Bill’s Match Reports

Thursday, 23 May 2024 | News, Match Reports, In Focus

THIRD SEASON: Double dishwater Brentford 0, Fulham 0; 04.05.2024 Flashback to a year ago, when Brentford travelled to Anfield with high hopes of beating Liverpool in their own backyard. After all, the Bees had beaten them 3-1 at the Gtech Stadium earlier in the season and were nestled at number nine in the Premier League, […]  
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THIRD SEASON: Double dishwater

Brentford 0, Fulham 0; 04.05.2024

Flashback to a year ago, when Brentford travelled to Anfield with high hopes of beating Liverpool in their own backyard. After all, the Bees had beaten them 3-1 at the Gtech Stadium earlier in the season and were nestled at number nine in the Premier League, having already been victorious over both the Manchester clubs as well as Chelsea. Thomas Frank and his team were on a roll.

Liverpool didn’t oblige that day by handing the Bees another win, Mohammed Salah – who else? – scoring the game’s only goal, but the visitors produced a spirited performance and to retain that ninth place come season’s end. Brentford had properly arrived in football’s top flight in only their second season.

No such glory this season, however. Avid supporters are familiar with the catalogue of injuries that have contributed to Frank finding it difficult to field the same eleven players for consecutive fixtures (Aaron Hickey, Ethan Pincock, Rico Henry and Ben Mee were four of the first-teamers present at Anfield who suffered long absences during the present campaign).

So, although only mildly flirting with the relegation box this term, the Bees have buzzed less successfully, achieving safety with three-point wins over strugglers Sheffield United and Luton. Everton, plagued with League protocol punishments still managed to beat Brentford twice, the second time with a solitary goal in April to save their own bacon (see below). And the penultimate home match of the season found Fulham visiting the Gtech, bringing with them a better record than Bees but not one that could be written or boasted about.

Sad to report, the contest between two of West London’s also-rans did not produce much of note. Brentford failed to control the play, but then so did Fulham. The result: a dull contest without little to commend it and containing about as high an excitement level as a kickabout on a Sunday morning in many local parks.

Fulham, sporting pink shorts but little else in the way of natty kit, started well, winning a corner inside a minute but nothing made beyond it. Bryan Mbeumo forged into Fulham territory and was unlucky to see his shot hit the crossbar and keeper Bernd Leno snaffle the rebound. Toney made a promising run into the penalty box but shot wide.

And there was some of the same as the game progressed, but nothing to send the pulses racing.

Toney appeared worryingly disinterested in the match going on around him, which left Bryan Mbeumo to launch forays on the right without much success. At the other end, lone striker Rodrigo Muniz spent considerable time running down Mark Flekken without getting very near him.

Mostly, the best of the interest centred on referee Graham Scott, whose whistle seemed something with which which he had little relationship and, when reluctantly used, found critics from both sides who thought he was  one of several ribald adjectives at their employ.

It would be remiss not to mention that most effective of the Bees’ players was Mikkel Damsgaard, who is becoming a midfielder of considerable talent and when the times comes deserves his promotion into starting line-ups where other more recognised are first call.

Two further games will see the season out. Here’s hoping they are livelier than this one.

Brentford: Flekken; Ajer (substitute Roerslev 45+3m), Collins, Pinnock, Reguilón; Nørgaard (sub Onyeke 82), Damsgaard (sub Schade 82), Janelt (sub Yarmoliuk 66): Mbeumo, Toney, Lewis-Potter (sub Wissa 66).

Fulham: Leno; Castagne, Diop, Bassey, Robinson; João Palhinha, Lukic (sub Cairnev 75); Iwobi (sub Wilson 90+2), Pereira (sub D Cordova-Reid 75), Willian (sub Traoré 64); Rodrigo Muniz (sub Jiménez 54).

Everton 1, Brentford 0; 27.04.2024

‘A little bit of a boring goal, honesty,’ said Thomas Frank, honestly if not    boringly. But overall that description might well have applied to the entire game.

Midfielder Idrissa Gueye scored the game’s only goal after an hour’s play when the visiting defence failed to react. The goal meant Everton registered a double over the Bees, rubbing the gloss off their victories over Sheffield United and – a 5-1 thumping – of Luton,

Ivan Tony’s strike was foiled by England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in the second half as a lacklustre season nears its end.

Brentford: Flekken; Ajer (sub Roerslev 84), Collins, Pinnock, Reguilón (sub Schade 77); Jensen, Nørgaard (sub Yarmoliuk 77), Janelt (sub Damsgaard 67); Mbeumo, Toney, Wissa (sub Lewis-Potter 68).  

THIRD SEASON: Cherry blossom time

AFC Bournemouth 1, Brentford 2; 11 May 2024

Happy day was here again when Brentford strikers Bryan Mbeumo and Yoane Wissa combined to win the Bees’ penultimate match of the Premier League programme.

As the season rolled to a close, one might have thought that those teams with nothing to achieve would, metaphorically, put their feet up and take life easy. Yet here we had two sides hovering around mid-table – well, one was hovering, while the other, Brentford, was sitting uncomfortably way down south – ready to give their all.

Their all, mind you, was not a great deal until the closing scenes. Striker Dominic Solanke made is presence felt from the off and had the ball in the Bees’ net after 26 minutes, only for VAR disallowing it on the grounds of handball.

Tit-for-tat, Ivan Toney was brought down in the area after 26 minutes and awarded a penalty until the referee consulted that pesky VAR and changed his mind.

Then, with four minutes of normal time remaining, came the real excitement, with Mark Flekken reaching Yoane Wissa upfield and his flick of a pass finding Bryan Mbeumo in just the right place to put the Bees in front with his fiftieth goal for the club. But before Brentford could finish their celebration, Solanke had put the hosts on terms, heading an accurate cross beyond Flekken.

There were nine minutes added promptly after the ref’s whistle, but Brentford did not need them all. Roles were reversed as Mbeumo laid on a great opportunity for Wissa to thrash the ball high into the net. Three goals in nine minutes, more or less, which did further to cement a growing partnership between the two Bees’ marksmen.

Brentford: Flekken; Ajer (substitute Roerslev 62’), Collins, Pinnock, Reguilon; Damsgaard (sub Schade 74), Nørgaard (sub Jensen 63), Janelt (sub Yarmoliuk 83), Mbeumo, Toney, Lewis-Potter.

THIRD SEASON: One more time!

Brentford 2, Newcastle United 4; 19.05.2024

Last game of the season and come half-time the GTech Stadium was bathed in misery. Trailing 0-3 to a Magpies side still in with a slim chance of booking a European berth for next term, the Bees must have been thankful the relegation nightmare was over. Only Nottingham Forest had separated them from the relegated trio in the drop zone.

But then, as so often happens – to Brentford, anyhow – that same team emerged after the break as if they had been issued with a magic wand. The goals deficit looked more like a challenge than a prison sentence; the visiting players regular human beings rather than superstars from the planet Invincible.

And so it was until thirteen minutes or so of normal time, when Newcastle managed to snatch a fourth goal that stretched their lead beyond reach.

Make no mistake – the visitors deserved to take home the spoils. But the display of derring-do produced by a crowd most famous as a bus stop in Hounslow was acknowledged by those who applauded gratefully and stayed to do so again when the squad took to the pitch for a lap of honour.

That’s probably enough hyperbole for one season, so exactly what happened that sunny day in May?

The Bees did well early on, with Ivan Toney meeting a Bryan Mbeumo cross to put them ahead, although the celebration petered out when VAR ruled Mathias Jensen had been offside.

Toney also demanded attention with an overhead kick that was spectacular but inaccurate and Mbeumo broke clear and chased the ball with two defenders before he ran out of road and goalkeeper Nick Pope – back after a long injury break – snuffed out the danger.

In the meantime, Newcastle were looking uncomfortably slick up front and after 21 minutes Bruno Guimarães’ fine cross was headed home by Harvey Barnes to put the visitors ahead. Worse was to follow for Brentford, with Jacob Murphy scoring after 36 minutes and Alexander Isak two minutes later, two goals which may well have been those Thomas Frank would later describe as due to ‘defensive lapses’.

And so to the Bees’ renaissance. Toney, Mbeumo and Yoane Wissa started to talk the same language in foraging for chinks in the visitors’ defence and it was Wissa who after three minutes of the second period fed Vitaly Janelt, the supporters’ Player of the Year, to score his first goal since February 2023. How cool was that?

Then, after 70 minutes, Toney headed the ball into Wissa’s path for him to leave the defence floundering before unleashing a shot that curled just enough to beat Pope at his far post.

Sadly, there is no fairytale ending to this story. Referee Simon Hooper pointed to the penalty spot when Mbeumo was judged to have unfairly brought down substitute Lewis Hall, only for VAR to decide the offence had taken place outside the box. That was the good news; the bad was Marek Flekken’s parry of the free-kick was seized upon by Guimarães to despatch gratefully the rebound.

Thomas Frank spoke warmly of his players in a brief speech to the remaining crowd, including five who will not be retained (Neal Maupay, who had run his heart out in the few games where he was called upon, had developed into a sort of talisman. The team’s supporters, being what they are, bade him a warm farewell).

And what of Ivan Toney? England team manager Gareth Southgate was there to witness what was, we are assured, Toney’s last hurrah in a Brentford shirt.

Will we miss him, I asked my mate, Charlie?

‘Not for long’, said Charlie. ‘That’s football!’

Brentford: Flekken; Roerslev (substitute Ghoddos 63m), Pinnock, Reguilon (sub Maupay 74), Zanka; Nørgaard, Janelt (sub Schade 74), Jensen (sub Damsgaard 64); Toney, Mbeumo, Wissa (sub Yarmoliuk 84).   

Newcastle: Pope; Krafth, Hall, Guimarães, Schãr (sub Dummett 92); Burn, Longstaff; Joelinton (sub Trippier 81); Isak (sub Wilson 81), Murphy (sub Almirón 68), Barnes (sub Anderson 68).  

Bill Hagerty is a contributing editor to the Chiswick Calendar.