Tag Archives: Wigan

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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Off-field matters for Brentford (and Liverpool) provide main talking points ahead of Derby County visit.

6 Apr

There’s not too much to say about on-pitch matters today. With Brentford set to welcome Frank Lampard’s Derby County ™, the hope is a simple one. Please, please, please , pleeeease just be better than the last week’s games at Wigan and Swansea. Even slightly. It’s not that much to ask, is it? Elsewhere, Liverpool got the weekend’s proceedings under way at Southampton last night where they duly returned to the top of the Premier league. Their battle with Manchester City proving as intriguing as the one at the top of the Championship – just who is going to blink first? And once more, Matthew Benham proved why he is the club owner like no other.

Hulk_(comics_character)First up, matters at Griffin Park. Brentford have been like the Incredible Hulk this season. At home, a side that seem permanently set to ‘rampage’ mode. An irrepressible, destructive force beating back all comers as easily as a cat toying with a spider. Yet away from home, we’ve been that other side of his alter-ego, Doctor Bruce Banner. All the right ideas but none of the physical prowess.

Last week was the consummate demonstration of our split personality this campaign (I would also accept: Jekyll and Hyde team). I’m sure there may even be a few supporters wishing we were still bedecked in 2017/2018’s gamma ray green rather than the current brown & orange (best. away kit. ever).

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We did ok in green….

Thankfully, we are back home today. This time around Frank Lampard’s etc etc are the visitors. Even allowing for the traditional Leeds United ‘choke’, automatic promotion is probably an aspiration too far. However, sitting 7th(seventh) in the Championship, Derby still have a quite magnificent chance of making the play-offs. It is no doubt a position they will look to strengthen this afternoon although, as ever, might the pressure of a ‘must win’ game play into our hands?

For Brentford, the season is all but mathematically over. The ten points to sixth place just too big a gap to reel n with just 7(seven) games to go. It’s a massive shame that we hit the skids after having hauled ourselves back into contention but that’s how football works. Consistency is rewarded with league position. The table doesn’t lie (obvious, but….) and unfortunately we’ve not been able to do it on the road this time around.

I saw a stat on the BBC which was a damming indictment of what happened on Tuesday evening at Swansea – namely that the Bees attempted just six shots as we went down 3-0. Our lowest in a league match since performing the same feat  having six against Middlesbrough. That’s one attempt every 15 minutes – not great. To put it mildly.

The plus point from that game is that a reaction must surely be imminent. Thomas Frank pulled no punches after the game and has since used his press-conference to note : “We need to bounce back, everyone can see that.  . Add to that our own form at home combined with the aforementioned knowledge that Derby really have to win and I think we’re going to be going home very happy at 5pm. 

It has been a long, long season but a thrilling one. Mostly. If only we’d been able to pick up few more wins away from home then who knows what might have been? Yet with the nucleus of a wonderful squad at his disposal (for now), should Thomas be allowed / able to keep them together, our final season at Griffin Park could be a most incredible one. Here’s hoping that push starts today.

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View from the Braemar – I’m expecting a happy Thomas at full time.

Moving on. I watched the Southampton – Liverpool game last night. Jürgen Klopp’s team showed a relentlessness that money can’t buy. Despite conceding an early goal from Shane Long (not a typo) they just kept going and going until the points were secured. It was a performance that showed them as Hulk like on their travels as they are at home. Anyway, I’m not here to specifically bang about Liverpool – beyond admiring their travelling form. Such chat usually leads into a rant about the media love in and we end up playing Anfield bingo – tick one of your cards for every reference to the Kop being like a twelfth man, “Glory, glory European nights”, the miracle of Istanbul, Shankley, Paisley, Klopp getting over-excited etc 

Instead, it was more just a chance to tear the hair out in regards Jamie Carragher. Back in the early 2000’s Sky TV had a brief flirtation with the red button option for ‘fan commentary’. Should you have been crazy enough to select this, the reward was a supporter from each club pouring forth on their team and the game in question. It was horrific although, to be fair, still better than Richard Keys and Andy Gray. This ‘service’ was quietly pensioned off but now seems to have returned – specifically in the guise of the former Liverpool defender. 

Oh. My. Word. Could he have been anymore biased? Could he have been any more fanboy? We all know he used to play for Liverpool but plenty of ex-players have made that transition from pitch to commentary box. None have quite matched his level of reminding us all how amazing his former are. How excited he is is that they are winning. Even full time saw him running on to the pitch to interrupt Kelly Cates and Gary Neville in the middle of their own post-match interviews as he attempted to take centre stage.

Contrast this to the erudite views, opinions and questioning of Neville (even when Manchester United are on). I’m sure Gary would like to remind us he used to play for a successful team and still follows them, but that’s not the job of being a commentator or a pundit. Likewise  quite wonderful Kelly, as the daughter of Kenny Dalglish, comes form a footballing pedigree that would more than entitle her to rave about Liverpool. Whilst you could understand her wanting to enjoy the moment, there was but nothing beyond consummate professionalism here. 

Look, I’m all for a bit of excitement and enthusiasm but have some class. Have some decorum. Know your audience. If nothing else, Jamie has played the game at the highest level and won some major honours. He’s been there and done it so knows what he is talking about.

Yet instead of this, it was almost like the early days of Beesplayer when from time to time they had to draft in the more excitable elements from the media team. Being able to write about a game isn’t the same as being able to talk about. Before Sky made the quite ridiculous decision to let Natalie Sawyer go, you could see her almost itching to reference the benefit to Brentford every time she was  involved in a game where one of our rivals was shooting themselves in the foot. Instead, she kept it classy. 

I’m sure Carragher has his fans. Good luck to them. And him. You can’t deny his passion but when it comes at the expense of proper analysis then doesn’t it kind of defeat the point? At least, for those of us who just want to enjoy a game of football. Perhaps it’s just me.

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The king and queen of Griffin Park commentary. Jamie could learn a thing or two

And finally, Matthew Benham. We all know our owner has a quite special means of using social media. He doesn’t say too much on Twitter these days but when he does, it’s always worth a look. As happened yesterday evening.

I’m not sure what else I can say, beyond this is quite magnificent. Only at Brentford……

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Nick Bruzon

To cap it all, they had a drum. A f***ing drum.

31 Mar

It really was that bad. Brentford and Wigan Athletic played out as insipid a 0-0 draw as one could imagine when Championship football returned on Saturday afternoon following the International break. The scintillating football which has been a trademark of Thomas Frank’s team in 2019 nothing but a distant memory in a game that was as awful as the smell wafting over the DW stadium. For the record, chicken manure from a local farmer – no manners, but what a critic. To borrow a phrase. Instead, it is nothing more than a case of scratching around for positives as the Bees are left chasing a fifth, successive top ten finish and a midweek trip to Swansea City. This before Frank Lampard’s Derby County ™ are next up at Griffin Park.

I’ve watched the highlights. If anything, the 1minute 47 seconds offered up by Sky are overly generous. The other 88 mins 13 were as turgid as it comes. Wigan were determined to strangle any life out of the game. Brentford, unable to find a way through as any attacking intent was choked out of the game. Paul Cook’s team administering a vice like grip around the throat of the Bees. Whenever Neal Maupay got in the box there were three men on him. Saïd was closed down every time he got on the ball. Several players seemed off the pace (first half Henrik and Ollie in particular – sorry, but..) whilst the team were desperately crying out for the fluidity of Romaine Sawyers to guide the ball through the midfield and open up play. And, Wigan had a drum. A f**king drum. At home. That was worse than anything we saw on pitch or smelled off it. At least we had Harry Potter up our sleeve to counter the moribund banging. Nice work, Simon.

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A lone drummer is no substitute for a home atmosphere

Instead, we ended the game with a solitary shot on target. According to the stats. I was struggling to remember even that although the highlights have duly offered it up. Our hosts had three, with Brentford very much grateful to Luke Daniels for keeping us in the match. Three times he retained parity including one effort from distance in the first half that looked as though it might catch him unawares and drift in to the top corner. Instead, it was guided to safety as our virgin goal remained unblemished.

Thomas was bang on the money at full time when he noted “It was a game of very few chances and I think it was a fair result.…. Our normal fluent play between the lines just wasn’t there and we weren’t good enough to play around them”. Not ideal reading but it was exactly what happened and infinitely better to have a head coach who acknowledges what we could all see rather than trotting out the usual “We deserved to win this”.

Look, it wasn’t great. There’s no real action of note to talk about and to compound matters, we lost Yoann Barbet just a few minutes into the second period. He’d needed treatment late on in the first after a nasty looking fall and was clearly limping as he emerged after his half time cuppa. The boos from the home supporters whilst he was being treated both unfair and uncalled for. Something that was consistent with any of our players going down after a lot of rough treatment.

There was little protection offered from the man in neon yellow, referee Andy Woolmer in a game that ended with him blowing up for fouls on 33 occasions. Just to put that into context, there were only 20 awarded as Birmingham City L went down at West Brom on Friday night and 21 as Frank Lampard’s Derby County came one short of hitting 7(seven) goal brackets against Rotherham.   

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View from the away end – about as close as it got

So Wigan stifled it. Brentford were off the pace. But can we take anything positive from this one? Well, the fact that Wigan played with such a negative style and formation shows the threat presented by normally free-scoring Bees. Indeed, as the clock moved on it felt like the sort of game that so many times in the past we’ve seen the team lose 1-0. At least this time around, Luke kept us in it with a number of saves that were as smart as the all red goalkeeper’s kit he was sporting. 

There was a return to match action for Lewis Macleod, too. His appearance as a late substitute for Josh Da Silva being the latest attempt to relaunch what should be such a promising career but one which has, sadly, been blighted by injury after injury. How unlucky has Lewis been? Here’s hoping he can put a few games under his belt and then hit the ground running next season. Indeed, even Josh starting this one and a very accomplished performance from Mads Bech Sörensen off the bench being further testament to a B-team system that is seeing players segue through to the match day squad.

What else. It was another game unbeaten in orange / brown (what jinx?) whilst the pub before and after the game was quiet magnificent – despite the bizarre formation of a canteen style queue to order the drinks. This a phenomena I’ve now witnessed twice in less than a week after having never experienced this previously. How has this been allowed to happen? Why? Did I miss a memo ? It’s quite bizarre.

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Wigan – great beer, despite the queue

The lack of social element aside,  how do you see the full contents on offer across the whole bar front when approaching a fixed point in the corner. Moreso, when you are staring at the back of the prior punter? Why can’t the staff work out who is next up without looking ? Even then, service was still granted by answering the question “Who’s next?”.  Err, me. I’m at the top of the queue. All that was needed was a plastic tray for the full school dining hall experience . Still, as an away fan it made an alternative to being greeted with the words ‘Ow Much..?’ from the previous transaction ringing in the ears.

We digress, as ever and that’s a rant for another day. For now, we’ll file it alongside waiters describing coffee as Expresso and made up coffee words (what the hell is a ventissimo?). Team GB. The faux-verb “To medal”. Mrs. Brown’s Boys. People who think Roger Moore shouldn’t top a ‘Best Bond’ list. Star Wars Day  – that’s the one after May the third.  Ian Moose. iPod headphones. The England Supporters band. Indeed, any form of musical interlude at football. See also: goal music, drums, Mr. Portsmouth and his bell. John Bishop (he’s from Liverpool, apparently. If only he’d mentioned it in his routine). Use of the words Derby County preceded by Frank Lampard’s….

And relax. All of a sudden, a 0-0 at Wigan doesn’t seem so bad. Despite the drum.

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Thomas salutes the fans at full time

Nick Bruzon  

Prophetic Peter calls it and Matthew goes full Partridge as Neal and Josh do the business. Again.

16 Sep

7(seven) games down and Brentford are up to second in the embryonic Championship table after a fifth, successive, home win. This time, over Wigan Athletic. In a display of quite delicious passing football, Neal Maupay grabbed both goals to take his individual total to 7(seven) for the season and move clear in the Championship goalscoring charts. This, despite his missing two league games following the Villa Park affair. Just to put that into context, Neal already has two more than the entire Birmingham City and Ipswich Town teams have scored all season. Then again, with four league wins under the belt that’s already four more than both the entire Birmingham City and Ipswich Town teams have earned all season.

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View from the Braemer – Brentford strolled past Wigan on Saturday

The visit of Wigan was never going to be easy. On paper. Paul Cook’s team were only a point behind the Bees before kick-off whilst the visitors had ex-Bee Will Grigg in their squad. The inevitability of a former player doing the business is never a particularly enjoyable moment for home fans of any club. Even moreso in the case of Will when no doubt ‘that song’ would have been given a rendition.

Yet there was a comfort about this one, especially once the second goal had gone in, that is true testament to the confidence flowing through both Dean Smith’s squad and the home support. Maupay scooped man of the match honours but I thought Lewis Macleod and, in particular, Josh McEachran were quite wonderful. The latter starting the move for the opening goal with a cheeky nutmeg followed by a delightful crossfield ball forward to Said Benrahma. If only the sky cameras had captured the moment for their post-match highlights. Here’s hoping those on ‘official’ catch the full move when they appear at lunchtime. (12pm update: Yes! They did. Enjoy…..

 

Credit to Josh. If any player has taken his time to start winning over the critics it is him. Yet he has plugged away and the management have shown faith. With Ryan Woods having moved on the chance has been seized after what were, if we are being honest, a patchy couple of seasons. And how. We’ve already noted his increased presence this season on these pages a few times. The killer pass and/or move forward being a key change in his dynamic.

Indeed whilst being gently probed by Natalie Sawyer during this week’s TalkSport interview, Dean Smith was full of praise for a player who has admitted to still having England aspirations. Consistency will be key, of course, but for now one can only applaud a quite wonderful start to the campaign.

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Neal was MOTM but Josh played blinder, too

That Maupay goal came half-way through an opening period that Brentford dominated. Whilst it had felt as though the flood gates would open within seconds when the Bees swarmed forward from the kick-off, Christian Walton in the Wigan goal held back the tide. Something which proved to be the theme of a game in which, a brief first-half flurry aside, was about as one way as they come.

The threat of Grigg never materialised. He wasn’t so much on fire as on the bench. A place he never left, save for the warm ups. But then as Our Graham (a Huddersfield fan making one of his semi-regular but always welcome visits to Griffin Park) noted, perhaps the judgement here being that the ball needed to be near the Brentford goal in order for him to put it in it, and it was seldom in that vicinity.

One up at half-time became two just after the hour. That man Maupay with his second, this time against ten men rather than eleven. Sam Morsy having been sent off five minutes earlier for poleaxing Yoann Barbet with a head butt that had referee Darren England instantaneously calling for the medics before subsequently brandishing the red card. And from that point on it really was game over. Two clear and coasting. Despite Walton mountin’ a one-man resistance, in the end it was a case of goodnight Wigan Athletic. With other results falling kindly the Bees move up to second, just a point behind Leeds United.

What a time to be alive. What a time to be a Brentford fan. What a reward for all those who’ve been with us through thick and thin. Now able to enjoy what Matthew Benham would later describe on Twitter as “Liquid football” .

Back of the net, indeed ! There is no finer moment in life than anybody embracing their inner Alan Partridge. Accidentally or otherwise. All the while of course, just up the road our new home continues to grow. On current form I can only imagine Mr. Benham naming that one ‘Jurassic Park’.

Credit to Matthew and the current regime for allowing this to happen. There can’t be a fan amongst us who isn’t appreciative of what is being built here and how it has happened. Yes, there have been some tears and frustration along the way – this is football, we are passionate supporters who often think with our hearts in the heat of the moment rather than our heads  – yet only a fool would jump off this train now.

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The site at Lionel Road, (very) early on Saturday morning

Next up, Ipswich Town on Tuesday night. Whilst their record was mentioned in the introduction by way of comparison to Neal’s form, they also need to be recognised for the genuine threat they present to Brentford’s own aspirations. And as much, a mark of our own progress. True, they are bottom of the table but they are only two wins away from the top half. They may have lost to Hull City yesterday but the season is still young. They aren’t, surely, a bottom three side? If nothing else, we’ve the likes of Preston, QPR, Reading and Birmingham City for that particular task.

Last season saw Brentford take nine games before we got our first three pointer. It was a run which was typified by performances that Dean Smith swore by, maintaining we were deserving of victories. Eventually they came.

Yet the game at Portman Road was one of those from that early, ill-fated patch. It was a perfromance noted at the time on these pages as, “Wonderful attacking play (the first half especially). One-way traffic. The proverbial kitchen sink chucked at the opposition. 65% possession and twenty-one attempts at goal compared to Ipswich Town’s four. Yet it was the Tractor Boys who took the points and kept a clean sheet with a 2-0 win that left the Bees bottom of the pile in the Championship after four games

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Portman Road (and what Billy Reeves calls the best font in football) is next.

That was then. This is now. Nottingham Forest two weeks ago saw us win the sort of game that, last season, we’d have lost. Refusing to be outmuscled as the team converted chances into goals and, eventually, all three points. Could Tuesday night promise more of the same? It won’t be easy, that’s for sure. Yet on this sort of form I wouldn’t bet against Dean’s team.

As a final note of the day, could we see a new partnership forming at Griffin Park? Not so much the Ollie Watkins / Neal Maupay combo but that of Peter Gilham and Stuart Wakeford? Our own ‘man with the mic’ joining in during the #BeesLive segment prior to kick off where I walked in on his line: “I don’t know what the question was but the answer was Josh McEachran”.

How prophetic. On yesterday’s performance at Griffin Park the answer was very much Josh McEachran. With perhaps, a soupçon of Neal Maupay.

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Stu does his thing on #BEESLIVE – but what WAS the question?

Nick Bruzon

Who’s on fire when league action returns this weekend?

14 Sep

Finally. Championship action returns this weekend with Brentford hosting Wigan Athletic, straight off the back of the news that out allocation of 7,700 tickets for the league cup game at Arsenal has already set out. For the masochistic amongst us, winless Birmingham City tonight entertain (if that is possible) a West Bromwich Albion side who know that victory will take them up to third place in a still coagulating table. Yet one which is almost at that magical ‘ten game mark’.

First up, Brentford. Obviously. Two weeks of inaction with nothing but the evolving site at Lionel Road have been a tough void to fill. Moreso given how frustrating it has been having to slam the brakes on what has been a quite wonderful start to the campaign for the Bees.

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Lionel Road ; Thursday morning

Our current fifth place has been achieved through three wins out of three at home and only one defeat on the road. That at Blackburn where we were missing Neal Maupay following that thing at Villa Park. Yet the team have been scoring goals for fun, with the aforementioned Frenchman the division’s top marksman on 5 and Ollie Watkins right behind him on 4. Chuck in a further four assists between them aswell as no other Championship player having more touches in the box than Ollie’s 44 (although I’m sure Ian Moose would probably just call that dilly-dallying) and you can see how well they are going together.

Indeed, only West Bromwich Albion (15) and Leeds United (14) have managed more than the Bees 12 goals to date. Even then, the West Brom total includes the, albeit magnificent, bracketing of hapless QPR when the not so super hoops conceded 7(seven) in a single game.

Brentford’s football has been a joy to watch. Positivity that was shared by our own Dean Smith, talking to Natalie Sawyer on Talksport Radio last night. Some things are worth breaking my own, self-enforced, ban on all things Ian Moose for and with the catering obsessed narcissus nowhere near the studio I tuned in.

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Thankfully, there was no Ian Moose last night

There were big ups for Josh McEachran. Talk of expansive football. Discussion about the Arsenal game, where with the squad having been thinned out by the loans of Chiedozie Ogbene to Exter City, Tom Field to Cheltenham Town and Ryan Woods (albeit the cat was initially let out of the bag before Dean corrected his own use of the word ‘sold’) to Stoke the implication was that we would go with a strong team. And rightly so. Who would want to miss out on that one?

Yet what was clear through all the twenty minute probing Natalie administered to Dean was his ongoing self-belief and enthusiasm. For the squad, the style of football which the benevolence of our current regime has enabled him to play and his immediate focus being on Wigan Athletic rather than anybody beyond. In his eyes its all about Saturday. Talk of Arsenal was tempered with the fact that there are another two games after Wigan (as part of another intense 22 day run) before we get to the League Cup.

If you missed this one you definitely missed out. Anyone who has had the pleasure of listening to Natalie’s podcasts for The Times know she is a most engaging presenter. Frankly, she could make any subject from Tom Moore’s socks to Josh McEachran’s phone case collection (both hypothetically) sound interesting. So when you have a guest who was as on fire as Dean, then it was radio gold.

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Captain Barbet sums up the spirit in the Bees camp , last time out

Certainly, if I was up for the weekend fixture beforehand then it’s even more so the case now. With our 7,700 tickets sold out for Arsenal (and a further 700 being made available) presumably we can only expect a close to sell-out crowd for this one? No doubt all those heading to the Emirates will be at Griffin Park (and beyond) in the build-up to that one? If nothing else, seeing the alleged conflagration that is Will Grigg being extinguished will put a lot of smiles on faces. For no more reason than silencing ‘that song’ – something akin to the England Supporters ‘band’, the Portsmouth bell, vuvuzelas and goal songs as musical interruptions that should be consigned to video games rather than football stadia.

Still, we’ve been there and done this before. Let’s not get distracted by the England band. There’ll be enough to keep us busy this weekend. Moreso, given we have the TV treat (errr) of Birmingham v West Brom tonight. Can the Blues get their first win of the campaign at the 7th(seventh) time of asking? Will the visitors keep on banging in the goals that have propelled them towards touching distance of the play-off zone already? Will ‘you know who’ need to trot out his usual combination of post-match tweets – we go again / fans deserved more / apologies / KRO (whatever that means)? Or could the St. Andrews team finally start to fulfil the promise that a club of their former glory and current size would no doubt expect?

Besides. It’s that or Coronation Street so I’ll certainly be watching the game. Whilst Mrs. Bruzon may prefer the cobbles of Weatherfield, there’s not quite a KRO-bar in our house. Yet.   

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Taxi for Grigg? Here’s hoping on Saturday

Nick Bruzon

The tickets are flying and ‘that song’ approaches as something incredible is found in the office.

11 Sep

Fast work Brentford fans. Looks like tickets for the trip to Arsenal in the League Cup on Wednesday 26th are flying out of the door. In league action, where has the ref gone? With apologies in advance, but the second week of international break really bites hard. Indeed, things have got to the point where the semi-imminent visit from Wigan Athletic and Will Grigg is now a major highlight on the calendar.  Even if it does mean ‘that’ song will be doing the rounds. Assuming ‘that song’ is even a thing still. Best of all, a chance encounter in the office has led to the discovery of 2018’s ‘must have’ accessory. 

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Will Grigg missed out on a home debut hat trick. Form went south from there

First, the Arsenal game. After all the discussion over 5,000 or 9,000 tickets for Brentford fans, we received the latter. And they’ve been flying off the shelves. Or rather, the internet. I saw a post last night suggesting we are close to half-way selling out that allocation on day 1. Just to season ticket holders. Most impressive for a game that, ultimately, could be against the Arsenal B-team – certainly, if the club go to Wenger based form. Could a new manger see a new approach to a trophy his side have taken lightly over the years (at least, in the early rounds) and haven’t won since 1993?   

Regardless, we’ll be there en-masse and looking to equal a best ever run in a tournament that hasn’t treated us too kindly since inception. The fourth round defeats to Nottingham Forest and, erm, Birmingham City (urghh – that one really hurt) being about as good as it’s got. As an interesting aside, 80% of those early tickets sales were made online and, even if the confirmation mail looked forward to seeing us at Griffin Park (erm, we have got this one right?) it would seem to speak volumes about the ease of the system. As ever, big up to Mads and her team who would have still undertaken 800+ Arsenal sales in person (something that could also have been the title of Arsene Wenger’s autobiography).

Next up, Wigan Athletic. They visit Griffin Park on Saturday for a championship game where a win could see the Bees reach the ‘automatic’ positions, subject to other results. That’s by no means guaranteed, of course, and it won’t just be a case of turning up with the expectation of three points. Moreso, given the visitors are sure to have ex-Bee Will Grigg in their side. How things could have turned out differently for him. They didn’t, despite the bright start, and with the greatest respect there were few tears shed when news of his departure was announced.

Of course, he’s performed really well since dropping back in to League One since aswell as flourishing for Northern Ireland on the international stage. Despite not appearing for them at Euro 2016, ‘that song’ still follows him around like a bad smell. Yet with the highly rated Daniel Bentley in goal, Yoann Barbet (a magnificent captain last time out) at left back as well as Ezri Konsa (England U-21), Chris Mepham (Wales) and Henrik Dalsgaard (something, something, something, World Cup) its fair to say our defence will probably be less terrified and more simply aware of a striker who will no doubt have a point to prove.

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Captain Barbet played a blinder last time out.

For now, we’ve no idea who the man in the middle will be for that one. A quick check on the EFL website reveals that the referees are yet to be announced for the forthcoming fixtures. An unusual occurrence given these normally go up faster than Keith Stroud raising a yellow card.

Instead, there is simply the realisation that the EFL seem to opt for a certain style of photograph when leading the stories about who will be ‘in charge’ for future games. A term that was certainly at it’s loosest the last time we were all together, for the 2-1 victory over Nottingham Forest. That was the one where Mr. Bankes led the mayhem. Even if ultimately it was us and fouling Forest who were deemed not have controlled the players.

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The long arm of the law

And finally, something quite amazing happened at work yesterday. Please note – your definition of ‘quite amazing’ may vary. However, I’ve got first dibs on this. It seems that it’s not just the Bees who have incredible taste when they are on the road. As if the brown/orange change shirt couldn’t deliver anymore, I was on a different floor in the office on Monday when I spotted something quite wonderful.

A good omen for the games at Ipswich (next league – a, and Arsenal)? Or simply the ideal accompaniment for when it’s… raining goals?

I’ll get my coat on the way out.

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Where can we get them?

Nick Bruzon

One down. Forty-five to go. What a start!

5 Aug

What can you say? Where do you start? Did that really happen? Brentford thumped Championship newcomers Rotherham United in a Griffin Park goalfest that saw the Bees end the day top of the league and disappointed to have ‘only’ scored five. That in itself, a feat we’d not achieved since February when Birmingham City were the recipients of that famous 5-0 payback. Yet if that one was as as satisfactory as they come from a personal perspective, dare I say that yesterday was ten times better, performance wise?

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A glorious result on a glorious day

So many times last season we scored early. Threatened. Pushed. Came oh so close but couldn’t make that additional breakthrough. Possession and shots were high but the net refused to ripple. Then our opponents would pull one back. Undo all the hard work or salvage a draw from the jaws of defeat.

Yet this was different. A turning of the screw unlike any we’ve seen and, better still, in scorching conditions with new players in the squad. Against opponents that we had no idea how dangerous they might be. Without the ever popular Ryan Woods, whom Dean Smith would later admit that following a bid for the player, “We both felt it wasn’t the right thing putting him in the squad today”.

This was one-way traffic and attacking play the likes of which typify Dean Smith’s Brentford when we are on fire. To a man, they were magnificent. Good luck picking out a man of the match although I’ve since seen that two goal Neal Maupay scooped the honours.

Personally, I loved Romaine and Lewis pulling the strings whilst it was great to see Ezri Konsa slotting in alongside Chris Mepham (who is now an alleged target for Leicester City). Dan Bentley looked rock solid as ever, pulling off one incredible save in the ten-minute patch just before half time that Rotherham looked vaguely involved in the day’s proceedings. Even then, Sergi Canos went down the other end and made it it 2-0 with a beautifully hit shot to double the lead after Neal Maupay’s early opener.

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View from the Braemar – a great performance yesterday.

Two up at HT and the game was as good as wrapped up. Surely? Indeed it was. Immediately into the second period Ollie made it three with a sublime finish before Neal added to his opener with less than an hour on the clock. Four up and the play scintillating. A first opening day win in 7(seven) games all but on the cards.

Changes were made. There was a rapturous welcome to the field for the magician, Alan Judge. Likewise, praise in particular for debutant Said Benrahama. “My word. How do we keep finding them?” was the considered opinion of my fellow fan in the Braemar Road paddock after witnessing his own skill with the ball. It was a proper ‘tied to his foot with a piece of string’ display – and that was just in the warm up!!  

Goalwise, things all but dried up. Lewis Macleod made it five just before full time with a hard hit shot that stayed low. Rifled or drilled was the subsequent debate in the pub. Answers on a postcard marked ‘drilled’, please.  Even then there was still a few seconds left for Rotherham to grab the proverbial ‘consolation’.

It was a denouement that prompted Dean to have a go at his players (his words) in the changing room afterwards aswell as admitting that “You don’t get many opportunities when your 4 or 5 up in a game. That could have been one today to try and score a few more but we took our foot off the gas a little bit”.

Whilst he would also acknowledge the heat factor and our all-round attacking intent, it shows the standards he is looking to set. He wasn’t alone in wanting a few more. Five year old HB said to me, “Daddy. I hope we get 7 (seven) because that means brackets”. Honestly, I’ve no idea where he gets it from.

However, it was a marked contrast from prior to kick off where he’d got cold feet about going because Noah from school had told him that Brentford were rubbish. It had clearly been playing on his mind but we had a good joke about it when he opened up and were able to persuade him that Griffin Park was still brilliant. Walking to the ground and seeing all the shirts (even some brown/orange ones) the smile began to grow and he ended the day telling me about his friend, “Daddy. Daddy. Noah doesn’t….know-a lot about football”. 

Honestly, I’ve no idea where he gets it from.

Yet if you want the ultimate sign of how good a game it was then the evidence was there in the fridge this morning. The bag of ‘break glass in case of emergency’ white chocolate buttons remained unopened. Untouched and ready for daddy to demolish today. There have been times in the past when we’ve needed to open these before kick-off, just to keep his attention. Now, he can’t wait to go again and I get a bonus chocolate treat. Nice one, Dean.   

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Get in! If this is what playing like that does then I’m a happy dad

Brentford were electric but we weren’t even physical. Yet the visitors were second to everything. I’m not buying into that ‘little’ Rotherham gumph. We’ve been on the receiving end of it enough in the past ourselves. Teams like Brentford etc. There are no easy games in the division, as West Brom found out yesterday going down to Bolton. As promoted Wigan proved when they beat Sheffield Wednesday 3-2. As Birmingham City discovered as they were pegged back by Norwich City deep into stoppage time at St. Andrews in a game which finished 2-2.

Watching the highlights on Quest TV (not a typo) this morning, studio guest Dean Ashton noted: “If I had money to pay to go and watch a team it would be Brentford” It is something that tells you all you need to know about our style of play yet how nice to see that endeavour rewarded with goals.

As for the show itself, Colin Murray was at the helm. A man who has had more footballing gigs than Steve Claridge and, had he been around at the time of the dinosaurs (velociraptors rather than Big Ron, Richard Keys et al), would probably have survived the asteroid. How DOES he keep going? Yet here he was again. Despite some early show hiccups where it looked as though the starship Enterprise was attempting to ‘beam us up, Scotty’, things settled down and we got what one would expect. Highlights. In order. A far cry from the debut of previous hosts Channel 5 three years ago – never, ever forget. That was the consummate example of how not to do football.

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An early transporter malfunction didn’t put Colin off his stride

The Bees were low down the pecking order yesterday. Understandable from many respects but with a trip to many people’s pre-season favourites Stoke City next up, I’m fairly sure that might have changed by this time next week.

For now, though, Brentford are top of the league. We are top of the league. #TOTL. Whilst we’ve said many times on these pages that the table doesn’t officially take shape until ten games in, I’m not going to deny that checking into the penthouse suite in the Championship hotel isn’t a quite wonderful place to be.

One down. Forty-five to go. Roll on Stoke City…

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The BBC table doesn’t lie…..

As a final note, huge thanks to the club and in particular Stuart Wakeford for the chance to take part in the Facebook live ‘Bees Live Beat The Bee’ competition prior to kick off, alongside Rico Henry. Stu is a legend in the making ; sadly, yours truly isn’t and the challenge ended in defeat to a man whose football knowledge is impressive. Likewise, one who has gone up hugely in my estimation. As much for his offering the prize anyway as his own ‘off air’ answer to the dress rehearsal question….. 😉  

If you fancy taking part against Sheffield Wednesday or beyond, then keep your eyes open for the #BEESLIVE on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. It’s great fun and you never know what you might end up taking home !  

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Stu does his thing wonderfully.

Nick Bruzon

That’s one Saturday we’ll never forget although maybe not for all the right reasons.

27 May

After all the build-up to both the play-off final and Champions League it ended up being awful. Just awful. Cock ups and woeful flaps. Dreadful clappers egging on their heroes and nobody laughing. But enough about BBC1 screening: All Round to Mrs. Browns last night. We need to talk about football. Brentford will play Aston Villa next season after they lost out to Fulham. Liverpool return home empty handed following the game with Real Madrid in Kiev.

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Mrs. Brown. As relentless as The Terminator

I hadn’t planned on blogging much until the World Cup. Yet yesterday’s double-header has seen a temporary return for this weekend. With Brentford having enjoyed such an action packed campaign it was only right and proper to recognise the Championship season coming to conclusion. And then there was the added bonus of Liverpool trying to recreate the miracle of Istanbul on another of those glory, glory European nights (other entries from the Anfield bingo card are also available).

What can you say though? Even this morning I still numb by what happened. Shocked. That most fickle mistress having administered a kick to the nuts that was harsh even by her standards. And just to be clear, I’m still talking about the football rather than any accidental switching over to Mrs. Brown half way through the night.

There’s not much to add that hasn’t already been written and said. The clappers were horrific. The play-off final was cagey. The post-match love in with a Fulham side who should have been reduced to ten players much earlier than it eventually happened was awful. Aston Villa picked themselves up in the second half but it was much too late by then. Tom Cairney grabbing the winner after being put through by Eighteen-year-old Sessegnon. For those not familiar with the player, I understand his name is actually Ryan. And he did a pass. Well done.

The only real plus point to come out of this was that at least Steve Bruce has been spared telling John Terry to grow up, forget his own perceived self-importance and get warmed up for the game against Chelsea next season. Instead, it’ll be a game against Brentford. If he doesn’t hang up his boots.

As for Liverpool, it wasn’t to be. Goalkeeper has a nightmare will be what we take away from this. Sadly. One has to feel for Loris Karius. He cut a desperate figure at full time, left alone on the pitch in Kiev. For all the world looking like he just wanted the ground to open up and swallow him. It was awful to watch. As though we were peering in on an individual’s moment of personal hell when surely an immediate arm round the shoulder was needed.

Rio Ferdinand in the pundit’s box didn’t really help afterwards. None of his teammates will say it, but they‘ll all be looking at him and thinking it. I’ve been in that situation. I’ve done it…he noted.

Stevie G joined in, mentioning he’d won the final. Again. And again. Clanngggg – the sound of a name being dropped.

Whatever happened, happened. Easy for me to say on a Sunday morning but we’ve more than seen our own pantheon of goalkeeping calamity at Griffin Park over the years. We’ve more than felt our own pain at the final stage. That’s before you even get to all those play-off semis and, of course, ‘that penalty’.

Wigan, Crewe, Port Vale, Stoke City, Carlisle and Yeovil Town may not have the same allure as Real Madrid but the pain was just as real. The feeling of emptiness horrific. The realisation of having got so close only to fall at the last is just a brutal sensation.

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Marcello Trotta takes that penalty – as bad as it got but what a response next season.

It was Ashley Bayes to the max. It does get better. It will get better. It may not feel it now. That feeling of despair we all felt as the penalty hit the bar was replaced with something quite wonderful the following season as another penalty hit the back of the net.

At the same time, bouncing back from making not one but two such high profile mistakes with the eyes of the world watching is going to be as huge a challenge as they come. Hopefully, somebody will go round Twitter mopping up some of the vile abuse being poured out towards the young goalkeeper and his family. It was simply horrific. This normally most wonderful of social media tools at it’s very worst.

Spare a thought also for Mo Salah. Whether you support Liverpool or not, only the most churlish could take pleasure from the fact that he now looks as though he’ll miss the World Cup. For this global superstar to be absent from the most exciting of tournaments is a huge loss. For Egypt, for fans, for football and of course the player himself. What a way it would have been to wrap up a simply magnificent season. Now, he’s hoping the medics can do their thing but listening to Jürgen Klopp talking at full time, it doesn’t seem good.

I could ramble on, but what’s the point. Football treated us to the very worst of what she offers yesterday. At least in terms of raw, inconsolable emotion. Unless you are a Fulham fan.

See you all again in a week or so. There’s a World Cup, a new Brentford kit and a few more things to look forward to….

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Ashley Bayes bounced back from this debut

Nick Bruzon

Is this a chance to get back to winning ways? Or will the table talk?

3 Feb

Brentford travel to Derby County safe in the knowledge that, a mass exodus to China aside (and Lasse Vibe is still very much flavour of the month there, per Phil Giles’ interview during the week), we know the make-up of our squad for the rest of the Championship campaign. It’s a good thing too, because things don’t come much tougher than a trip to Pride Park where the Rams have remorselessly climbed the table to the point that only Wolves sit above them. And even there the gap is closing. Yet as last night’s game between Bolton and Bristol City showed, anything can happen in this division. Anybody can beat anybody. Few people expected the Trotters to beat City but their reward for a 1-0 win was an escape from the bottom 3. The Bees don’t need to worry about relegation but that’s not to say our job is any easier. Equally though, the reward for victory could be a fantastic one. As for Leeds United, you’ll have to wait for the Preston matchday programme for thoughts on them – I’m sure we’ll all cope.

However, today is all about Brentford and Derby County. Whilst other teams have started to reel them in over the last few games, it is still our hosts who occupy an automatic place in the promotion race. At present. The gap to Wolves still 11 points and one would think it’ll take a choke worse than Wayne Rooney’s form at a World Cup finals for them to blow that one. Yet the race to second place is still wide open. Aston Villa are just a point off whilst Bristol City would have started the day level with County had they done the needful last night. Cardiff City are in a similar position, going into their own game at Leeds United today. Expect them to come away from that one with all three points.

Pressure and expectation can do funny things, though. I reference this a lot on these pages but I’ll never forget that final weekend of the 2014/15 Championship campaign. Derby didn’t need to do much more than just turn up to confirm their place in the play offs in a home against a Reading team with nothing to play for but Pride. Yet they didn’t even manage that, missing a penalty en-route to a 3-0 capitulation that saw them miss out on a promotion shot as Brentford were amongst the teams to overtake them en-route to the play offs for the Premier League. It still seems incredible, even now.

Might knowing that they have a chasing pack breathing down their own necks increase the anxiety for the home support? Could Brentford sweep in and clean up just as Reading did three seasons ago? Whilst we’ve had it tough against County in the past don’t forget we have our own, huge incentive. Prior to last week’s game with Norwich we’d been flying. Our own victory then would have taken us all but into the top six . Instead, it is Fulham who now sit in that slot whilst The Bees faced with the toughest of tasks, on paper, if we are to get back to winning ways.

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Harlee and the Judge – not a 70s cop show but a tough trip to Derby from days gone by

Whatever happens, it is just one game. One, tough game but that hasn’t phased us before. We know how well we have been playing at times. How poorly in patches. On the whole though it has been a pleasure watching Dean Smith’s team these last few months. We’ve a great run of fixtures coming up and what better incentive to hit them with than performing some sort of Ram Raid today to take the points from the hosts.

Yet bludgeoning our way through isn’t the Brentford style. There’s no crude unsophistication. A lack of tactical imagination at times, perhaps, but if we were perfect then we’d be top of the Premier League and lifting trophies. Instead, we have a team who play for each other and can play some quite breath taking football when we hit peak flow. The challenge today will be just who Dean starts with and how he sets them up.

An obvious point, perhaps, yet the first half against Norwich was as gloomy as the second was bright. Ok, we didn’t get the goal but at least we went for it. I like Dean a lot and he generally talks very objectively. But I didn’t buy his post-match analysis about Brentford being the better team over 90 minutes and deserving to win. We lost to a belter of a goal against a team who out played us in the first half. A team who out thought us in the second despite our wonderful approach play and infinite step up in both personnel and playing style.

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The Norwich game has been and gone

That was then and I don’t want to labour the point. Instead it’s just a case of taking that one on the chin rather than dwell on what was a first home defeat since August. Of, dare I say it, going again. The only other team to beat us in recent months have been Wolves, and nobody needs a lecture form me on how well they’ve been doing this season.

So we are more than set up for today. We more than have the talent in this team. Who sits up top is going to be an interesting decision for Dean. As will be choosing who provides the width, how defensive his centre midfield is going to be and whether he has anybody to offer Neal Maupay support. Then again, I wouldn’t bet on him surprising all of us.

All this shows however is that like most of us, I have no clue who Dean will start. Does Neal continue up top? Will Josh McEachran retain his place in the starting XI? Could, no should, Sergi Canos be promoted from the bench?

Roll on 3pm when we find out.

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

Could a returning Sergi see it raining goals?

Nick Bruzon

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

20 Jan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bolton were left looking dazed and confused by the end

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

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

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

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John Swift. The former Bee is missing in action today

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nick Bruzon

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