Tag Archives: Rico Henry

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.    

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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. 

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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

Let’s talk about Stroud, baby. Let’s talk about him and me. Let’s talk about all the bad things that may be.

27 Jul

And with that, the Keith Stroud we all know and fear was back. Brentford were edged out 1-0 at Swansea in a game that will be forever remembered as yet another ruined by this most terrifying of officials. Just when you thought he couldn’t surpass the ‘battle’ of Bramall Lane with Sheffield United ( three red cards, four penalties and more yellows than a rack of Coldplay CDs) , he’s gone and done it again in a crunch match. This time, sending off Rico Henry for nothing more than cleanly winning the ball from Connor Roberts whilst not even coming close to making contact with the player (until his own run took him over our man). This, with an open game poised at 0-0 and just moments after David Raya had made a quite wonderful penalty save from Andre Ayew. Then Keith did his thing.

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Hmmmmm

Look. No complaints abut Swansea. They played well and the goal they scored was an absolute screamer. Even if it did start down the left back position now bereft of Rico. Great saves from David Raya combined with chances that both Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma may think they could have done better with in retrospect had this game hanging in the balance. It could have gone either way. And in the end it did – in favour of both Keith and the hosts.

Brentford can bemoan their position but the simple fact of the matter is that we are 90 minutes away from the final. 1-0 in either direction is crazy close. Only a fool, or Mr Stroud, would try and predict how this one is going to play out.

Thomas Frank was furious at full time. Certainly compared to his normal standards. 100% that is not a red card and that Rico will be back in the team on Wednesday. His incredulation at the lack of VAR in a game of this nature was there for all to see as he confirmed that Brentford will be appealing a decision. His view point was one shared by man on social media

Natalie Sawyer: Keith Stroud. Quelle surprise!!!

Sam Saunders: Disgraceful decision surely rescinded?

Marcus Bean: One of the worst decisions I’ve seen

Brentford Official: That is a joke! @ricohenry14 wins the ball on the touchline, it’s not even a foul but he’s been sent off

Skybet Championship official feed: @BrentfordFC’s Rico Henry is sent off. Big question marks over that one for sure! 

Getting any more upset about it than I already am won’t help any at this juncture. If anything, Keith may have given Brentford the opportunity to come out of the blocks flying to right a horrific injustice on Wednesday. Everybody associated with the club is livid. Fuming. Desperate to right the wrong. Frustrated that it was Brentford in the ascendency when the fateful card was shown. David Raya’s quite brilliant penalty save from Ayew giving us a morale boost that was snatched away as quickly as it had been given.

Yesssss. That’s put a bit of juice back in the carton”. Not my words but those of HB. A 7(seven) year old’s wisdom then replaced by a tirade at the man in black which Alex on the Braemar Road paddock would have been proud of.

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Raya playing his own mind games before a huge save

I’m not sure what else to really say at this juncture. A great game, ruined. Swansea may have gone on to win anyway. Brentford might have edged it but that chance was taken away the second Keith did what Keith does. All we can do is hold on for Wednesday and go ten to the dozen in the return leg. Ironically, Alanis, what we had to to do for the final 25 minutes last night. Albeit in different guise.

It promises to be a cracker. All being well, we can have a referee. What a shame that, once again, everyone is talking about Stroud rather than a great game of football.

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At least an old friend returned

Nick Bruzon

Are we getting close to dusting off ‘that’ hashtag after another fine performance?

24 Nov

Get in Ollie Watkins! An 11th goal of the season was sufficient to separate Brentford and Reading, with a 1-0 win for the Bees seeing us climb up to 8th in the Championship table. A mere 2 points outside the play-off spots. With a midweek trip to Blackburn Rovers and then the visit of Luton Town in six days, there’s everything to play for ahead of this time next week. How far away does that season opening home defeat to Birmingham City seem now? Thomas Frank’s fifth win in six league games seeing us on a fast track to dusting off the dreaded ‘Novemberkings’ hashtag. And with Ollie, likened at full time to none other than Juventus legend Cristiano Ronaldo, just one goal behind Aleksandar Mitrovic at the top of the Championship goalscorers table the mood at Griffin Park is buoyant. 

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Heyyyy. Thomas Frank a very happy man at full time

This one was about as hard fought as it comes. In form Reading setting up to stifle the play (see also: Huddersfield Town last time out) and restrict the attacking prowess of The Bees. It was a tactic that worked in the first half with Rico Henry nobled early, requiring a lengthy period of treatment, as Brentford eased their way in to a game that had chances at a premium. Indeed, it was the visitors with the best opportunity of the opening period when George Puscas found himself clean through and bearing down on goal. It had 0-1 all over it but David Raya was equal to it and then some.

Haring off his line, he closed down the gap before spreading himself to close out the threat of certain goal. It really was a magnificent piece of quick thinking, Virtuoso goalkeeping from a man who has fast become a hero the The Griffin Park faithful. The need for precision vital, with referee David Coote showing two very early yellows and then set to ‘random mode’ in his decision making. How Andy Yiadom stayed on in the opening period I have no idea.

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Rico took an early hit

He wasn’t helped by his officials, with the linesman on the Braemar Road side making the foolish mistake of interacting with, and talking back to, the crowd. The magnificent ‘angry dad’ seized on this in a heartbeat and was amongst the many explaining the rules and cajoling the hapless assistant. I will miss this level of interaction and closeness at Lionel Road but, with the price of Premium seating to replicate my current touchline view being what it is, we’ll likely be up in the Gods next time out.

But we digress. Raya did brilliantly. There wasn’t even a glimmer of a potential penalty or a goal as the chance chance was extinguished. And with it, seemingly, Reading’s hopes. Brentford built the pressure in the second half with that man Ollie Watkins finding the back of the net on the hour. Mathias Jensen delivering a beautiful cross from the New Road side of the field straight on to the head of the free scoring number 11. Watkins made no mistake with a powerful downward header back across the face of goal and into the bottom corner.

Griffin Park erupted. As it does. The rain soaked crowd off their seats. Voices raised as high as those pumping visits. Players celebrating as the deadlock was broken. Oh, what a moment. There’s no place like it at times like this. But still there were thirty minutes to go. Still, a referee with no grip on the game or idea what was really going on. Yet Brentford kept going. Watkins again with the chance to double the lead just a few minutes later but not quite able to turn it in on the line.  And as the clock wound down, the pressure built.

Reading are no slouches and they showed it. With five minutes of additional time added on at the death, they started turning the screw. Attack followed attack with more scrambles than an 80s amusement arcade (I absolutely LOVED that game – go check it out). It felt very much like the last attack in a game of rugby. Phase after phase of possession in an attempt to find that elusive way through. Chance after chance cleared as the Brentford defence held firm until Mr Coote finally put us out of our misery. Yesssss!!!!  Well done Pontus, Ethan Pinnock et al as the rejigged backline kept it up until the death.

It was an afternoon of tension and brilliance. Full credit to Reading for pushing us to the absolute limit. They may feel hard done by but it is chances taken that win games. Not possession. Not frustration. Not bad luck. Ollie Watkins got the one effort that counted and it was enough for Brentford. His stock continues to rise and talk on the Quest TV highlights show this morning has very much been that that he is the one that the (so called) big clubs will be looking towards when the transfer window opens.

I’ve no doubt that he will remain in the public eye but why would Thomas want to sell? As he noted at full time, “He’s definitely a number nine now, because he’s so flexible. Cristiano Ronaldo did quite well in the beginning as a winger. Hopefully Ollie can do something similar.

What higher praise is there? What better indication of his ability as the goals continue to flow?

All that’s to worry about in January, though. For now we’ve had another fine win and another three points. The table is really starting to lock up as our progress continues upwards. Keep the wins coming and the rest will look after itself. Blackburn Rovers away on Wednesday is going to be another tough one. But then so was Wigan. So was Swansea. And look what happened there.

Bring it on. I can’t wait…

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Hands off

Nick Bruzon   

Thomas Frank’s Demolition Derby.

1 Sep

Well that was something else. Brentford tanked Derby County in a game that finished 3-0 and could easily have seen the scoreline double that. It really was as dominant a performance as one could hope for against a team who, back to full strength after their mid-week changes against Nottingham Forest in the cup (that worked well), offered nothing. Their manager Philip Cocu would afterwards accuse his team of ‘arrogance’. It looked more like impotence to me, with the Rams unable to penetrate as the Bees ran riot.

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Raining (goals) at Griffin Park

Brentford were boosted by the news that Saïd Benrahama was finally able to start a game. What a performance he put in. But then you could say the same for Bryan Mbuemo on the right and Sergi Canos coming from the wing back position. With Rico pushing high on the other side  it really was about as attacking a team one could expect to see. Topping it off was Ollie Watkins in centre forward role. Norgaard and Jenssen are becoming stronger and stronger in the middle whilst the final three of Jeanvier, Pontus and Dalsgaard were rock solid in the rare moments of the visitors breaking through. David Raya was in goal but it could have been David Bowie and we’d probably still have kept a clean sheet.

Mbuemo got the first on 17, after Watkins had been denied whilst the favour was returned just 60 second later. Ollie sliding home after a wonderful move. Mbuemo supplying the killer pass but don’t underestimate the work performed by Sergi Canos in either goal. He was magnificent. Devastating. Destructive. Left the Rams tied up in knots.

That it was only three at half time is a question to rank alongside where the Derby County of last season have gone. Back to their parent clubs from loans, perhaps ? Either way, there was no answer to the waves of relentless Brentford pressure. Ollie wrapped up the scoring before going in for his half-time cuppa but the Bees could equally have had a penalty after Keogh was adjudged not to have handballed it. Hmmm. Move along Derby, nothing to see here.

The second half continued as the first had ended. Bees on top. Derby nowhere. To be fair, they did have a shot but Raya had it covered. And that was it from the visitors. If anything Brentford could, probably should, have made it at least four. If not more. Mbuemo seemed clean through with the goal gaping although the benefit of hindsight and TV show the good work done by Roos in the County goal. Likewise, when Ollie found himself sprinting clear for the hat-trick chance. Keeper Roos came bouncing out of the box to chest it away.

The return of dancing Buzzette and Saïd had the crowd buzzing from the off. The enthusiasm was tangible. Whether Peter Gilham almost exploding as he announced the second goal through to Benrahama’s post-substitution long walk back to the dugouts, whipping up the home fans behind the goal to further heights of excitement. And there he was at full time once more, taking HB’s request for a selfie into something quite unexpected. The positivity coursing through the team a joy to behold. The relationship with the supporters as strong as ever.

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Saïd helps HB take the search for the perfect selfie to the next level.

Thomas Frank noted at full time that “The first 45 minutes is one of the best I have seen at Griffin Park since I have been here”. There can’t be any out there who would disagree. The second wasn’t bad either, although could never compare to the explosive opener. Had one of those other chances gone in then who knows what might have been. However, to be anything but happy with such a comprehensive win over opponents who came so close to reaching the top flight last time out would be churlish. County weren’t even at the races. Brentford, like a champion derby winner.

The month has ended with Brentford recording wins over Derby and up at Middlesbrough. I’m still bamboozled by the points dropped against Birmingham City whilst we were a lick of paint away from maintaining our recent domination of Leeds United. Ollie is looking more and more comfortable up top whilst I’m loving Bryan Mbuemo. Here’s hoping September picks up where August left off.

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Men of the moment. Sergi and Ollie needed for a full house

Nick Bruzon

Cambridge follow Oxford in giving Bees the third degree.

14 Aug

Well that wasn’t great. Cambridge United reached the second round of the League Cup at the expense of a Brentford team chock full of new signings yet tinkered with to such an extent that it was almost at the level of  Marinus and the car keys in a bowl team selection of Oxford United from the same stage a few season back. Almost. At least this time we held on for a 1-1 draw before succumbing to fatal spot kicks taken in front of an ecstatic away support. On the plus side, the arrival of alleged Celtic target Rico Henry and long term signing Ollie Watkins put some much needed spring in the step to a game we almost won but, obviously, didn’t. 

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Griffin Park looked great under lights. Despite the result.

Upset? In a cup sense then of course but personally I slept well upon returning home. Dru Yearwood’s mistake early on presented Cambridge a chance from which they made no mistake but then they barely had a look in. Dru himself looked composed after that and grew into the game but the challenge of throwing so many new faces together was one that Brentford struggled with. Thomas Frank would later describe it as a disjointed performance and few present in the 5000+ crowd could argue with that.

Trying to look on the bright side this morning, there are still plenty of positives. Thomas was always going to play the new boys  – even this self-confessed numpty on the terrace called that one out yesterday – so it was a self-imposed challenge. The visitors came at us from the off and got the early goal as we struggled to settle in. Fair play to them in doing what they needed to but after that there was no more. Rather than turn into an Oxford style car crash (3-0 down after 12 minutes with Kemar Roofe’s 40 yard lob of Jack Bonham the ultimate slap in the face for the hapless head coach back in 2015) Brentford put the brakes on. Even though we struggled to get through our opponents, looking to walk it in rather than shoot, at least it stopped the goals going in.

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Marinus and the Oxford fiasco (not a prog rock band). Never, ever forget

Thompson, Mbuemo, Valencia and Yearwood in particular all grew into the game and now have vital minutes under the belt. Zamburek and Racic stepped in and stepped up to a line up which was very much one for this evening only. Rico Henry and Ollie Watkins made a huge difference when they came on and showed what might have been had Thomas not used the game to try out new faces and give his starting XI a break after their exertions in the weekend win at Middlesbrough. Hull City on Saturday is going to be a tough one so you can understand why he has done this.

Outside of the rested faces, we’ve still got the likes of Said and Kamo to come back in to the team. And Marcus Forss scored another goal for the Bees. Huge news there with a starting berth possibly up for grabs in Thomas Frank’s all attack front line for Hull.

The subsequent second round draw saw Cambridge United drawn away to Swansea City. That in itself a reason to be grateful for crashing out. After last season’s horror shows against the Swans (home, away and FA Cup trip) the less we see of them in the short term the better. Besides, it also means we are now free to concentrate on the league.

And, of course, Celtic lost. Knocked out of the Champions League at home by CFR Cluj of Romania. Their own collapse at the death seeing them fail to make the group stages once more. This in itself of huge importance to Brentford, given the apparent interest in Rico Henry and the fact that their window remains open for a few more weeks so anyone could still leave for the Scottish top flight. Should they desire.

With the lure of Europe’s top table no longer available (as ever at this time of year), might a move to Glasgow be quite so appealing for Rico?  If, indeed, it was? The way he played last night, he is somebody who will surely be part of Thomas Frank’s plans this season so hanging on to him will be another boost.

Also, the cover of the programme looked great. Clutching at straws now, granted, but it was that sort of night. Some would say ‘couldn’t be bothered’ . Personally, I’ll go for slight over-tinkering in a bid to get new blood circulating. Another time we may have got away with it but not this time and there’s not much else to say, really.

Well done to our visitors. No gripes for me there. Bad luck Bees. We tried but much like Oxford, Cambridge gave us an education in how to play cup football and it was Brentford left with the blues. Nobody needs any further lecture from me on the subject.

Roll on Saturday and Hull City. See you there.

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Nice artwork

Nick Bruzon

Leeeeeeds. Leeds are falling apart. Again.

23 Apr

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

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Sergi and Ezri celebrate

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

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

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

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Pick that one out ! (thanks, Matt Davis

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

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

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Yessssss. 2-0 !!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Nick Bruzon

Romaine and Kamo lead the charge as magnificent Bees dominate and ‘jinx’ rules are established.

12 Jan

Brentford 3 Stoke City 1. Where to even start with this one? It was a performance that was every bit as dominant as the reports will suggest. It was a game that saw Thomas Frank make it 6 unbeaten as his team scored two quite magnificent goals following a calamitous o.g. opener from Ryan Shawcross. Yet most importantly, we got as emphatic an answer as one could hope to the question, “Does the ‘manager-of-the-month’ curse travel if the winner changes clubs after being nominated?”. This, after Nathan Jones had of course scooped December’s League One honours for his ongoing heroics at Luton Town.

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Stoke were second to everything all afternoon

Brentford were magnificent. Slick. Irresistible. Irrepressible. Like a greyhound out of the traps, they were in the face of the visitors for the off. Much like the ball. With just 7(seven) minutes gone the Bees were ahead after an attempt to clear a corner (correctly taken ‘not short’) was simply hoofed into the face of Shawcross and returned straight back in the direction it had come . With interest. Boom. One-nil Brentford and more to follow. Neal Maupay almost made it two, forcing Jack Butland into a full length save to push the Frenchman’s goalbound strike from just inside the corner of the box around the post. 

With Brentford continuing to push (up) it wasn’t long before the lead was doubled. There was little over a quarter hour on the clock when Said Benrahma made it two. An exquisite first time connection from a slide rule pass into the box, delivered with aplomb by Romaine Sawyers, saw the ball steered wide of Butland for two. The crowd erupted. Benrahma followed suit, running half the length of the pitch to celebrate with his family. You could see the what this one meant from the smile on his face. It was a delightful moment but one which owed as much to the ball played in from his captain. 

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View from the Braemar – Said celebrates

Romaine may not have made the headlines today but he had a a game he’ll never forget. There were tackles, passes and sublime moments of skill that looked as though they had been made with the proverbial ‘ball-tied-to-foot with a piece of string. He was every bit of his very best, turning in a performance that has to be amongst his top three in a Bees’ shirt. Equal praise must be handed out to Kamo, who absolutely bossed the midfield. Looking through supporter comments on social media afterwards, MOTM award seemed to be very much a two way battle.

Yet nobody should be overlooked after Brentford put in what was about a complete a performance as they come. Thnas Frank will sleep well tonight, that’s for sure. Nathan Jones will still be having the nightmares that must have begun to haunt him within a minute of kick off.  Benik Afobe pulled one back in the first half but it was his and Stoke’s only meaningful contribution all afternoon. The rest of their game saw a reversion to the agricultural style of play we’d seen in the corresponding fixture up in the Potteries back in August.    

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Romaine was flying today

And then Rico Henry happened. The second half started much the same as the first had done. All Brentford. The highlights are up already c/o Sky but they don’t even begin to do justice to our play or the build up to Rico’s sizzling run that saw him cut into the box, keep on cutting before unleashing a low drive into the bottom corner. If the crowd had gone crazy for Said’s they were all on their feet for this one. What a move. What a noise. What a goal. 

It could have been more. Neal Maupay and Ollie Watkins both hit the crossbar in a period that saw Brentford continue to take the game to their opponents. It finished 3-1. It could have been more. Like Oxford in the cup, it was never in doubt. The defensive trio of Jeanvier, Konsa and Barbet as rock solid as they have been since Thomas Frank changed our formation and his fortunes.

One does have to wonder how Chris Mepham will get back in to this team if they continue to play like that. The confidence emanating from the back line flowed through the entire team. Frankly, this is the easiest post-match column I’ve had to write in months – we really were that good.

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Neal pushed but didn’t get a goal his performance deserved.

How nice, also, to see the goals starting to come from other areas of the pitch. To see chances created by players other than Maupay. To see Jeanvier really starting to deliver and Kamo back to last season’s best. 

The other thing to come out of today’s game was an answer to the question posed in the previous column. Namely, “Is the manager of the month curse transferable? Or does it stay with the winning club”. This, after Nathan Jones – then of Luton Town –  was named as one of the nominees for League One manager of the month for December. He subsequently took up the reins at Stoke and picked up the award itself on Friday. Just over 24 hours later the trophy holder proved that the jinx travels. He saw his new charges played off the park to add another notch in the ‘L’ column whilst Luton picked up a point in the League One top-of-the-table clash with Sunderland.

But, to be fair, the Bees were so good today that Thomas Frank could have run over a black cat on the way to the ground whilst ducking under a ladder and we’d have still got the win. Even Mrs. Bruzon was allowed back into Griffin Park (by Harry) to see us at our very best.

Long may it continue. Roll on Rotherham next weekend when we find out.

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Mrs B. and Harry enjoy the moment as Rico makes it 3

Nick Bruzon 

Bees celebrate a special 50th and another game unbeaten. Happy 2019!

1 Jan

And so a chaotic round of festive fixtures comes to a close with Brentford and Norwich City sharing a point following a 1-1 New Year’s Day draw. The Bees are unbeaten in 2019. Unbeaten over that four game congested run that now sees some respite approaching with Oxford United next up in the FA Cup. On an afternoon that  was chosen to mark Peter Gilham’s 50th year as Griffin Park’s ‘man-with-the-mic’, the game ended with both managers no doubt feeling their respective teams had done enough to win it. Yet, being honest, there were no complaints about another point earned following the Christmas draws on the road at Bristol and Birmingham City. Moreso, given the somewhat erratic performance of referee Gavin Ward who did his very best to enrage both sets of supporters with a stop-start performance, random bookings and several penalty calls ignored.

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And this is Saunders territory… Norwich City were visitors to Griffin Park.

Thomas Frank saw his Bees start this one at 100mph. Attacking, confident football was the order of the day as Said Benrahma and Sergi Canos drove forward with intent. Neal Maupay making a nuisance of himself, Kamo bossing centre-mid and Rico Henry impressing down the left side. Flank partner Moses Odubajo can count himself somewhat unlucky in missing out on this one but perhaps the procession of games over such a short space of time has been telling. 

Pressure built with Brentford taking the lead half way through the opening period. Julian Jeanvier, again part of the three centre back set up that has coincided with our own upturn of form, heading home from a Benrahma corner kick in front of the Norwich supporters. 

I have no idea, but Leo Vegas sponsor every Brentford goal”, proclaimed Peter Gilham as he announced the opener. This, before a brief apology to the French defender. If ever there was a moment to show how much we know and love the man affectionately known as Mr. Brentford then here it was.

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Fifty years on and Peter Gilham still has us enthralled.

The Bees pushed on. Half time came and went with the single goal lead remaining in place. Neil Maupay v Tim Krul in the Norwich City goal becoming a battle that would ultimately decide the fate of the game. Whilst Timm Klose levelled things up late on – a goal that had been coming as Brentford visibly tired in front of us – it was the Canaries ‘keeper who pulled off two wonder saves from the Championship’s leading scorer in the second half which proved pivotal. Do check these out on the video highlights – Sky have theirs up now – then doff your hat to the visitors. They’re at the business end of the table for good reason yet, at the same time, our own running them so close tells you as much as you need to know about our own fighting spirit returning.

Peter Gilham had done his best to whip the crowd into a frenzy. The players kept it going. Gavin Ward played his part too as a series of somewhat ‘random’ (and that’s the polite word) decisions kept both sets of supporters on their toes. The relief that greeted the Norwich City equaliser was palpable from the visiting fans. The disappointment at running them so close evident to the home set. 6 points out of 12 now marking an upturn in form for the Bees who had been on that horrific run.

Turn a few more of those into wins and the top ten is more than possible. That’s a long way off, of course, but at a time that it looked as though Brentford might get sucked into the relegation mire it’s nice just to be looking up once more. It’s wonderful to see our team playing with heart and gusto. To see those defensive howlers fast disappearing into the nether reaches of the memory. Long may it continue.

Next up are Oxford United in the FA Cup. That’s going to be an equally different sort of test. If only  the trying to find any leftover bacofoil after cooking the Christmas turkey. That replica trophy isn’t going to make itself but that’s a challenge for another day.

For now, it simply remains to take comfort in the return of an infinitely more positive and solid looking Bees team. Whilst we are by no means the finished article compared to earlier in the season, and the now open transfer window could wreak further havoc (or benefit) there is plenty to remain optimistic about. Julian Jeanvier continues to impress. As does Rico Henry. Kamo was a rock in the midfield whilst Yoann Barbet’s return can only be a positive. One run in the first half saw him slice through the Norwich City midfield, riding tackle after tackle as he surged upfield before being unceremoniously upended in Saunders territory.

Long may it continue. A very happy start to the New Year. Now bring on Oxford United in the cup….

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View from the Braemar – Rico Henry impressed today.

Nick Bruzon