Tag Archives: Tariqe Fosu

Who wants it most? Who will hold their nerve?

21 Apr

So, play-offs it is. Hopefully. Not a typo. A 1-1 draw for Brentford with Cardiff City last night, combined with Watford picking up an absolutely crucial win at Norwich City, means the gap to second place in The Championship is now ten points with four games to play. Maths keeps that dream alive but, realistically, it is now time to regroup and rediscover our goal scoring form before a tenth bite at the end of season cherry. An unbeaten run now stretching to eight games with only five goals against (and two of those came in the second half switch off at Derby back in mid-March) suggests all is not as rotten in the Garden of Eden as many would have you believe. However, the inability to turn wins into draws over the course of the season – only Millwall have more than our 15 – is putting paid to any aspiration of going up via the direct route. That is, of course, assuming there is no last minute wobble combined with a surge from 7th (seventh) placed Reading. As we’ve been saying all year, this one is going to run until game 46. If nothing else, just look at what happened to Nottingham Forest last season when Swansea City stole up the blind side to beat them in a photo finish on the line. A seemingly unassailable position falling apart at the death.

As for the Cardiff game, Brentford began with the same starting XI for the third successive game. Ivan Toney and Marcus Forss at one end ; Christian Norgaard alongside Pontus and Ethan at the other. Again, we started brightly and built the pressure. Again there were chances. Again, we couldn’t convert. Marcus with the two clearest opportunities and both of which hindsight will suggest could have been taken differently. The second in particular crying out for Bryan Mbeumo to tap into the net from close range. Instead, the young Finn twisting his body to stretch for the ball and only managing to guide it over. Ivan Toney also came close after intercepting a slack backpass but Alex Smithies in goal for the Bluebirds pulled off a smart save to deny the Championship’s leading goalscorer a chance to add to his haul.

The Bees come close

0-0 as the players went in for their cup of tea and orange quarters. They emerged in much the same vein as they had ended the opening period. On top and pushing. Brentford being Brentford its never easy. Ethan Pinnock adjudged to have handled in the box just prior to the hour and Kieffer Moore making no mistake from the spot. A well placed penalty giving our visitors the lead. 

It didn’t last long, thankfully. The impressive Tariqe Fosu shooting from distance for Smithies to allow it straight through his hands just four minutes later. Get in. 1-1. The pressure continued. Chances followed with Sergi Canos coming closest. His own attempt to emulate Fosu moving wickedly through the air with ‘goal’ written all over it, only to be denied by the ball cannoning off the chest of Smithies. The ‘keeper with hands nowhere near it but thankful to see it bounce clear. Close but no cigar. Despite dominating possession (don’t even start…) further goals proved as hard to come by as positive support for the European Super League. Our own hopes of going up in second place dissolving as quickly as the fledgling cash machine.

Positives? Look, I am a glass half full type. No apologies for that. What’s the point otherwise? Life is tough enough without heaping further misery or negativity on oneself. On our day we are on fire and, for now, we are keeping things super tight at the back. The play-offs themselves are all about not losing and we’re very, very good at that aspect. The only thing that counts is getting over the line. 

At the moment we’re not playing as well as we are used to – no question. The key absences and enforced restructure playing a huge part in that although as was proven against Preston this set up can still find the net. Indeed, last night could have seen more goals had we found the rub of the green. I can’t cry over that but I will take comfort from the fact that this advance towards the play-offs is the opposite of last time out.

Then, we were always playing catch up on automatic. Impossibly so. We had a wonderful run of form, building game after game, to put us in contention before it dissolved in the final two defeats against Stoke City and Barnsley. The chance of automatic in our hands at the death only to see it surrendered in such tepid form after that wonderful late surge to even put ourselves in with a chance. Our hopes built up into a wonderful fairy tale ending to life at Griffin Park before being so cruelly denied. There was an almost resigned inevitability about what would come next and, of course, whilst we got one over Swansea City in the semis, the final at the W place was as frustrating as the end to the regular campaign. 

This time around we are the hard team to beat. Brentford have only lost 7(seven) games all season. Nobody has a better record on that front. The wins may not always come but get the ball to Ivan and the goals flow. Get Josh and Rico back (one can dream) and our attacking edge goes up tenfold.

So, for me, there are two choices. Petulant stropping, gnashing of teeth and wailing. Shouting ‘Frank Out’ and blaming him for all our perceived woes. Cursing the campaign as a disaster and writing our team off as though it was already dead and buried. 

Or… back our boys for the last 7(seven) games. Making sure that we first get over the play-off line and then see where we ago from there. Try telling Derby County or Birmingham City that football life is bad. Our situation is ten times better than their plight. I’ve no doubt Wayne Rooney and Harlee Dean would trade positions with us in a heartbeat if such a thing were possible. I’ll keep on backing our team and our head coach for promotion until that chance is gone. For now, it remains very much on even if it will require us going through that dreaded end of season lottery. 

Yes, it IS frustrating. I was convinced automatic was in our hands. It still could be but we are now relying on Watford failing to pick up a single win against Millwall or Swansea City. Likewise, us winning four games in a row (including that penultimate game with the Hornets). Much as I am an optimist I am also a realist. Football is full of surprises, that’s for sure, but one of this magnitude at this late stage would seem unlikely. The again, pressure does strange things. A win for the Bees at Bournemouth on Saturday lunchtime combined with Millwall beating Watford makes it interesting. Both results are possible although the broader sequence of fixtures still make it unlikely. There’s no way Watford will drop that many points. For us to win all four will also need something huge.

Last night saw two ‘must win’ games. For us and for Norwich City. Neither happened and clearly the Canaries don’t want win the title. Farke out. Or should that be Farke off? In all seriousness, they’ve been great. Watford have been on fire in recent months. Both are going up. The only question being who wins the league, who gets the second automatic slot and then who wins at the W place. That’s all that counts now. That’s all we should be focussing on. For Brentford, automatic relies on maths. Promotion relies on us pulling together and getting over the line at the tenth attempt. 

I can already see Ivan walking up to the penalty spot in the 89th minute…. 

Is it coming to this once more….? (The place rather than the hats)

Nick Bruzon   

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A terrible morning after a frustrating night before.

7 Apr

Another game unbeaten. Third placed in the Championship table. A clean sheet. Clear of Swansea City on level games. Ordinarily one would be ecstatic to be in this position heading in to the final seven games of the campaign. Yet a 0-0 for Brentford against Birmingham City, a fourth successive draw for the Bees, has left nothing but a feeling of deep frustration. An opportunity spurned. The gap to second placed Watford 9 points. As if to underline the gulf in class at the top end, Norwich City took the opportunity to inflict a 7(seven) – 0 bracketing on Huddersfield Town. The Terriers on the receiving end of what happens when the opposition actually take their chances rather than just create them. 

There’s no disguising the final score

Brentford are now closer to 7th(seventh) place than automatic. Bournemouth currently sitting five points behind as they look to break in to the play-off zone. We’ve been saying for weeks that automatic is possible but failure to look over the shoulder has cost us – both Barnsley and Watford storming up and, in the case of the Hornets, through. Whilst the play-offs are the more realistic option for the Bees now (albeit, I’ll never say never until it’s mathematically out of sight) even falling over the line into that final-four shoot out isn’t as cut and dried as once it looked. Comments on Twitter to any post from ‘official’ were the usual mix of FrankOut and calls for Fosu to start. The Messianic pressure being heaped on Tariqe’s shoulders as odd as Thomas Frank’s refusal to mix things up and give his man a start or even just a bit more than a late run.

Instead, the only change from Saturday’s draw at Huddersfield saw Mathias Jensen start in place of Saman Ghoddos. To be fair, it looked good. Pressure built. Chances were created – Jensen blasting over before Sergi Canos had the very best of them. The Spaniard timing his run to break clear straight down the middle, only to Clayton it when one on one with ‘keeper Etheridge. There were others, too. Yet it already felt like ‘one of those’ as we headed in to half time. Lots of pressure and neat play. A statistician’s dream but no clinical finish or even ‘out and out’ chance, the Canos opportunity aside. And the longer the game went on the more it lacked any cutting edge. Brentford looking flat, muted, impotent. Ivan Toney rarely getting a sniff. 

Clearly we’re missing the threat offered by Rico Henry and Josh Dasilva. Two of our three best players missing for weeks now. No coincidence the results have slipped away with their injuries. The added absence of Henrik Dalsgaard further limiting our attacking threat. At least we kept it tight at the back although still had to be grateful to the woodwork after Scott Hogan caused merry hell in the box, freeing up Gary Gardner close in on the angle. Thankfully, the Birmingham player saw his shot cannon clear off the post and the Bees survived. It was part of a sequence that saw our visitors take the game to Brentford early on. Clearly, they weren’t here just to throw 11 behind the ball and with that level of open play we should have had enough about us to convert something of our own. Instead, it was another case of ifs, buts and maybes. A definite feeling of two more points dropped rather than one gained.

Bryan Mbeumo had one of his best games in a while. Coming close himself aswell as creating opportunities, such as they were. We might have had a few good shouts for penalty kicks – Mads Bech Sorensen in particular – but ultimately it was an evening where full time came with a feeling of emptiness. Of lethargy. Of bang average performance rather than one of having seen us kept out by a combination of cat like ‘keeper, shonky refereeing, ratlling woodwork and all those other things that so often come together to aid the opposition. This one was down to us and us only. When the time came, we couldn’t rise to the occasion. 

When Watford had finally left a glimmer of light we were unable to take advantage and close down what, this morning, feels less like a gap and more like a chasm to second place. It is one we can still cross, and let’s not forget that as part of a tough run in, they also have a six pointer at Lionel Road. Hopefully, things won’t be too late by the time that comes around. Ultimately though, every passing game sees it more reliant on maths than it does on our own ability to play football.

I was genuinely full of optimism yesterday.About both the game and our longer term prospects but even having slept on it, the feeling of self-destruct and now being really up against it that hit home at full-time remains. All being well it’ll go by the weekend when we travel to Preston.

I’m not sure what Thomas does from here to help his team rediscover their clinical edge. Short of a miraculous return for Rico or Josh, his squad remains as it is. The clamour for Fosu remains loud on social media and whilst teams have never been picked by fans before, something needs to change. Some fresh blood needed to reinvigorate a team who are so tantalisingly close to the ultimate dream yet, for whatever reasons, so far off the pace at present. There is still time to turn it around, even if it is just our form that returns. Anything else beyond there, from anyone else, nothing more than a bonus.

Then, when things couldn’t get worse, they did. I’ve woken up to the club highlighting the racist abuse once again directed towards Ivan Toney on Instagram last night. The club published their own reaction, one mirrored by all of us with brains.

There are no real words and no excuse to justify what was written by the perpetrator. ‘Frank Out’ is easy enough to ignore or even laugh at but this is totally different. Spineless. Cowardly. Hateful. Ignorant. Here’s hoping they catch whomever it is and use all the powers available to deal with this. How anyone thinks that sort of language about a fellow human being is acceptable remains beyond me. I can’t imagine how utterly horrific it must be to have this directed towards you. It’s awful enough reading it.  A crappy end off the pitch after a frustrating evening on it.

So I’m done. Here’s to a few days of ‘down time’ from social media, from football, from all this nonsense and then back to it for Preston. I think we could all do with a reset.

Nick Bruzon  

I gave you every break possible. You had a 50-50 chance. You weren’t even close.

17 Mar

A point on the road and avoiding defeat. Something you’d normally be ok with. Moreso with one of your main promotion rivals falling to a 3-0 defeat. Yet there’s nothing but a hollow feeling this morning off the back of as frustrating an evening as they come. Brentford were held 2-2 at Wayne Rooney’s Derby County in a game that saw us electric in the first half and anonymous in the second. Early goals from Ivan Toney and Sergi Canos setting our stall out but there was always the feeling that missed opportunities, primarily one from Bryan Mbeumo, may come back to bite us in the second period. Its Brentford, innit? Yet there was no legislating for how costly our inability to punish opponents when they were looking dead on their feet would ultimately transpire to be. The aforementioned defeat for Swansea City at Bournemouth providing scant relief in the face of our own disappearance and Watford cruising past Rotherham 4-1. Saturday’s game with Nottingham Forest will be huge. Another early kick off to try and lay down a marker. A chance to exorcise the demons of the second half.

Cripes, it all started so well. A return for Pontus Jansson alongside Winston Reid at centre back in his first game of the year. Wayne Roon etc etc  Derby County so anonymous in that opening period we could have filled the defence with a couple of paper bags fluttering around randomly in the breeze and we’d have been just as safe. Bryan Mbeumo and Sergi Canos, the other change to the team, driving us forward. Norgaard and, especially Janelt, imperious in the middle. Vitaly winning every ball and breaking with speed. Ivan Toney doing his thing from the penalty spot once more with less than ten minutes gone after Mbeumo had been felled in the box. No complaints from Derby and about as stonewall as they come.  

It was another one stroked home to the bottom corner. Another one preceded by that most heart stoping of almost nonchalant ambling up to the ball before unleashing a trademark precision strike. 1-0 up and soon it was double. Canos getting our second from the corner of the box with a fine shot, hit low into the corner. Tariqe Fosu may feel hard done by, and personally I thought he’d retain his spot following the game at Blackburn, but Sergi was there to to do what he does. To show the critics just why he deserves his chance.

2-0. Sergi did his thing…

In between these came the Mbeumo opportunity. Jensen bursting clear and squaring to the unmarked wideman. He was clear, albeit on the angle, but  somehow managed to hit it painfully wide rather than coming close to even troubling Derby ‘keeper Kelle Roos. It wasn’t the only chance we had in that period but certainly the clearest. The sort that might have had Ian Moose punching the directions to the training ground into his sat nav. With the pressure building and the Derby goal being peppered, it was the sort of half where we felt hard done by in ‘only’ scoring twice. Arrogant? Not really. More symptomatic of the possession we’d enjoyed and chances we’d created in one of the most intense periods of football we’ve played this season. Yet, as we all know, stats and chances count for nothing if you can’t turn them into goals. If the first half had been nothing but Brentford, the second period saw the baton handed to our hosts in quite remarkable style.

Wayne Rooney has been lauded for the triple substitution he made as the players returned. Rightly so. Derby hadn’t been at the races and drastic action was needed.. There was no messing around. No further opportunity for the no-shows to redeem themselves. Instead, a change in set up was the decision and what a reaction. Within minutes they’d pulled the first goal back. Nathan Byrne bursting down the right and squaring the ball for Louie Watson with the simplest of chances. He made no mistake as he steered home from close in. Now we had a game on our hands. Now we saw 2-0 and dominant become 2-1 and wobbly with almost the entire second period to play. Brentford resembling nothing more than punch drunk boxer. Derby raining strike after strike in a bid to find that knockout blow. The Bees on the ropes, offering nothing. Hanging on to a 2-1 lead and waiting until the final twenty minutes to start making changes. 

The arrival of Tariqe Fosu providing some respite as we began to open up the Rams but there was little end product from anyone to provide a genuine threat to Roos. The feeling that a second Derby goal was coming growing by the minute and then, with the clock reading 86, it arrived. Louie Sibley making the opportunity for himself and then unleashing a fine curler past David Raya. 2-2. Game over, man. Game over. A point gained but a match that feels like nothing except a gut busting defeat. Even having slept on it. We could have put it out of sight in the first half, true, but it was more our complete inability to even come close to keeping pace with our opponents in the second that is the real mystery. Our inability to get even close to the ball or hang on to it when we did pick it up that I can’t get my head around. You have to credit Wayne Rooney and his side, of course. Yet at the same time, it takes two teams to play a game of football and there was only one present in the second 45. Thomas is going to have to give the mother of all pep talks today in the build up to the TV game with Nottingham Forest on Saturday lunchtime. 

Win that one and we overtake a Swansea City team who then have their challenge with Cardiff City the visitors. Win that one and we close back in on second place Watford ahead of their visit from Birmingham City. Let’s hope Lee Bowyer is ten times the better manager than the recently displaced Aitor Karanka.

Yesterday started off badly with the sad news of Yaphet Kotto passing at the age of 81. To cinema goers, he was best known for his roles as William Laughlin in The Running Man, Parker in Alien and, of course, Doctor Kananga in Live and Let Die. The role that saw him face off against the best Bond, Roger Moore, trading one liners and high end fashion with 007. As full time went at Pride Park, I couldn’t help but think back to his own impassioned speech to tarot reader Solitaire (Jane Seymour) upon discovering her betrayal as he despaired, “I gave you every break possible. You had a 50-50 chance. You weren’t even close.

The highlights are up. Somewhere. I’m not sure I can face watching them again today. The post match catch up last night was painful enough. No team has a right to win every game. It’s not the fact we lost, sorry drew, that hurts, but more the manner of our no show. Instead, perhaps time to crack open the Bond collection instead. Time to switch off from football for a few days.

See you on Saturday for Nottingham Forest. Maybe sooner.   

Deadly rivals face off.

Nick Bruzon

Grow up or go support Manchester City.

4 Mar

Wednesday evening is proudly sponsored by a punch to the gut. A horrible low blow of a night that leaves Brentford still second, everyone, but now locked tighter than ever with Swansea City and Watford at the business end of the Championship. Norwich City an incredible ten points clear at the top after a thoroughly deserved 1-0 victory over the Bees. No complaints about how it played out at Carrow Road, beyond their gratuitous use of goal music, although what came afterwards left a somewhat numb feeling in the stomach. The usual suspects lining up to put the boot into one player – the apparent desire to see him fail and subsequent relish that accompanied what was, admittedly, a poor showing by his standards, very much a showcase for both the frustrating side of social media as it was their own ignorance as to how the season, the squad and the club work. A blinkered avoidance of the fact that, on the night, the entire team were very much second best to a  Norwich side that may aswell start ordering in their 2021/22 Panini sticker books now. 

No complaints. Sadly

It all started off so brightly. David Raya standing up to Teemu Pukki with the Norwich goal machine clean through. Barely minutes on the clock. He should have scored. Ian Moose would, no doubt, have gobbled that one up (or demonstrated how to do so on the training ground afterwards) but the Brentford goalkeeper maintained his composure and ensured we didn’t concede a customary early goal. 

Yet if this was to be a warning sign it spurred the Bees into life. Running 100mph at our hosts, Sergi Canos hit a stunning drive from distance that Tim Krul did well to parry away. The same player then guilty of a brutal looking miss after magnificent work down the right hand flank by Mbeumo. The winger squaring it for the Spaniard who, somehow, steered it horribly wide rather than stroking it home from his unmarked position yards out. Whether he slipped or got tangled up in his own feet, I’ve no idea. Either way, it should have been 1-0. Either way it looked awful.

Ivan Toney and Canos again had chances. The former perhaps with the better of the pair before it all went South. A sloppy pass from Sergi allowing Norwich to turn defence into attack. They broke at speed, opening up the Brentford defence as easily as they would a packet of biscuits. The ball found Emi Buendía who made no mistake, shooting through a crowd of players low into the far corner. 25 minutes gone. 1-0 Norwich City. Brentford very much on the back foot after a sterling start to proceedings. The social media hate mob now going full tilt for Sergi. A player who, at most, as suggested at half-time by Sam Saunders in the Sky Sports studios was guilty of nothing more than trying too hard against his former club. Sam’s right.     

And that was it. The first half ended quicker than you can say ‘keyboard warrior’. The second half saw Norwich City dominant. Mbeumo disappearing as quickly as he had sparked into early life. Winston Reid riding the gauntlet of yellow cards. Obvious changes with Tariqe Fosu and Christian Norgaard, amongst the players to come on, doing nothing to change the momentum of the game. Hello? Are we going to put the boot in? Hello..? Twitter..?  Both players powerless to stem the yellow tide. If anything, Norwich grew stronger. Brentford failing to even come within a sniff beyond a last minute surge when rough play in the box on Bryan Mbeumo went unpunished. Penalty? Surely? No!! I’ve seen them given, Clive. 100% VAR gets it right. 100%. The irony given what came later in the evening for Swansea City. 

Hmmm….

In short…. best team in the Championship proved why they are so far clear at the top. Established first team player has ad-hoc bad game and isn’t Benrahma. Rest of his team mates unable to do anything better against deserving winners.

Insert Face palm. We’re still second, everyone, but Saturday at home to Rotherham United is one where we’ll definitely be looking for a return to winning ways. Despite their own battle with relegation, I’m going into that game with an expectation of nothing more than three points. It’s a crucial time with the chasing pack breathing back down our necks and Swansea City boosted by a 95th minute winner at Stoke City. Kyle Naughton’s theatrical fall after Jack Clarke was deemed to have breathed on him being sufficient to earn the Swans a late, late penalty. Andre Ayew duly converted it to earn his side an additional two points after the scores had been locked at 1-1 for so long.

That’s football. Decisions go for you. Decisions go against you. We can’t change it and there’s no point crying. Get the inevitable frustration out and then look forward. For Brentford, that game with the Millers. Swansea host Middlesbrough and Watford entertain Nottingham Forest at lunchtime. We may well have been overtaken by the time we start and, if we are, that’s fine. The only thing that counts is how we perform at 3pm. On and off the pitch.

I do wonder what social media would have been like had it been as easily available in the Butcher / Rosenior eras, amongst others. When we were skint. When we had to have a fanzine buy us a player. When we were rattling buckets and kicking around the lower end of League One or Two. When the stadium was falling apart around us. 

Whilst I loved those times, unquestionably, let’s not pretend that things were always rosy. There was some absolute dross served up to go with, what was, an incredible bond between fans and players. We were all in it together. Fans united in our love for the club and brutal acceptance that we were where we were. Still with the dream of bettering ourselves. Still cheering our team and our heroes on. In person. Now, the keyboard warriors are out there doing their thing from the safety of their mummy’s house. 

Nobody expects blind loyalty. That’s as dangerous as failing to recognise consistent poor performance or accepting it because we used to be genuinely awful. Yet the over reaction from certain quarters to what was, absolutely, a mistake littered performance was shameful. The blinkered, hypocritical witch-in-chief leading the charge to put a hobnailed boot in once more. Take a look at yourself, learn to read a game, learn to recognise that a football team still has ten other players and that a season lasts for 46 games. Learn to accept that, perhaps sometimes, the opposition might just be a better team than us. Learn how our club works and that nobody has infinite supplies of cash. Then grow up or go support Manchester City.

I know I’m shouting into the wind here. Just as they are. The players and staff don’t read that crud. Or this. But it doesn’t make it right. Now, time to move on and focus on Rotherham. And breathe. Perhaps updating the social media ‘follows’. Nobody needs that nonsense either.

Nick Bruzon