Tag Archives: Rico Henry

All to play for in second leg with key decisions to be made.

18 May

90 minutes from Wembley. Brentford a goal down after a 1-0 first leg play-off defeat at Bournemouth. A game our hosts may feel should have been out of sight after creating the lion’s share of the chances but, instead, we go into Saturday’s return fixture at Lionel Road with the deficit as narrow as they come. Indeed, it could well have been a case of honours even had Bryan Mbeumo managed to convert a glorious opportunity in the second half from six yards out. That’s football. The Cherries will no doubt be upset about not having a larger advantage after the combination of David Raya and a resolute defence combined to keep them out on all but the solitary occasion. The other semi final saw Swansea City hold on to a 1-0 win at Barnsley in a tie that, like ours, remains wide open.

All to play for, still

Positives? The tie is wide open still. Only an idiot would prefer to be behind rather than level or better but at 0-1, we find ourselves no worse off than last season against Swansea. The difference this time around being we’ll have close to 4,000 supporters lifting the roof off Lionel Road on Saturday lunchtime. Bournemouth manager Jonathan Woodgate would describe last night’s atmosphere as “Just unbelievable, it was electrical.” Imagine what it will be like for the second leg with double the amount of fans and Peter Gilham egging us on? If ever there was a time to welcome supporters back it is now. 

Last years’s return tie saw us storm out of the traps and the aggregate the lead restored within fifteen minutes. Thomas will no doubt be expecting the same, noting at full time that “We’re 1-0 down, so there’s plenty of time still to turn this round. We’ll be ready and come flying out 100%.”

It is the only way to approach the game. The noise will be incredible and the players will be chomping at the bit. Likewise, we’ll have Rico Henry and Henrik Dalsgaard available for selection once more. Both players made second half cameos from the bench to give Thomas the nicest of selection headaches for the return leg. Stick or twist? Sergi or Rico? Mads or Henrik? Revert to the mid season formation or keep on doing what we have for the last few months? Who’d be a head coach?

The obvious negative being we go into it a goal down. All the aspirations and parallels won’t change that. Having weathered the first half storm, it was a soft goal to give away. Pontus losing possession and Bournemouth breaking with devastating speed. Carving us open with no possibility of salvation. It was a blitzkrieg assault and a brutal finish. For once, Raya left with no chance. A lesson very much to be heeded for Saturday. For all we will approach this one differently, taking the game to our opponents from the off, one can’t under estimate their own ability to make something out of nothing. To turn a spark into a flame. I predict goals. I predict noise. I predict a riot (on field).

There’s not much left to really say this morning. We’ve all seen it and Bournemouth deserved to win on the night – they scored , we didn’t. It wasn’t even as though it felt stolen or against the run of play. We lost the battle in the midfield and didn’t create enough opportunities. The flip side being that , cliche alert, it really is only half time. Get it right on Saturday and last night’s result will count for nothing. A historical curio en-route to the final. IF we get it right…. You can bet that Bournemouth will have their own tails up. They’ll have their own decisions to make about approach. Go for broke as we will or look to stifle the game and run down the clock? If Thomas has selection decisions, Jonathan Woodgate will very much have tactical ones. 

Still, that’s their problem. For Brentford, we know exactly what needs to be done. I can’t wait for this one. Bring it on and hopefully see you there. As Thomas said at full time, “Bournemouth fans did an ok job… we need you guys. We need a hostile environment.”

This could be fun….

Nick Bruzon

Three games. Two weeks. One winner….

16 May

Congratulations Leicester City. Their 1-0 win in yesterday’s FA Cup final over Chelsea as much a victory for the fans in the stands and those back home as it was for the Foxes. With Brentford next up in enjoying supporters present (albeit of the ‘home’ variety only) for Monday evening’s play-off first leg at Bournemouth, one can only help this cautious return is one which can now escalate. The difference between an empty stadium and a ground not even a quarter full was palpable. The noise a cacophony with cheers and boos greeting every blast of the referee’s whistle. No more than when VAR once again proved itself to be as a big a passion killer as Mrs Brown smooching with Donald Trump whilst being serenaded by the England Supporter’s ‘band’. At least, if you wee a Chelsea fan. The jubilation that came from the Leicester end as the late equaliser was chalked off for the most marginal of offsides, the loudest noise off the afternoon. At least, until the cup was raised. If ever there was something for Brentford to try and emulate then there it was . The chance to enjoy the sweetest of triumphs in front of our supporters. Wembley sounding like the loudest place on earth despite the enforced emptiness of most seats. Not that anybody was sitting down.

Passion killer – VAR in ‘human’ form

That’s all a long way off, of course. First things first, Thomas Frank has to mastermind his way past Bournemouth. Brentford go into the mini tournament as 6/4 favourites with the bookmakers, followed by The Cherries, Barnsley and then Swansea City at 4/1. Scratch all of that. This is about as even as they come. This is as much to do with nerves and remaining calm as it is footballing ability and current form. Monday evening is going to be huge but I can’t wait. Genuinely excited. Of course, there is also a level of trepidation but after all that has come before us this season, we now have a chance to take those final steps towards the Premier League.

This time last campaign we were about as down as it is possible to get in footballing terms. The ultimate prize dropped on the line. Brentford had missed out on automatic and then went into the semi with a Swansea City team who had edged past Nottingham Forest to finish sixth in that most well documented and exciting of fashions. They had their tails up and won the first game by a single goal. Rico Henry saw red and, whilst Keith Stroud’s decision was eventually over turned before the return fixture, the evening felt like yet another step down that well trodden path signposted, ‘It’s Brentford, innit?’. The fortitude shown in the return fixture was immense. Unfortunately the final turned out to be a victory for Cheatrovic and some industrial challenges over a team who just ran out of steam and had no way through until it was too little, too late.

Keith Stroud…..not for the first time, Brentford suffered his thing in the play-offs

Hindsight it a wonderful thing, of course. Things haven’t exactly been a bed of roses for Fulham since going up. They’ve played out the campaign in an empty, three-sided ground and returned directly to the Championship. Do not pass go. Do not collect £200. We can’t tell what we would or wouldn’t have done but the important thing at this juncture is to take all of that and learn from it. The vast majority of this squad went through it all together. Hurt together. Kicked on again this season together. The primary addition to the group being Ivan Toney. A player in whom the way to goal is as instinctive as anybody with a three figure IQ reaching for the remote control whenever Mrs Brown’s Boys comes on TV.

All good in, theory.  Football doesn’t work like that. Just ask Chelsea. Cliche alert : this boils down to who wants it most. We know what we can do on our day. Insatiable going forward, Impenetrable at the back. We also know we can have our ‘Coventry away’ moments. That, as much as the form of Watford and Norwich City, the reason we are now facing a tenth stab at the play-offs. Finishing third for a second successive season is wonderful but now is the time to back it up with a genuine reward rather than good wishes from the footballing community. 

The other three teams fighting it out are going to feel equally deserving and will be 110% committed to winning this thing at any cost. Just turning up, expecting to win and being seen as the ‘nice guys’ won’t cut it. Thomas Frank is going to have to give the mother of all team talks on Monday. And Saturday. He has the talent at his disposal, that’s for sure. 

Yet, yet, yet. I still can’t but help feel properly excited by all of this. That’s not right. It’s the play-offs. We all know our record. It’s terrible – in terms of sheer horror, one to rank alongside the 2000 version of ‘The Great Escape’ that had the temerity to reach number 26 in the hit parade. We should be quaking but, instead, I’m buzzing with anticipation. An air of calm currently very much the vibe in our house. Table INSIDE the pub booked for Monday evening and as much the prospect of seeing old friends from a social distance a cause for additional excitement as is the game at hand. 

It really exists. People really bought it…

We are three games away from playing in the top flight next season for the first time in just about everybody’s living memory. Even our Methuselah on the mic, Peter Gilham. Three games away from hosting teams like Leicester City and Chelsea as well as those other names we are all so familiar with. Most importantly, we get the chance to see an actual live game of football again. Judging by the cup final yesterday, that in itself is a prize worth fighting for. A trip to Wembley something to be savoured. Something to be enjoyed. Something that, unlike previous attempts, won’t be something to fear. IF we can get past Bournemouth first. 

Cripes, the noise that came out of 21,000 yesterday was a thing of beauty to behold. A reminder of why football is nothing without fans. Here’s hoping there is more to come in the coming two weeks. For Brentford….

Imagine experiencing this….. What an aspiration.

Nick Bruzon

Needs must when the devil vomits into your kettle.

2 Apr

Finally, the Championship is back for Brentford after the interminable two week international break. This highlights of which included a first cap for Ethan Pinnock aswell as those much celebrated goals for Ollie Watkins and Gibraltar. The former on his international debut. The later, a brief moment of respite against Montenegro that came either side of home defeats to Norway and the Netherlands. For once, no consolation in seeing the brackets wheeled out as the boys from the Rock took a second half shoeing from the Dutch after an inspired opening forty-five. This, despite the wonderful form of goalkeeper Dayle Coleing. Not often you can concede ten in two games yet still be lauded as a player of the week. That’s now been and gone. Instead, we’re off to Huddersfield Town for a TV game tomorrow lunchtime. Today, we have to sit tight and wait for Watford to host Sheffield Wednesday before Swansea travel to Birmingham City this evening. If ever there was a ‘can both sides lose?’ derby then here it is.

No celebration. No brackets

Of course we should just focus on ourselves. The squad, one hopes, mostly refreshed. Recent pictures of Rico ‘on the grass’ providing some optimism. How close he remains to full fitness is, of course, another question altogether. Likewise Josh Dasilva.

Both sorely missed in recent weeks. Both players who can only strengthen our chances in the run in should they be available. Both players who will be in the Premier League next season – one way or another. See also: Ivan Toney. Cripes, we’ve got some first XI when everyone is fit.

Might we see Rico in action again soon?

Whilst just looking out for Brentford is the text book answer to any question about the last stages of a promotion campaign, we all know that’s nonsense when it comes down to it. Every decision, every goal, every result from our rivals is scrutinised in agonising detail. Moreso, when they are in action and we have an extra day to wait before our own game. Watford are the ones currently in second place. A 3pm kick off at home to Sheffield Wednesday in their game and, surely, no possible outcome beyond a win for the Hornets? Our only hope of a favour here being the Owls fighting a desperate rearguard against relegation. Who knows? 

For Swansea, a trip to Birmingham City in the evening. Last time out Lee Bowyer’s Blues were hammered at Vicarage Road. Tonight’s test equally tough and they’ll have to be ten times better to get anything out the bag here. The combination of Harlee Dean at the heart of the defence and the Swans propensity to be awarded penalties has me worried, that’s for sure. The one real hope being that, like Wednesday, City are also perilously close to the trapdoor. The only thing keeping them out of the bottom three being their having played about a hundred games more than Rotherham United. Any salvation for them needs to start immediately.

With Brentford not in action until tomorrow, let’s not pretend we won’t be following both games with a combination of intrigue and blind optimism. I’m not expecting any favours out of either and know we’ll have to rely on ourselves. Wednesday and Birmingham will only be able to offer the expected resistance of any team facing the dual factors of a relegation battle and promotion contenders. The bookies are giving 2.75 – 1 as the current price on Watford and Swansea in a win double. Lump your mortgage on it. I have. Well, if not the mortgage the remaining contents of my online betting account. Which should see me able to spring for a Creme Egg come Saturday morning.

Whatever happens, happens. None of it counts for anything if we can’t hit our own winning streak. Whilst not a ‘must win’ game, the trip to Huddersfield is one where three points will be very, very welcome. Time is starting to run out for all of us. Brentford have nine games left. That’s still almost 20% of the campaign – a significant proportion of course – but it doesn’t feel like that many when they can be counted on your fingers and thumbs. Especially when you know how the pressure will crank up in those final few fixtures. If ever there was a time to show what we’ve got then it’s now. The Terriers tomorrow and then Birmingham City at home on Tuesday. No irony to be lost there if, somehow, they rediscover the way to goal and any semblance of form today. Stranger things.

It doesn’t feel like there are too many to go….

If you can’t face watching either of today’s games on TV then there are two alternatives. First up, The Beesotted podcast. Billy and team providing an hour long distraction in their own big game build up. You can get that here.

Then there’s the combination of social media and kits. The World Cup of Brentford shirts seeing an epic head to head between Adidas 80 and Hummel 93. That one comes to a conclusion on Saturday morning and, whilst we are sadly lacking the Chad 92, Osca yoke and Funky Bee pin stripe, let’s not pretend the two finalists are nothing but amongst the very best we’ve ever had.

You can vote below. Until then, that’s me. See you on the other side. Tonight, Matthew, I need to be Birmingham City. And that’s not a good thing for anyone, especially those of us who supported the club during the early 90s. Then again, needs must when the devil vomits into your kettle, or whatever somebody much clever than me once said. 

Nick Bruzon

We’re second, everyone….

21 Feb

Twitter was left reeling on Saturday with the shocking revelation that a season is determined by the result of one game. Football authorities were desperately thumbing through the rule books to see if the car crash performance dialled in by Brentford at Coventry City was sufficient to declare our promotion campaign dead, wiping all previous results off the board. Mathematicians have spent the last 24hours  trying to establish just how the 4-1 tonking administered to Swansea City by Huddersfield Town has kept us second. If anything, with a marginally improved goal difference on the now fourth placed Swans. It’s almost as if…. and kids please stop me if this is going too fast here, the teams that go up and down discover their fates by tallying up the total number of points earned over a full 46 games. As somebody once said, the table doesn’t lie. Whilst Norwich City have some clear air once more, things remain as tight as ever with 15 games to go. 17 if you are Swansea.

Stop. Seriously, stop. We all acknowledge that yesterday was horrific, awful, dreadful, woeful etc etc etc . There aren’t sufficient words to describe how hard it was to sit through. Our previously untouchable superstars looking a shadow of their former selves. Coming off the back of those recent defeats, it’s easy to understand why some of those that follow Brentford are getting anxious. Getting stressed. Hitting the big red button marked ‘social media meltdown’. Cripes, it was about as sloppy and lethargic a performance as I’ve seen in a long, long time. Words were exchanged on these pages and on Twitter at full time – I absolutely stand by them ; we were horrific. A colander like defence and a second goal that was about as self-inflicted as they come. At a time we should have been shooting at Coventry we shot ourselves in the foot. 

Meltdown incoming….

To a man, we were awful. Ivan Toney is out for a couple of games. Pontus on the grass but not close to a start. Rico Henry now looks as though he’ll be joining him on the sidelines for a few weeks, at least. Christian Norgaard still missing although hopefully his return will be imminent. Can he play left back? Solving that one is going to take all manner of juggling now. Three CB? Sergi sitting in the wing back role ? Fin Stevens getting a shot? This was always the risk of no recognised cover although you could say the same on the other flank where yesterday was a less than rip roaring success. Equally, players don’t grow on trees and we don’t have buckets of cash sloshing around to spend with abandon in an attempt to try and predict what might happen once the transfer window closes. Which club does at this level and even moreso this season with revenue streams decimated by Corona? Now, the strain of this rapid fire season means we have the dual challenges of injuries to overcome and form to rediscover.

Yet, yet, yet. We ARE up there. We’re second, everyone. Deploy fishing rod emoji. Swansea City have to win their two games in hand to bring about the doomsday scenario our excitable keyboard warriors were sh*tting themselves over before the Huddersfield game when they had three on us but, even if they do, it doesn’t mean the season is suddenly over. 

The wailing and gnashing of teeth from those unable to differentiate between a bad performance and a bad season was incessant. The fact that we are, somehow, still in ‘automatic’ a fact that seemed to cause even more irritation than the meagre offerings served up at St. Andrew’s. Our actually nudging a touch further ahead of Swansea after Huddersfield laced up their own shooting boots a further thorn in the side of those whom, it almost seemed, were desperate for us to be overtaken. Just so they could further justify their own impotent rage and say “I told you so”. 

I want Brentford to win. I want our fans happy. I’d love Thomas to turn around and explain how he picks his team and his tactics based on social media based insight from the armchair collective. But he won’t because that’s not how football works. Just as a season isn’t decided by one, two or three results. 

We were sh*t, no question. But it is how the team react now that is what counts. How we adjust to further absences and pick ourselves up once more. How we avoid a repeat of this week and ensure what is now a definite blip stays as such rather than becomes anything more severe. Something that will be forgotten about in the grander scheme as results play out and we plough through the fixture list.

Slag off the players and the head coach if you want. It won’t change a thing. If it makes you feel better then I’m pleased for you. There are 15 games to go and we won’t win them all. We might even lose a couple more at some point but until full time at Bristol City on 8th May, the shape of the final table remains a great unknown. Get used to it. Nobody has ever been promoted from the Championship after game 30. I tell you something though, I’d love it if we come second. Absolutely love it. For what it’s worth, and if anybody is still reading, I’m absolutely convinced we will.

Nick Bruzon

Brentford pointless after car crash of a no-show.

20 Feb

Wow. Just wow. There are no-shows, and there are no-shows. Then there was that. A next level no-show from Thomas Frank’s team with Coventry City taking just about as easy a three points as they could ever be offered. Brentford, generous visitors to St. Andrew’s and allowing our hosts 90 minutes to enjoy lunch at the all you can score buffet. In the end our hosts took advantage just twice but it could have been double that. Or more. Our second place in the Championship remaining by virtue of nothing more than goal difference but Swansea City must be salivating now with a massive three games in hand. A win at Huddersfield Town this afternoon (at the time of writing it is, amazingly, 1—0 to the hosts) will see them overtake us with an additional two games to play. Norwich City will, I am sure, also be looking to extend their own lead at the top in the game against Rotherham United at Carrow Road.

Full credit to Coventry City, btw. They fought and scraped for everything. Kept pushing to the last. Outplayed a changed Brentford line up in every position. One can understand Thomas needing to use games for rotation but the new look line up weren’t even close to coming second. Ben Wilson in the Coventry goal having just about as easy a game as they come. Ninety minutes to catch up on some sleep. Brentford, on the other hand, pointless. Before, during and after. Ghoddos anonymous. Mbeumo overweight. Canos out of sorts and out of touch. Forss not getting a look in. Dasilva and Dalsgaard on the bench. Toney not even making the squad. Let’s hope that was nothing serious.

We ended the game with changes having been made but Rico Henry looking like he may have sustained significant damage and a second goal conceded that came straight from the textbook of schoolboy defending. A woeful clearance from Raya, under no pressure whatsoever, selling his team short. Coventry being given all the time and space to pick their moment and double the lead ten minutes into the second half. A second goal for Tyler Walker to complement his penalty in the opening period. It had looked an innocuous decision awarded against Rico but the general consensus was that it was the right one. Walker squeezing it through and under Raya after 19 minutes to shock us, briefly, into life.

The resuscitation was a short one. A game crying out for change before half time continued the same way and the ultimate price was then paid after the defensive horror show that allowed the lead to be doubled. Brentford declared dead on the table but limping through the motions for another half hour or so. Offering up about as flaccid a performance as we’ve had the misfortune to sit through in a while. It was Stoke City away levels of bad. Second half against Preston awful. Horrific. An insult to the word performance. 

Play this rather than watching the highlights – its the same

You get the gist. Whatever the results from Huddersfield and Norwich, we’ve been about as bad as it is possible to be. Knackered? Perhaps. Mentally drained? Maybe. But enough about the fans. I’m sure the players are feeling it too and I’m equally sure that Sheffield on Wednesday can’t be anywhere near this woeful. It would be impossible to be so. Even with Ian Moose up front, the England Supporters band across the back four and Mrs. Brown filling the defensive midfield berth.

The obvious concern being that this is now three defeats on the spin. LLL. A blip could become a car crash. Barnsley was poor, QPR better (for a while) but this was off the cliff levels of bad. Man of the match probably going to referee Steve Martin, simply for his bringing proceedings to a close. The one bit of pleasure to take this afternoon. Thomas, frankly that wasn’t good enough today. Nowhere near. No guts. No desire. No clue.

On the other hand, if there can be any positive, at least we’re having the bumps now. Better to get them out the system now with 15 still to play than in the final few games of the campaign. We’ve got Ivan Toney to return. Likewise Christian Norgaard and Emiliano Marcondes. The former can’t be back soon enough. The later hopefully to provide some much needed flare. There was good news with Pontus being declared back on the grass although I can’t imagine his return being in the next few days or even weeks.

No amount of post mortem will find any genuine good from today, though. I’m not even going to try. I have eyes. What is important now is where we go from here. Wednesday night demands the mother of all reactions. Fingers crossed it comes. 

In the meantime, if Huddersfield and Rotherham would like to do us a favour then that would be good. 

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

Football fraud or the right result?

8 Nov

WE WON THIS GAME, BY A LOT!… THE FANS WERE NOT ALLOWED INTO THE STADIUM. WE WON THE GAME, GOT 71,000,000 GOALS. BAD THINGS HAPPENED WHICH OUR FANS WERE NOT ALLOWED TO SEE. NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE. MILLIONS OF THANK YOU LETTERS WERE SENT TO PEOPLE WHO NEVER ASKED FOR THEM! Hmmm. Not even Donald Trump himself would be able to try and convince you that the 0-0 snoozefest between Brentford and Middlesbrough was anything but a gift from the gods for the insomniacs amongst us. Whilst there was some consolation to be taken from the hilarious proceedings at West Ham later in the evening (where FulhamL have done it again) let’s not pretend the game at Lionel Road wasn’t horrific. Football fraud of the highest order.

Official update us as FT. Was this the score or shots on target?

Let’s try to look positive. Brentford didn’t lose. We’re unbeaten in four games now. Mads Bech Sorensen impressed again as did Ethan Pinnock alongside him. The Bees are only five points off second place and we now get a well earned rest. Thank heavens Rico Henry and Ethan Pinnock have avoided international call ups. 

Likewise, Middlesbrough are no mugs. With the Jonathan Woodgate experiment consigned to the annals of history, Neil Warnock is doing what he does. Sucking any glamour out of his football and, instead, replacing it with a steely resolve. An indefatigability from his squad combined with a simple inability to breakdown the most solid of midfields. With Matthias Jenssen shackled all afternoon and Vitaly Janelt sitting in the holding role, we were unable to make any intent as the midfield was swamped in our visitors favour.   

Ironically, despite the presence of the Championship’s leading scorer in Ivan Toney it was Janelt himself who had the one golden chance of the game. With Brentford starting the second half in a more attacking frame of mind, he connected with a low Dalsgaard cross just yards out. Surely this was it? The sort of opportunity even Ian Moose might have claimed he could have tucked away as easily as he would a pie at a half-time buffet. Alas, it wasn’t to be. Instead of guiding it home the shot was slashed at and spooned wide. Urghh. 

It was that close. At least I think that’s what they’re saying

It happens. No slating of the player from me for a solitary near miss. Middlesbrough came to do a job and boy did they do it. They got their point and stay above us. Frankly, we didn’t have the nous or the tactical wherewithal to get past our opponents. Kudos to them for also going unbeaten and their own start to the season. Say what you want about it but they’re a hell of a lot more effective than last time out. The sort of Boro’ side that have long held the jinx factor over us in the Championship. I suppose we should be grateful we didn’t lose! 

Look. It’s one more game. The unbeaten streak is coming together. We’re well, well in contention and have a run of games coming up against lower placed teams. Wycombe, Barnsley, Quarter Pound of Rubbish and then Rotherham United. Those of you getting stressed that we aren’t winning the league with 33 points come back after those. Look at early pace setters Reading whose record now reads LLL. Look at Wayne Rooney’s Derby County – languishing at the very bottom of the Championship after Sheffield Wednesday saw their 12 point deduction reduced to 6.

The Championship is an absolute marathon rather than a sprint. The table may have ‘taken shape’ but it is still tighter than Trump’s claims of voter fraud. I’d love to have a few more wins under the belt but I still think we’re heading in the right direction.

The key decision remains one of replacing Said Benrahma on the opposite flank to Bryan Mbeumo. It is, to date, something we’re yet to do convincingly. Then again, how do you replace the irreplaceable? For all those laying in to the players that Thomas has tried, let’s not forget the boots that need to be filled. That once in a lifetime talent – when he could be bothered, of course. Let’s not pretend either that our own miracle man had a tendency to go awol at times.

It was Boys Own stuff at times

We’ll get there. International break has come at the perfect time to allow for a recharge. Whilst a staunch traditionalist when it comes to footballing matters, even I’d agree that perhaps for this season the extended substitutes bench is really needed once more. There are just too many games and too many injuries. A temporary return from three to five substitutes one which may well benefit everybody in the longer term. Until that happens, expect tired legs to be running around for another 90 minutes as we saw yesterday.

And finally, whilst the Benrahma / West Ham story is now done and dusted one couldn’t help but notice how he and the Hammers got on yesterday. As much due to their opposition – FulhamL.  Sure enough, another game saw another defeat for the Cottagers. That’s now 6 out of 8. The latest coming at the Olympic Stadium last night where the home side took an injury time lead c/o a Benrahma assist. Hmm – let’s see if that one makes official’s ‘Loan round up’ . Yet Scott Parker’s boys had an even later chance to level things up when awarded a spot kick. That is, until this happened. Quite possibly the worst penalty of all time. Enjoy….

Nick Bruzon

Quite simply it was top, top football. What a way to say goodbye.

30 Jul

The morning after the night before. Smile broad. Head throbbing. Who cares? It was worth it. If you have to go, go out in style. Brentford said goodbye to Griffin Park by reaching the Championship play-off final in the the most incredible manner. Swansea City were swept aside 3-1 (3-2 agg) in a second leg that the Bees dominated from the off. Now, Fulham or Cardiff City await on Tuesday for the £170m shot at the Premier League. It was a far cry from the mini-run that had seen us lose three on the bounce but with Rico Henry restored to the line-up, we were back to our brilliant best and then some.

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Ollie sums up what we all felt (on Brentford official twitter)

What a night. What excitement. If there had been any stress in the build up then it wasn’t evident. Thomas and the players seemed calm on arrival at the ground. 1-0 down from the first leg, they came out of the blocks flying. It was a tactic that Thomas had suggested would be coming but nobody could have expected this fast a start. Certainly not yours truly who had nipped in to the kitchen to stick pizzas in the oven at the same time as Mathias Jensen bisected the Swansea defence and midfield with a quite incredible low pass. The timing was exquisite (not mine) as it went direct to who else but Ollie Watkins? Our leading scorer  was there to run on to it, bear down on goal and give The Bees the lead. Parity in the two-legged tie restored. The cheers in the streets around the ground evident for all. Nerves calmed. Goal sweets eaten.

Four minutes later and it was two. This time, Marcondes the man to get his name on the scoresheet. Benrahma delivering a cross into the box which Emiliano guided home from the penalty spot with a text book headed glance. He made it look so simple yet it was anything but. It was a moment that was all about keeping your cool and he more than did that. A quarter hour gone and already Keith Stroud’s moment of madness was a distant memory. Brentford had taken the lead overall and were on fire. 

This wasn’t the ‘play-off’ mode Brentford we know and love. That have seen us cruelly denied so many times in the past. But then this isn’t the Brentford of old. From top to bottom we are ten times better than anything that has gone before 

At the other end, David Raya keeping us in it with a fine low save before Said cut into the box and saw his low drive beat the ‘keeper, only to be denied by the inside of the near post. It was a blistering shot that ran agonisingly across the face of the goal after hitting the woodwork. It could have been three but no matter. The way the Bees were playing it would surely be a matter of time. Turning the screw when we had the momentum was key if there was to be any hope of reaching Wembley. 

Instead, it stayed 2-0 at half-time. Brentford dominant and with a slim lead but Swansea only a moment away from levelling things up. They would be the ones to start the second half at 100 mph, wouldn’t they? No chance. With a minute of the restart we had a third. Jensen freed Rico who delivered an inch perfect cross into the box for Bryan Mbeumo to fire home from the edge of the six yard box. It was a great finish under pressure but plaudits for the assist. What a ball and what a way to find personal peace of mind after the heartache of Sunday’s wrongful dismissal. 

Oh. My. Word. The screams. The excitement. The relief. Not even we’d cock this up, would we? The way Brentford were playing there was a danger of brackets being required. And then Swansea woke up. David Raya pulling off another fine save as the visitors began to dominate. First half roles reversed with the Swans left no choice but to go for it and with little less than a quarter hour to go, they got their goal. Rhian Brewster capitalising on what we’ll politely call an otherwise excellent Pontus losing his bearings trying to clear a ball that have been played into the middle from distance. The youngster made no mistake lobbing David Raya to bring the Swans within a goal of extra time.

Tension. Stress. Edge of the seat stuff. Perhaps in our house but not on the pitch. The Bees calm as you like as, if anything, we were the ones coming closer to the next goal. A yellow card for Thomas Frank showing how hard fought this one had become before a horrible six minutes of injury time were added on (from where?) but we held firm. Pontus using all his experience to help see it over the line. Said almost putting things out of sight with a curling effort that went just wide of the upright. One last cross into the box from Swansea cleared. Full time blown. The noise from Griffin Park ringing across St. Paul’s Park and through Brentford as it became evident fans were gathering celebrate. The mood ecstatic. The relief palpable. After going down in our eight previous attempts at the play-offs, this was about as composed and exciting as I’ve ever seen the Bees in this game of footballing roulette. Quite simply it was top, top football.

Leaving Griffin Park was always going to be an emotional experience. I wrote a piece yesterday afternoon about what saying goodbye to our lifelong home meant to me. It’s here and I would please ask you please take a look if for no other reason than to share your thoughts.  Yet if there was tear in the eye putting that piece together, this morning there’s a grin as broad as a split watermelon. Sleep has been at a minimum, such was the buzz and the post match celebrations at our friends house back on Brook Road. An extra pint or three  – not that they were really needed after the amount of, err, nerve calming that had gone on the few hours previous – were enjoyed. The fat was chewed and then waiting in the street to watch the lights go out on Griffin Park for the last time. CLUNK. That was it. Gone. It’s all over on the playing front for our home of 116 years. The next time we run out together will be at Wembley on Tuesday evening. Then it’s on to Lionel Road.

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The lights are on for the last time

On the pitch, the players and staff celebrated. Despite the best efforts of Mr. Benham (who pulled a post match ‘Trotta’) Bryan Mbeumo goes down as the last Bees player to score at Griffin Park. Yet it was all about the team last night. They were immense. Gutsy. Confident. Back to their brilliant best. Doing it for the fans. The fans living the dream through our heroes.

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The ball sailed over – curse that crazy player finding stats computer

It was an incredible experience. Today we can enjoy it and then the build up to the next one can begin in earnest. The small matter of the Premier League…… 

Tonight we can watch the second leg with genuine interest tonight. Will it be Fulham or Cardiff City? With the Bluebirds 2-0 down from the first leg, the smart money would be on a West London derby in the final. But if Cardiff start like we did last night then anything is possible. Whatever will be will be. We’re going to Wemb-er-lee. I’m looking forward to finding out who joins us.

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Loved this one from Bees United

Nick Bruzon 

Time to say goodbye to our past. On and off the pitch.

29 Jul

Let’s. Do. This. Brentford stand 90 minutes away from Wembley and a shot at the Premier League. Swansea are the visitors on an evening that sees our last, last, last ever game at Griffin Park. Despite the build up of the regular campaign, it has been typical of life at Griffin Park that it has come to this one rather than the Barnsley fixture. And now we are here. Steve Cooper’s team standing in our way but the good news being that Rico Henry will be standing in theirs. This, after Keith Stroud’s reckless decision to award our man a straight red in the first leg was over-turned yesterday.

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The verdict was – great tackle

Finally. Something has gone our way. A frustrating few days for the players has ended with them being given a huge shot in the arm. Swansea have that narrow 1-0 lead but everybody around the club is talking the right way. Whilst Cooper says his team won’t be playing for the draw Thomas Frank is in no doubt how our team will approach this one, telling the press that: “We are in total combat mode. We are so ready to play and we will come out flying …There are important games and then there are little bit more important games; this is one of those defining games and moments. We are not nervous; we know we need to attack

As for Steve Cooper’s approach of going for the win, whilst offering all the necessary respect Thomas was clear that they could be split. “In the back of their minds they know they have something to protect.

And therein lies the beauty / stress of two-legged football. Do they stick or twist? Will their approach waiver? Might the pressure of holding this slim advantage do strange things to them? The prize on offer is a huge one. Namely, that £170million chance of top flight football. It feels as though we’ve had more bites at this than Jaws but now really is THE time and I’m 100% confident we’ll do this.

The beers, pizzas, goals sweets and even mid-game extra strong mints are in. If you do one thing this evening, PLEASE have a packet of these on hand – something on a par with the lucky shirt, magic pants and JJ’s bladder in the lucky omen stakes when it comes to good goal news.

What will Thomas do? Subject to any injuries, I’d imagine he may be looking to mix things up a little bit. Knowing how well we play at our very best, the team names itself but there has been one hell of a lot of football played on recent weeks. There could be some exhausted players. What price would you put on somebody who may not have started every game but does have potentially fresher legs. Might we see a start for Shandon Baptiste or even Sergi Canos?

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If anyone can inspire us, it is Thomas

Brentford official name the teams at 6.45pm and from there, we know what the approach will be. For me, it is one of channeling the spirit of the season. Play with confidence. With swagger. Run at our your opponents. Know the way to goal. Keep going and never , ever give up. Think Jota. Not just in playing until the final minute but remember Jake Bidwell. Our former captain has had what could politely be described as a turgid time in recent returns to Griffin Park. More of the same would do very nicely, thank you.

As for farewell Griffin Park, what can you say? Now really is the time. We’d all LOVE to be there. We are all desperate to be there. The players would love us there but for that reason alone, I truly believe they will have the extra impetus to do this tonight. Peter Gilham will say the right words. He’ll make the right noise on the microphone. Nobody will be in doubt what this means. Not only for our future but also as a means of saying goodbye to our past. On and off the pitch.

I can’t wait for this one. It promises to be one the biggest games in our long history. One can’t under estimate how much is riding on this. We’ve never been in the Premier League before – could this be the moment we leave the EFL behind? The Bees have the power – will Thomas Frank’s big guns fire?

See you at kick off when we find out.

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This really is it…..

Nick Bruzon

Rico red rescinded. What next for Keith and the Bees?

28 Jul

If pushed, I’d say that Brentford beating Swansea to reach the play-off final is what happens. Sorry Swans but the team are good to go. The injustice suffered at the incompetent hand of Keith Stroud in Sunday’s play-off first leg has now been wiped from the record. It’s a tragedy we won’t get those 25 minutes or goal back but the morale boost from todays news can’t be underestimated. I gather the boys were so incensed at full time that they wanted to go out and play the second leg there and then. Understandable emotion. All being well they’ve bottled that passion and are ready to lift the stopper at 7.45 on Wednesday evening, take a healthy swig and go for glory.

We can get excited about the game in the morning. For now, I’ve still got Stroud rage. He lost us the play-off semi against Swansea in 2005. His dubious sending off of goalkeeper Stuart Nelson, with the Bees leading in the first leg c/o Jay Tabb, saw the inevitable happen just three minutes from time. He cost us a shot at ‘automatic’ in 2013 at Sheffield United when he lost the plot – dispensing cards and penalties like a drunk wedding guest brandishing a box of confetti. I forget exactly what happened after that but there was something about Doncaster and a penalty kick. It’s not been mentioned since so the exact circumstances remain a touch unclear.    

Stroud

A Keith for all seasons

The point being, Keith messed up. Again. Credit where it’s due, his recent record against with us has been a good one. Win has followed win with generally good performances accompanied by the odd slice of good fortune (i.e. wobbly decision) in our favour. But when it comes to the pressure situation he cost us then. And has cost us now. The difference being there is a chance to put it right. And there is a team chomping at the bit to do so.

We’re 90 minutes away from that most horrific place in North London. The place where dreams go to die and living hell awaits. But enough about Ikea. One can’t even put in to words how exciting this season has been. How well our team have performed throughout the most adverse of environments. Now, we are almost at the ‘W’ place. Granted, a goal down (thanks a bunch, Keith) but with home advantage, a wrong righted,  a gut full of injustice and the single most exciting team we’ve had the pleasure of watching all at our disposal. A team who are now desperate to go out and how what they’ve got once more.

The big match preview can wait for the morning. Right now, I’m still running on frustration and fury. Keith has hurt us. The authorities have confirmed this. They have agreed that he got it wrong and have reversed his red. It’s a shame they are powerless to make any further adjustment to the result but that’s not how football works. Instead, we’ve still got the power in our hands to make his (latest) error an irrelevance.

How a man with his track record is allowed to wreck so many crunch games is a mystery to rank alongside Betinho. But he has been given that privilege and he has delivered injustice once more. 

Betinho signs BBC

Even the BBC got excited

Webster’s dictionary defines incompetent as: lacking the qualities needed for effective action; unable to function properly ; not legally qualified ; inadequate to or unsuitable for a particular purpose.

Hmmm. Whilst I’d never wish ill on anybody and nor would I for one second want the responsibility of being ‘man in the middle’,  the question of how the same individual can get it wrong in so many pivotal moments involving the same club does need to be asked. Will anybody listen? Or care? It’s probably easier to take the moral high ground, go out to beat Swansea (no easy matter) then stick our heads in the sand. Pretend it never happened. Except, of course, we can’t. And shouldn’t.

It IS good news but it still feels tainted. We must try, of course, to focus on the matter at hand. Namely Brentford pulling back a one goal deficit. We have the players to do it and at least Rico will be available. But then that’s what happens when you know how to defend. 

I just wonder if the football authorities will ever tackle Keith?

Nick Bruzon