So Near………… – 17/8/14

bnm2Very occasionally you can take almost as much out of a defeat as a victory and Saturday’s narrow one nil loss to AFC Bournemouth was a case in point.

Of course the bottom line is that we lost, and you don’t win style points for playing well, but there were so many positives from our performance.

We more than matched a team that is seen very much as one that we aspire towards in terms of the quality of their football and how quickly and well they have adapted to the challenge of Championship football.

But first things first.

What a pig of a journey.

I am totally anal about arriving early wherever I am due, and, indeed, last Tuesday was parked up outside Dagenham’s ground punctually at 5.30pm for a 7.45pm kickoff.

I fully expected some traffic on the motorway and left North London at 9.45am.

I finally pulled up outside the stadium, tired and feeling homicidal after the stop start journey from hell, at 1.30pm.

Not a great start to the day, but things soon got better once the game began.

A beautifully original and intricate three man free kick move carved open the home defence only for Andre Gray to turn sharply and hammer the ball onto the underside of the bar from a tight angle – so nearly the perfect start.

We funnelled back, pressed hard and, for the most part, kept Bournemouth at bay.

Button saved brilliantly after an equally inventive corner kick routine created space for Kermogant and we coped well with the home team and minimised their goal threat.

What became obvious is how crucial ball retention is at this level of the game.

Bournemouth held onto it far better than us with their back four all showing instant control and the ability to retain possession.

We were far more wasteful and have got to realise that if you give the ball away you might well have to wait quite a while before you get it back.

After weathering an early second half storm culminating with Bidwell heading the ball off our goal line, we came alive, showed far more confidence and self-belief on and off the ball, and finally got our midfield runners up the field to support the isolated Gray.

Pritchard and Judge threatened and the Irishman shot inches wide and then Douglas could not control an effort from the edge of the area and shot over.

We improved even more after Dallas replaced Tabar who had found the pace of the game too much for him and had been caught in possession too often for comfort.

We tested Lee Camp from a Pritchard free kick and a fulminating long ranger from the effervescent Judge and we took control.

A goal looked like it was on the way and it finally came – but for Bournemouth as we again gave the ball away near the halfway line, Bidwell was caught upfield and a swift break saw a man over on their right hand side and Fraser’s excellent centre was converted at the far post by Junior Stanislas.

It is ironic that I was writing just the other day about Roger Stanislaus and now his near namesake’s goal condemned us to defeat.

Smith and Proschwitz impressed after replacing Odubajo and Gray who had both worked selflessly and run themselves out and we looked stronger, more forceful and composed up front.

Bournemouth funnelled back to protect their lead and wasted time under the eyes of an indulgent referee who seemed to see no evil whenever it was perpetrated by a player wearing red and black.

Smith and Dallas roared down the wings, Douglas marauded forward and headed a late chance inches over the crossbar.

Defeat was tough to take given how much we had contributed to the match but there are some hard lessons that need to be learned very quickly about playing in the Championship.

Games at this level are decided by very narrow margins.

Ball possession is key.

Lose it at your peril in your own half of the field.

The back four cannot lose concentration and be careless with their passing as was far too often the case.

Chances are few and far between and Brentford need to be much more clinical and also get more players up in support of the lone striker.

The final ball also needs to be on the money.

bnmA couple of times we broke with pace and had men over but were unable to thread the ball through to the unmarked runner who would have been in on goal.

A bit of luck would also be welcome, as the ball invariably broke to a defender in their penalty area and not a Brentford player.

Perhaps they anticipated the ball better and quicker than us too?

We need to find another out ball when the opposition close down our back four and prevent Button distributing the ball to his defenders.

The goalkeeper was often forced to kick the ball long where it was gobbled up by a home defender and the ball turned over.

This is also where I feel we will have problems in future games given the make up of our squad..

Today was a football match in every meaning of the word.

Of course the tackles flew in but both teams wanted to play and succeeding in doing so.

As such it was probably the most technically skilful game I have ever seen the Bees play in, with both teams contributing fully to the entertainment.

Watching The Football League Show last night it is becoming pretty obvious that the Championship is the land of the giants with size, strength and power dominating, and I believe that we run the risk of being outpowered and outmuscled by the opposition in many games.

We are a small and gifted bunch but it is possible that we will need to fight fire with fire when we come up against some of the less talented but bigger and stronger opponents.

Proschwitz gave us some physical presence up front and it is noticeable that we played higher up the pitch once he came on and his strength and size enabled us to play off him and retain possession in the final third.

Gray though gives us explosive pace and the ability to get in behind opponents and down the sides and it will be a difficult decision for Mark Warburton to make.

Scott Hogan is also rapidly returning to fitness and he remains an unknown quantity.

We also have the two exciting Spanish midfielders to look forward to.

Today was so nearly perfect, but ultimately was a disappointment as we could and perhaps should have come away with at least a point.

We should derive confidence and self-belief from the performance as we promised much and demonstrated that we both belong at, and can cope with this level of the game.

There is much to look forward to, starting hopefully on Tuesday at Blackpool, who will offer an entirely different type of challenge than AFC Bournemouth.


2 thoughts on “So Near………… – 17/8/14

  1. G
    A good report. We were unlucky not to pick up a point. Sometimes though, with our way of playing, we leave Gray a little isolated at the moment and he is also learning a new way of playing up top on his own. I was hoping that, on Saturday, we’d revert to a 4-4-2 set up when we went one down, to see if Gray could play off Proschwitz. Keeping to a quite rigid line up of a back four, one Central midfielder sitting with one further forward, two wide players, one ‘in the hole’ behind the lone striker, it looks as though we don’t switch the set up when we make these subs. Changing to a 4-4-2 may of put more pressure on Bournemouth’s back four with Gray playing off the taller front man and off the last defenders shoulder. We do need a ‘plan B’ and ‘plan C’!!

    Still, we didn’t embarrass ourselves, in fact we gave a a good account of the way we play football and also showed how bloody skilful we are. Wonderful to watch and gutted we didn’t bring home one point.



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