BILL HAGERTY ON BRENTFORD 3 BOURNEMOUTH 1 (3-2 on aggregate)

BILL HAGERTY ON BRENTFORD 3 BOURNEMOUTH 1 (3-2 on aggregate)

Following Brentford’s tortuous trail towards Premier League football has been like a stroll down nightmare alley. No other club in the Football League has on nine previous occasions reached the play-offs – the last-gasp opportunity for those nearly teams that just missed promotion via finishing in the top two of their respective divisions – but failed to win through in any of them.

The loyal faithful can recall the horrors of a chain of failure as if each link was yesterday. Indeed, the latest hurdle with which their favourites abruptly collided rather than soared over was only a year ago, when Fulham beat them 2-1 at Wembley Stadium despite having lost both their Championship league encounters that season.

Yet that old acquaintance déjà vu has visited once again as the latest league programme ended with Brentford finishing third in the table for the second year running and being called upon to face recent Premier League evacuees Bournemouth to decide over home and away ties which of them should revisit Wembley.

The smart money was on Brentford at last to succeed, what with stuttering form having seen the Dorset club resulting in sixth place in the table, three below the Bees. But, as so often happens, the smart money soon revealed itself to be no reliable weathervane when it comes to the winds of football fortune.

I’d watched Bournemouth enough on television in this lock-down, closed-doors season to know they brimmed with talent and, reminiscent of Fulham, were perfectly capable of avenging the two league defeats inflicted by Brentford, including one when reduced to ten men after the referee despatched Brentford’s skipper Pontus Jannson to the dressing room following two clumsy tackles. And, sure enough, the sweetly nicknamed Cherries deservedly won the first leg by the only goal at the Vitality Stadium.

What could the Bees offer in the return, which as in the first game was was to be watched by a live, socially very distanced audience of home supporters? Well, atmosphere to begin with. Most of them were unfamiliar with the spanking new stadium in Lionel Road, Brentford, which had been ready at season’s start to replace the old, creaking, but much-loved ground less than a mile away to the west, yet as kick-off time approached last Saturday it became obvious that they had brought the Griffin Park ambience with them by the pocket-load.

With the giant screen atop the east stand bearing the legend ‘Bees Together’, the team arrived on the pitch to conduct a pre-match half-lap of honour, followed by head coach Thomas Frank at a sedate jog. The 4,000 onlookers responded with the volume turned up – ‘This is worth a goal start’ I said to my loyal companion, Charlie, as the roar from the crowd reached a crescendo.

I’ve been wrong before and Bournemouth didn’t waste time proving my fallibility. Stirring music reminiscent of ‘Chariots of Fire’ had barely given way to club anthem ‘Hey Jude’ and the diversity message ‘One family, One community, One club’ faded from the screen before the visitors were in front. A Brentford corner attended by what seemed the entire team was cleared for Arnault Danjuma to outpace a chasing pack attempting to assemble a defence and beat goalkeeper David Raya easily.

Down 0-2 on aggregate before the crowd had finished clearing their throats. Brentford supporters walk hand in hand with calamity, but this was a dream-shredder too early, too far.

‘Not to worry’, said the irrepressible Charlie. ‘We lost 1-0 at Swansea last year and went on to win the second leg 3-1. Even favourable history can repeat itself.’

Whereupon a corner from Emiliano Marcondes struck defender Lloyd Kelly on the arm, which was unfortunate for him, especially as he was in the penalty area at the time. Ivan Toney despatched the spot-kick with his usual nonchalance and things were looking up, even if Toney, together with Bournemouth keeper Asmir Bokavic, was yellow-carded for an unseemly squabble over possession of the ball following his thirty-second goal this season.

More drama was to follow. Busy Bryan Mbuemo took off on a solo run that threatened to bring a goal until centre back Chris Mepham, once of the Griffin Park parish, tumbled in seeking to prevent him but not before clipping Mbuemo’s heels and dumping him on the turf just outside the penalty area. It was a straight red card for Mepham and probably the most crucial moment of the game.

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MARK BURRIDGE ON BRENTFORD 3 BOURNEMOUTH 1 (3-2 on aggregate)

MARK BURRIDGE ON BRENTFORD 3 BOURNEMOUTH 1 (3-2 on aggregate)

What a day 😎😌🙌

Had to write a little something.

It was one of the games you travel to in hope, rather than expectation.

With injury concerns, a one goal deficit, a chirpy opposition you wondered if it would be Brentford’s afternoon. My, how Bees fans loved every moment.🐝😌

Got into the ground at 9.45am…. even then, in the silence there was a buzz. A soft and warm vibe. Lionel Road was gently simmering.

Thomas Frank talks about fine margins in all areas.

We had double Bournemouth’s crowd from Monday. How we used this addition to our advantage!!!

Credit to Stuart Wakeford and his team, the music and graphics were perfect. Hit the right notes, got the juices flowing.

Thomas and the players asked for the 4,000 to be the 12th man. I’d say it was more 15th!

The fans were simply unbelievable. Inspirational. Breathtaking. The ground shook.

Imagine 17,000!! 👀 Wow!! 😱😊

The indefatigable Peter Gilham, Munerarius in the new colosseum that we call Lionel Road whipped the passionate audience into a frenzy.

Mister Brentford is like Thomas’ watch – timeless! 🙌🐝😍

Our head coach engaged in a lap of gratitude, showing the fans how much they mean. How much they were needed right now.

A masterstroke!

The supporters gave Bournemouth the thumbs down from the moment they entered the gladiatorial arena. 👎

A head start ensued. 🤦‍♂️ 2-0 down, a mountain to climb but not a hint of panic. 🙌

The wonderful Matty Jensen could have taken out Danjuma early at the expense of a red card. He chose not to. Wise man.

Bees get a penalty. No trouble for ‘The Iceman Ivan’. Begovic, the opposition skipper, flustered.

We look at the body language of both sets of players. We like what we see.

Bryan goes through, former Bee Mepham, in for talisman Steve Cook ankle taps our flying front front man in a moment of madness. Sheer Panic. Bad choice. Straight red.

The fans smelt Bournemouth blood, the players knew it was just a matter of time. An hour plus and then ET…. all they needed was to be was patient. Something our head coach has constantly drummed into his squad.

TF brings on the eventual match winner. Positive move. We all loved this decision, though agreed young Mads had done well.

Bees had The Cherries on the ropes and the genial German Vitaly Janelt scored the goal that calmed any nerves just after half time.

Bees maintained domination, probed, jabbed and not long after Emiliano missed a golden chance he supplied the cross that Forss got to first. 3-2. West London erupted. 🔥

Charlie Mac and Karleigh Osborne dancing jigs of joy up on The Gantry.

Things you love to see – ex players sharing in these moments where we all lose the plot!

In the last two mins Bournemouth won a free kick. Up came Begovic.

Even the traffic on the elevated section ground to a halt – ‘everyone wants a piece of this game’ we said.

Bees dealt with it calmly, seconds ticked down and the referee blew for time. Job done.

Bryan got our MOTM, both Jensen & Dalsgaard hugely influential. Pontus a leader 👏🏻

My wonderful Dad had such a beaming smile when I met up with him afterwards.

‘I floated my way back round here’ he said. 😌

88 years of age, born at 69 Lionel Road… he lived there until married and now this day of unbridled joy… at the top of the road.

A day to treasure. Together. Thank you BFC ❤️😍

Of course ‘this all means nothing if we don’t turn up at Wembley next week’, a previous default setting, we discussed post match.

Not so.

Yes, we would love to get the job done and that’s over to Thomas, the staff and the squad.

Bees will be loud and proud, whether 4,000 or 10,000. They will play their part again.

Yet 22/5/2021 is an important day in our history, not officially of course but it’s one fans will recognise. Incredibly special. One to cherish. Indelibly stamped in our hearts.🥰🐝

At the end of a week where Griffin Park is being demolished, how apt that Lionel Road BECAME our new home. It felt that way to all there, as it soon will to others.

The unforgotten matches have already started. That’s one BIG SPECIAL DAY in the LR memory bank.

Lots more to come.

The new journey is underway 😁

As always COYB ❤️🐝🥰🐝❤️🥰

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MILLWALL 1 BRENTFORD 1

MILLWALL 1 BRENTFORD 1

As a cold wind blew around the empty Cold Blow Lane Stand- normally the home of Millwall’s noisiest fans- the Bees recovered from a bad start to earn the kind of away draw that we used to let slip. As soon as the game started it seemed that Rico Henry had an injury problem and after only three minutes he went to ground, was taken off and Dominic Thompson came on at left back. With second choice right back Mads Roerslev already out for a couple of months the worry must be that Brentford will be down to just two specialist full backs  -Dalsgaard and Thompson- for the busy schedule of league and cup games ahead.Thompson went on to pick up Brentford’s only yellow card  as he faced a challenging afternoon against Millwall wing back Mahlon Romeo. 

As the Bees were reorganising their shape and before Thompson had even touched the ball Millwall’s Mason Bennett (one of the infamous Derby duo in that 2019 car crash) led their press, targeting Pontus Jansson. Bennett came away the winner down the left with Pontus in his wake and Pontus’s right red boot in mid air as the centre back scrambled to recover. Bennett’s cross found Jed Wallace who headed past Luke Daniels. As the ball went into the net Pontus’s red boot lay lonely on the edge of the box, he would later switch to a pair of black boots.

Ivan Toney was determined to score his first goal for the Bees and get his new club back into the game. After 8 minutes he shot wide and on 20  minutes he looked certain to score when a cross came over from Henrik Dalsgaard but Shaun Hutchinson pushed him over. Toney took the penalty and considering the pressure on him was remarkably calm as he rolled the ball past Bialkowski.The only other noticeable chance in the first half was when Romeo (son of the music producer Jazzie B of Soul II Soul) let fly from outside the box and hit the post. At the other end Bryan Mbeumo led a breakaway but to the annoyance of two spare colleagues in good positions he trusted his left foot from far out and for once it let him down.

In the first few minutes of the second half the Bees came close to what would have been a match-winner. A nice dummy by Toney set up Sergi Canos and his cross looked to be heading for a Josh Dasilva tap-in but Malone got there first to clear it.Then Daniels avoided Millwall getting a match-winner by tipping over another shot from Romeo. On 73 minutes Said Benrahma came on for the first time this season, as a sub for Canos, and he put over a good cross that could have led to a goal. 

After the game Ivan Toney said ‘Listen, If you can’t win, don’t lose and we did that today’. He thought the Bees had the better chances and could have stolen it at the end. He had shown more of the range of skills that first attracted Brentford to him; strong running for 90 minutes, some deft touches and lay-offs, a powerful defensive header. Thomas Frank said Ivan was growing game by game and what he liked was Toney’s  physical output, his constant pressing, his link-up play and his movement. 

In defence credit again to Ethan Pinnock, unbeatable in the air and the saviour of the day with more than one clearing header. Other good news; Christian Norgaard put in his usual good performance without getting his usual yellow card.

Now Fulham at home in the Carabao Cup.

Millwall: Białkowski; Hutchinson, Cooper, Pearce; Romeo, Leonard, Woods, Malone (sub M. Wallace); J. Wallace, Bradshaw (Mahoney), Bennett (Böðvarsson)

Brentford: Daniels; Dalsgaard, Jansson, Pinnock, Henry (Thompson); Dasilva ( Jensen 79), Nørgaard, Marcondes; Mbeumo, Toney, Canós (Benrahma)

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WBA 2 BRENTFORD 2 (Brentford win 5-4 on penalties)

WBA 2 BRENTFORD 2 (Brentford win 5-4 on penalties)

In a game of 13 penalties, 3 within the regulation 90 minutes and 10 in the penalty shoot-out which followed immediately, this Carabao Cup third round game was effectively decided by the first penalty to be missed. With the score in the shootout at 4-4 David Raya, back in his familiar starting berth, faced the highly rated Grady Diangana. A dive to Raya’s right and a firm push were enough to keep the ball out and consolidate his reputation as a shot-stopper. It was a great way to celebrate his 50th game for the club and his captaincy for the night. Of course it still required Brentford to put away their fifth penalty to win the tie. Christian Norgaard stepped up to face David Button, formerly of this parish, and put the Bees through to face Fulham or Sheffield Wednesday next week in the final 16 of the Cup.

With Mads Roerslev out for up to two months with an injury he got playing for Denmark’s Under-21s, Brentford’s only way of resting Henrik Dalsgaard for these Cup games is to switch Rico Henry to right back and play Dominic Thompson on the left. In midfield Thomas Frank rested Josh Dasilva and Christian Norgaard on the bench, starting with Shandon Baptiste, Jan Zamburek and Emiliano Marcondes.

In last season’s Championship games Brentford managed to take 4 of the 6 available points off WBA but somehow couldn’t manage to overtake them into second place. At the Hawthorns last year Brentford were by far the better side but could only draw. In this game the first half was a mirror image, the Bees were better than the Baggies but couldn’t get a lead. In a bright start Rico Henry made a great run, Tariqe Fosu had a chance, Mads Sorensen threatened with his long throws, Sergi Canos fired over and Emiliano Marcondes hit the post. Charlie Goode put over a great long diagonal pass which the Bees officials in the stand christened ‘Barbet-esque’. 

In the second half a ten minute spell produced four goals, no fewer than three of them penalties. First up Robson-Kanu got away from Sorensen and was brought down by Dominic Thompson. Robson-Kanu took the penalty himself, rolling it gently down the middle as Raya took off in mid-air to his left. From the kick-off play soon moved to the other end where Sorensen was now forward on the left. He crossed a long ball and Goode, utilising the Ethan Pinnock technique of heading it back into the box, set it up for Marcondes, back to goal, to perform a perfect overhead kick straight past Button. It was the goal of the night, in fact it was the only goal of the night in open play. Now Albion attacked and when Goode bundled over Edwards, it was another penalty chance for Robson-Kanu. Another roll down the middle, another Raya dive to the left. The score, at 2-1 to WBA, didn’t reflect the overall balance of play and Thomas Frank decided the game was still there to be won.

He brought on his top midfield duo, Josh Dasilva and Christian Norgaard, and immediately the Dane was everywhere, breaking up WBA play but it was Dasilva who started the move that led to an equaliser. Ivan Toney, who’d also been brought on as a sub to play alongside Marcus Forss, fed it to his strike partner and Albion defender Cedric Kipre brought him down. Forss took the penalty himself but none of this gently rolling stuff from Marcus, he thundered it straight into the net past Button. At the other end Raya made a great save to keep the score at 2-2 and take the game to penalties. When his turn came Forss again unleashed a thunderbolt and Toney, Dasilva and Fosu all took their penalties well before Norgaard clinched it.

In two Carabao Cup away games, a less than full strength Bees team have faced a Southampton side of Premier League starters and an Albion side of squad players and been the better team on both occasions. Who says they can’t make it a hat trick against Fulham if that’s who’s next in the fourth round, the first time Brentford have got this far for a decade.

At the end of this game the celebrations were modest and Thomas Frank went over to talk with unused WBA sub Romaine Sawyers, the captain he admired so much at Griffin Park. All very Brentford.

West Bromwich Albion: Button, Peltier, Kipré, Ivanović (sub O’Shea), Townsend; Harper, Field; Phillips (Diangana), Gallagher, Edwards; Robson-Kanu (Austin)

Brentford: Raya; Henry, Goode, Sørensen, Thompson; Marcondes (Toney ), Baptiste, Žambůrek (Dasilva); Canós (Nørgaard), Forss, Fosu.

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BRENTFORD 3 HUDDERSFIELD TOWN 0

BRENTFORD 3 HUDDERSFIELD TOWN 0

For the Carabao Cup victory at Southampton Thomas Frank had started with, amongst others, Marcus Forss, Shandon Baptiste and Tariqe Fosu. For this, the first league match in our new stadium, he brought all three on as subs (for Ivan Toney, Emiliano Marcondes and Sergi Canos) and while they were on the pitch two of three Brentford’s goals were scored. So Brentford’s Head Coach has some intriguing options for the two games this coming week, away at WBA in the Cup and away at Millwall in the Championship, as he works out his best starting side.

For this game which Peter Gilham called ‘the start of a whole new era’ Luke Daniels kept his place in goal with David Raya on the bench. For Huddersfield Alex Pritchard was on the pitch and in the stands was another returner to Brentford, former Bees CEO Mark Devlin now with the Terriers, getting his first look inside the stadium that was talked about so much during his stint at Griffin Park. Having disposed of the Cowley brothers Huddersfield’s new head coach is Carlos Corberan, who was Marcelo Bielsa’s interpreter and shouter-in-chief at Leeds while the man himself watched from his upturned bucket.

The story of the first half was whether Ivan Toney was going to get his first goal for Brentford in his third start. After 15 minutes some good interplay with Josh Dasilva put him through on goal but keeper Ben Hamer, last seen watching Said Benrahma’s worldie go round him at Derby, managed to scramble it away. Another fifteen minutes later came a much clearer chance for Toney -so clear you wondered if he was offside- but he shot wide. Huddersfield had a few chances, hitting the woodwork after a smart free kick move but they were also picking up injuries and two players had to be subbed in the first half. Christian Norgaard picked up his second yellow card this season.

As Brentford prepared for a corner just before half time Kev O’Connor was heard shouting  a code name for a move’. When the corner went long to Ethan Pinnock in his customary position in mid-air by the far post it became clear we may well see and hear a lot more of those calls this season.

Coming up to the hour mark with Pinnock having delivered some fine defensive work to prevent a goal, some uncomfortable possibilities were beginning to loom into sight. Would this be a ‘deja vu all over again’, a repeat of last year’s home game where one Huddersfield strike was enough to take the points. Could it be that Brentford would not win within 90 minutes in any of their first three games at the new stadium, thus setting up a ‘curse of the new stadium’ narrative.

Which is when Rico Henry came to the rescue. Starting from mid-way down the left in his own half he began a run. He laid it off to Sergi Canos who cleverly slipped it though the legs of his marker and into the path of Rico who was screaming for the return ball and galloping down the left as only he can. He took it to the edge of the box before moving it inside to Josh Dasilva who was in plenty of space. Just as he had at Southampton last week he sent the ball straight into the corner of the net for this the first league goal at the new stadium.

Around the 70th minute came two substations -Forss for Toney and Fosu for Canos . The momentum picked up further. Bryan Mbeumo created the next goal when he refused to give up inside a crowded box and slipped it to Forss who had stood back from the melee to create space.Then Mbeumo himself hit one of those left foot rockets into the corner of the net.

‘What a great goal’ shouted Brentford owner Matthew Benham from his seat in the stand. Who would disagree with him? 

Brentford: Daniels; Dalsgaard, Jansson, Pinnock, Henry; Marcondes, Nørgaard, Dasilva (sub Baptiste); Mbeumo, Toney (Forss), Canós (Fosu )

Huddersfield Town: Hamer; Pipa, Stearman, Schindler (Crichlow), Toffolo (Brown); Hogg, Bacuna; Diakhaby (Campbell), Pritchard, Koroma; Mbenza

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SOUTHAMPTON 0 BRENTFORD 2

SOUTHAMPTON 0 BRENTFORD 2

Two great goals and an impressive all round performance took the Bees to what became a comparatively easy Carabao Cup second round win over a full strength Premier League team playing at home. Southampton had made only one change from the team that played Crystal Palace on Saturday. The Bees fielded a customary Carabao Cup mix of Championship starters and squad players. But on the bench their choice was limited to just 5 possible subs rather than the usual 7   because a positive COVID test on a player in the B team match earlier this week meant that those involved in that game were self-isolating.

Of those starting for the two sides, the biggest contrast was Danny Ings and Che Adams, two Premier League strikers, up against Mads Bech Sorensen and Charlie Goode, who last season were two League One centre backs.

It was Brentford who started brightest with Mads releasing no fewer than three long throws that troubled the Saints defence. Their goalkeeper Alex McCarthy was involved in a series of scrapes, crashing into Tariqe Fosu and getting a booking, relying on a defender to clear off the line from Bryan Mbeumo, missing a corner but saving from Tariqe and Bryan again. Saints best chance came when they hit the post and Luke Daniels grabbed the rebound. Had that gone in this could have become a very different game, but as it was Brentford responded with two goals before half-time.

The first came from a corner taken by Mbeumo. As it came over from the left the figure of Christian Norgaard could be seen flying through the air, rather like Peter Pan on a wire in a pantomime, and completely unmarked. He met the cross perfectly and it crashed into the net for his first goal for Brentford in a competitive game.The second also came from the left when Fosu turned inside and slipped the ball forward to Shandon Baptiste. Rather than pass to Marcus Forss in the box he crossed it deeper to Josh Dasilva who was all set up to direct it powerfully past McCarthy.

Southampton Head Coach Ralph Hasenhüttl went down the tunnel at half time in a right strop and his mood wasn’t much better at the start of the start of the second half when Daniels saved a header that was looping in, Goode stopped Ings scoring and Ward-Prowse put one over the bar. In comparison Thomas Frank was the calmest man in this particular house, the 32,000 St Mary’s Stadium which one member of the Brentford delegation thought was the quietest venue we’d played at behind closed doors. The Southampton officials were noticeably silent as their team made few inroads against their lower division visitors.

Brentford held their shape very well and relied on counter-attacks. But they were also confident enough not to retreat too far into defence, Thomas Frank could be heard shouting ‘Stay High’. Goode and Sorensen never looked out-classed, Charlie showed his power in the air, but there’s work to be done on his distribution. Baptiste looked a good and more muscular replacement for Mathias Jensen and Marcus Forss ran for 77 minutes but for me the best player on the pitch was Bryan Mbeumo, likely to be the only survivor of last year’s BMW attack. We’ve grown used to him either fading or being substituted in the final quarter, a touch of COVID in the run-in was possibly a factor, but in this game he was at full power in attack and defence for the full 90 minutes.

After the game Thomas Frank talked of Brentford’s ‘tactical flexibility’, explaining that knowing of the Saints’s preference for pressing he had switched to a longer ball policy and it had paid off with both goals originating from those tactics.

One of the Brentford delegation wondered afterwards ‘when did Brentford last win two League Cup games in succession?’. ‘When we were last in the third round’ came the answer. WBA away are up next .Then came the news that owner Matthew Benham’s other team, Danish side FC Midtjylland, had won  as well, in the qualifying third round of the Champions League. That means they have a place at the very least in the Europa League and one more win will take them into the Champions League. Not a bad night’s work for Matthew’s men.

Southampton: McCarthy; Walker-Peters, Stevens, Bednarek, Bertrand; Romeu; Tella (sub Obafemi 84 mins), Ward-Prowse, Redmond (Djenepo); Ings, Adams (Long)

Brentford: Daniels; Dalsgaard, Goode, Sørensen, Thompson (Henry); Baptiste, Nørgaard, Dasilva (Marcondes); Mbeumo, Forss (Dervişoğlu), Fosu

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