Road tonight. Luton Town are in huge trouble but not even Leeds will choke that one. They looked too strong on Saturday. Too solid and clinical when the moment came. Patrick Bamford found the net early and it was game over from that point. Fulham all huff and puff – picked off with clinical precision by Bielsa’s assassin like team. A cat toying with a spider. 

So Brentford need to beat Reading. Victory would take us just two points behind West Brom and very much game on. Talk about cranking up the pressure ahead of their trip to Sheffield, Wednesday. It’s a genuinely exciting prospect and I can’t wait for kick off tonight. There are snacks in the cupboard, beer in the fridge and goal sweets at the ready. 

Bring it on. I can’t wait for this one. With Fulham starting their own game (the battle between the two worst teams in West London at Loftus Road) half an hour later and then Leeds kicking off at 7.45pm, dare we dream what the table could look like when referee Dean Whitestone calls full time at the Madjeski?

Let’s do this !!!!! 

0X-LMIjO.jpg-small

Can the kings of West London football kick on this evening?

Nick Bruzon