Tag Archives: Watford

Looking sharp for the Manchester United game. And beyond..

28 Jul

Fair to say we’re now up to our, err, elbows in pre-season prep for the Premier League. The weekend gone saw queues all the way around the block for the launch of the new Brentford kits (something likened by many to our lining up in the snow when Chelsea FA cup tickets went on sale first time around). There was the behind closed doors friendly defeat of Watford, with Ivan Toney picking up where he left off last season and then this evening Manchester United welcome the top flight’s third placed club in another warm up game.

Prove otherwise

We’ve already spoken about the new kit on these pages – you can find that one here – but the good news being that up close and personal it looks better than those launch photos. Dare I say it, ten times…? The away, certainly.

Going past the club shop last Thursday evening on the way to H’s swimming lesson, our cycle up Braemar Road coincided with the mannequins being arranged in the window. But enough about the Birmingham City defence. There they were. Plastic models (but enough abou…), bedecked head to foot in what we’ll be wearing over the forthcoming campaign. The relief was palpable.

Our away looks gorgeous. Discreet chevron shading running through the design whilst the home, whilst still sadly bereft of our own black trim, at least seems to have toned down the awful look of the sponsor that greeted the initial reveal. Perhaps it had been photoshopped in after the launch phots were taken. As if that would ever happen. Who knows?

Certainly the queues that ran all the way around the block and the huge wait for printing were testament to the popularity. Kudos to Chris and the team running the laminator. A three hour wait from start to finish to complete our order from going in. “Ah, we’ll just stroll up at 9 o’clock,” I casually said to Mrs Bruzon and H.

Hmmmm….The queue went from bus stop to bus stop. Griffin Park down to the New Road 65 shelter and beyond. It really was like taking a throwback to League One. Most of our time was spent waiting to even get access although the usual bonhomie that greets such occasions was alive and well. There’s nothing like the thought of needing your shirt to travel to Manchester United the following week to get the blood pumping and the spirits high.

And that is now upon us. The table doesn’t lie and with Brentford in third place – ten slots above the Old Trafford outfit – our early season form has been rewarded. Whilst the visit of Arsenal on Friday 13th will be the true acid test and our first real chance to go top of the Premier League on ability rather than alphabetical good fortune. Still, I’ll take what I can get. Pull it off this evening or next month and the place is going to go nuts. With the Bees largely expected to be whipping boys, we’ve nothing to lose, everything to gain and the knowledge that this tin pot outfit actually knows what it is doing.  

For anybody not able to travel tonight, the game is live on MUTV. Not that I can imagine we’ve too many subscribers. This Saturday’s visit from West Ham is more likely when the half and halfers will be out and about. Still, with a monthly pass available online at £7.99, perhaps a one-off subscription may be the way forward. For Manchester United rather than West Ham. You can sign up here but don’t forget to deactivate your card afterwards.

Nobody can deny our preseason is being taken lightly. The transfers are coming in whilst we’ve still not had any rumours of outward movement. No bad thing, given the number of Toney 17 shirts that were flying off the shelves at the weekend. I daren’t imagine the stress should he even change his squad number, let alone be linked to a rival. Still, that’s nothing different to any other campaign. It’s Brentford, innit. 

Old school queuing on Saturday

Nick Bruzon

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   

I want a squirrel and I want one now!!

18 Apr

Congratulations Norwich City. It is the only place to start a look at our own Championship fortunes this morning after their return to the Premier League was confirmed yesterday. Despite a home defeat, every favour possible was cashed in after Brentford were held 0-0 by Millwall, Watford lost at Luton and Swansea City left it late to salvage a draw with Wycombe. Not that these favours would have been needed in the longer term. The Canaries have been outstanding this season in terms of both ability and consistency. It has been apparent for months that ‘automatic’ would be theirs if they held the nerve. Instead, there has barely been a ruffled feather on that front. The goals and wins have kept on coming. The reward fully deserved.   

For Brentford, still all to play for but getting tougher every game. A frustrating afternoon no doubt and moreso given it followed that stonking 5-0 win at Preston last weekend. The same side selected yet, this time, the opposition infinitely harder to break down. Chances at a premium with the only one I can remember that from Marcus Forss early on in the second half. He did tremendously well to wriggle past two defenders on his way into the box before firing his shot the wrong side of the near post when squaring it would have been the easier option. In hindsight. One can’t blame him for seeing the goal open up after working the chance and our fortunes should have hung on more than this solitary opportunity. Instead, Millwall did what Millwall do. Indeed, they had their own chances to take an early lead before the game meandered to another stalemate.

The optimist in me could say it is now 7(seven) unbeaten. And it is. Another game where the pre kick-off presence of one-time albatross Clem in his Football Focus interview barely caused a murmur of consternation given his current form. His historical ‘jinx’ factor currently set to ‘positive’ and so, if anything, was a good sign going in to this one. On a side note, the interview with Thomas is well worth watching. Clem, his usual blend of gentle probing and charm personified. Thomas giving a much needed reality check on last season aswell as the challenge ahead for the remainder of this.

Clem and Thomas do their thing

It was a game that saw another point gained but, really, if there is any aspiration of automatic we need to be turning those into wins rather than becoming divisional draw specialists. Brentford are now fourth. One point behind Swansea City and eight behind Watford with a game in hand a visit form the Hornets still to come. Bournemouth on fire and tucked in behind us on level points. Their own victory at Carrow Road yesterday making it six in a row for the Cherries. Their own fine start to the campaign coming off the rails before bouncing back in some style. If anything, they are the danger team making that late surge although perhaps second place a touch too far out of the way.

For Brentford, all we can do is focus on winning then hope something happens in our favour. Tuesday night is the big one. No question. The evening of ‘must win’ games. A visit from Cardiff City as tough as any we could face. Oh, for a repeat of the Sergi Canos hat-trick against the Bluebirds back at Christmas. Of course, football doesn’t work like that and it is the first of our five remaining fixtures. Five high stakes games which could see this team become legends. From this point in the stress levels are only going to build. For everyone. How Thomas Frank manages that is going to be key to our fortunes. How he gets his team performing consistently a conundrum only he, and his staff, can unravel.

The same XI were world cup winners against Preston. Chance after chance created, and taken. Fast forward a week and it would have been easier to unlock a front door wearing oven gloves and a deep sea diver’s helmet than it was the Millwall defence. The doom and gloom in the air at full time totally disproportionate to a team that are still sitting fourth in the Championship. I’ve largely been off social media these last two weeks. Not even having the heart to update these pages. I love talking about the Bees but seeing all the negativity is just doing my head in. I’m  done with what, at times, feels little more than arrogant entitlement from a group of Veruca Salts throwing their worthless opinions around like spoiled brats hurling toys out of a pram. 

I. DEMAND. AUTOMATIC. NOWWWWW.

I’ve no real issue anyone putting the boot in if they can back it coherently. Make a case for what they feel is going wrong and, more importantly, what they might realistically change. Instead, its nothing but bullying of individuals and the same tired, lemming like phrases:

Bottle jobs.

Frank Out.

Canos / Marcondes / Jensen (delete or add as applicable) is sh*t.

Should have bought over January (I’d love to know who and how). 

Then there’s Tariqe Fosu being feted as the saviour of the team. He IS good, very good, no question. Yet one player does not win games on his own. One player is not the be all and end all of our chances. The responses to yesterday’s final result being announced on Twitter saw so many of the the usual suspects doing the usual thing. Forgetting, also, that a campaign lasts 46 games rather than something determined by the latest round of results.

Look at who is injured. Look at how we do things. Look at the pressure on everyone. On every club – something seen in yesterday’s results. Instead of whine, whine, whine how about actually backing your team? Save the post mortem for later, if it is really needed.

I’m pretty much done with Twitter and Facebook for the moment. Yesterday illustrated that just perfectly – shouldn’t have looked at the full time update but a few beers in the sunshine helped pique my curiosity later in the day. The return to The Griffin, seeing old friends and discussing football in person just wonderful. Another positive to be taken from the day. Sadly, the same can’t be said about social media. I want to enjoy my football, no matter how hard it is at times. How tense. How excruciating. Not have it dragged down by bitching. So I’m done. Let them shout into the void. I’ll go on there if it suits me and that’s it.

The replies to this. Only Wilf talking sense

We are on the threshold of greatness. Whilst only a moron would fail to recognise things are ten times harder for us than they might have been, getting out of the Championship is one of the toughest things possible. Twenty four teams fighting for three spots. The calibre of opposition and budgets of those who have parachuted down from the Prem illustrate it in some style. That’s before you get to those well established clubs. The pressure on everyone is immense. We saw that with the sequence of results that came in this weekend. It was a lost opportunity for Brentford but, then again, also for Watford and Swansea. Perhaps even Norwich City who would have been confirmed champions.

Instead, it is all eyes forward to Tuesday and that other must win game, for Norwich at home to Watford. To be fair, even a point hands them a title that is now only out of their grasp by virtue of mathematics and goal difference. I’d love them to do it if only for what it then means for Brentford, of course. As Thomas Frank said in his interview with Clem (and if you haven’t seen that as yet then you can, no should, take a look. There’s a link here) I think it is for Watford to lose but of course we need to do our bit.” 

Of course. The absolute priority has to be us getting our act together first, rediscovering our cutting edge and then seeing what else happens. Starting with Cardiff City on Tuesday at 6pm.

Nick Bruzon

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  

This is one we really must win.

6 Apr

Eight games to go. Brentford host Birmingham City on Tuesday evening following the draw with Huddersfield at the weekend. A game we go into with the knowledge that, finally, the results around us have been favourable. Yesterday saw Watford held at Middlesbrough after leading for a large chunk of that one and Swansea City losing their fourth on the bounce. The Bees in third place. Ten points behind the Hornets but with two games in hand. The first of which takes place at 7.00pm this evening. A game where victory has to be at the top of our priorities if there is to be any hope of overhauling the team(s) in ‘automatic’. If not a mathematical ‘must win’ then psychologically, very much the time to return to winning ways. Over reliance on favours not a strong card for any head coach to play too often. All good in theory. The problem being Lee Bowyer and his Blues are very much in a battle of their own at the wrong end of the table and aren’t just going to hand over the points.

All to play for still – not just for the top two

The plus point being the Bees are unbeaten since the 1-0 at Norwich City a month ago. All well and good but let’s not pretend the last three games have been anything but frustrating. Starting off at 100mph against Wayne Rooney’s Derby County but falling over the line to a 2-2 draw. See also: Nottingham Forest where chances aplenty were created but only one converted. The inevitable happened. Then Saturday saw us peg it back against Huddersfield Town for another draw. True, the point saw us clear Swansea City but Watford are the ones that, at present, we all have to catch up with. Indeed, the nature of the opening goal at the weekend a horror show to match anything Mrs. Browns Boys have inflicted on us over the years. 

The net result of all this meaning that, really, only victory will be good enough this evening. Certainly if we have genuine aspirations to recapture that place in the top two we held for a tantalising moment. True, Watford have a tough run but they also have more than enough ability to win them. To beat opponents before they have even walked out of the tunnel. For Brentford, the free-scoring fun seems to have gone awol. The team predictable and , perhaps, weighed down by both expectation and the pressure of last season. If ever there was a time to put the shooting boots back on and bolster the defence it is now. To pray Rico Henry and Josh Dasilva are back soon. The lack of any talk about either player suggests that won’t be anytime in the next five minutes. Perhaps, though, Thomas is playing his cards close to his chest.

Regardless, we still should have enough in this team to win tonight. Ivan Toney knows thew way to goal. Norgaard is back. Fosu and Marcondes must be chomping at the bit to begin this one from the off. Can Thomas inspire his troops? Make the pieces of this most enigmatic jigsaw fit together?

I don’t buy into any of this “We should have strengthened the squad in January” nonsense, btw. How do you predict injuries? How do you pay for it? How do you keep the squad happy? Which players would you have actually brought in? Moreso, at a time when we were on fire and storming it? Genuine question. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but let’s not forget, either, we’re more than holding our own against teams that have parachuted down from the Premier League and been able to maintain their structure. Likewise, that a season lasts for 46 games. Swansea City currently proving that no team can win every game. Hitting a wobble that’s actually worse than the one we did in that unholy trinity of games that reached a brutal denouement at St. Andrews against Coventry City.

Here’s the thing. Laugh and sneer all you want. This isn’t misguided optimism but genuine belief. I’ve been saying it all season and I still stand by the fact of my own personal feeling being Brentford will go up. Even now when, at face value, the table is less than favourable to us with Norwich and Watford in the box seats.  That doesn’t mean we can just continue to try and dial in performances. Saturday was a prime example of what happens when you do that. Yet with our rivals having a tough streak coming up and our own ability to turn it on should we get the on-pitch part right, this is still all to play for. It really needs to start tonight though. Two games in hand are more than handy but they need to be turned in to points. Both are at home to teams playing for their lives (see also: Rotherham in game 45).

This won’t be easy, of course. Birmingham City have got quality in that squad. I’ve seen teams finish fifth in this league and miss out on promotion by play offs. Their squad is ten times better than that. Its just about getting the balance right……

This could be huge. This might even be fun. It should be. What’s the point, otherwise? Kick off is at 7.00pm whilst before that you’ve got a ‘live’ edition of ‘The Warm Up’ . Stuart Wakeford, Marcus Gayle, Karleigh Osborne and special guest Natalie Sawyer will be hosting the show from Lionel Road at 6pm. You can catch that on YouTube with full details on ‘official’, here.. 

Until then, have a great day. See you there (metaphorically speaking). It’ll be another one on the sofa for us. All being well with a lot of cheering……

Nick Bruzon

Anything but a top draw afternoon.

4 Apr

Another point for Brentford. The draw at Huddersfield Town marking a mixed bag of results from the opening round of the Easter Championship fixtures. With Swansea City making it three defeats in a row at the hands of Birmingham City but Watford winning, again, the gap from the Bees in third to the second placed Hornets is now nine points. True, we still have that extra fixture and a visit from the Vicarage Road club to come but, for now, points in the bag are very much better than games in hand. For now… Who knows how things will or could change over the next few games?

We can only start with events at Huddersfield Town. A game which finished 1-1 after a first half in which we were frustrated by tenacious opponents and referee Oliver Langford. The man in the middle clearly set to ‘random’. Our case not helped by a shambolic opening goal conceded via a bit of defensive playmaking as haphazard and frustrating as the ‘officiating’ in the opening period. Raya playing out to Roerslev rather than booting it. The young Dane seemed to lose his footing before giving it away. Norgaard shoved before losing it and then Raya caught flat-footed after man of the match Lewis O’Brien reacted quickest. Just 7(seven) minutes gone and a goal down. Mere words can’t describe how awful it looked from start to finish. Dig out the video if you can do it to yourself. Anyone giving up the booze for Lent would have been forgiven for cracking at that point.

Help very much needed to get through the opening to the game

It was a goal all the more frustrating given Langford had adjudged Sergi Canos to have ‘fouled’ Demeaco Duhaney when running clean through on our hosts just moments earlier. Wonderful though he is, you’ve more chance of the Easter bunny displaying that level of dirty play. The Spanish playmaker one who very much embraces the positive side of attack, preferring to do it with the ball rather than his elbows. A player who trusts the referee to do his job. Sadly, the man in the middle failed spectacularly. See also the clear handball by Naby Sarr with Ivan Toney bursting clear or our man being bundled over yet adjudged to have conceded the foul. 

Let’s be clear, you still need to make your own chances but against opponents facing their own battle at the other end of the table, nothing is going to be handed over on a plate. The referee still needs to do his job and my word, Mr. Langford failed spectacularly in the first half. It was an opening period that actually had me yearning for the card waving discipline of Keith Stroud.

Our own cause not helped by Ghoddos and Mbeumo joining Dalsgaard in missing the game. At least the later had the excuse of being injured so not making it onto the pitch. Marcondes and Fosu amongst those given their chance far too late. Even Marcus Forss coming on for his 80th minute ‘subs by numbers’ appearance was as predictable as it was reactive. I’m no manager but the lack of impact and spurned opportunities in the opening period should have been a clarion call to action at half time rather than waiting until the usual 60-70 minute ‘Warburton zone’ to start proceedings.

Mr. Langford’s first half performance left a lot to be desired

Then again, we came out for the second period with a rocket having been delivered. Mads Bech Sørensen stabbing home the equaliser with just five minutes gone. Ivan Toney then hitting the inside of the post moments later. Surely, now, the pressure would build and the screw be turned? Surely? Alas not. Whilst Brentford had the lion’s share of the ball and possession, inability to carve out any further clear opening saw the game meander to an inevitable finish. Actual goals, rather than expected ones or retention stats, being what wins games. Huddersfield Town proving as resolute hosts as when they scuppered West Brom in game 45 last season. We weren’t complaining about their approach then. Perhaps it is something we might have done well to  remember.

Disappointed? Well, yes. Nobody has a divine right to win but Brentford just feel very samey at the moment. Our free flowing play and attacking intent parked in the sickbay with Rico Henry and Josh Dasilva. Games we might have won earlier in the season now turning into draws. Blame the ref. Blame lost chances (see: Nottingham Forest). Blame late wobbles (Derby County). Either way, the top two places would be infinitely nearer had we been able to close out any of the last three games. On the plus side, the meltdown ushered in by the FrankOut brigade after the Coventry debacle hasn’t seen Swansea City win their three games in hand to stride clear by the eight points predicted. Instead, we’re now ahead of the Swans whose current form reads LLL. Yet, like Barnsley, nobody has really kept tabs on Watford and they are the ones who have kept on churning out result after result after result.

What next? Watford travel to a Middlesbrough team who still have play-off aspirations. That, before another promotion hunting team in Reading, the derby with Luton and then Norwich away. Come out of those in any semblance of good form, off the back of an already mammoth run, and they deserve everything that comes their way. For Brentford, a visit from Birmingham City to set the pulse racing. Harlee Dean, Maxime Colin, Scott Hogan plus  Jon ‘and Toral must score’ amongst those likely to feature on Tuesday.

And Toral must score….

‘Automatic’ is still well possible but it is going to take a huge effort. Not just from those lining up against our rivals but from Brentford themselves. On and off the pitch. My word, if ever there was a time to return to winning ways then this it is upon us. Even Thomas seemed subdued after yesterday’s game, noting that “I would assess it as a decent performance. Not a top performance.

Here’s hoping for a return to winning ways and the chance to hear ‘Daydream Believer’ at full time. Oh, to be there on Tuesday.

Nick Bruzon

Needs must when the devil vomits into your kettle.

2 Apr

Finally, the Championship is back for Brentford after the interminable two week international break. This highlights of which included a first cap for Ethan Pinnock aswell as those much celebrated goals for Ollie Watkins and Gibraltar. The former on his international debut. The later, a brief moment of respite against Montenegro that came either side of home defeats to Norway and the Netherlands. For once, no consolation in seeing the brackets wheeled out as the boys from the Rock took a second half shoeing from the Dutch after an inspired opening forty-five. This, despite the wonderful form of goalkeeper Dayle Coleing. Not often you can concede ten in two games yet still be lauded as a player of the week. That’s now been and gone. Instead, we’re off to Huddersfield Town for a TV game tomorrow lunchtime. Today, we have to sit tight and wait for Watford to host Sheffield Wednesday before Swansea travel to Birmingham City this evening. If ever there was a ‘can both sides lose?’ derby then here it is.

No celebration. No brackets

Of course we should just focus on ourselves. The squad, one hopes, mostly refreshed. Recent pictures of Rico ‘on the grass’ providing some optimism. How close he remains to full fitness is, of course, another question altogether. Likewise Josh Dasilva.

Both sorely missed in recent weeks. Both players who can only strengthen our chances in the run in should they be available. Both players who will be in the Premier League next season – one way or another. See also: Ivan Toney. Cripes, we’ve got some first XI when everyone is fit.

Might we see Rico in action again soon?

Whilst just looking out for Brentford is the text book answer to any question about the last stages of a promotion campaign, we all know that’s nonsense when it comes down to it. Every decision, every goal, every result from our rivals is scrutinised in agonising detail. Moreso, when they are in action and we have an extra day to wait before our own game. Watford are the ones currently in second place. A 3pm kick off at home to Sheffield Wednesday in their game and, surely, no possible outcome beyond a win for the Hornets? Our only hope of a favour here being the Owls fighting a desperate rearguard against relegation. Who knows? 

For Swansea, a trip to Birmingham City in the evening. Last time out Lee Bowyer’s Blues were hammered at Vicarage Road. Tonight’s test equally tough and they’ll have to be ten times better to get anything out the bag here. The combination of Harlee Dean at the heart of the defence and the Swans propensity to be awarded penalties has me worried, that’s for sure. The one real hope being that, like Wednesday, City are also perilously close to the trapdoor. The only thing keeping them out of the bottom three being their having played about a hundred games more than Rotherham United. Any salvation for them needs to start immediately.

With Brentford not in action until tomorrow, let’s not pretend we won’t be following both games with a combination of intrigue and blind optimism. I’m not expecting any favours out of either and know we’ll have to rely on ourselves. Wednesday and Birmingham will only be able to offer the expected resistance of any team facing the dual factors of a relegation battle and promotion contenders. The bookies are giving 2.75 – 1 as the current price on Watford and Swansea in a win double. Lump your mortgage on it. I have. Well, if not the mortgage the remaining contents of my online betting account. Which should see me able to spring for a Creme Egg come Saturday morning.

Whatever happens, happens. None of it counts for anything if we can’t hit our own winning streak. Whilst not a ‘must win’ game, the trip to Huddersfield is one where three points will be very, very welcome. Time is starting to run out for all of us. Brentford have nine games left. That’s still almost 20% of the campaign – a significant proportion of course – but it doesn’t feel like that many when they can be counted on your fingers and thumbs. Especially when you know how the pressure will crank up in those final few fixtures. If ever there was a time to show what we’ve got then it’s now. The Terriers tomorrow and then Birmingham City at home on Tuesday. No irony to be lost there if, somehow, they rediscover the way to goal and any semblance of form today. Stranger things.

It doesn’t feel like there are too many to go….

If you can’t face watching either of today’s games on TV then there are two alternatives. First up, The Beesotted podcast. Billy and team providing an hour long distraction in their own big game build up. You can get that here.

Then there’s the combination of social media and kits. The World Cup of Brentford shirts seeing an epic head to head between Adidas 80 and Hummel 93. That one comes to a conclusion on Saturday morning and, whilst we are sadly lacking the Chad 92, Osca yoke and Funky Bee pin stripe, let’s not pretend the two finalists are nothing but amongst the very best we’ve ever had.

You can vote below. Until then, that’s me. See you on the other side. Tonight, Matthew, I need to be Birmingham City. And that’s not a good thing for anyone, especially those of us who supported the club during the early 90s. Then again, needs must when the devil vomits into your kettle, or whatever somebody much clever than me once said. 

Nick Bruzon

Shoulda Woulda Coulda. Mixed bag of results leaves it tense at the top.

21 Mar

Two points dropped or another gained in a performance that was streets ahead of that second half no show on Tuesday? Brentford held 1-1 by Nottingham Forest in a game that arguably we could have won , given the chances created, or making further ground on Swansea City who lost at home to Cardiff City? The gap between us a solitary point. The huge fly in our ointment being a Watford team who won, again, and are now looking to make their own insurmountable assault on second place. A position they currently occupy with a 7(seven) point advantage over the Bees, albeit having played an extra game. With so many Brentford fans fixated on the potential 8 point lead available to the Swans after the dog’s dinner we served up at Coventry (how are those maths working out?), how many stopped to focus on The Hornets as the main danger threat to our automatic aspirations? They’ve been chipping away with win after win after win and now, all of a sudden, have found quite the clear air between second and third place as their rivals’ current milieu has been one more favouring draws and defeats.

The final score – as seen on Brentford official.

Our own game started so brightly. Ivan Toney scoring yet another from the penalty spot. It was as stonewall as they come in the decision making stakes. As ice cool as ever in the execution. Another one rolled into the bottom corner, taking the Championship’s leading scorer up to 28 from 37 games. Twelve minutes gone and Brentford ahead. Nottingham Forest on the ropes and doing well to stay alive. Mbeumo could have done better. Dalsgaard had a a glorious chance. The pressure building and the approach play suggesting more was to come.

Our visitors limited to a half-arsed penalty shout of their own that had both sets of players laughing and earned Alex Mighten nothing more than a yellow card for his trouble. The Tricky Tree less felled in the box and more needing to smooth over the rough edges on his Tom Daley tribute act.

Perfect 10s for effort, if not executionthe GPG at the right place on the screen grabs for this ‘penalty’ analysis

But let’s not get cocky here. Dominant though Brentford were, it had the feel of a game that needed more than one goal got make it safe. Half time came and went with the thought that taking one of those additional chances in the opening period might have eased stress levels in the environs of TW8. Calmed some strained nerves as the inevitable happened just after the hour. Mathias Jensen losing out to Bong after the Forest player manhandled his way through and past our man before releasing the ball forward. Brentford still had enough back to cover but Winston Reid could only guide his clearance straight to Filip Krovinovic close in. Ping. The ball was returned with interest straight back in the direction from which it came, straight past the defender and straight past David Raya in nets. 1-1. Well done. That play had been allowed to continue after the assault on Jensen a cause of huge frustration (and that’s the polite term) but, frankly, we still should have had the nous to cut that one out. Instead, the visitors handed out the consummate lesson in taking your chance when it comes.

This was not a park the bus exercise either. Progress was hard, as much through our own decision making, but there were still chances to seal it. Substitutes Ghoddos and Fosu who, personally speaking, should have come on much earlier, both coming close. Mbeumo had already had a glorious chance, foiled only by time quite wonderful defending. It had seemed an odd on goal after the square ball across the face from Ivan but, instead, a last gasp challenge saw a corner the best we could salvage. And then with almost the last kick of the game Toney saw his own deflection assisted shot go just the wrong side of the post. So near yet so far. 1-1 it finished. Forest good value and deserving of their point. Brentford left frustrated. Twitter given a wide berth. Frankly, life’s too short to read that in the heat of the aftermath.   

Checks for #Frankout

Sunday morning. Time to pick up the pieces once more. To read match reports and see what Thomas had to say for himself. His key take away being that, “this was close to a spotless performance in every aspect, we defended well, created chances, pressed forward and first half we should have been 2-0 up“.

Well yes, he’s right from many respects. Shoulda Woulda Coulda, though. Chances don’t win games, strikers do. Or, at least, goal scorers. Any other day at least one of those probably goes in and the game is safe. But it didn’t. It was today. Not the other 9 times out of 10. And it’s agonising. As much as anything else because we know how last season played out when opportunity knocked. That’s the obvious downside and the place people are likely to gravitate towards. It’s football. We’re pessimists. We’ve been here many, many times. Dont even start me on there W place in North London.

Personally speaking, I’m of the more optimistic school of thought. It goes without saying I’d prefer to be in the position Watford find themselves, even though they have played that additional game. Yet they aren’t home and hosed yet. Anything but. Let’s not forget they still need to come to Lionel Road in the penultimate game of the campaign. That’s before they host Swansea City.  We win that one and our game in hand over them then the gap is a solitary point. Imagine actually needing a favour off Swansea at the end of all this? 

I can’t really think that way. This is on us still. We still have the time and potential on our side. There are still 9 games to play. That’s a fifth of the season as near as makes no difference. This campaign still has SO much football left in it. We’ll call it after game 46. Not after a result that doesn’t go our way. 

Everybody now gets the chance to reset and recover. Hopefully our internationals will all be suffering from niggles that cause their precautionary resting from World Cup qualification and U-21 duty. We’ve still got Josh Dasilva and Rico Henry to return. Hopefully this season . Hopefully soon. Along with Ivan they are two of the best players in the division, let alone this team. Name me any Championship side that could honestly say it was better without players of their calibre? Well, we all know the answer to that and whilst lamenting their absence won’t help anyone, I’d love if they play some significant role in that final run in. Fingers crossed the anti-gravity treadmill, or whatever else they are hooked up to, is doing its thing.

Until then, time to try and chill for a bit. There are two weeks until the next round of fixtures. We’ve got the Mark Devlin derby at Huddersfield on Easter Saturday. The day before, Watford host Sheffield Wednesday and Swansea go to Birmingham City.  Fingers crossed that’s a Good Friday. For Brentford.

For a moment, it looked like we’d have comfortable afternoon. Sadly, this was the only chance taken

Nick Bruzon

Amazingly, this stat seems true – and I don’t like it.

19 Mar

Brentford host Nottingham Forest on Saturday lunchtime. The game live on Sky with a 12.30 kick off. The Bees looking to bounce back from the 2-2 draw with Wayne Rooney’s Derby County on Tuesday night. A game we could, maybe should, have been out of sight in by half time. Instead, our PMA got on the coach early and a second half no show saw us hanging on for 45 minutes before succumbing to the inevitable equaliser. Frustrating doesn’t even begin to describe it but there’s nothing we can do now except kick on and go ag, ag, ag, once more. Elsewhere, there was amazing news on the international front with nothing but plaudits for Ethan Pinnock and Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa but still a Bee in our hearts) earning call ups for Jamaica and England respectively.

First World problems, eh? The sort most teams would love. Automatic is still well within our control, should we find our mojo. It seemed to be well back after the game at Blackburn and the opening period against Derby. Then, inconsistency struck. For Thomas Frank, selection headaches, of the nicest sort at centre-back. Pontus, Winston and Ethan Pinnock are all fit. 2 out of 3 ain’t bad, as popular music’s Meatloaf once sung. So will we dispense with full backs and go for the lot? Then there’s the perennial question of Fosu v Canos. The former at least attempted to inject some of the zest that had so sadly gone awol from the rest of the team when he came on. Sergi had already added to his goal haul. 

Yet perhaps the biggest conundrum is how Bryan Mbeumo rediscovers his spark? There, perhaps, the greatest enigma of all. He seems to be either amazing our anonymous. Like Sergi, Thomas Frank has persisted, perhaps in the hope that he will also return to last season’s consistent brilliance. With one game to go before the break I am sure we will see more of the same.

Flying Bryan is a joy to behold

That’s me. Flying Bryan was an integral part of the BMW that got us so close last time out. We’ve readjusted to life without Ollie Watkins just wonderfully, Ivan Toney scoring at an even more prodigious rate than the now Aston Villa man, but our approach play has felt, if not laboured, then certainly off the pace at times compared to last season. Then again, we’re a different team. The emergence of Vitaly Janelt in the middle a joy to behold. With Christian Norgaard fit again, those two have immediately formed a quite wonderful partnership. Questions as to whether they can play together well answered. When Josh Dasilva is fit once more we could have quite the line. Regardless of individuals, that return from injury can’t come soon enough. Whomever else is picked, a fit Josh is a guaranteed starter.

As for Nottingham Forest, well…. I heard a stat on this week’s Prutton’s Predictions podcast for Sky Sports claiming that ‘own goals’ was their leading scorer. Surely not? Well, a check of the stats sees 29 scored in the league, 25 named players getting them and Lyle Taylor leading the pack on 4. Meaning that, at the least, o.g.s would seem to be joint top. 

Urghh. I hate these sort of nuggets. Much like Derby not scoring in four games before we played them, the sort of thing that can only come back to haunt you. Either Grabban or Taylor (and talk about the DoFs making the right transfer selection there) to get a hatful or one to go in off Henrik’s backside and further strengthen o.g’s claim for the Forest golden boot.  Please note: by Henrik, substitute ‘anyone’. For once, a jinx free game of regular football would be just wonderful. It’s Brentfoird, innit? A moniker I’d love if we could dispense with as we enter this final run of fixtures.

Cripes,  I can’t call this. Even though I have on the aforementioned podcast. Let’s just wait to see what plays out. One last push before International break. The dream of three points at the forefront of the mind and then, once more, hoping Watford and Swansea care to fall over in their games at home to Birmingham City and Cardiff respectively. If ever there was a time to prove you are ten times better…

Come for the podcast, stay for the stats (and dodgy predictions)

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