FRIDAY 27TH MARCH
The latest EFL statement still says no football before 30th April at earliest
THURSDAY 19TH MARCH
Statement from the football authorities:
‘The FA, Premier League, EFL and women’s professional game, together with the PFA and LMA, understand we are in unprecedented times and our thoughts are with everyone affected by COVID-19. We’re united in our commitment to finding ways of resuming the 2019/20 football season and ensuring all domestic and European club league and cup matches are played as soon as it is safe and possible to do so.
‘However, our Board has agreed for this limit to be extended indefinitely for the 2019/20 season in relation to professional football. Additionally, we’ve collectively agreed that the professional game in England will be further postponed until no earlier than Thursday 30 April. The progress of COVID-19 remains unclear and we can reassure everyone the health and welfare of players, staff and supporters are our priority. We will continue to follow Government advice and work collaboratively to keep the situation under review and explore all options available to find ways of resuming the season when the conditions allow.
We would all like to re-emphasise that our thoughts are with everyone affected by COVID-19’.
WEDNESDAY 18TH MARCH
Statement from EFL
‘After receiving a detailed brief on a number of matters, the Board reaffirmed that the health and well-being of EFL staff, players, Club employees and supporters would remain central to all decisions in these fast-changing circumstances.
‘The EFL Board also acknowledges the positive role that member Clubs are playing in community solidarity, especially in supporting the vulnerable at this time.
‘The primary objective, in order to protect competition integrity, is to deliver a successful conclusion to the 2019/20 season, subject to the over-riding priority around health and well-being. Plans continue to be developed on the agreed principle that it is in the best interests of the EFL and Clubs to complete the current season at the appropriate time.
‘The EFL is continuing regular dialogue with the Government and relevant health authorities and, as and when more information is known regarding the scale and extent of the coronavirus outbreak in this country, a decision will be taken on the resumption of the League’s fixtures.
‘Conversations will continue with the EFL’s counterparts at the FA, the Premier League, the PFA and the LMA to ensure football achieves a joined-up and collaborative approach.
‘As part of the League’s continued contingency planning, the Board heard the comments and observations from EFL Clubs, before discussing a number of issues including the current financial position and implications, insurance, regulatory matters and broadcasting arrangements.
‘Discussions centred on financial relief for Clubs in the short term and while there is no one single solution, measures are to be put in place to immediately assist with cash flow via a £50million short-term relief package.
‘This fund consists of the remaining Basic Award payments being advanced to Clubs immediately, with the remainder made up through interest-free loan facility available to Clubs, calculated in line with the EFL’s Article of Associations.
‘The cash injection is included as part of a series of measures, that includes potential Government support to help Clubs and their associated businesses through this period of uncertainty. The EFL welcomes last night’s announcement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and is continuing discussions to understand how our Clubs can access the funding made available to support businesses.
‘In addition, we will continue our discussions with our football partners to determine how we can all get through this difficult, challenging and unprecedented situation.
‘The EFL, through a dedicated taskforce, continues to review the threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic, and its impact on our Clubs and competitions.
‘Alongside ensuring the 2019/20 season reaches a successful conclusion, protecting the EFL and its Clubs is a key priority for the EFL Board, who have today agreed on the following objectives to support future decision-making:
• Ensure the health and well-being of our Clubs’ employees, supporters and communities
• Make a positive contribution to the UK’s efforts to tackle coronavirus
• Protect the EFL’s financial model and Club finances
• Enable the EFL to continue to function as a business
• Deliver a successful conclusion to the 2019/20 season’
FRIDAY 13TH MARCH
Brentford FC Statement at 15.34
‘All at Brentford FC support the decision to halt the Sky Bet Championship season until at least 3 April given the ongoing concerns posed by Covid-19 (aka the Coronavirus).
It was announced this morning that The FA, Premier League, EFL and Barclays FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship agreed to postpone the professional game in England for at least three weeks. Our games at Fulham, tonight, and Reading next week have been postponed, as well as the home game against West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday, 17 March.
Thomas Frank, Brentford FC Head Coach, said: “I am sure that our fans share the disappointment of the players and coaches that we cannot take part in our scheduled matches, but this is entirely the right decision. We were all looking forward to a big week of football but the health of everyone must come first. We have a social responsibility to ensure we do what we can to limit the spread of the virus and not playing matches is a way to do that.
“Denmark shut down their football earlier this week and I am thinking about my family and friends over there. We have players from all around the world and they have their concerns as well. The health of everyone is all that really matters at this point. Football is our lives, but we can all stop for a bit.
“The players always appreciate the following we get away from home and I know it would have been great at these two games. It gives us a great boost to see Brentford fans when we come out at away grounds. We look forward to seeing them at our next game, whenever that will be. The players and staff will be ready whenever we resume, we have nine very important games to come and dreams we want to achieve. We will see you all soon.”
Jon Varney, Brentford FC Chief Executive, said: “All Bees fans want to watch our matches and get behind our team but that has to take a back seat at times like this. All here support this was the right decision as everyone is focussed on maintaining the health of everyone in the country and beyond. The steps we have taken recently have helped us stop the spread, but a full shutdown seemed the only option at this stage.
“It is devastating that, at a time we should be looking forward to an exciting run-in, we are dealing with a global health issue but we, as a club, are not alone. Postponements for any reason are disappointing but we will be ready to host games when the league resumes and are still looking forward to saying Farewell Griffin Park in the coming months. I am sure there are some memorable moments to come. As soon as we have clarity on the rest of the season, we will update fans on our plans.
“The Club will, in most other areas, be continuing as normal. We have stopped selling tickets for the game at Reading until we know when it will be played and there may be changes to our season ticket migration process that we will update supporters on in the coming days. Please, take all precautions to stay healthy and we hope to see you soon.”
‘The FA, Premier League, EFL and Barclays FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship have collectively agreed to postpone the professional game in England until 3 April at the earliest.This action, which will be kept under constant review, has been taken due to the increasing numbers of Clubs taking steps to isolate their players and staff because of the COVID-19 virus. The postponements include all matches in the Championship, League One and League Two, as well as all Academy and youth team fixtures. In addition, Clubs are being advised to suspend indefinitely all non-essential activities which include, but are not limited to, player appearances, training ground visits and fan meetings.Whilst the EFL Board has continued to take the advice and guidance offered by the Government and its health advisors, emerging developments mean now is the time to implement football’s contingency plans in response to the crisis.A further update on these plans will be given post an EFL Board Meeting next week. This decision has not been taken lightly, but the EFL must prioritise the health and well-being of players, staff and supporters while also acknowledging the Government’s national efforts in tackling this outbreak’.
9.30 BBC Sport reports;
‘The Premier League will hold “an emergency club meeting” on Friday to discuss future fixtures. BBC Sport understands one possible outcome is that the league is suspended for two weekends until the scheduled international break later this month, but abandonment of the season is unlikely at this stage. All clubs must be in agreement for any action to be taken and government officials are also being kept informed.The EFL’s board is meeting on Friday to make a decision on this weekend’s fixtures and beyond, and is likely to follow the Premier League’s decision’.
9.15: There has been no further statement from the EFL since last night but the Daily Mail website reports: ‘The EFL said on Friday morning: ‘The EFL Board will meet this morning to make a decision on this weekend’s fixtures and beyond.’
THURSDAY 12TH MARCH
Brentford post a full update which confirms that currently no players are suffering any symptoms or in self-isolation.
Earlier an EFL statement confirmed that ‘matches will continue to take place as normal’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces a range of new measures but does NOT announce a ban on major public gatherings although he makes it clear that this is still being considered as a possible future next step. So the Fulham v Brentford game goes ahead with a crowd.
BBC News reports: Prime Minister Boris Johnson says it is time to move to the next stage of planning.”The most dangerous period is not now, but some weeks away, depending how far it spreads,” he says.However, new measures are going to be in place.They include:
- Staying at home for seven days if you have, however mild, a new continuous cough or higher temperature
- Advise all those over-70s not to go on cruises
- Advise against international school trips
Mr Johnson says they are only “considering the question of banning major events, including sporting fixtures” – not because of the spread of the virus, but because of the burden it puts on public services. He also says schools should remain open.
Thomas Frank says; ‘First of all I hope that in the world that we will control this virus ,we know the Government here in England are doing everything they can to take decisions to try to slow it down it down, just get on top of this. So I hope that its going to be sorted out as quickly as possible so that everything can go back to normality and we don’t have to think too much about it, what can change in our daily lives, what can change in the next couple of weeks but I think the most important thing is the social responsibility everybody has in terms of sorting this out. So of course I think about it, what will change, how will it affect the daily work. I’m from Denmark and they just shut down more or less everything in the last 12 hours some course I’m thinking about my family and friends over there. But I think, I’m pretty sure all of us will sort it out.
He’s asked if he was surprised the UK Government hadn’t yet decided to order games to be behind closed doors he says: ‘No I think all countries are different and don’t know too much but I know there’s green zone, yellow zone, red zones and we are still in quite a good place and I trust 100% they will take the right decision and we will follow the consequence of that’.
Asked about any effect on training he says; “Of course this coronavirus stands out as the talk of the town for natural reasons but normally it could be everything else that affected me or the players, personal issue or whatever but its all about doing our best to focus on daily work, preparing for the game, train well, make a good plan for tomorrow and hopefully play a top game’.
Brentford has been holding its weekly press conference as usual.
THURSDAY 12TH MARCH -UPDATE AT 3PM
The Government meeting has now finished and it is expected that the outcome will be announced in the next few hours.
THURSDAY 12TH MARCH -UPDATE AT 2PM
The Government Committee which will decide, among other things, if and when to restrict the size of public gatherings (e.g football crowds) started meeting at 1.30pm
UEFA calls meeting for next week about ‘all domestic and European competitions, including UEFA EURO 2020’.
Earlier a spokesman was quoted by goal.com as saying: “There is no reason to change anything in the time schedule. UEFA is in contact with the relevant international and local authorities regarding the coronavirus and its development.”
Brentford will be holding its normal weekly press conference at lunchtime today when Head Coach Thomas Frank will look ahead to the scheduled game against Fulham on Friday evening. The event will be held in the media section of the Jersey Road training ground which is away from where the players are based. The training ground is ‘currently closed to all non-essential visitors’.
The BBC reports ‘Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to sign off plans to move from the “containment” phase of the outbreak to “delay” at the emergency Cobra meeting later’. It also reports ‘Delay is where “social distancing” measures will be considered – which could include restrictions on public gatherings above a certain number of people, although this is not thought likely at this stage’.
Brentford commentator Mark Burridge looks at some of the options for football administrators:
‘So what will happen with football between now and the end of this season?
Will Euro 2020 be moved to next year, which seems a possibility.
Matches behind closed doors following the rest of Europe? No doubt this will mean broadcasts of matches to homes, that will take some organising but no doubt the EFL and TV companies will have covered this option in crisis meetings.
Or do they just postpone the season by day, 3-4 weeks and we have new dates for our￼ games? Play off final mid June?
We are likely to find out by the weekend I would guess’.
Brentford Community Sports Trust makes a statement about the impact on its work.
The Times reports that ‘all football matches in England will be played behind closed doors under government plans to combat coronavirus that could be triggered as early as today’.
SATURDAY 7TH MARCH 1200.
Brentford CEO Jon Varney speaks to the BU AGM about coronavirus
On Saturday 7th March the Chief Executive of Brentford FC, Jon Varney, was the guest of Bees United at our Annual General Meeting held for the first time in the club’s new offices. Jon was asked about the impact of the Coronavirus so far. This is a transcript of that section of his Q and A with Bees United members.
JV: ‘This is something that is occupying a huge amount of our time.So yesterday (Friday 6th March) I called a meeting of our Senior Leadership Team along with some legal support to start to discuss what we do with immediate effect and the output of our meeting is those changes we have made today. I think the most significant thing that we’ve looked at is locking down Jersey Road (Brentford’s training centre). No non-essential users at Jersey Road at all, we’ve got to make sure that environment is protected as much as we possibly can.So it is a fluid situation, we have to wait for Government initiatives, we then want to see what the EFL are going to do and then we have to react accordingly. It is a very concerning time.
BU Member :’My question is given the unfortunate event with the coronavirus and if it escalates, with the business model at Brentford can it sustain if the EFL turn round and say ‘you can have your matches but without your supporters’? Is there any contingency planning going on or is it business as usual?
JV; ‘It is a live situation .I think that from a business model perspective I wouldn’t be concerned about that because this football club doesn’t survive on gate receipts, and it doesn’t survive on the EFL money.This football club survives on Matthew Benham and our player trading. If the game of football continues , whether it is behind closed doors or in front of people and we all pray and hope that it is in front of people, players will get traded. So from a pure business perspective I wouldn’t be concerned. Are we absolutely focused on making sure that we do everything right around coronavirus, 100% yes. I think we are in an incredibly unique situation that we are saying Farewell to Griffin Park. It would be horrific if our last game against Barnsley at Griffin Park was behind closed doors. We all feel that pain but we just don’t know at the moment and we have to keep a watching brief on what’s coming out of Government…It is not within Brentford’s gift to decide what they do in this situation.
Stewart Purvis (Chair of BU) John, I suppose the thing we should take away from that is that we should savour every one of these last games because there is this uncertainty .
FRIDAY 6TH MARCH
Brentford FC issues a statement ahead of the match against Sheffield Wednesday
Just one win and three draws in Brentford’s last four outings needed something special to eradicate them from the memories of the faithful. Five immaculate goals to despatch an admittedly lacklustre Wednesday can be considered job done, even if star striker Ollie Watkins – the EFL London player of the year – remarkably failed to feature on a scoresheet that showed the club regain its position as the division’s leading scorer.
Fulham, four points ahead and due to entertain the Bees next Friday, and West Brom, in second place and visitors to Griffin Park the following Tuesday, have been given food for thought that might develop into severe indigestion if the results go against them. Oh, how delicious.
Here was a game in which not one member of the home team could be criticised for (a) lack of effort or (b) sloppy passing in defence or attack. The tone of the afternoon was set after five minutes, when a Henrik Norgaard rush culminated in Watkins clipping the crossbar with keeper Cameron Dawson beaten. Dawson looked glum, but would look even glummer as the game progressed.
A crowd of 12,270 – depleted somewhat in its later stages as some of the visiting fans departed early, probably in need of a stiff drink – did not have a long wait for Brentford’s superiority to be confirmed. The Wednesday rearguard was in sixes and sevens bordering on nines and tens as Josh Dasilva, recapturing the form that saw him score a hat-trick at home to Luton, drilled a shot through the careering bodies and then between Dawson’s legs,
Nine minutes gone and after another eight Emiliano Marcondes doubled Brentford’s advantage with the sweetest of curled shots, which appeared to increase the distance between it and Dawson with every yard covered on its way into the net.
With first-half possession recorded at 80 per cent, it came as no surprise that with five minutes of it left the treble was achieved. Bryan Mbeumo, who had been having a quiet time of late, livened only by a stunning free kick last weekend, latched on to a ball travelling at speed and ran with it before slotting a fierce shot beyond Dawson’s reach.
The Owls, surprisingly unaccompanied by derisory hoots from the home crowd, regrouped after the interval and David Raya was kept mildly busy until a dazzling run by Said Benrahma ended with a defence-splitting pass to Dasilva, whose turn and perfectly-placed shot deserved a round of applause, although poor Dawson could have been forgiven for not wanting to join the hand-clapping.
Astute substitutions by Thomas Frank, designed primarily to give the recently signed Oxfordian duo further Championship experience, paid off handsomely some nine minutes from time. Tariqe Fosu-Henry, hereafter to be known as Fosu, had been on the pitch only a few minutes before beautifully directing a shot inside the far post to score his first goal for the Bees.
Mention must be made of Benrahma, who dazzled to deceive and frequently left the visiting defence running here, there and everywhere, but rarely anywhere near the space the Brentford number ten was occupying. If he could only resist the impulse when beating a man to go back and beat him all over again, he’ll be the hottest property in the division.
Although perhaps not. He may not have added to his twenty-one goals, but Watkins is a pleasure to watch as he gains authority with every game. ‘Ollie Watkins is the best,’ the crowd sang lustily – and they may be right.
Prior to kick-off, the teams dispensed with the usual handshake – any lurking coronavirus would make such gentlemanly acknowledgement a very bad idea indeed. Very sensible, but what about any collision on the pitch where flesh met flesh? Or handball, or a header? ‘Heavens,’ said my mate Charlie, ‘who’d have thought the beautiful game could be such a health hazard.’
Brentford: Raya, Dalsgaard, Jeanvier, Pinnock, Henry, Marcondes, Norgaard (sub Baptiste), Dasilva (Valencia), Mbeumo (Fosu-Henry), Watkins, Benrahma.
Sheffield Wednesday: Dawson, Palmer, Iorfa, Lees, Fox, Murphy, Pelupessy, Bannan, Da Cruz (Forestieri), Windass (Wickham), Fletcher (K Harris).
After two games where Brentford tried to recover from a two-goal deficit, this time it was the Bees who went two-nil up and blew three points. But the Championship being the extraordinary league that it is we’ve now gone five games without a win yet only dropped from fourth to fifth in the play-off places. Even the most optimistic Bees fans would accept that this winless run can’t go on much longer without us slipping out of the top six.
Brentford had been blown off course at Luton on Tuesday and early Bees arrivals at the Cardiff City Stadium found a fierce wind again threatening to disrupt our style of play. By the time of kickoff the wind had dropped but there were occasional gusts of wind and rain between the sunshine.
Thomas Frank, who’d decided against giving Luka Racic a chance at Luton in place of the injured Julian Jeanvier, now started with him in the centre two of a back four. Within five minutes the young Dane had got his first Brentford goal to put the Bees ahead.
After all those complaints from Bees fans about the quality of the corners at Luton Emiliano Marcondes got the ball past the first man to reach Henrik Dalsgaard and it then fell to Racic who dispatched it into the corner of the Cardiff net.
Sixteen minutes later Marcondes won a free kick right in front of the box and Bryan Mbeumo put it away with a superb strike that left Cardiff keeper Alex Smithies floundering.Twenty minutes gone, two set pieces, two goals.
But Brentford’s winning rhythm was soon disrupted by a lengthy row.
Christian Nørgaard tackled Will Vaulks on the sideline right in front of the dugouts. Those Bees fans in seats a few rows behind the dugouts thought it a perfectly fair tackle. What they judged was not fair was Vaulks’s response which was to move in on Nørgaard as he lay on the ground. Thomas Frank who was even closer thought Vaulks’s knee had made contact with Norgaard’s head .To put it bluntly he lost it, first with Vaulks, then with the Cardiff coaches crowding round him, then with fourth official Matthew Donohue who appeared to have advised referee Simon Hooper that no action need be taken against Vaulks other than a chat. There now seemed a danger that it might be Frank not Vaulks who would be sent off but the Brentford Head Coach and the ref settled it face to face, man to man. Afterwards Frank said it was ‘a clear,clear red card right in front of the fourth official’.
By a further twist it was Vaulks and his long throws who led the Cardiff fight back. Although Vaulks played only a minor part in their first goal, an Albert Adomah cross headed in by Junior Hoilett, his next long throw created the equaliser just before half-time when Captain Sean Morrison headed it on and Joe Ralls beat Raya. On both occasions Cardiff players had beaten Brentford ones to the ball in the air.
It was an irritable way to go into the half-time break and the omens were not good. As it turned out the Bees came out looking stronger. Overall they had nearly double the possession and more than double the corners. They had lots of shots straight at the keeper and the game then turned on two key misses. Brentford’s came when Ollie Watkins failed to convert a cross from Rico Henry. Cardiff’s fluffed conversion was by Joe Bennett, distracted by Raya from putting home a cross from Adomah.
Mr Hooper then made a whole series of decisions in the penalty boxes which annoyed Cardiff fans most. He angered them further when Josh DaSilva played a one-two with him and with Benrahma but nice move though it was Josh blasted it wide. In the final minutes there were chances for Dalsgaard and Mbeumo but keeper Smithies wasn’t really troubled by them. At the other end David Raya limped off after the truly stormy match into the arms of goalkeeping coach Andy Quy.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that a team coached by Neil Harris, successor to Neil Warnock, committed 14 fouls to Brentford’s 6 and earned 4 yellow cards against 1 for the Bees. Brentford proudly put brain before brawn in midfield and and supplement it with some elegantly timed tackles and energetic tackling back. But how the Bees could do with the man we hoped Dru Yearwood would and still might be, breaking up opponents’ attacks and launching our own. Shandon Baptiste, who also just might be that man, was crocked in a 50-50 duel just six minutes after coming on. It was that kind of day.
Cardiff City: Smithies; Sanderson, Nelson, Morrison, Bennett; Bacuna, Vaulks; Adomah, Ralls (sub Ward 80), Hoilett; Paterson
Brentford: Raya; Dalsgaard, Racic, Pinnock, Henry; Marcondes (Baptiste) (Žambůrek) Nørgaard, Dasilva; Mbeumo, Watkins, Benrahma.
For the second time in four days Brentford failed to win after having the best of the first fifteen minutes then going two goals behind by half time. Instead of taking six points in two battles for promotion they came away with just one, with no wins in four games and no clean sheets in eight league and cup games. Fortunately their rivals for the playoff places seem to be going through similarly bad patches.
For the first few minutes Brentford were making all the chances, Rico Henry nearly got his head to a Bryan Mbeumo cross. But in the ninth minute a Luton free kick from the right spun and bounced into the box where Shandon Baptiste stuck out a leg and put it past David Raya. This goal against the run of play ignited the Luton crowd and charged up their players, for most of the rest of the ninety minutes the Hatters were more determined and more forceful than their Brentford counterparts amid the often gusty conditions. It felt like that 7-0 thrashing at Griffin Park still hurt.
As the Bees struggled to get back into the game a problem with their line-up became increasingly apparent. ‘Franking sense’ ran the electronic advert round Kenilworth Road promoting a ‘mail technology’ company. As it turned out Thomas Frank had made a selection decision that didn’t make enough sense for him to stick with it for more than a quarter of the game. In place of the injured centre back Julian Jeanvier the Brentford Head coach had moved midfielder Christian Norgaard to the middle of a back three with Pinnock and Dalsgaard either side of him. It was a decision that got fans asking why if a centre back was needed Luka Racic wasn’t given the slot.
The Norgaard problem was that he clearly wasn’t very comfortable in the role, mistiming one tackle so badly he earned a yellow card that could have been a red. And not having him in midfield meant the Bees were without a central playmaker. Increasingly he was released forward, sadly to no great effect, as Brentford reformed into a 4-3-4 formation. There were chances; Said Benrahma had the best, Josh Da Silva had the most, Bryan Mbeumo had nothing much at all.
Then, just as with Blackburn on Saturday, momentum turned into a further setback and David Raya was at the centre of it. From a Luton free kick on the right he rushed out to try to punch the ball clear but it fell to Martin Cranie, 33 and still going strong, who volleyed it into the net. Raya claimed he’d been barged in the air and as the players went off at half time moment later Brentford assistant head coach Brian Riemer carried on the argument with referee Darren England.
Within a few minutes of the second half Norgaard fell awkwardly and looked in pain. He carried on and by the 60 minute mark he’d helped Brentford get their shape back .But the struggle was too much and he was replaced by Emiliano Marcondes, the Brentford fans packed into the away end going him a sympathetic round of applause sensing it wasn’t his fault he’d started out of position. Tariqe Fosu got a chance in place of Mbeumo and so did Joel Valencia instead of Baptiste as Thomas Frank pushed for the kind of comeback from two-nil down that had brought victory at home to Millwall. Bees got one back thanks to an assist from Mads Roerslev who had another outstanding game after an impressive substitute performance against Blackburn. Ollie Watkins put him away on the right and he crossed back to Watkins who tucked it away for his 22nd of the season. Celebrations were limited as Brentford pressed for an equaliser and in the final minutes there were two more chances: Benrahma, who’d shown admirable concentration and control in difficult circumstances, curled a shot just wide then Ethan Pinnock, taking his customary corner position beyond the far post, headed the ball into a bunch of Luton bodies. Yes Bees could have got a point but when when you keep giving opponents a two goal start your luck is going to run out sometime.
Luton Town: Sluga; Cranie, Carter-Vickers, Pearson, Potts; Rea; Cornick (sub Hylton), Berry, Mpanzu, Tunnicliffe; Collins
Brentford: Raya; Dalsgaard, Nørgaard (Marcondes), Pinnock; Roerslev, Dasilva, Baptiste (Valencia ), Henry; Mbeumo (Fosu), Watkins, Benrahma
Having outplayed the visitors for much of the first half, the Bees trudged off at the interval a goal down and probably singing under their collective breath a snatch of Randy Newman’s ‘Lonely at the top’: ‘All the applause. All the parades… But it’s just a crazy game.’ Crazy it certainly was, with Blackburn on their way to a severe drubbing until Ethan Pinnock misjudged the flight of a speculative punt from goalkeeper Christian Walton, allowing striker Adam Armstrong to lob neatly over David Raya.
The Bees resumed where they had only just left off, peppering the opposition with shots that were ballooned over the bar, ricocheted around the visitor’s penalty area like a pinball or sped wide of the posts like a wayward Guy Fawkes Night rocket. Rovers bungled one other chance and home fans were allowed the consolation of looking up the possession statistic that showed Brentford so far in front that they might soon win the ball outright. We’ll get a goal soon, won’t we? Well, no, as a matter of fact.
Nine minutes into the second period a skirmish in the Brentford area ended with referee Tim Robinson judging Raya to have fouled John Buckley when attempting to reclaim a ball that had slipped from his grasp. Harsh maybe but, hardly surprisingly, Armstrong gracefully accepted the invitation to score his second, competently from the spot. Whereupon Brentford suddenly showed signs of falling apart. With Rovers muscling their way into a game in which they had showed all the signs of being destined to finish second, the home strike force went from the finely-tuned BMW to second-hand Ford Fiesta, while the defence wobbled like a jelly on a plate.
In no game since skipper Pontus Jansson was sidelined through injury has his absence been so noticeable. Pinnock and Julian Jeanvier, struggling in the heart of the defence, more and more appeared like lonely souls (‘You’d think I’d be happy but I’m not’ – R Newman), unsure what to do other than deliver a short pass of dubious quality to someone else with a similar lack of ideas. Even stand-in captain Henrik Dalsgaard, usually so impeccable, delivered a back-pass so pathetic that he clasped hands to head as Raya somehow reached the ball and save the catastrophe of going further behind while simultaneously doubtless wishing he hadn’t left Blackburn for West London last July.
A game-changer became imperative if embarrassment was to be avoided and it came just after an hour’s play. A long ball deep into Rovers’ half from Dalsgaard was captured by an under-pressure Ollie Watkins and a fluid turn and immediate volley saw him score his twenty-first goal of the season, one of such quality it brought a tear to many an eye.
And, with substitutes in place or about to be so, Brentford resumed the bombardment seen earlier on, to little avail until Mads Roerslev, having replaced Jeanvier, bustled and bruised his way into the Blackburn area before being up-ended by a defence now verging on panic. Said Benrahma, whose finishing had fluctuated from unlucky to woeful until then, slotted home the penalty, leaving a little under twenty minutes for the home side to batter the visiting defence in search of that much-required three-pointer.
An electric afternoon and a fair result, said those of generous spirit, and one that showed the validity of the motto on Blackburn’s club crest – Arte et Labore (Skill and Labour) – is no idle boast.
‘Lots of the second,’ sniffed my mate Charlie.
Brentford: Raya, Dalsgaard, Jeanvier (sub Roerslev), Pinnock, Henry (Dervisoglu), Marcondes (Baptiste), Norgaard, Dasilva, Mbeumo, Watkins, Benrahma.
Blackburn Rovers: Walton, Buckley (Gallagher), Nyambe, Lenehan, Adarabieye, Bell, Travis, Downing, Johnson, Samuel (Bennett), Armstrong.
Brentford Football Club are bringing staff and fans together for a special event about mental health as part of the Duke of Cambridge and EFL’s Heads Together campaign.The Middlesbrough game, when players wore special warm-up shirts and the playing shirts had the Heads Up logo on the front, kicked off the biggest ever conversation on mental health.Now the club are partnering with the Brentford Community Sport Trust to host a mental health awareness evening in The Hive on Monday 24 February. There will be a screening of a short film called “Steve” which was created by Ben Avers whose close friend took his own life. It’s a hard hitting film and a good chance to bring fans and the local community together to talk about mental health. especially considering that 75% of suicides in the UK are male.
Venue: The Hive, Brentford FC, Braemar Rd, Brentford TW8 0NT
18.30 arrival for a 19.00 screening to finish at 21.00
There is a film trailer at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEp5ck-DYzI.
The screening is open to all but the club ask that anyone interested in attending please register here: www.brentfordfc.com/steve