Can We Take Any More Excitement? – 10/7/14

SergioSomewhere in the dark recesses of Youtube I am sure you can find some long-forgotten blurred and faded black and white footage of a Watney Cup tie forty-four years ago between Hull City and Manchester United.

That game in a short-lived preseason tournament, heralded the first ever penalty shoot-out in a professional match in England.

The first player to take a kick was George Best, and the first to miss was Denis Law.

Ian McKechnie, the rotund Hull goalkeeper who Brentford fans still have clear memories of from THAT Cup tie in 1971, saved Law’s kick, and was also the first goalkeeper to take a kick; but his shot hit the crossbar and deflected over, putting Hull City out of the Cup.

The penalty shootout has become recognised as perhaps the best, the fairest, the most heartbreaking and certainly the most exciting way to settle a drawn Cup tie and last night was no exception.

As always there was a hero and a goat.

Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero was the match winner plunging to make two decisive saves whilst Holland’s hapless Jasper Cillesen was unable to break his duck as four penalties whizzed past him. two of which looked eminently saveable.

As for Tim Krul, who had thwarted Costa Rica so effectively if controversially in the last round, he remained helpless on the bench as Louis van Gaal was unable to produce another rabbit from his hat, having already used all three of his substitutes.

Poetic justice perhaps as Krul’s gamesmanship in the previous shootout, aided and abetted by a weak referee had stuck in the craw of all but the most rabid Dutch fan.

Anyone wishing to understand more about the subject is recommended to read Ben Lyttleton’s new book “Twelve Yards”, a groundbreaking and fascinating exploration and explanation of the art, psychology, history and culture of the penalty kick – and how not to miss them.

Given that last night’s was the fourth match of the 2014 World Cup to be settled by a shootout then perhaps you feel that some of the teams could have done with an early sight of Ben’s book!

Brentford fans are no strangers to the horrors and delights of the penalty shootout and whilst it has been unpleasant, if perhaps cathartic, to dredge up some of the memories, there have also been some triumphs.

Perhaps the most painful shootout was in 1995 when a Brentford team finished second in the Second Division in the only season which saw only one automatic promotion place owing to Premier League restructuring – it’s Brentford Innit!

We should have won comfortably in the Playoff Semifinal at Huddersfield where Bob Taylor’s open goal miss still rankles and amazes and the referee missed Andy Booth’s climb all over Kevin Dearden for their equaliser at Griffin Park.

Penalties it was and Denny Mundee, who ironically had scored two penalties against Huddersfield in the League that season, managed to outguess himself and missed.

Argentina’s Ezequiel Garay showed how a centre half should take a penalty last night, driving an Exocet of a shot into the roof of the net, straight down the middle but unfortunately Jamie Bates did not follow his example and his weak effort was easily saved by Steve Francis and the Bees had lost.

I can still hear the eerie quiet that descended like a blanket of fog around Griffin Park as we filed out after the match struck dumb by shock and disbelief.

Richard Lee had a wonderful penalty shootout record for the club back in 2010/11.

He needed something to go right as his start at his new club had not gone well and he was out of favour with manager Andy Scott. A succession of loan keepers came in but Lee played in the Cup ties and his overall performance and then penalty save in the shootout from Jermaine Beckford won Brentford the tie against Eveton.

Better was to come in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy as he masterminded an unprecedented three successive penalty shootout victories against Leyton Orient, Swindon and then Charlton, when touched by genius, Lee saved three successive spot kicks, a feat only previously achieved by Graham Benstead against Wrexham in 1991.

Richard’s account of how he prepared and psyched himself up for these shootouts richard leemakes for fascinating reading and I can highly recommend his book “Graduation” to all budding goalkeepers.

Brentford’s last penalty shootout remains fresh in the memory as victory over Swindon in the dreaded Playoffs was secured after five perfect penalties from Sam Saunders, Paul Hayes (yes, Paul Hayes!), Harlee Dean, an emphatic thump from skipper Tony Craig followed by a wild-eyed celebration and Adam Forshaw’s cool coup de grace.

Simon Moore too played a match winning role by saving Swindon’s fourth effort and the side taking their penalties second won the day, a feat only achieved in 40% of all penalty shootouts.

Love them or hate them penalty shootouts are here to stay but penalty kicks have proved to be Brentford’s nemesis on so many occasions recently and I am sure that we will return to this subject as soon as I can face it!

 

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