Tag Archives: Saïd Benrahma

Prince William. Tom Hanks. David Cameron. Simon Hateley. Your boys took one hell of a beating. Again

13 Feb

Come on, Aston Villa. Perhaps one day you’ll give Brentford a game. One can’t even begin to describe the performance and dominance tonight as Thomas Frank’s Bees made it three on the spin at home to the Villans. Chuck in three away draws and that’s a mighty impressive record against the one time European Champions (1982 in Rotterdam, in case you hadn’t heard it mentioned before). Dean Smith’s return to Griffin Park was anything but a happy one as we warmed up for Sunday’s FA Cup fifth round tie at Swansea City in mightily impressive form. 

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Romaine brings the ball out of the back

It was another case of true domination against Villa. We’ve all been used to it over the last few seasons but this was about as one sided as it came. The visitor’s midfield was non-existent. Only a mass of bodies at the back, and the vagaries of our ‘referee’ Gavin Ward, keeping Brentford out. Yet the fact that it took injury time before Neal Maupay finally found the net made the eventual result all the sweeter.

It had never seemed in doubt from the first few minutes as Aston Vila were put on the immediate backfoot. It was a position from which they struggled to make any inroads but, and as we’ve said many times is the thing that actually counts in football, Brentford were unable to make the possession count. Brentford were unable to find the back of the net. Brentford looked like they may finally drop two points at home to Villa. Then that man Maupay stepped up and did his thing.

Oh my word, what a goal. What an explosion of ecstasy and relief from the crowd. What a finish as Maupay burst clear into the box before curling it high into the top corner. Visiting goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic left rooted to the spot as ball flew past him. Unable to do anything more beyond turning to watch the ball make the net ripple from the sweetest of strikes.

I’m struggling to remember specifics at present. The brain is a blur of excitement and relief. Despite outplaying our illustrious opponents for huge swathes of the game, we’d been unable to find a way though. The impressive Sergi Canos forcing a fine early save from Kalinic in the first half to set the tone for what followed in all aspects beyond the actual scoring of a goal. Here’s hoping he’s fit for Sunday and the injury related substitution was nothing more than a precaution. 

Even the most ardent of Brentford supporters were perhaps beginning to feel that this one may have to go down as an opportunity missed. Neal Maupay thought otherwise. It was one of those where you HAD to be there. I’m sure it was great on TV but the communal outpouring of celebration as the goal went in was one of THE moments of a season that is rapidly building pace to a frenzied denouement. Whilst one has to appreciate there were those who missed this game through their own personal circumstances, those choosing to deliberately stay away are missing out on something quite wonderful. 

Of course Warbs, Dean and Thomas have all played their parts in quite magnificent style but you have to doff your cap to Matthew Benham and the current regime at the helm of the club. Their vision and guidance has brought through the likes of Said Benrahma, Sergi Canos and Neal Maupay. Ezri and Julian continue to impress at the back. Long term Bee Yoann Barbet continues to exude enthusiasm from every pore. The last player to come in from the warm up and one of the last to leave the field of play at full time.It really is a special time to support Brentford.

That said, Thomas named a side without a traditional right back that instead chose to take the game to their illustrious opponents. Perhaps here was the answer to how you fit Watkins, Benrahma and wing back Sergi Canos (not a typo) into the same team. Moses Odubajo on the other side pushing an extremely high line as Villa struggled to get out of their own half. It was delightful to watch.   

Full time came with a traditional response from Dean Smith. Catching up with the replay upon the return home, he opined to Sky how it was, “On the scale of chances, not what we deserve”. Come on Dean, next you’ll be telling us that Villa won the European Cup. For once, don’t do press by rote. Just try and tell it like it was. This was as one sided a game as I’ve seen since the last time Villa visited this part of West London. Prince William. Tom Hanks. David Cameron. Simon Hateley  – your boys took one hell of a beating. Again. 

Where I would agree with Dean is his commentary about the referee. He’s always been one to say it like it is when it comes to the man in the middle and here he was spot on as he observed, “I’ve said this season the refereeing has been pathetic at times.” Truly, Gavin Ward was a nightmare. A Keith Stroud in Bobby Madley’s clothing. Penalties denied. Advantages pulled back. Decisions made with all the authority of a roulette ball trying to find an eventual resting place. How lovely would it be to have a referee and linos who get on with the game rather than instil a pre-match level of dread which is then fulfilled as proceedings get underway.  

The flip side to all this being that we won. Nobody will care that Gavin did once more what Gavin does so often. All that counts are the three points. 

Now bring on Swansea City and the FA Cup.

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Said takes the plaudits at full time

Nick Bruzon

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Bring on the rail replacement bus after another night of goals, goals, goals.

6 Feb

We’re through. On a night where the FA Cup headlines were made by a huge scare for Wolves and a massive slip up for Middlesbrough, Brentford dodged the potato skin that was a replay at home to Barnet and eased to a 3-1 win. But for a brief flurry later in the second half it was every bit as comfortable as the scoreline suggests. Indeed, it probably should have been more as the (proper) Bees made it 10 games unbeaten ahead of Saturday’s visit to Nottingham Forest and now face the prospect of a fifth round trip to Swansea City.

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There was no way through for Barnet on Tuesday

A game played out in the shadow of Tony Kleanthous’ crazed rant about ticket allocation, something caused completely by his own club’s somewhat free and easy approach to sales, had the potential to see Brentford caught with their pants down. The Barnet supporters certainly started off in vocal form before Sergi Canos took the wind out of their sails with the opening goal after 7(seven) minutes. A short corner routine saw the ball guided in as the Spaniard slid home his third goal in as many games and from there it was game over. 

This is not a drill. That is not a typo. A short corner worked. Repeat. A short corner actually worked. You got the feeling from that moment that this was going to be our night. When that most unsuccessful of set pieces pays dividends you know something special is happening. 

Brentford continued to push. Barnet weren’t even at the races in the opening period. The epic 3-3 of the original game being put into context as a near full strength Brentford team took the non-leaguers apart. Luke Daniels, Josh McEachran and Mads Bech Sörensen coming in to a team full of all those other names we know and love. Thomas Frank was certainly taking no chances on this one, even if he was able to see the likes of Ollie Watkins , Yoann Barbet and Kamohelo Mokotjo kept fresh for Saturday’s trip to Nottingham Forest.

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Mads Bech Sörensen looked comfortable filling in for Yoann Barbet

Julian Jeanvier made it 2-0 with half an hour gone as he executed a beautiful volley. Said Benrahma with the assist, yet again. How many times has that line been used in recent games? Five in the last five, being the answer. Indeed, per the BBC he’s actually had a hand in eight goals over that period. Aswell as the assists he’s also found the back of the net three times. A wonderful return for a player who has yet again proven the wisdom in our once maligned transfer policy. Hats off to Mr. Benham and the recruitment team for their vision.

Half time came and went. Brentford continued to push. The visitors began to up their tempo. An early contretemps on the Braemar Road touchline threatening to spill over as emotions got the better of Barnet and referee Roger East lost total control of a situation that eventually resolved itself in two yellow cards for our guests. Luke Daniels saw his crossbar rattled as Neal Maupay and Romaine Sawyers came close. Sergi and Said continuing to pull the strings. And then it was over. 

The goal machine that is Neal Maupay did his thing once more. This time it was The World Cup’s Henrik Dalsgaard of Brentford (TM) who turned provider. His ball into the box swept home by the Frenchman to make it five successive games where we have scored three goals or more. One can only presume Nottingham Forest fans are hoping Martin O’Neill has some added steel to his backline. On this run of form, you’d back Brentford to score against anyone.

With the Brentford fans still cheering, there was a glimmer of hope. David Tutonda firing home a quite exquisite strike to send the visiting supporters into rapture and offer some hope of salvation. Sadly, for them, it wasn’t to be. There were to be no further efforts or goals. No further FA Cup fairytale for the non-leaguers. Instead, it’s a trip from Griffin Park to Swansea City and their Liberty Stadium on the 17th for that infamous 4pm, rail replacement bus hit, Sunday afternoon fifth round tie.

Yet as we exited with the players celebrating and Peter Gilham exhorting us to check the website for travel news, could there be some salvation coming the way of anybody wanting to make the journey for this one? Here’s hoping.

All that’s to come. For now we’ve a trip to the City ground and a home game with Aston Villa to focus on before the visit to Swansea. The woes of November and December are rapidly disappearing over the horizon and Brentford are playing some incredible football.

Thomas Frank walked all round the ground at full time, following in the wake of his players to applaud the fans. There’s a real buzz around Griffin Park at present and it’s so nice to see him being able to enjoy it. Fair to say there’s probably a lot of egg on faces at present from those giving him a hard time after Dean Smith departed, with the Bees already tottering on the brink of that dreadful run. Instead, the defence has sorted itself out and the goals are flooding in.

What a time to be a Bee! Now bring on Swansea City. And Forest.

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View from the Braemar: Thomas and Said take the plaudits at full time.

Nick Bruzon    

Magnificent Brentford obliterate Blackburn. What an afternoon at Griffin Park.

2 Feb

My word. That was incredible. What an afternoon. What a game. What a result. Brentford swept aside Blackburn Rovers in a phenomenal display that saw a 0-2 deficit with just 7(seven) on the clock turned into an eventual 5-2 thrashing. We’ve handed out some football lessons over the last few seasons – the likes of Leeds United, Birmingham City and Aston Villa amongst those to feel the pain of a full force red machine – but this was something else. Moreso given the quite horrific start to proceedings.

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Brentford were head and shoulders above Blackburn at Griffin Park

We don’t do full fat match reports on these pages and now isn’t the time to change that record. If you were lucky enough to be there you’ll know how scintillating Brentford were. How irrepressible Said Benrahma was. How desperate were an opening eight minutes that saw Bradley Dack and Danny Graham hand in-form Blackburn an early lead with Daniel Bentley beaten twice. And then the Bees woke up.

Benrahma got our first after a wonderful exchange of passes. The Rovers defence sliced open with all the precision of a surgeon. The execution, clinical. That the goal came so soon after having shipped our second almost nullified the effect of going down so early. The crowd shifted from moan to buzz to noise.

The Bees kicked on. Harrison Reed in the Rovers midfield kicked off. It was symptomatic of his afternoon, tumbling under the most innocuous of challenges and doing his level best to wind up the Brentford players. But they, and the ref, were having none of it. Instead, all he got was a chorus of boos for his trouble. 

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Cheer up cheater Reed. Captain Romaine makes his point.

With Benrahma also finding the crossbar from out wide, Brentford went in 2-1 down at half time but very much in the ascendency. And when they came out for the second period, things escalated to the realms of fantasy football. Ollie Watkins levelled up from distance (something which seems to be very much his thing at present) as the Bees continued to turn the screw. 

Attacking with confidence, flair and swagger there was only one team in it. With Blackburn forced to withdraw both their goalscorers they could do nothing but try to soak up the relentless pressure. A kitchen sponge would have done a better job. 

Ollie Watkins got his second and our third on 73, heading home after David Raya made a mess of a high ball in the box. Five minutes later Neal Maupay doubled the lead after another slick passage of play from Thomas Frank’s free-flowing Bees. And with Brentford refusing to slow it down, birthday boy Sergi Canos completed the rout in the final few minutes.

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Size doesn’t matter – the Bees kept pushing up until the end.

One can’t underrate the beauty of our play or the tremendous character shown by the team. To go two down so quickly against a Blackburn side coming into the game on such a great run of form could have been the catalyst for disaster. Instead, it was a metaphorical boot up the backside that resulted in us being privileged enough to witness one of THE Brentford performances. 

The goals are up on Sky already – they’re every one of them worth a watch. Ollie Watkins ended this one being nominated for Sky Sports ‘goal of the day’. Frankly, it could have been any of the five. Trying to pick a Man-of-the-match from that one is a task akin to the judgement of Solomon. Ollie? Said? Kamo? Romaine? Yoann? Any of them.

Neal was as formidable and ballsy as ever. He must be nightmare to play against. Talking to one Braemar Road observer in the second half, he commented that we probably haven’t had such a tenacious (that’s the polite version) player since the likes of Terry Hurlock. There is no quarter given. Whether in the challenge, the build up or the finish. 

Honestly, I can’t was lyrical enough about this one. It was a finish and performance that put me in mind of Birmingham City last season. The 5-0 rout. Fans lined the pitch at full time as the players walked off to a heroes’ serenade. Thomas Frank, his arm around Neal Maupay, amongst the last to exit this arena of joy. How wonderful for him to see his own plans coming together after that horrific run of form that coincided with his own step up into the head coach role. Yet he has stuck to his principals, taken a horrific amount of flak on the chin but won those dissenting voices around. That’s now 9 games unbeaten and the goals flying in for fun. These 5 came after the 3 against Barnet, the 4 at Rotherham United and another 3 at home to Stoke City. 15 in four games – that’s just ridiculous.

The only question now being how Tuesday night can follow this? A visit from Barnet in an FA Cup replay, our lesson learned, could turn into a massacre IF Brentford continue with the same flair and attacking intent. It’s no gimme of course but I can’t wait to see if we can pick up then where we left off tonight.

What a performance.

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The smile says it all as Brentford go 4-2 up

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 

Is something rotten in the state of Brentford?

9 Dec

We’ve not really touched these pages in the last week or two. Matters outside of Griffin Park (namely, a social life rearing it’s head once more like some long forgotten relic of pre-parental life) have meant the column takes a back seat. To be honest, it’s probably no bad thing given the recent run in form that for Brentford finally looked like it may be coming to a halt with that 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion on Monday night. We all know what happened there, with the Bees doing to ‘deserving’ opponents what our own head coaches have felt hard done by so many times over the last few seasons. An injury time equaliser from Lewis Macleod rescuing a point after the hosts had conspired to miss all manner of seemingly unmissable chances earlier on. Good news, we thought. We have stopped the bleeding (not my words but those of Thomas Frank). Then Swansea City happened and a 3-2 defeat that was about as shambolic as it has been in recent months.

The Bees were a goal down with less than 30 seconds on the clock. The Griffin Park scoreboard hadn’t even sprung into life by the time Wayne Routledge had tapped home the opener after the defence had failed spectacularly to clear the most innocuous of pass backs and straight crosses. It was 2-0 Swansea soon after as Chris Mepham turned into his own net to gift the visitors a second. That the clock was registering 27 by the time Swansea made it three was only due to the injury suffered by Martin Olsson. One can only hope that the lengthy treatment before play resumed (there were 8 minutes added on at the end of the first half) was precautionary but it didn’t look good from where we sat on the far side.

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No minutes on the clock and already a goal down. 

That third goal was everything that was wrong with the team at present. A listless ball across midfield that was picked up by nobody. A needless free kick awarded on the right hand side. A ball delivered in that wasn’t cleared far enough before spaces were left for the return that would have embarrassed my son’s U-6 team. Kudos to Ollie McBurnie for attempting the overhead kick that lead to their goal but that he was even afforded that much room was a crime in itself. Leroy Fer made no mistake as the Brentford defence were unable to mop up the resulting detritus. I’ve seen better markers in a packet of Sharpies. 3-0 down and 27 minutes gone, 8 of which had seen the clock stopped for Olsson’s injury.

Frustratingly for Brentford, that unfortunate break in play should have allowed the team time to regroup. To have a chat about what next to avoid the inevitable third and actually find a way back into the game. But there had been nothing and the inevitable happened.

That’s it. If you want to read about inspired comebacks. About almost snatching a point. About hitting the bar two or three times then be my guest. Here’s the BBC website. Here’s Brentford official. Here’s Sky Sports where the report is about as lightweight as our midfield was for that opening period but they do have the goal highlights. I’d suggest you watch them just to see how not to play football.

Don’t let a fight back fool you or mask over another dreadful start. I’d hope Thomas has been up all night figuring out how to repair the gaping holes in the team, in their confidence and in supporter morale. The boos on the third goal and half time suggest that the crowd as finally been lost.

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View from the Braemar. The perimeter boards really rubbing it in during the first half.

It was yet another game where quite wonderful individuals have been that. Individual. Where the team spirit has seemingly gone out the window. Where the inability to kick a ball forward instead of faff has cost us. Where the result of being unable to put in a challenge has been a glut of goals conceded in a short space of time. See also Preston. QPR. Middlesbrough. Sheffield United. I honestly thought the game with the Blades had seen us as off the pace as we could possibly be but this one really trumped it.

That first half was on a par with, if not worse than, Oxford United in the league cup a few years back. At least in that one (and we’re clutching at straws) Marinus could blame his relative short time in the job, the sandpit of a pitch and his own tactical naivety in picking eleven players with barely a handful of first team appearances between them. But Thomas has been part of the set up for two years. He knows the players. They know him. This was a good line up – on paper – but instead it did what it has done time and again in recent weeks. Defensive hesitancy. Midfield absence. Full backs brutally exposed. Passing the ball sideways and backwards instead of forward. Inability to make a challenge, close down or simply mark an opponent. Just not kicking it away when it was near the goal. The ‘discussion’ amongst the team after the third went in was there for all to see.

To be fair, it changed after. As the heavens opened, the Bees came alive. Albeit Brentford very much had Daniel Bentley to thank for even keeping us alive at 3-1 down. This after Ollie Watkins had pulled one back in the first half and before Said Benhrahma gave us hope with a wonderful freekick midway through the second. But it was all too late. You can’t keep on giving away 2 or 3 quick fire goals – bang, bang, bang – and expect to take anything from a game.

From the point where we were named as joint favourites for the league title with Leeds United, Brentford have not so much hit the skids as gone through the crash barrier and plummeted down the mountain side. We’ve got games coming up at Hull City and then home to Bolton Wanderers. Both sides in the rapidly diminishing clutch of teams currently below the Bees. Failure to pick up at least 4 points out of 6 in those will see us getting sucked into that relegation vortex.

It’ll be a big ask given Thomas has only picked up 4 points from his opening 9 games. Even Marinus had managed 8 from the same period. What we’d give for that sort of form at the moment although please note the Dijkuizen experiment is not one I’m calling for a return of. Ever.

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

What’s really troubling me is why this isn’t working at the moment. We’ve had many poor teams and poor runs over the years at whatever level we’ve played. But the squad is currently packed full of internationals. It is the same squad Dean Smith had. We have the Championship’s second top scorer (Neal Maupay currently one behind Lewis Grabban). Top flight clubs covet the likes of Ollie Watkins, Chris Mepham, Daniel Bentley and Ezri Konsa. Josh McEachran (up there for player of the season so far) has pretentions of playing for England.

We’re not talking about times where the set up has been so thin that we’ve had to beg a favour off Neil Shipperly. These are good players. Great players. Players who hit the ground running and propelled Brentford to the very top end of the table back in August and September. Now, they’ve got all the confidence of a studio audience going in to a recording of Mrs. Brown’s Boys.

Neil Shipperly

Neil Shipperley. Never forget

Is it simply bad luck? Injuries limiting selection? Or is there something going on behind the scenes. Something as simple as an arm around the shoulders that is missing? Or something more in tune with a change in tactical set up? This should have been a seamless transition but for whatever reason it’s just not working out at the moment.

Let’s not pretend that the end of Dean Smith’s time here didn’t see us in a mini-blip relative to what he’d done prior with just 1 win out of 6. Yet what was intrinsically different then was that he had the winning form that made nobody in any doubt it would be back again soon. Even when we weren’t taking all three points, there was none of this constant shipping of goals over a short space of time.

Nobody has a divine right to be any good. We can’t just rock up and expect to win. Equally though, you still need to rock up in the first place. You can’t keep on giving the opposition two or three goal leads and expect to come away with anything.

Thomas has got a huge, huge challenge ahead of him. Both tactically and psychologically. I hope he has thick skin and a plan B. Or C. The way the crowd reacted yesterday after a frankly awful opening period suggest that if he can’t turn things around fast, things could get very ugly. For everyone.

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Raining (goals) at Griffin Park v Swansea

Nick Bruzon

Another defensive copy/paste but at least we’re getting good at kick-offs.

11 Nov

QPR 3. Brentford 2. What can you say? Not much. Try the BBC, Beesotted or ‘official’ for your match reports. Results saw The Bees end the day in 15th whilst our next opponents, Middlesbrough are up to second after their own win. Only Norwich City, our previous ‘away’ opposition, stand between them and the table top. Nobody said Championship life was easy, that’s for sure. But those goals against yesterday. Ewww. Not pretty. It felt like Preston all over again. If you want to see them once more then the defensive highlights are below.

Defensively challenged

It had all promised so much. The Bees back to winning ways and picking up the first points for Thomas Frank after steam-rollering Millwall last weekend. The team flying once more after being bundled (and rained) out of it at Norwich City. QPR with the somewhat dubious lure of having just seen Steve McClaren named as October’s ‘manager-of-the-month’. We all know what ‘should’ happen after that.  Everything was in place for another win. And then disaster struck as the defence went walk about for a ten-minute spell in the second half.

You were there. You don’t need me to repeat the obvious or dissect this further. It was something that Thomas had no choice but to acknowledge in his own post-match interview –  which you can see in full further below. That chat, one which looked like it was taking place in front of a room previously occupied by the Loftus Road firing squad.  

Yet more agonising was the fact that this was the second time in the last three away games that we’ve gone awol for a short period, during which time three goals have been conceded and the game effectively lost. Don’t forget there was also the trip to Preston last month where the score reached 3-0 to the home team before we’d even left the changing room.

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Thomas  updates us. (But has anyone seen Ian Holloway or Chris Ramsey, recently?)

That we almost turned that one around and gave ourselves hope yesterday when the World Cup’s Henrik Dalsgaard of Brentford made it 3-2 with 82 on the clock makes it all the more frustrating. All the more confusing. Similar happened at Deepdale. We can score goals. We play beautiful attacking football at times. Our young centre backs are quite magnificent whilst it’s wonderful having Moses Odubajo back aswell. We all know how strong Daniel Bentley has been for us. Just why do we have these blips?  

Well, as Thomas noted in that video, “The most important thing for me at the moment is the desire to get better”. Likewise, his comments on the BBC after both yesterday’s game and the one at Preston have a very similar feel.

Preston: Three goals away from home should be more than enough to win three points but we need to defend better in general. In this league you need to be on it.

QPR: In the second half we had a blackout more or less for 10 minutes, where we defended way too soft for all three goals. We need to do that better in general.

Doom and gloom from me? No. Frustration and confusion. That’s for sure. As much due to the injuries. Ollie Watkins, who had a blinder after he came on against Millwall, was missing due to what Thomas described as, “A toe issue where the joint in the toe is twisted“. So nothing to do with any rumoured transfer interest, which is good….

Yet it was those injuries that occurred once the game had started that caused as much concern. With Brentford heading towards half time one up c/o Neal Maupay (now up to 12 Championship goals already) things were looking good. Then, with the tea brewing, he collapsed to the floor unchallenged and ended up being stretched off. The concern was palpable and was later confirmed as the result of a concussion.

Sadly there was worse to come with Said Benrahma taking his place on the stretcher after rolling his ankle in the build-up to Henrik’s goal. Thomas would later confirm that the Algerian had rolled his ankle although, as yet, there’s no prognosis as to severity or recovery time. Here’s hoping it’s not as severe as first thought. The only saving grace here being that we’ve two weeks off thanks to International break for that recuperation process to begin in earnest. And to practice defending…..

From 1-0 up on fifty minutes, Brentford were then given three further attempts to perfect our kick off routine as the clock reached the hour mark. Whilst we’d lost Neal Maupay, that shouldn’t stop goals going in. Should it?  

Well, with no viable alternative then taking the option to push Sergi (or anyone) up top would only ever have an impact on the shape. But who else was there to fill that void? With absolute respect to Alan Judge, we’ve tried him there at Loftus Road and things didn’t exactly work out well for the team. The lack of alternate striking option has long been flagged on the terraces as a concern. Moreso, with Ollie also sitting this one out. In this instance, the percentages backfired.  

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Recent periods of the defence going awol have been a gift for our opponents

But I still maintain we have absolute quality in this squad. On its day, our first team is about as strong as we’ve seen. Talking to a fellow dad (and former Bee) at Harry’s football training in the morning, he was enthusing about the quality of football he’s having the pleasure of watching at present. On the way home from that, we happened to spot Neal Maupay whose enthusiastic hello to HB and chat about what was coming up that afternoon suggested everything was set for a fairytale ending.

Sadly, it wasn’t to be. A frustrating finish to a day that had promised so much but, equally, one step missed in a longer journey being taken. The forthcoming Middlesbrough game is about as tough as they come. Moreso, given our own recent form against them. It would be great if for that one the defensive blips could be cured on the pitch rather than afterwards in the post-match analysis.

We’ve two weeks to really figure them out and get our players fit again. There’s been a hell of a lot of football played in the space of a few weeks. Perhaps all of us recharging would be for the best.

In the meantime, here’s that interview with Thomas…

Thomas talks

Nick Bruzon

The many reasons we must win. The one reason we will.

10 Nov

Saturday morning and the 237 derby awaits. West London’s finest, and also QPR, prepare to do battle. With tier-gate resolved and the away-end sold out (barring a few £37 ‘restricted view’ seats), Brentford can prepare for the trip to Loftus Road in high spirits. Last weekend’s dominant performance saw The Bees back to winning ways and assuredly looking to pick up where we left off against Millwall. That one finished 2-0 and could easily have been double, but for the woodwork. Yet in a build-up that has been dominated by Friday’s news of Chief Executive Mark Devlin announcing his own departure from Griffin Park after 7 (seven) years, are we all missing out on the key factor that may decide this one?

QPR Loftus Road

Off to Loftus Road again

First up, Mark Devlin. We’ve by now all heard the news of his own forthcoming departure which was shared yesterday morning. We’ve all read the praise being lavished upon Mark by everyone from Bees United to Matthew Benham and beyond. Understandably. The strides that Brentford have made in the last 7 (seven) years have been quite incredible. In no small part helped by his enthusiasm and dedication. His time taken to talk to anyone about everything – a spirit which continues to run through the club.

I’ve often maintained that if you want to know something at Brentford, just ask. Mark typifies this approach – where confidentiality allows, of course – whilst few could deny his openness with the fans at the forums, responding to email, on social media or in person. He’s a regular on the forecourt when there’s a game and will always stop for a chat. How many other clubs are fortunate enough to have this level of approachability from one of the men at the very top? There’s nobody doubting how much he’ll be missed whilst, personally, I’ll now need to find somebody else to harangue about the new kit. Good luck Mark. And thank you. Our loss is very much somebody else’s gain – even if it is Twitter spambots…

Mark Devlin weight loss

Open comms. On any subject !!

Before he goes, Mark has one last QPR match to sit through. Which of his teams (wink emoji) will emerge with the points today? Brentford, obviously. Aside from our own strength and goal scoring potential, Nico Yennaris used his own appearance at the press conference to reveal how the team were fully aware of what this one means to the fans.

He explained how, “We know the importance of the game. Peter Gilham reiterates that every time we play QPR ; how important it is …the likes of myself, we’ve heard it enough from Pete but it’s the new guys coming in. The one’s that haven’t really been involved in a QPR – Brentford game. He lets them know aswell…”   

If anyone knows the history between the two clubs then it’s Peter. The story of the failed takeover can’t be told enough. It’s over fifty years on from that now yet still things remain fresh. In part helped by QPR’s own ‘accidental’ celebration of this event on their own programme cover last year. Something that their own head of media would subsequently explain, “Isn’t about inciting anyone – just charting our history at LR in chronological order”. This, before going on share how the dog had just eaten his homework and he’d left his P.E. kit on the bus. Probably.

QPR programme Holloway

Old news on the programme cover. And the failed takeover

But then its all about the excuses with them. Who could forget the time they accidentally breached FFP rules after running up a deficit of £9.8 m aswell as owner Tony Fernandes and other shareholders writing off a £60m loan? October 2017 saw the £58m fine deemed not disproportionate and upheld. This, despite Fernandes’ earlier assertion that “My view has been consistent, that it is very unfair for a club that has been relegated as the wage difference between the Premier League and Championship is impossible. There should be a time period for clubs to rectify their salaries.

 “If we were in the Championship in two years with that wage bill it wouldn’t be right. I’m in favour of FFP but it is unfair for a club coming down.”

Ahhh. Poor QPR. If you can’t beat ‘em, cheat ‘em. In the end, the club and football league settled on a ‘mere’ £42m which included a £17m fine, amongst other measures. Perhaps a somewhat fortunate escape for a club who employed Harry Redknapp.

Whilst we all know this of course, there’s no harm reminding ourselves of the context. Moreso given our own efforts to comply with the financial regulations imposed on EFL clubs have often resulted in our own stars being sold to ensure compliance and fair play.

Recent form is very much with Brentford going in to today’s big game. Of the last 8 league and cup encounters, the record read W5 D2 L1 in favour of Brentford. The solitary blip in that run being Dean’s Smiths attempt to play Alan Judge as a false 9 in a 4-6-0 formation whilst the highlight being our April 2017 destruction of Rangers at Griffin Park. With Jota in inspired form that day, a 3-1 win was about as generous a scoreline to the visitors as they come.

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I wouldn’t disagree

I predict more of the same this afternoon. Forget form. Forget rivalry. Forget everything. There’s one fact more telling than any motivational speech Peter Gilham may give. More important than whether Thomas Frank starts with Yoann or Moses, Luke or Dan, Sergi or Said.

Put simply, Steve McClaren has just been named manager of the month for October.

What magnificent timing for yesterday’s announcement! Could it have been any better? We all know how this one works. Scoop the prize, fail to lose your next game. It’s a jjnx as long established as not shaving on a winning run, wearing the magic shirt, pulling on the lucky pants or whatever your own particular match day-ritual is. Yet none come bigger than having to make the awkward pose with the trophy, safe in the knowledge that the next points are sliding down the drain.

I’m pretty sure it’s a scientific fact. But don’t quote me on that. What you can quote me on is that this will be another three points for Brentford. I don’t want to rain on Steve McClaren’s parade but back-to-back wins are heading our way. Roll on 3pm when it all starts again.

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Incredible but true. It really has happened

Nick Bruzon 

2-2 to the referee but the table shows all to play for on Tuesday.

30 Sep

Brentford 2 Reading 2 . Ten games played, the table having now ‘taken shape’ and the Bees sitting in the play-off zone. Just four points off leaders West Bromwich Albion. We’ve another home game to come on Tuesday night, the always welcome return of Birmingham City, and have just run Arsenal super close in the cup. We should be ecstatic. And I am yet equally can’t help still feeling somewhat subdued having woken up off the back of a quite awful display of spoiling tactics and atrocious officiating. It was one that has surely denied the Bees all three points and the fans any semblance of a quality game.  Geoff Eltringham and team, we’re looking at you.

SAid red v Reading in black white

Thanks. Ref.

We’ve crossed swords with Mr. Eltringham before. And I don’t mean last season’s oversight of the 5-0 hammering inflicted on Birmingham City. His performance that night being ten times better than anything seen since. Or previously. The straight red card administered to number 26 in the home game with Sheffield Wednesday a few seasons back, after he’d allowed himself to be harangued by opposition players, being an additional slap to the face in a game that saw Marinus Dijkuizen ‘in charge’ for the last time. It should have been a warning that we were looking at an acolyte of Stroud. Alas, he struck again.

Saïd Benrahma was shown red for two bookings in a second half that saw the man in the middle wave the yellow 7(seven) times. It was a period that saw a crazy ten minutes of additional time added on in about as frustrating a half as we’ve had to endure. There were close to five of those alone, just for faffing around at a free kick awarded to the Bees from which he promptly failed to control or organise an opposition team who, understandably, were pushing the man as much as they could get away with. Which was lots. It was like watching a nervous supply teacher having to cover a bunch of rowdy fifteen year olds. And he couldn’t cope.

That there were ‘only’ ten minutes added on for a game where nobody was seriously hurt tells you all you need to know. Frankly, it could have been closer to fifteen. Dean Smith was his diplomatic best at full time, telling Brentford ‘official’ how, “The second half exploded into something that probably only the referee can explain” whilst from the aforementioned deadball situation he noted that “I don’t know what’s happened but we’ve ended up with six cautions and they’ve ended up with one. And that was the wrong person.

John Swift Reading ball OUT

View from The Braemar – This ‘no throw’ decision another to incense the crowd

That’s not to deny Reading their two goals. Both came as a result of what we’ll call defensive ‘fumble’. They were presented their chances and took them. That’s how football works. If you‘ve seen them then you know. And if you haven’t then Sky have their highlights up at present. This isn’t the day for castigating individual mishaps when, frankly, even with ten men Brentford would ordinarily have still walked this one – based on current form. Yet such was the stop-start nature of the game, the physical approach of Paul Clement’s Reading side and the roulette wheel nature to Eltringham’s decision making that any attempt at proper football was nothing more than a pipe dream. The visitors came to do a job on us and succeeded – they got their point. Well done Reading. Well done Geoff.

Prior to all that Neal Maupay had given the Bees an early lead, slotting home from close range to bag his 9th Championship goal of the season. Not a bad return prior to October for a player who has appeared just eight times. We should maybe have turned the screw from there but the opposition gameplan and an attempt to restrict our passing game meant Reading were able to contain the situation. This, before taking their own two chances twenty minutes either side of half-time.

Yet it was in that gargantuan period of stoppage time that Brentford hauled themselves back into it. The incredible Yoann Barbet heading home to send the Griffin Park faithful delirious. His constant enthusiasm and seeming love for the club is nothing but infectious. So to see him of all players pop up to ensure summary justice was executed generated the natural response. Yessssssssss!!!!!!!!!!!! You beauty.

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Yoann. Involved in everything fr0m ballet to goal scoring

2-2 and that was how it remained. The Bees kept pushing but were unable to turn one point into three. 10 men against 12 is always an uphill battle but it certainly wasn’t for want of trying. Instead, we’ll need to reflect on a table that sees us very much at the business end as we approach the quarter point of the season. As we await the visit of Birmingham City on Tuesday night. The Blues also earning themselves a point in their 7th(seventh) draw from 10 games after going two goals behind at home to Ipswich Town yesterday. That sort of fighting spirit something we’ll need to be accutely aware of if last season’s results are to be emulated. Moreso given we’ll be missing the mercurial Benrahma. But with Sergi Canos no doubt chomping at the bit to regain his place in the starting XI, things aren’t all bad on that front.  

There’s not much more to say from here. The officials had a stinker. Reading were industrial. Brentford earned a point and are sixth after ten games. I’d have absolutely taken that positon all day long if offered it when proceedings began at home to Rotherham last month.

The question being how we push on from here.

Roll on Tuesday night when we find out.

Geoff Eltringham said Reading guide dog

Saïd can’t believe he’s been sent off.

Nick Bruzon

 

Natalie nails it as Forest fail to chop down the Bees.

2 Sep

What an afternoon. What a game of contrasting football styles. Brentford beat Nottingham Forest 2-1 in a game which will be as much remembered for the three points that take us back into play-offs as it will an infuriating performance from ‘referee’ Peter Bankes. That, and a display of physical thuggery from the visitors which, as was said many times yesterday, came over as ‘a typical Aitor Karanka performance’. See also the phrase: Brian Clough would be spinning in his grave. It was an attitude which spilled over into social media afterwards where none other than Natalie Sawyer waded in to defend her beloved Bees in the face of what could, at best, be described as sour grapes from fans of the visiting team.

It gives me no pleasure in having to write about anything negative from yesterday. Especially about a club I’ve enormous respect for. Why would we want any form of downer after Brentford scooped the win that lifted us back into the play-off zone following last weekend’s blip at Blackburn? We’ve overcome the three game suspension of Neal Maupay and showed tremendous spirit to bounce back after an uncharacteristic fumble from Daniel Bentley allowed Forest to haul themselves into the game on the hour mark.

Yet it was the approach of the visitors which was so at odds with what we’ve seen from them over the years. A team who previously out-thought and out-played opponents to win the trophies for which they are so well known. A team who rightly earned the two stars that adorn their famous crest. Now, their manager has them playing not so much ‘kick and rush’ as ‘kick and punch’.

That there were only 7(seven) bookings for the visitors was a miracle in itself. They were cynical, scything and nasty. Mr. Bankes in the middle seeming to forget he even had cards in his pocket during a first half where Forest had no answer to wave after wave of Brentford pressure. Except, of course, the one shown to Lewis Macleod for apparent diving.

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Two stars, well earned. Plus a welcome return for the castle badge in the programme.

There was no attempt to tackle. The Bees were allowed to run at their opponents with the ‘permission to foul badge’ rotated between the players by manager Karanka. How nobody received a second yellow I have no idea. Yet it was an approach that also allowed us to see Brentford at their finest. And, in the end, crush the visitors as easily as they would a ripe avocado. 

Josh McEachran had an extremely positive game, making one incredible surge forward in the first half that must have seen him take the ball close to forty yards upfield as he rode challenges and played deft flicks. Romaine Sawyers did what he does. Sergi was felled time and again by the yellow shirted lumberjacks. Mepham and Konsa at the back continue to look as though they have been partners for years rather than weeks. Benrahma was magnificent, supplying the crosses for both goals and almost nabbing a couple himself. 

The first, a cross from the right that dropped perfectly for the unmarked Lewis Macleod to head home just before half time. The second, delivered to Ollie Watkins to stroke home with just minutes left on the clock. Between these, Peter Gilham’s quite wonderfully announced substitution of Lolley for Cash looked like it would be bang on the money for our guests. The hero of Forest’s midweek league cup win over Newcastle did it again. Yet the goal from Matty Cash proved to be a small change and, in the end, it was Watkins (nose stuffed full of gauze after receiving a boot in the face from Jack Robinson) who sealed the points that take us up to fifth place in the table.   

Again, I don’t want to come over as negative about the visitors and the ref. I’ve friends who are Forest fans and a healthy respect for the club that goes back to my own formative football years when they were THE kings of Europe. Perhaps they just had a bad day at the office whereby physicality was the only answer to the electric pace of a scintilating Brentford side.  Yet it was awful to watch them yesterday.

Equally frustrating was finding ourselves beholden to the whims of a referee whose performance switched between turning a blind eye and guesswork. All credit to captain Yoann Barbet whose cool head at the very end prevented a major case of handbags turning into a Keith Stroud convention. He led by example throughout although you could also praise the spirit of all Dean’s ‘leaders’. Our unique approach of rotating the captaincy providing its own demonstration of success.

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Yoann Barbet at FT. How was that for you?

I apologise. The point has been laboured and the point has been made. But it is done because so often over the last couple of seasons, we’ve had no answer to teams like this. We’ve seen points dropped and games lost when brute force has triumphed over attempts to play intelligent football. Yet we’ve toughened up and adapted, whilst still retaining that core belief. Being honest, this one never felt in doubt. Even at 1-1 or throughout the protracted period of stoppage time added on at the end. 

It was our own Natalie Sawyer who really summed things up nicely, taking to Twitter at full time to first note that: If ever there was a victory for football today it’s what I’ve witnessed at Griffin Park. Really surprised by how Forest played today considering I thought they’d give us a much better game following what I saw on Wednesday night..

Confronted by frustrated Forest fans, rather than sit on this one she continued to make her point (and rightly praise the Forest midweek match) before eventually going on to add: Excuse me you came not to win, you came to by physical and cynical. It’s the most disappointing performance I’ve seen from a team. I’m not saying that Brentford are wholly innocent in every game they play but today they outplayed a team that just wanted to foul and time waste.

Well said. Professionally put and spot on. There’s not much more one can really say after that. Perhaps a bit more praise for Dean Smith and his wonderful team. Kudos to Yoan Barbet and my man of the match, Said Benrahma.

Put your feet up and enjoy international break. Roll on the 15th for Wigan at home where it’s not so much Will Grigg as the Bees who are currently on fire.

Nick Bruzon