Tag Archives: Sky bet Championship

Can Brentford scupper promotion race as Championship chokepoint approaches?

22 Apr

Here we go again. The Easter Bank Holiday began with the 1-1 at Millwall (take a bow, Josh Dasilva – what a strike !) and now it ends with Brentford facing the prospect of a visit from Leeds United. With the Sky TV cameras pushing this one back to a 5.15 kick-off, one of the two automatic promotion could already have gone by the time Mr. Stroud waves his first card. Norwich City, already five points clear of Leeds in third, travel to Stoke earlier in the afternoon where a win will see them promoted and a draw as good as there (barring a monumental goal difference swing). Indeed, the Canaries could even finish the day as Champions should results – including a favour from the Bees and a slip by Sheffield United – fall their way.

So no pressure on Leeds United then. Although it is a situation that is as much of their own making after the quite incredible 2-1 home defeat administered by 10 man Wigan Athletic on what was a very Good Friday for Norwich and Sheffield United. That game saw the hosts miss a penalty before taking the lead but then conspiring to press the self-destruct button. It was the ultimate ‘deserved to win’ performance where the only reward available was ‘nil points’. 77% possession and 36 shots count for naff all if you can’t put the ball in the back of the net as, somehow, Paul Cook’s team did. Twice.   

The situation at the top of the Championship is now a quite intriguing one. Being realistic, Norwich City are home and clear. However, with Sheffield United and Leeds both locked on 82 points, it really will come down to two factors. Firstly, who can hold their nerve and pick up all 9 points? Second up, who can increase their goal difference over the course of those three games? With the Blades +6 ahead, as long as they win their final three then Leeds are consigned to the play-offs. Unless, of course, they have the ability to administer a 7(seven) goal bracketing at some point in the final few games.

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Things are tight a the top this morning

Football’s never that simple, of course. Look at our first season in the Championship where quite phenomenal results at Derby County (I’m still not quite sure who hapless Reading so comprehensively outplayed them) or Blackburn Rovers (where Ipswich slipped up) allowed Brentford to overtake both teams, and edge back into the  play-off zone on the final game of the season. I’m sure this race still has more twists to come. Pressure and expectation can do incredible things and it won’t be anywhere near as simple as either United just turning up to get their three wins.

If nothing else, there’s the small matter of Brentford. Naturally, the focus is on the visitors today yet we’ve more than enough points to try and prove. The fixture at Elland Road in October was one which had it all. THAT Neal Maupay celebration, a wonderful performance from Luke Daniels in goal and then the pain of an 88th minute equaliser from Pontus Jansson. His own post match reaction was one which then saw the player charged by the FA  (as were the club for fans throwing objects at Neal Maupay) after accusing the referee of ‘robbery’ and saying on live TV that the result felt a bit ‘shit’.  There was talk of conspiracy, too, as United’s seemingly unstoppable start to the season had begun to hit the buffers.

I saw an intriguing tweet from Beesotted yesterday, which is repeated below.

Draw your own conclusions from this and know that if weren’t already up for it, we’ll be even more so now. This one is already a game that is sure to be played out in a powder keg atmosphere. Leeds know they HAVE to win. We’d absolutely love nothing more than to see them scuppered by our ‘tinpot’ pub side. They’ve not beaten us at Griffin Park since 1950 whilst the last few seasons have seen United comprehensively played off the field.

Of course, past performance is no guarantee of current form. If anybody has the ability to motivate it’ll be Marcelo Bielsa. What a man Leeds have in the managerial hot seat and, realistically, the main reason they haven’t choked it from a promising position as has been seen so many times before. Instead, they’re up there on merit and will be gunning for goals against a Brentford side who, let’s be honest, are looking a tad ‘patched up’ at present.

Yet the inspiration of history, our own desire to still end the season ‘top ten’ aswell as the chance to get one over Leeds should be all the motivation we need. Will it be enough? Could Leeds wilt under the pressure? Who knows, but I can’t wait to find out

Quite frankly, in a game where Keith Stroud is in charge for the ref to barely warrant a mention then you know that the on [itch action is promising to be something special. And I can’t wait.

See you there.

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More of the same would be very nice

Nick Bruzon

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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

Was this the game that had everything? Fans and players nail it on Twitter as Bees hold Leeds.

7 Oct

Where do you even start with the one? Well, the result obviously. Leeds United 1 Brentford 1. Yet this was surely the consummate example of that old cliché that the result doesn’t even begin to tell half the story of a blood and thunder league game that was a quite wonderful example of Championship football. It had everything. Great saves, red cards, crossbars hit, pantomime villains and controversy. It was a day that saw the hosts end it in third place, The Bees still sixth and Neil Maupay become the first player in the top four divisions of English football to reach the ten goal mark.

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Neal does his thing for the tenth time( on official twitter )

On a personal note, big thanks to Mrs. Bruzon. What greater treat could a man be offered than to wake up in Lisbon on the morning of his tenth wedding anniversary and be told that he was to be taken to the pub to watch the game? Love? Worn her down? Her own secret desire to watch this one? Or some very hefty payback coming my way? Whatever the answer, it was worth every moment.

We’ve all seen the game. We’ve all got our reasons for where we watched it. I’m not going to over elaborate here as there’s a programme column to write for next Saturday’s game with Bristol City. Frankly, you’d need a volume to do this one justice. Both on and off the pitch where one can only doff the hat to those Bee’s supporters who braved the early start, the journey and remortgaged the house to cover the cost of the ticket.

What I would say is that to play like that and then concede so late was frustrating beyond belief in the moment that Pontus Jansson headed home with just two minutes left on the clock. Was there any reason we couldn’t hang on at the death? It felt like Aston Villa all over but that was short term disappointment when, stretching desperately for another cliche, I think the vast majority of us would have taken a guaranteed point had it somehow been offered before kick off. 

Yet for that perspective I’ve been reaching for all season, we’re upset about ‘only’ drawing with Leeds United. About going to the league leaders and not being beaten. About putting in a stonking performance on the road. I thought the first half in particular we gave everything. But instead of tiring and burning out, the Bees kept going. If anything, that was ultimately our undoing and, perhaps, a touch of naivety as rather than put a foot on the ball to “Slow it down. Slow. It. Dowwnnn” (as somebody much wiser than me once said) we kept on playing. Luke Daniels had pulled off a quite wonderful save . Kamo was magnificent. Neal Maupay did his best to make friends and influence people, slotting home the opening goal under the most extreme pressure and ‘encouragement’.

The players’ appearances on social media afterwards tell you everything you need to know about how this one went……  

As ever, the likes of Brentford ‘official’, Beesotted and the BBC will have all the reports on this one. We do more of the other stuff on these pages and so instead, we´ll leave it to Twitter to talk through the highlights of a game that had everything:

And I can’t beat that for a summary.

GREAT work you Bees.

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.

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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.

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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

 

Wolves prove a game too far but who was talking the most sense afterwards?

3 Jan

In the end it was a game too far. Wolves, by all accounts, romped to a 3-0 home win over a Brentford side who had picked up all 9 festive points prior to this one and had genuine hopes of coming back from Molineux with something. Alas, it was not too be. On a night that saw the most disappointing combination of results possible (a win for Birmingham City at Reading aswell as Fulham breezing past Ipswich Town) The Bees return home having slipped a place to 11th in the table.

Wolves, meanwhile, are now 12 points clear of the chasing pack and, perhaps more importantly for them, a further 2 ahead of third placed Cardiff City. That’s before you even look at their incredible goal difference of +30

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View from the opposition – somebody may need to update their graphics…

I wasn’t there. I wouldn’t profess to be. This was never on and even the radio proved to be one step too many in the end. Instead, it was the sofa and Sky Sports news. 0-0 at half time and Brentford under the cosh but hanging in there. Could we perform a second half smash and grab? Then the last few days took hold and the next thing I knew Mrs Bruzon was rousing me from my slumbers. Up and down the country, full time had been called. Through bleary eyes, the score was all too clear. Well done Wolves. Hard luck Brentford.

So I’m not best placed to give any manner of significant opinion on this one. Instead, I’ll leave it to social media and other sources to pick the meat off the bones of this one.

Dean Smith summed things up in his post match interview when speaking to the BBC. Their match report notes his comments that: “They pulled Costa off and then could put Cavaleiro on. That’s what you can do when you have £40m to spend. They should make a difference….Dan Bentley’s pulled off some very good saves to keep it at 0-0 and I was almost surprised to see the free-kick go in as he very rarely gets beaten from that distance….They showed their class in the way they finished. But, in the end, it was the manner of the way we conceded that disappointed me.”

Whilst pulling off Costa or bringing on Cavaleiro is not an option available to him, at least Dean can take solace that Emiliano Marcondes is now officially a Brentford player. The much touted Dane was on the bench for this one and whilst he didn’t put in an appearance, I’m sure we’ll get our first glimpse of him in action on Saturday. Expect him to be one of several changes as tired legs get a bit of a break.

Twitter was the usual wealth of opinion with a most respected of opinions, that of commentator par excellence Mark Burridge, top of my list. If anyone knows a thing or two about watching the Bees it is him.

For Mark to draw this conclusion tells you all you need to know about the quality of our opponents. The fans were quick to opine aswell.

As for the players, ‘That phrase’, is appearing once more in various guises.

Whilst video whizzkid Sean Ridley is clearly enjoying his post-Brentford career with a change in direction. Sean, I hear you.

Even waking this morning, Wolves are everywhere. The quite wonderful Miles McClagan sharing this one c/o his account @TheSkyStrikers (which is well, well worth a follow for lovers of all things programme / odd / both).

So Brentford lost. Wolves are rampaging at the top of the table. Fair play to them. Here’s hoping we get a chance to play them next season . If for no other reason it will mean The Bees have made it into the Premier League.

Until then, there are still two interim positives. First up, the FA Cup third roiund on Saturday. Perhaps a chance to see the aforementioned Marcondes in action. Not to mention a certain Alan Judge.

And there’s always the bottom of the table. Tentimesbetter Birmingham City are still deep in it.

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Nick Bruzon

Bees don’t give a hoot about the Owls. Will Wolves have more bite?

31 Dec

Well there you go. What a way to finish the year. As comfortable a win as Brentford could have ever hoped to achieve, despite coming up against a Sheffield Wednesday team who had proven to be more than a thorn in the side at Griffin Park in days gone by. We’d not beaten the Owls at home since a 2010 League One encounter (Charlie MacDonald grabbing the only goal of the game in that one). But a 2-0 Championship win saw that statistical relic consigned to the dinosaur’s graveyard. It really was THAT much a cruise control performance as one could hope to see.

As ever, ‘official’, Beesotted or the BBC are your places for the full fat match reports. Which is no bad thing, given any Wednesday fans still here are likely to get more joy reading a tale from the Brothers Grimm rather than any looking at any in depth analysis.

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A cheap set up for brackets

Looking on from the sidelines, it was a game that was never in doubt from the moment Lasse Vibe made it 1-0 on the 20 minute mark. Picking up the ball from Nico Yennaris, he fired home from just inside the box to send the Bees on their way. Dean Smith would later admit that, “We didn’t find our fluidity for the first 20 minutes but once we got the goal we moved up a level.” He’s spot on. From that point, there was only one team in it. The points were as good as ours. Or should have been.

However, complacency is the mother of all f*ck ups and lord knows we’ve had our issues throwing away leads this season. But not this time.

With Wednesday offering little, the Bees continued to press. Sergi Canos in particular coming close with one marvellous effort from distance which was the highlight of an otherwise quieter game for the ever popular Spaniard. Eventually, it was Flo Jo who doubled the lead with a quite marvellous finish from a Maupay through ball. 2-0 up, 7(seven) minutes to go and not even Brentford could mess this one.  Surely? We didn’t.

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The Bees kept going for goal until the end

Next up, a trip to Wolves on Tuesday night. The Molineux outfit are an incredible ten points clear at the top of the table following their own last gasp win at Bristol City yesterday. It’s effectively 11 if you factor in goal difference. Could that huge gap play into our hands? Might suspension (captain Danny Batth being sent off at Ashton Gate) and changes after that tough Christmas break play into our hands? Or will it be a case of pedal to the metal for the runaway leaders?

Dean Smith has his own decisions to make.  Chris Mepham had another wonderful game. The apparent ease with which he has adjusted to Championship life making a mockery of his relative inexperience at this level. He looks as in control and comfortable as his senior partner, the World Cup’s Andreas Bjelland.  Here’s hoping Dean Continues to show faith in the Welsh U-21.

Nico Yennaris once more looked totally at ease in the right back berth. Although Henrik Dalsgaard is still on club shop duty as he recovers from injury, Josh Clarke is now fit again. He found himself alongside Alan Judge on the bench for yesterday’s game and so might hope to start. But then who makes way in the middle for Nico? Josh McEachran being the obvious candidate, positionally, yet his own distribution in the first half was as controlled and calm as one could hope to see.

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Next stop, the bench.

Then there’s Lasse Vibe. You can’t put a price on goals and he’s scoring them for fun at present. The brace against Norwich City was followed up by one against Villa and then his latest yesterday (one which you can see on the Sky highlights, available now). Long may we be able to hang on to the great Dane – especially on this kind of form.

Alternatively, feast your eyes on the action c/o Mark Burridge and the official highlights, now up.

A great way to end the year.

Yet with the transfer window about to creak open, he’s one of several candidates that Brentford fans will no doubt spend the next month sweating on. There’s always some pain to get in the way of our enjoyment. But that’s football. Should anything happen off field over the coming weeks, in or out, then if there’s one thing we’ve all learned by now it’s that Dean Smith and his team keep on going – whoever is in the starting XI.

Still, all that’s to come. If at all. For now, let’s just enjoy our third win on the spin. Let’s enjoy Brentford ending the year in tenth place in the table and (say it quietly) just four points outside of the play-off zone. Can we push on? Will we hold station? Is it going to be an FA Cup run this year following the damp squib of our surrender to Chelsea last season?

That game against Wolves and then Saturday’s cup tie with Notts County could well prove to be of huge consequence.

And I can’t wait ! Roll on 2018.

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Sergi – could be key over the coming weeks

Nick Bruzon

 

How times change. What a way to end the year.

30 Dec

How times change. The last time Brentford played Sheffield Wednesday (September’s game at Hillsborough) we came back on the wrong end of a 2-1 defeat and ended the night sitting in the bottom 3 of the Championship table. Our hosts meanwhile, using the victory to climb into the play off zone. The Bees had acquired a mere 3 points from the opening 7(seven) games as we struggled to adjust to that triple sale of Jota, Harlee and Maxime Colin to Harry Redknapp’s Birmingham City. It was a period that even saw the statistical horror of Dean Smith having picked up less points than Marinus Dijkhuizen (8) at the same stage of the 2015/16 season. Things weren’t pretty. Moreso given our subsequent game with Reading which saw an early lead squandered in a tame draw that kept the Bees in the basement – only Bolton and Birmingham below them.

That was then. This is now. Suddenly, things clicked. Dean got his boys firing and the Championship is a much brighter looking place. A win today against the now managerless Owls could see us move to within 4 points of the play-off zone. Confidence is high following a run of just 2 defeats in our last 17 league games. Moreso, coming off the back of successive wins at Norwich (Oh, Romaine Sawyers. I’m still dreaming of THAT pass) and the Boxing Day knockout of Aston Villa.

Will who now? Sergi was on fire agasint Villa, despite the torrential downpour

Will who, now? Sergi was on fire against Villa, despite the torrential rain

That one in particular, as satisfying for the way we outplayed our opponents as much as the sour grapes (before and after) from manager Steve Bruce aswell as the self-entitlement from an element of the Villa fans.

Yes. You used to be good. You did win something, once. But that was then and this is now. Brentford are the progressive club, adapting to their circumstances. The likes of Villa, Birmingham and, to a lesser extent today’s visitors, amongst those who have experienced the good times and now finding things much tougher to adjust to when the boot is on the other foot.

We went into the Christmas period off the back of that awful draw with Barnsley. The 0-0 at Griffin Park was not a good game in any respect. That said, it WAS another point. The table doesn’t lie (whatever you may hear from much wiser people than yours truly) and we are where we are for a reason. Despite some wonderful play when we are on fire, failure to punish slack opposition or hang on to leads HAS hurt us.

Yet, at the same time, despite continued sales over the last few years (and some very tasty acquisitions, it must also be said) we have this wonderful knack of building team spirit and a squad which can more than compete on its day. We already have Emiliano Marcondes to come in, Lewis Macleod inching his way back into the team and Alan Judge on the bench following a 16 month recovery from that horrific leg break. There’s even the prospect of Konstantin Kerschbaumer to make a Toumani Diagouraga-esque second coming after a period out on loan. One has to live in hope…..

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Could we see scenes like this once more?

So I go into the game today fuelled with optimism. Excitement approaching peak levels. I have to be honest, I didn’t see us ending the calendar year like this after that Reading result back in mid-September. Yet now we are in a position where Brentford are the ones with a tentative glance being made towards the upper reaches of the table. With a squad that have picked themselves up after a shaky start to show some quite wonderful form. And with big spending Birmingham City now nailed to the bottom of the table. Barring a statistical miracle today, they’ll end the year in the relegation zone.

We may have lost Jota and Maxime. Harlee may think his new squad is ten times better than that which made the play offs under Mark Warburton. But I know where I’d rather be right now. A chance to go in to the top ten of the Championship with the right result and then a home FA Cup tie next weekend.

No doubt Sheffield Wednesday will be out to stop us in our tracks. The Owls will have more than a point to prove and, let’s not forget, caretaker boss Lee Bullen saw his team romp to a 3-0 win at Nottingham Forest last time out. This is by no means the stroll in the park that recent form may suggest. Brentford can do it today, no doubt. But blind optimism can be a dangerous thing if you are expecting a win – just look at Aston Villa. Dean and his team still need to be on their A-game.

Will we do it? Roll on 3pm to find out. See you there. I can’t wait for this one.

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More of the same from Boxing Day would be great. Apart from the rain

Nick Bruzon

Brentford leave Aston Villa feeling under the weather. Again.

27 Dec

“I think it’s hard, no disrespect to Brentford, Barnsley, but this is a different kettle to those clubs where there’s no real expectation… Staying in the division is probably the expectation”. Not my words, but those of Aston Villa manger Steve Bruce in the build up to the visit of his team to Griffin Park.

How they had a hollow ring as yet another former Premier League club under-estimated ‘teams like Brentford’. The Bees made it 6 points from 6 over Christmas with a fine 2-1 win under the floodlights (and the rainclouds) at Griffin Park on Tuesday night. It was a victory that, but for a brief flurry in the dying moments, was never in doubt. Brentford, inspired by Sergi Canos and shored up by the quite sublime Chris Mepham, blew aside Aston Villa as easily as though they were a crisp packet caught in the breeze.

Sergi rain Aston Villa

Raining (goals) at Griffin Park

Canos – possessed once again by raw energy, blistering pace and consummate skill – did everything but score the goal his performance so warranted. As it was, he played a key role in our opener. Winning the ball back to find Ryan Woods, the Ginger Pirlo’s pass was met by Romaine Sawyers who fired it hard and low from outside the box into the bottom corner to give Brentford the lead with just over twenty minutes gone.

It was as precise a finish as one could hope to see and another moment of genius from a player who continues to impress. That’s five goals now this season for Sawyers and Brentford really are scoring from every angle. Whilst Josh Onomah would level things up for Aston Villa just before half time, normal service was restored soon after the break. Lasse Vibe followed up Friday’s brace at Norwich City, firing home the loose ball in the box as Villa failed, quite spectacularly, to clear a Canos corner.

Watching the highlights on Sky afterwards (and they are now available on the internet until the official, Mark Burridge infused version can be released), the phrase “I can’t quite believe the shodiness” is used to describe Villa’s defence. They’re not wrong but you’ve still got to be there. You’ve still got to put them away. And Lasse did that to send the Griffin Park crowd wild.

It was a game played out in quite torrid conditions. The rain didn’t let up for the entire 90 minutes and so fair play to Dean Smith’s Bees for just getting on with it. The visitors, on the other hand, struggled to find cohesion and to find shape. They were second to everything, including the final result. But you can only play who you are up against and if the Bees continue to face teams like Aston Villa then happy days.

Just because you once won the European Cup and played in the top flight, doesn’t give a divine right to ‘be any good’. You can’t just win by turning up. The footballing world has long changed and if dinosaurs like Steve Bruce want to keep on living in Jurassic, rather than Villa, Park that’s just fine by me.

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The rain, and Flo, didn’t let up

The ironic thing being that this is now the second time in 11 months we’ve done a job on Aston Villa at home. Who could forget the 3-0 humbling handed out back in January, just about the time of Scott Hogan’s sale?  To misread the opposition once is unfortunate but to do it twice is downright shabby.

Still, that’s not my concern. Long may it continue. Dean Smith and his boys got it bang on last night. The aforementioned Mepham, who made his mark on Hogan early then never looked back, and Andreas Bjelland were both sporting ‘blood’ shirts by the time Keith Stroud ended the six minutes of injury time. There was no quarter given at the back where Nico also shone, covering in the right-back position which he first filled what seems like all those years ago. Flo Jo, Romaine, Ryan. Dan Bentley pulled off a couple of fine saves when they were needed.

To overly single out anybody would be unfair. It was just that sort of night where everybody did what was expected. Even Norwich City, who had earlier beaten Birmingham City to leave them rock bottom of the division. With Brentford now in 12th place on 34, that’s twice as many points as the hapless Blues who are 3 from safety on just 17.

Those comments about being ten times better are looking a long way off at present. Oh well, that’s their problem. We’ve got bigger fish to fry and with another home game approaching, the visit of Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday, here’s hoping for more of the same from Dean and his boys.

And, could we perhaps see Alan Judge at some point? One of the loudest cheers of the night was reserved for his announcement on the substitute’s bench. If not Wednesday on Saturday, then by the time we’ve hosted Notts County in the FA Cup I’ve a feeling we’ll have seen him in the red and white once more.

That, if anything, would be THE miracle of Christmas. At least, in TW8.

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Captain Nico – too many mince pies or making the best of the conditions?

Nick Bruzon

Post Hull City fall out is of an unexpected kind.

10 Dec

We regret that due to 3mm of snow falling in Brentford there will be no Last Word today. No update on yesterday’s 3-2 loss for the Bees at Hull City.

The Last Word apologises for any inconvenience caused.

Normal service will be resumed ahead of Brentford v Barnsley on Saturday.

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Nick Bruzon

Rampant Brentford exorcise the memory of QPR and render Fulham pointless.

3 Dec

Where do you start with that one? A 3-1 demolition of Fulham at Griffin Park on Saturday saw Brentford make it 4 points out of 6 from back-to-back West London derbies. With it, the Bees moved into the top half of the Championship table and above both our near neighbours. It was the perfect tonic following the disappointment of the final few moments at QPR earlier this week and a performance that shows just what Dean Smith’s team can do when they put their minds to it.

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Another afternoon, another win

Mind you it was a case of very much adjusting to the game and, subsequently, each other. A hamstring Injury to Lasse Vibe early on (and no recognised striker on the bench) saw Romaine Sawyers coming on to sit up top. A so called ‘False 9’ as Dean would later refer to him. Whilst we’ve tried this one before, at QPR two seasons ago – the only time they’ve beaten us in the last 7(seven) encounters – this time things were different for Brentford. So very different.

For a moment it looked shaky. The Bees went a goal down after Fulham were given the freedom of the Griffin Park back four. The visitors were lining up to slide home one time Bee Ryan Fredericks’ cross. In the end it was Neeskens Kebano who did the needful at the back post. Daniel Bentley then kept us in it with a wonder save but from that point on it was one way traffic.

Ollie Watkins set off on a quite wonderful run through the middle of the park, covering close to 50 yards before releasing Sergi Canos to leave David Button no chance. Canos (and the Fulham defence) take the glory but full kudos to Ollie for a lungbusting run.

1-1 at half time and the Bees came out to pick up where they left off. The half had barely begun when Romaine Sawyers made it 2-1. The player may feel he was in the right place at the right time although the goal had as much to do with the omens in the stand and on the terrace. Got to love a lucky shirt, lucky fleece (amazing where you get the inspiration from) and a Trevor Extra Strong Mint. Many thanks John – the real hero of the afternoon as man in the right place at the right time with the lucky confectionary.

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Lucky shirt. Lucky fleece. Lucky sweets. Nothing lucky about the win

With Fulham reduced to ten men, following the customary red card from referee Bobby Madley it really was game over. A detail confirmed with just five minutes to go as Romaine Sawyers set up Ollie Watkins to close things out. Two goals up against West London neighbours with just moments left on the clock. What could go wrong? Five minutes of injury time, that’s what!

But whereas Monday saw Brentford hit the self-destruct at QPR,  this time around there was to be no such repeat. Ball retention was the key as we passed it around, backwards and even had the odd probe to see down the clock.

3-1 it finished. What a result. What a performance. What an afternoon. There were tears from Fulham official. What a shame they didn’t get the chance to use their shiny new GIF. Please, stop sniggering.  There was even a gif in return as the ghost of the Obama meme threatened to raise its head once more. It was beautiful ! Well played the Brentford media team on hitting the perfect balance, this time.

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A word or two, also, about Mr. Madley. We all know him of old, especially ‘that’ game at Leyton Orient. Officious, pernickety, trigger happy and more cards than a Clintons sale. Yet I thought he had a great game yesterday.

True, there were a few moments where he couldn’t help but be his over-officious self but he called the cards right – including the yellow for Sergi who had seemed to go in dangerously, albeit not connecting. But given the lack of protection we’ve had at times this season, the four yellows (including a second for Fulham’s Odoi) were spot on. As were the proliferation of dead balls awarded in an otherwise open game that was, generally, allowed to flow.

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View from the terrace : When Sergi met Bobby

Sergi Canos was understandably named man of the match. I love watching him in action. The skill, the speed, the enthusiasm. Yet, for me I think Romaine probably just deserved it. A goal, an assist and a player very much a fish out of water in terms of the role he was asked to play. As Dean would later note on ‘official’, “I know, at times, he isn’t everyone’s favourite but I thought his performance today was excellent.

Dean, I couldn’t agree more.

As ever, the video highlights are up on Sky. Probably worth a watch before we get treated to Mark Burridge’s version. If his commentary is anywhere near as good as his post match Twitter then they’re going to be compulsory viewing when these go live after mid-day.

What a finish. What a way to celebrate rainbow laces day. Top half of the table, current kings of West London and a fine, fine performance from Dean Smiths’ injury hit team. But perhaps the biggest cheer of the afternoon was that for somebody returning from injury, Lewid Macleod. How good was it so see him back on the Griffin Park pitch? It seems an eternity since he was stretchered off at Loftus Road last season.

The road to return has certainly been a long one but, again, as impressive a display from the club in looking after our long term sick as the player in putting in all those hard yards. Nice one, Lewis.

Next up, a certain Mr. Judge? Here’s hoping….

The sun is past the yard arm so the video censors let Mark do his thing

All that’s to come, though. For now let’s just enjoy the moment and savour a fine win. Matthew Benham, back in his customary place at the front of the director’s box after a surprise ‘substitution’ against Burton, seemed ecstatic as the second half goals flew in. Certainly, those in the paddock and around the ground were. Except, perhaps, in the away end. If only they’d had a nice, new GIF.

It’s our fourth season in the Championship and, it would be fair to say, that derby day form has certainly been with the Bees. Jota in the last minute at Griffin Park, Sam Saunders with that fifth minute beauty and Stuart Dallas doing ‘that thing’ at the Cottage during our 4-1 steamrollering are amongst the many highs.

This one felt as good as any of them. What an afternoon. What a result !!

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Who needs Pointless or Strictly Dancing for Saturday entertainment ?

Nick Bruzon