Tag Archives: Ryan Woods

Neal makes Moose eat more pie at Fulham as magnificent Brentford help Wolves go up.

15 Apr

Where do you start with that? A scoreline of Fulham 1 Brentford 1 doesn’t even begin to touch the sides of a dramatic afternoon that saw Wolves’ promotion to the Premier League confirmed, The Bees keep our own play-off dream alive and The Cottagers slip out of a top two they had so briefly graced. At the bottom, things are locking up with a win for Burton aswell as Bolton drawing at Barnsley really keeping the heat on Birmingham City.

DSC01687

View from the away end – Brentford go for it at Fulham

Another season, another failure for Fulham at The Cottage against Brentford. Being honest, they were lucky to get away with even a point after The Bees came out of the traps flying. Ollie Watkins was cruelly denied an opener by a (subsequently incorrect) offside decision. Yoann Barbet had a stonewall penalty turned down after Stefan Johansen manhandled his freekick. The player and fans were incandescent. From the far end it had looked nailed on. Something the TV would later confirm.

Yet backed by 3000 fans, Brentford continued to pour forward. Ryan Woods superb. Chris Mepham mopping things up at the back when the odd Fulham sortie found a way through. Ollie Watkins and Florian Jozefzoon displaying electric pace, supported by the ever overlapping full backs and Sergi Canos.

Truly, it was a performance that made a mockery of Fulham’s Premier League credentials and, more importantly, outlined our own progress. Despite ending 0-0 at half-time, surely that goal would come?

DSC01664

Dan Bentley snuffs out a rare first half attack from Fulham

Alas, not. Instead it was a very much smash and grab effort by Aleksandar Mitrovic, on loan from Newcastle United, to give the home side a seventieth minute lead. It was a lead that was against the run of play but as we’ve said so many times, goals are what count. Craven Cottage erupted. Finally. Prior to that, Fulham’s dependency on those dreaded paper ‘clappers’ to try and generate an atmosphere had been an embarrassment. A repugnant creation and terrible indictment of a club allegedly chasing promotion that they are needed for a game of this magnitude. For any game. Then again, the use of ‘run out’ music for the warm up showed the level of desperation /  atmosphere building that was required at the Cottage. Cringeworthy.

Contrast this with the 3000 or so Brentford fans who had remortagaged the house to pay the £35/£40 adult ticket price. Who had spurned the TV to get along and make an ear shattering noise. I’ve not been in a crowd like this one for a long, long time. I’ve not celebrated a goal like Neal Maupay scored to level things up in this manner all season. It was one of THE Brentford moments.

With Mitrovic having done the needful, the brakes came on. The clock was run down. Fouls became more cynical. Substitutions were dragged out as the home team used all manner of underhand tricks to put an end to the game. Neeskens Kabano suffered the indignity of an 87th minute ‘sub subbed’. The minute and a half it took Stefan Johansen to make his own switch with injury time approaching did not go unnoticed by referee Neil Swarbrick. He was quite vehement in his pointing to the watch, wrist held high for all to see. Time wasting was the verdict. Four additional minutes was the sentence. Four additional minutes for Brentford to get what the performance warranted and railroad our rivals’ promotion push.

90+1. 90+2. 90+3. 90+4….. And then it happened. With Fulham twitter sites already declaring a win, the ball was whipped in by Yoann. A deep cross found the head of most definitely onside Flo Jo who steered it towards Neal Maupay, unmarked on the edge of the six yard box. Surely, surely, surely……?

YEEEEESSSSSSSSS!!!! Goal, goal, goal goal, goal, goal, goallllllll. Maauuu-paaaayyy!! His header eluding Marcus Bettinelli as it bounced in front of the keeper’s despairing dive and hit the back of the net. What scenes. What noise. What an out pouring of emotion. What a moment. Mark Fuller’s quite wonderful photograph captured it all from the players’ perspective. His caption doing it from that of the supporters 🙂

Incredible. Absolutely incredible. Sitting here writing this on Sunday morning, I’ve got goose bumps even now. I’ve got a stupid smile on my face that has Mrs. Bruzon thinking I’m up to no good. But it was just breathtaking. If ever people want to know why we go to football, then here it is. Everything encapsulated in a single, late moment. The promotion dream stays alive. Fulham’s takes a firm blow to the unmentionables.

A blow delivered by a striker who has taken all manner of flak, most noticeably from Ian Moose. The catering and pie obsessed journo having put the boot in after the young striker missed one chance at Cardiff yet how Neal has responded.  Every goal serving up another helping of humble pie to the Talk Sport shock jock. From a striker who now has the most goals from the bench of any player in the top four English divisions.

But it wasn’t just us. The goal also meant that Wolves were assured of promotion to the Premier League. They are now uncatchable by third placed Fulham at the top of the Championship whilst victory over Birmingham City at lunchtime will hand them the title, subject to a freak run of results and goal difference swing.

Full credit to Wolves. They’ve been fantastic this season and it will be very interesting to see how they fare next campaign. For now, though, let’s just hope they haven’t over celebrated last night and really go for it today. What is turning into a quite fascinating relegation battle has, with just three games to go for most sides, seen nobody fall though the trap door as yet. Defeat for Birmingham (who also need to play Sheffield United, QPR and a final game with Fulham) could also place an exponential increase of pressure on their survival hopes.

Still, that’s for them to worry about. For Brentford, there’s the prospect of another West London derby on Saturday as dead in the water QPR visit. We’ve three games to reel in a four point gap to Middlesbrough in fifth and Millwall in sixth. Can we do it ? Play like that on Saturday and anything is possible. Make noise like that and QPR will be blown away before they even step out.

As Sergi Canos asked on Twitter…

Frankly, I can’t top that. Just when we couldn’t love him anymore.

Nick Bruzon

Advertisements

Almost 24 hours on and it still feels fantastic.

11 Apr

Almost 24 hours later and I’m still buzzing. Having spent the last ten days on a very rare holiday, following Brentford has been that bit trickier than normal. Yet what do when the last night abroad coincided with our game at Nottingham Forest? Rather than stay in a hotel room with Mark Burridge whispering sweet nothings into my ear (via the medium of I-follow) instead it was a trip outside to find somewhere showing the Champions League thriller between Manchester City and Liverpool. That said, thanks to the joy of WhatsApp and Twitter pretty much all of my attention was focussed on updates from The City Ground rather than the TV in Popeyes bar, Lanzarote. A third 1-0 win in a row for The Bees, secured via a late strike from Henrik Dalsgaard, saw Brentford move to within four points of sixth placed Millwall with just four games to go. The most unlikely of play-off dreams remains alive and it makes Saturday’s game with a Fulham team whose own victory propelled them into the ‘automatic’ places even more significant than it already was.

Just four points to Millwall in sixth. Just four points to Derby County in fifth (albeit The Rams have two games in hand). Brentford held their nerve last night in a match which, statistically speaking, seemed to pour scorn on Forest’s recent record of failing to trouble the scorers for five straight games as shot followed shot. Despite hitting the woodwork twice in the opening period, Daniel Bentley’s goalmouth once again remained untouched. Despite 16 attempts, 3 on target, there was no way through for the home team.

Rather, it was the stooping Dalsgaard who got on the end of former captain Josh McEachran’s 81st minute corner to frustrate Nottingham Forest again. You have to feel for the home fans but, being quite selfish, that’s their issue. Instead, Popeyes erupted to a quite unexpected shriek of delight that had absolutely nothing to do with Liverpool snuffing out another Manchester City attack. Nothing to do with seeing Birmingham City en-route to yet another defeat; this time at Bristol City. Nothing to do with Roma making it 3-0 against Barcelona and thus lined up to progress on ‘away goals’. Instead, it had everything to do with our Danish international full back giving us the lead with less than ten minutes remaining.

And then the waiting game began. Waiting for the internet to refresh. Waiting for another Euro 3.00 beer to reach the table. Waiting to see if Brentford could hang on. Waiting to see if Barnsley could snatch a late equaliser at Portman Road. Sadly, the Tykes couldn’t. Whilst people all around me were in awe at events unfolding in both Manchester and Rome, there was one corner of a foreign pub that was forever Brentford. And it was beautiful.

Ding: Another WhatsApp message. The trumpet ‘emoji’.
Ding: Yes!!!!

We’d hung on. Oh my, that was quite remarkable. Quick. Where is that ‘As it stands’ table? Ah. There we go. What a sight. What a time for Brentford to narrow the gap. What a game awaits on Saturday afternoon. If you haven’t got a ticket for The Cottage then what are you waiting for? This could be even bigger than the 4-1 in terms of brilliance. The potential double whammy of railroading the Fulham promotion push whilst increasing our own chances. Could it be that game at Leyton Orient all over again? If we celebrated three points there like the FA Cup, victory at The Cottage would see Champions League levels of ecstasy.

Whilst Millwall are still in the box seat as play-off dark horses, if Brentford can keep up this wonderful run then who knows? Imagine. Could it end up a Fulham v Brentford play-off final, even? Win on Saturday and anything is possible. Call it the cabin pressure at 37,000 feet, but flying home now I feel euphoric about all things football. I feel as though anything could happen. We’ve even got Ryan Woods available once more.

Seeing what Liverpool and Roma achieved last night should be sufficient evidence that this most beautiful of games can continue to surprise us. Nothing is certain until that final whistle blows. Results really can defy expectation.

But for now, it has to be as much a time for reflection on overcoming what could have been a very tricky hurdle at Nottingham Forest. Take nothing away from our opponents. Opponents who, at least as far as yours truly is concerned, have remained nothing but sporting. This was a HUGE result in a season that has the potential to match our own first back in The Championship. The season of Mark Warburton and a play-off semi with Middlesbrough when all the results aligned on the final round of games to elevate us to fifth in the table.

Could similar happen again? Who knows but I’ll tell you one thing – I can’t wait to find out. Roll on Saturday and Fulham.

See you there….

IMG_1315

Following Brentford. From Lanzarote. Via the Champions League.

Nick Bruzon

Afternoon thoughts as the latest ‘must win’ game approaches.

10 Apr

Another day, another game. Sitting here at midday, waiting for the evening to come around, I’m struggling. Brentford travel to Nottingham Forest tonight to take on a side who have failed to win or score in their last five games. Three nil-nils is the high point of that ‘run’ whilst their last victory came against Birmingham City (as much of a given as one can expect these days). It was a stat I’ve needed to triple check, and will do once more for good measure, after being steered towards it by two separate Forest fans on Twitter whom I’ll simply call Jamie and Matt. Yet having tapped them up for a prediction, they both replied with devastatingly similar thoughts.

“After the best part of eight hours, a goal would be nice. Anything else would be a bonus…..”

and

“Our form is atrocious – may scrape a draw though. Of the 0-0 variety”

But here is where I’m struggling. Are we walking in to a trap? Is this too good to hope for against a team who are surely safe from both relegation and promotion? Can Daniel Bentley record a 15th Championship clean sheet and Brentford make it three wins on the spin in our final game without ginger Pirlo, Ryan Woods?

His own three game ban, following the handbags against Sheffield United, comes to an end tonight. With the trip to Fulham next up, Dean Smith resisted the temptation to appeal a dismissal that still seemed somewhat harsh. Yet in his absence we’ve seen two 1-0 wins and two goals from Neal Maupay. We’ve seen domination at Bristol City and then what reads as a somewhat grittier performance at home to Ipswich Town.

But with three points the absolute priority if those play-off aspirations are to remain a reality, we’ve done the needful in differing circumstances. Now there are just five games to go and a five point gap to reel in. Another win has to be the target with the fixtures running out. You couldn’t ask, on paper, for any more than to be up against a team for whom the back of the net is something as hard to find as a Neil Warnock post-match handshake.

Which scares me. That sort of stat has to give at some time. Opponents with nothing to lose can play with freedom of expression. Brentford will need to approach this with 100% focus whilst remembering how well we’ve played at times this campaign. It’s no coincidence that despite a rough start we’ve climbed into the top ten. That we’ve taken apart the likes of Leeds United, Aston Villa and Birmingham City.

Perhaps rather than playing our opponent’s statistical record and our own future state, this really is the time to concentrate on the game at hand. Switch off from what has gone before and what might be. The consummate example of that cliche about taking one game at a time (I would also accept : every game as it comes).

By rights, us football fans can be a pessimistic bunch. It’s no surprise that Nottingham Forest supporters Matt and Jamie have come out with less than positive predictions. Being quite honest I’d probably have made similar had roles been reversed. Even now, I’m struggling to call this with any sense of accuracy although, being equally fair, that’s long been a challenge yours truly has failed to rise to.

Instead, it’s a case of hoping that Dean Smith picks the right starting XI for the right result. For hoping that Forest prove anything but Tricky Trees. And if nothing else, at anywhere between 11-1 and 13-1, a few quid on 0-0 might not be the silliest investment ever made?

Here’s also hoping Neal Maupay can ruin that one.

4E705055-F53A-4816-8E0E-378E903184AC

Last time out saw a win against Ipswich Town

 

Nick Bruzon

 

Bees blunted by Blades and random ref but what a celebration.

31 Mar

It’s a point closer to the play offs for both teams as a day that saw two controversial dismissals ended with Brentford and Sheffield United drawing 1-1. It was a day that ended with Daniel Bentley winning his personal battle with former Bee Clayton Donaldson as two great stops late on kept us alive. Bristol City, whose own last gasp equaliser at Barnsley gave hope to Birmingham City, are next up in what promises to be a real six-pointer at the right end of the table. With just 7(seven) games to go and the gap to the play-offs 7(seven) points, the chance of a spectacular climax to the season is still there. Just.

DSC01367

Brentford entertained Harchester United at Griffin Park on Saturday

What can you say about events at Griffin Park where there was a very real danger of having to call out the Coastguard? Well, if the Middlesbrough game was made uncomfortable for the supporters thanks to the snow, this time around it was Biblical levels of rain. Somewhat appropriate for the Easter Weekend and what was still, mostly, a very Good Friday.

Those who took one look at the torrents heading their way and bailed out of coming to this one did, at least, have the consolation of staying dry behind their computers or in front of the TV as it lashed down from the warm up to the post-match handshakes. The water was already spraying up off the surface as Yoann Barbet stroked home dead ball after dead ball in his pre-kick off routine. Conditions didn’t get any better.

By the time we got down to proper business, you could have launched a flotilla down by the Braemar Road touchline. Flo Jo in particular, perhaps ruing one second half challenge that left him soaked through in the quagmire. But if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. Pack it up and go home. Not that there was anything particularly hot about yesterday, the first half especially.

DSC01346

View from the Braemar – Flo ended this one soaked through

That opening period being a somewhat tepid affair that saw even ‘angry dad’, my most favourite amongst those fans who sit around us in the Braemar Paddock (what genuine passion and enthusiasm that always stays the right side of ‘family’) remain silent for the vast majority of that opening period. The linesman on the near side saved the usual telling off that his performance so often warrants.

How things changed when the teams came back out after half time. There was vigour. There was gusto. There was the late arrival of Mrs Bruzon, delayed due to transport debacle. And as such, there was the customary goal for the opposition that her presence so often heralds.

If lucky pants, shirt and not shaving on a winning run work for some supporters, she’s almost the opposite. There have been several moments of what we shall simply call ‘unfortunate timing’ over the years. Within minutes of taking her seat, Sheffield United had taken the lead. A deflected effort from Chris Basham beating Daniel Bentley to make it 1-0. It spurred Brentford into life.

Yet, if Mrs B is somewhat of an albatross at times (in a footballing perspective), young Harry is the opposite. “Daddy. If we score a goal, will you lift me up?” he asked as play resumed.  Little more than ten minutes later, he was being raised aloft as Welsh international Chris Mepham (how good does that sound?) made it all square. His left footed drive from 12 yards out was followed up with the most incredible knee slide across the sodden surface.

Screen Shot 2018-03-31 at 08.11.49

Chris Mepham leads the celebratory charge

Talk about enjoying the moment of his first goal in league football. Yet who could blame him? What a wonderful season it has been for a player plucked from the B-team to the Bees first team. And from there to his national side.

It’s no wonder he celebrated as he did. For once, the horrific conditions aiding the cause There are plenty of tweets doing the rounds of this one. Take your pick. They’re all brilliant.

Yet if the goal was a moment of ecstasy, we were bought crashing back down to earth with a sickening bump moments later. With most supporters watching the celebration, over in the goal mouth referee Jeremy Simpson had taken umbrage with visiting goalkeeper Jamal Blackman lashing out at Ryan Woods. He was red carded yet, likewise, so was our own ginger Pirlo.

Having seen one version of the footage, I’m at a genuine loss as to why we’ve been penalised. Perhaps something was said to the ref or perhaps he had a better view. Perhaps he simply made the mistake that Woody’s subsequent reaction suggested. Who knows? Dean Smith told the waiting media after the game that he hadn’t seen the incident as yet. Perhaps on review he’ll then appeal.

It was a game changing moment. From Brentford pushing, it was United who once more gained the ascendency. Simon Moore was brought on between the sticks to join Clayton and Jack O’Connell as three ex Bees playing for the visitors. Yet it was Daniel Bentley who proved to be busiest from that moment on. He was the man responsible for us gaining the point which has kept faint play-off hopes still alive.

As Dean Smith would note in his press conference, “Nothing has changed. It is still must-win. The less games you have left then the less likely you are to make the Play-Offs if you don’t win games. We have gone four without a win now. We have played very well in two of those games and should have got something. We have to turn that around very quickly now on Monday.

So where do we go from here? Will the Bees appeal? Do we have any hope of the play-offs? A win at Bristol City is a must if that is to happen. Should we be content with aiming for a fourth successive top ten finish? Something that would, in itself, be an incredible achievement for a club with our history and budgetary challenges relative to our rivals.

When you have the likes of Sunderland (whose incredible 4-1 humbling of Derby County was THE result of the day) and Birmingham City tripping each other up at the bottom, it shows yet again that size, reputation and spending prowess count for nothing if you can’t do it when the ref blows his whistle.

Brentford couldn’t quite get the win yesterday. But given all that was going on, I’m well happy with a point.

Roll on Monday.

DSC01316

Where’s Karl Fletcher?

Nick Bruzon

The weather outside was frightful, but Lewis was so delightful.

18 Mar

Oh my. How good to be back in the warmth after that one. Brentford and Middlesbrough played out a 1-1 draw in blizzard like conditions at a freezing Griffin Park on Saturday. That much snow was falling all around, I half expected Shakin’ Stevens to put in an appearance at half time (best. song. ever) . It was a draw which, after the blips against Millwall and Cardiff City, has all but mathematically ended our play-off hopes. Come on Bees, prove me wrong – again.

DSC01105

A snowy Griffin Park

For those who missed it, Sky Sports have the video highlights on line already. Anyone who was there would have seen that despite dominating the possession, we couldn’t quite turn opportunities into goals. Yet against a side that have long been seen as a bogey team for the Bees, it was a more than creditable performance with man of the match Lewis Macleod and Ryan Woods pulling the strings in the middle whilst referee Simon Hooper pulled our legs erm, in the middle.

His sending off of substitute Romaine Sawyers for two yellow cards, the second of which was softer than than the avalanche of snowflakes that filled the air, rounded off a poor afternoon for the man in black. The visiting players surrounding a referee who should have been stronger after what was, at best, an accidental coming together. Yet his missing the opportunity to insist on an orange ball (one day, it will come back) should have perhaps warned us what to expect.

Screen Shot 2018-03-18 at 07.56.05

Sky highlights show Romaine see red. The ref in no way allowing himself to be influenced.

For Middlesbrough, a first half lead came with an impressive strike from the commanding Adama Traoré after twenty minutes. Running across the edge of the box, he found the gap to fire a powerful drive past Daniel Bentley. It was a lead that came at a time when the game had been delicately balanced. Both teams having already seen a handful of efforts. It was a lead that didn’t last for long as Lewis Macleod, who had earlier seen a shot from just outside the area tipped over by Darren Randolph, fired home low and hard from the edge of the box to equalise.

One all and with over an hour to go, surely there would be more to come? Sadly not. That’s how it stayed despite the best efforts of Macleod and his colleagues as Brentford really began to turn the screw.

Even the appearance of Sergi Canos from the bench, for once the gloves understandable in absolutely bitter conditions, wouldn’t tip the balance. Brentford had the lion’s share of the possesion and chances but Middlesbrough were resolute and, for their defence alone, justified with the point that keeps them in the final play-off place.

DSC01098

Sergi with his snow, ball. It should have been orange

But for sharper finishing or what the BBC match report describes as Brentford “guilty at times of overplaying in dangerous areas” it could have been all three points for The Bees. Instead, the late intervention of Mr. Hooper meant an early bath for Romaine and a draw being played out in those final few minutes as Boro’ finally pressed once more.  

Massive kudos to Lewis Macleod. We all know the injury hell he has been through over the last few years but how that seemed a thing of the past. With clear direction to shoot from the edge of the box, a single goal was the least his play, opening up the Boro’ midfield as easily as a can of tuna, deserved.

They were awful conditions to watch a game of football in with a howling, icy wind cutting through supporters as the snow fell. It can’t have been much fun playing in it and perhaps the desire to keep warm lifted both teams to really run at each other from the off. It was hardly the kick and rush game one would expect from a Tony Pulis outfit, even if that physical aspect was still there as they let the Bees push on.

DSC01076

Lewis was head and shoulders above Middlesbrough

Instead, we were offered an entertaining spectacle with Brentford keen to underline the play-off credentials. Sadly, it was Middlesbrough who got the point that keeps them in but with Brentford 8 off with 8 to play, we’re now in the territory of really needing to pull in a few favours. Stranger things have happened of course and at least we’ve now got an international break in which to take stock.

On a personal note, a huge word of thanks to everybody at the club – players and staff – for all their efforts yesterday. Harry was lucky enough to be one of the mascots and had an absolutely fantastic time from start to finish. Talk about being made to feel welcome and a proper part of things. Even in so much as being allowed to kick the ball on the centre spot when the teams came out and leading the line in the handshake.

“Daddy. When I was shaking the hands of all the naughty team I felt like a real footballer.” They’re not my words but those of a four year old fan who had the time of his life when he could have been forgiven for asking to give this one a swerve and staying at home with a hot chocolate.

DSC01042

Feeling like ‘a real footballer’

Nick Bruzon

Can anything top Tuesday ? Is your overdraft facility ready? Bring on Leeds United.

24 Feb

Brentford travel to Leeds United on Saturday afternoon, supporters still buoyant after Tuesday night’s trashing of Birmingham City whilst looking at a Championship table that sees us in tenth place. Just four points outside the play-off zone following the rest of the mid-week fixtures being played out and then Sheffield United going down at Hull City last night . For the record, a result that sees us not only keep pace with that top pack but also sees the Tigers leapfrog the Blues at the trapdoor end of the table.

It really is a bit of an odd one today. In the nicest sense. Tuesday against Birmingham City was one of those real ‘I was there moments’. The club have bigged up their ‘Brentford nights’ campaign and what a way to bring that to a (regular) season’s climax. I’ve got a feeling there may be mention in next Saturday’s programme column (for the Cardiff City game) although in the meantime, if you’d like to read more…… 😉 , there’s the post-game article here.

Tuesday night saw (and heard) a game like no other.

Now, it almost feels a bit ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show.’ Just a bit. Specifically due to the horrific £39 away ticket price being charged by Leeds. A subject which has very much been the talking point amongst supporters these last few days. Billy (Grant) of Beesotted has written a voluminous, passionate and essential piece of reading on the subject. For those who haven’t, somehow, seen this as yet then you can find it here.

Even more terrifying, those wanting to make an 11th hour trip to Elland Road can ‘pay on the day’  but are going to have to shell out an incredible £44 (forty-four pounds) for the privilege of cheering on the Bees.

Forty. Four. Pounds. Just, wow. This is all kind of wrong yet there’s not much I can say on this that hasn’t been said already. At a time when even the Premier League have embraced the ‘Twenty’s Plenty’ campaign for away fans (in no small part due to the FSF, of which Billy is a board member) then surely the League have to take some sort of action to stop visiting supporters being priced out?

It’s no wonder only 500 advance tickets have been sold for this one. The fact that the Beesotted team and the chairman of BIAS (Adam Hobbs) are amongst those publically boycotting today’s game tells you all you need to know about feelings on this. Twenty’s plenty.

Thirty’s dirty. Fourty’s naughty. Fourty Four is taking the f’in piss and would require an appointment with the bank manager.

fortys-naughty-logo-895x640

Well said, Beesotted !!

That said, hats off to those making the trip today. Here’s hoping they are in as loud a voice as on Tuesday night (and overdraft facilities have room to spare).  If the atmosphere is even half of what it was, then it promises to be a special one. Whilst I’ve a feeling that the presence of more Brentford old boys lining up against us won’t generate the same level of, erm, excitement it’s still nice to get one over any of your former heroes. With Adam Forsahw and Stuart Dallas both due to start for Leeds, here’s hoping we show them what they’ve missed out on.

Yet at the same time, there’s nothing but respect in what this pair achieved at Griffin Park. And with apologies for repeating myself, there’ll always be ‘that goal’ at Fulham. Feelings towards Adam and Stuart would seem to be the polar opposite from Tuesday night’s fun and games.

View from the stand - Stuart Dallas celebrates doing that thing.....

Stuart Dallas – one of THE Brentford moments

As for the game itself, it’s a tough one to call. Leeds United are displaying form that is erratic as their choice of club crest whilst our last road trip saw a comprehensive defeat of a Sunderland team for whom the phrase ‘dead man walking’ would seem an appropriate one. Then there was Tuesday against Birmingham. Five goals for. None conceeded. Morale is currently through the roof and singing voices are in fine form.

Will Brentford make it three in a row? Is there any chance we can come close to the level of performance against Birmingham City? With Neal Maupay now scoring for pleasure, Ryan Woods putting in a gargantuan performance mid-week, Alan Judge fit, Ollie Watkins on fire and the promise of Sergi Canos to return then who knows what might happen ?

Roll on this afternoon when we find out. Even if, for most of us, it will be c/o Simon Ratcliffe, Ciaran Brett and , of course, Mark Burridge holding it all together with his  ever eloquent commentary.

DSC00524

The Bees celebrate the fourth on Tuesday. Or was it the fifth?

Nick Bruzon

As unexpected shocks go, this is up with the best of them. What next, though?

1 Feb

Can we look yet? 5.30am and the alarm has just gone off but, it seems, Brentford are in the clear. At least for now. The domestic transfer window has formally slammed shut and we have survived. Whilst outside of TW8, the biggest Bournemouth related shock of yesterday was their beating Chelsea 3-0 at Stamford Bridge, at Griffin Park we had our own cause to be wary of Eddie Howe. The Bournemouth manager reported by Sky Sports to have bid a staggering £5.5 million for Chris Mepham. Something that other sources later claimed had been upped to £7(seven) million pounds.

Chris is a huge talent and has done nothing but impress in the handful of appearances since making his Championship debut but a bid of that size is one that nobody expected. With all the talk of Lasse Vibe heading off to China or Ryan Woods to Sunderland, nobody had considered the thought that our new star could be on his way to the seaside. Thankfully, he isn’t. For now.

DSC00436

Chris Mepham won’t be turning his back on the Bees

Once again, it shows how much guess work and clickbait goes into those January rumours. Nobody saw this one coming and it will be very interesting to hear the official verdict on our January business. After the carnage in the summer when Harry Redknapp started to splash the cash at the 11th hour, you could have been forgiven for fearing the worst.

Instead it has been a case of tumbleweed at Griffin Park. Chris Mepham is still at Brentford and that can only be a good thing for all concerned. He has shown so much ability and maturity in such a short time that there is no doubt he can play at the highest level. Yet, for now, he continues his footballing education with Brentford and that’s fantastic news.

Instead, it is the ‘in door’ which has swung this time around with the signing of 20 year old Chiedozie Ogbene confirmed from Limerick earlier in the week. Another free scoring attacker (10 goals in 37 appearances last season) he is a player with huge potential. With Alan Judge staying at Griffin Park and Emiliano Marcondes taking those initial steps in the first team, competition is set to be even fiercer than ever before.

Ogbene

#WelcomeOgbene

In other ‘non’ news, number 26 is still at Burnley  – so no sell on clause for us. Although given his family ties, there was no way he was ever going to join the likes of Arsenal or any other Southern club. Manchester City would have been the only viable option out of all those clubs being linked with the strike happy centre-back.

That said, Justin Shaibu has gone out  – albeit on loan to Walsall. I really thought he may have been given a bit more of a try out in the first team – especially when Lasse has not been available. One does wonder what will happen should the Great Dane decide his career lies abroad. The transfer window in China remains open until February 28th so I don’t think we are quite out of the woods there. Still, all that is pure conjecture. We know from Dean Smith and other club sources that he has been in conversation with another club but, to date, no agreement has been met. Fingers crossed that Lasse sticks with the rest of his team mates to see where this season might take us.

I’m a very happy man this morning. Whilst it has got to the point that nothing would surprise us anymore (and almost did), when the worst that happened on deadline day was my triple Chelsea defence taking a fantasy football hammering – thanks, Eddie – then things have gone very, very well.

Yet had we sold anyone then I think it fair to say that whenever this has happened we’ve bounced back. This summer’s window has seen the quintessential example of this, with it taking Birmingham City the best part of four months to finally limp out of the bottom three. Even then, it took a win over fellow relegation strugglers Sunderland. Brentford, meanwhile, have picked ourselves up since losing Maxime et al to become the divisional form team as we’ve climbed from bottom of the table to the fringes of the play-off race.

But we digress. I don’t want to get caught up on the woes and travails at St. Andrew (albeit February 20th could be a very tasty encounter). Like it or not we are set up to grow, develop and sell players at present. Everybody has their price although clearly Chris Mepham’s is expected to be a lot more than has already been dangled under our noses.

We didn’t sell this time around. It’s brilliant. Moreso, it poses a very interesting question now about what happens should the Bees really kick on from that wonderful recent form. Espcially if Lasse stays put.

Large

 

Nick Bruzon

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

20 Jan

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

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

Andre Gray for 3-0

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

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

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

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

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

DSC00277 (1)

Bolton were left looking dazed and confused by the end

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

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

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

SWIFT Brentford QPR

John Swift. The former Bee is missing in action today

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

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

Sergi Canos v Reading

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

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

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

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

Nick Bruzon

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

 

Table makes wonderful reading as Brentford beat Bolton to tighten the gap.

14 Jan

Brentford 2 Bolton Wanderers 0. Another league game unbeaten at Griffin Park (that’s 13 now, our longest run since 1951) and The Bees a mere three points outside the play-offs. True, that gap is tighter than a duck’s behind at the moment.  The same winning margin divides all six teams from Sheffield United down to ourselves in 11th. Yet with victory (and other results going our way)  all that stands between Brentford and a place in the promotion slots, let’s not pretend things aren’t getting very exciting as we enter the second half of the season. Saturday’s trip to Reading already can’t come soon enough.

DSC00262

Form an orderly queue. Bolton were the visitors on Saturday

It was a game where victory eventually came to the team who bossed it yet nobody would have been surprised had we left Griffin Park with a point. Brentford had taken the lead just before half time. Flo Jo picking up a sweet pass from Lasse Vibe to hammer home high and hard from the cusp of the six-yard box and into the far corner of the net. It was a powerful finish to light up what in truth had been a somewhat turgid opening period. But a 1-0 lead going into the break was all that mattered and as the players re-emerged, it seemed only a matter of time before that was doubled.

Kamo fired straight at goalkeeper Ben Alnwick from yards out with the whole of the goal to aim at. Nico saw a shot bounce of the post. The Bees pressed. The Bees came close. Then the balance of play began to swing as Bolton sensed a glimmer of hope. Dean stuck to his starting XI as the pressure built.

The away fans gasped. The home support clenched buttocks. If the first half had been a damp squib then this was very much exploding into life. A freekick was headed wide, I forget who, as Bolton came oh-so close. Barbet and Bjelland the unfortunate victims of a bouncing ball as Daniel Bentley came to the rescue.  Bolton, cynical in the challenge, but desperate for a point.

And then it was over. Sergi Canos, a late sub for Florian Jozefzoon, squaring it for Neal Maupay to double our lead with the sweetest of backheels. Being honest, there had been a slight suspicion of offside from where we were sitting but nobody cared. The execution had been delicious and the sense of relief was palpable. Besides, watching the video highlights afterwards (Sky Sports have theirs up already; 12pm for the league to let us put the ‘official’ version up) there was nothing wrong with the goal. Perfect positioning and the calmest of finishes. Stick that in your pie and eat it, Ian Moose.

DSC00277 (1)

Bolton were left looking dazed and confused by the end

It’s hard to find fault on what was a wonderful afternoon. Brentford continuing their fine, fine form ahead of Saturday’s trip to Reading. There’ll be over 2,000 Bees fans at that one. A quite wonderful effort for a game where the reward for another win is there for all to see. If I have any ‘negative’ (and the word is used in the loosest sense) it would have been in the delay to making any substitutions.

Whereas the Warburton era saw you able to set your watch by his making changes within ‘the zone’ (60-70 minutes on the clock), regardless of how the team were doing, these days there seems to be almost a reluctance to switch things around until late on. Even when the opposition are turning the screw as we saw yesterday. Sitting where I was, there was a definite upping off the the ante from Bolton that might have seen us pay pay the price with the Bees continuing as was.

It’s a small observation and, ultimately, one that will be dismissed by the fact we came away with a 2-0 win. That will be proven as Dean having faith in the players he picked to do a job and their following it through. And on that point I can’t disagree – they DID. Yet equally, football is a game of fine margins. We all saw how tense it got for a while and there have been times this season when it’s felt as though we’ve been slow to react to what is happening in front of us.

But as we all know, I’m just the numpty on the terrace. I couldn’t manage a beer yesterday (it’s dry January) let alone a football team. Perhaps that is just part and parcel of being a Bees/football supporter – we’ve been conditioned over the years to fear the worst. To expect that kick in the nuts; that ultimate sucker punch. Defenders are paid to defend and they did that admirably. Chris Mepham in particular having yet another stand out game. Talk about a wise head on young shoulders. Dean made his calls and the result shows he got them right. Again.

Equally, the Warburton era saw a team picked by numbers even when perhaps a change might have been due. Jonathan Douglas (at the end) and Harlee Dean (when he was at the more unpredictable end of the scale) seemingly nailed onto the teamsheet. Dean isn’t afraid to mix things around as was seen with Sergi tied to the bench for most of yesterday’s game. With Mepham continuing to keep out more experienced colleagues.

DSC00281

Late sub Sergi – insert your own caption

But we digress. That’s the price of writing these things on the hoof. Mark Warburton was a hero to pretty much all of us at Griffin Park. He did his thing his way and we all know how close Brentford came. Likewise, we all know how things ended.

That was then, this is now. Dean Smith is the man in charge. Along with his coaching staff, he’s more than getting the results. More than building a quite wonderful team spirit. He has his team set for a second half of the season that could, if things continue, eclipse any that have come before.

Honestly, I didn’t think I’d be saying this back in September given the start that Brentford had. Players sold, bottom of the table and four points from eight games. Then, we went to Bolton and won 3-0. How things have turned since that point. Could Saturday’s win over the same opposition prove an equally telling catalyst ?

One things for sure, it’s going to be fun finding out. Here’s to Reading and that gap towards the top getting even tighter.

wpid-mind-the-gap-2014-06-23-08-03

The red and white express raced to another win on Saturday

Nick Bruzon

Success for Gibraltar in FA Cup. Defeat for Brentford at home to Notts County.

7 Jan

Brentford 0 Notts County 1. A result that it sure to cause a few rumblings on the Richter scale of FA Cup shocks. None moreso than because it means Gibraltar, currently placed 205th in the FIFA World Rankings, have representation in the fourth round. Size and reputation counted for nothing with talismanic Gibraltarian International Liam Walker proving key to the Magpies’ cause. He came on at the death to ensure County broke Brentford hearts and condemn the Bees to defeat despite throwing the proverbial kitchen sink at the visitors. A shame it hadn’t happened 90 minutes earlier.

IMG_2959

There had been so much optimism before kick off

I’ve seen Liam in action twice this season and neither appearance has been a happy time for the Brentford. The first being the occasion of a World Cup qualifier at the end of August. Despite his best efforts – very much the star performer for Gibraltar in that one – Belgium finished it by taking their visitors beyond brackets and close to double figures with a 9-0 win in Liège.

It was the same day Maxime Colin and Jota joined Harlee Dean in the triple transfer to Birmingham City. Fortunately, things would eventually settle down for the Bees on that front and form would return, quite spectacularly. Not so much for the Blues. Equally spectacularly.

On Saturday, the boot was on the other foot. It was the away team, again inspired by Walker, who came away with a result that the bookmakers had failed to anticipate. It was the home team – picked by Dean Smith – with a performance that was dialed in against one of spirit, fight and a desire to win that the Bees had failed to anticipate. They’ll have been dancing in the streets of Gibraltar last night.

That, or Sax II.

Screen Shot 2018-01-07 at 08.01.45

Yet it proves, yet again, what happens when you underestimate the opposition. See also: Walsall at home in the third round two seasons ago. As expected, changes were made but there was enough first team experience in the starting XI and on the bench to have done better. Much better. It was an opportunity for players to step up, seize the opportunity and shine. Sadly, the only ones to do that were Notts County.

All the talk in the media would be of Jon Stead’s goal. True, it was very special. Yet it should have been as much about Notts County putting in a complete and consistent team performance. From the moment of kick off to the Walker inspired denouement. The Magpies showed it in spades. The Bees looked second best.

DSC00197

All over at full time – Walker the winner.

Dean Smith would use his post match interviews to declare, “It was probably not what we deserved”, adding “I thought we had the lion’s share of possession and bossed the game for large periods. I certainly didn’t think we deserved to lose.”

As has been said oh so many times, that’s just not how football works. I’ve got huge respect for Dean but he’s wrong on this one. Chances count for nothing. Neither do possession stats. Balls in the back of the net are the only thing that matters as a means of measuring progress to the fourth round on paper.

For the record, the game ended with possession of 53%- 47% in our favour. Less a Lion’s share and more a narrow margin. The goal charts ended 1-0 in Notts’ favour. Equally narrow but that’s all they needed.

DSC00136

At least Buzz and Buzzette got their hands on the cup

I suppose we can concentrate on the league. And that IS a good thing from some respects. IF we are going to go for it. The gap to the bottom three surely already too huge whilst the play-offs are just six points away. A concerted surge towards the top and this will be nothing more than a statistic in the record books. At least, for our top brass.

Yet for the fans, the FA Cup is still huge. And the chance for a run in this oldest of tournaments is always something to get supporters salivating. Tin foil trophies had been made in the morning. Some long journies undertaken to get to Griffin Park.

We had the ability to win it but too often the Bees looked out of shape. Captain Josh McEachran unable to lift his team. With Lasse Vibe and Andreas Bjelland missing (in the the club shop), Ryan Woods missing (in the pub, but on the soft drinks) and Nico Yennaris just missing, we lacked our solid spine. Players had the chance to make a name for themselves. They didn’t take it.

On the flip side, Emiliano Marcondes, making his debut, showed those first flashes of the potential we have all read so much about. Indeed, but for that Walker inspired backs-to-the-wall performance in the final few moments, things could have been different when the Dane’s header came back off the post.

But with County looking solid as The Rock, not even the wonderful Alan Judge could make a difference. He looked sharp, fit and fast as he made a long overdue and thrilling return to the side. There was no challenge shirked and one moment of genius to free fellow substitute Ollie Watkins that had the crowd on their feet, anticipating a goal. Sadly, it wasn’t to be.

DSC00156

Alan Judge in full flow – very much a sight for sore eyes

We’ve lost in the Cup before. We’ll do it again. The saddest thing about Saturday was that lessons of the past should have been learned. Yet when the club hadn’t even put FA patches on the first team shirts, perhaps our longevity in this tournament was pre-ordained.

At home, our own third round ritual of making the tinfoil trophy ended with it the replica cup being consigned to, then retrieved from, the dustbin. “Daddy. Do we have to throw it away? Can’t we keep it for next year?” asked HB. Not even I’m that mean and so it was duly salvaged. With optimism like that, it’s tough to be overly despondent this morning. It’s just a shame we’ll have to wait 365 days to feel it once again.

All that remains to be said is congratulations to Notts County, Liam Walker and Gibraltar. The FA Cup loves to throw up a story and with the Magpies in wonderful league form too, could this be the year they are the underdogs to make a run towards Wembley?  The year that Gibraltar, whose previous international ‘highlights’ include conceeding the faster ever International goal (Christian Benteke in 8.1 seconds in the opposite fixture with Belgium) and equalising against minnows Scotland in a Euro 2016 qualifier at Hampden Park, make that next step up on the World stage?

That’s my one consolation from this one. And I’m clinging to it.

DSC00205

A solitary Gibraltarian flag held aloft at Griffin Park

IMG_8328-2

Another Brentford cup run consigned to the wastebin of Griffin Park history

Nick Bruzon