Joy! – 6/11/14

for1I wrote just the other day that I could not recall a better and more important overall performance than the one the Bees put on last Saturday against Derby County.

Well, I was wrong.

Brentford’s excellent display against Derby was totally surpassed last night when we went to the City Ground and played Nottingham Forest off the pitch, and came away slightly disappointed at only scoring three goals when we should have netted at least six.

The performance personified everything that Mark Warburton’s Brentford team stands for.

Passion, pace, positivity, movement, grit, determination, confidence on the ball, running at opposition players, accurate passing, pressing and a total lack of fear.

All that was missing and what prevented us from notching a cricket score was more conviction in front of goal.

Brentford came of age last night, going head to head against one of English football’s big names and they left the former European Cup holders chastened and with a bloody nose.

This was by no means a giant killing when an underdog, inspired by the occasion, raised its game on a one-off basis to pull off a major shock, but further evidence, if more were indeed needed, that our style of total football (a term I haven’t used since the halcyon days of the great Dutch teams of the 70s) is too much for many of our opponents to handle.

The near one thousand travelling Bees fans also had a night to remember, outshouting the shellshocked home supporters and memorably serenading them with exuberant shouts of “you should have gone to the fireworks!”

Good advice, indeed, that they would have done well to follow, as their team, nervous as kittens after a long run without a win, initially bared their teeth but then stuttered and collapsed under the Brentford onslaught, contributing to their own downfall with a series of defensive frailities and schoolboy errors that contributed to two of the goals.

Alex Pritchard replaced Jota in the starting lineup and played his best game to date for the Bees, with the ball seemingly glued to his feet he was a master of vision and movement, finding the gaps in the hapless home defence.

No show pony either, as he played a full part in all the necessary unfashionable and dirty work required to win a game away from home, covering, tackling back and pressing and he might also be said to have earned his spurs by receiving a booking when his desperate attempts to dispossess an opponent on the edge of our box resulted in a yellow card, a true badge of honour, and proof that he too is beginning to understand and become part of the team ethos.

Forest didn’t help their cause with a bemusing team selection which saw the dangerous Antonio played up front as a lone striker with Mancienne, normally a defender, playing the Jonathan Douglas role in front of his panicky back four.

fore3Brentford were therefore allowed to seize the initiative, and, in their customary fashion, piled men forward and began to cut huge swathes in the home rearguard.

The home fans were already making their growing sense of unease and disbelief known when Odubajo streaked down the right, played an incisive ball into Gray, lurking with menace in the box and when Moses went for the rebound he was unceremoniously taken out by Hunt.

Rather than wait for the whistle, Toral reacted quickest and fairly lashed the ball into the roof of the net for a stunning finish which totally took the wind out of the home team, who visibly deflated like a burst balloon.

Hunt’s ill-disciplined lunge was followed by an aerial assault by Lansbury (now there’s a real show pony) on Dean, which resulted only in a generous yellow card when he might have seen red.

Hunt only managed to injure himself and there was poetic justice when his replacement, Lichaj, split the defence with a perfect through ball but unfortunately for him it was at the wrong end, and Gray, took full advantage of the gift, rounding Darlow and scoring with ease.

Behind the far goal we blinked with amazement and our eyes welled with tears of pride as our team was dismantling a side that on paper was far superior to ours.

The difference was that we were a team in every meaning of the word, a well honed and drilled unit playing as one, whereas Forest were a disorganised rabble without a real clue or apparent plan of attack.

From time to time gifted individuals like Antonio or Ince caused us problems with their sheer flair and ability, but given the lack of team focus we easily snuffed out the threat.

The only disappointment at the break was that we had only scored twice. Toral, who marauded forward with menace, a potent mix of skill, determination and aggression, almost scored with a close range header from Judge’s perfect cross.

Judge himself fired narrowly wide before Brentford spurned two great chances right on halftime.

Douglas poked the ball wide from close range with the goal gaping after Brentford had sliced the home team apart with some beautiful short passing, and Forest tried to commit suicide yet again when Gray latched onto another appalling back pass but Darlow blocked his effort.

We were all a bit concerned at the break.

Had we let them off the hook, surely the paint was being stripped of the Forest dressing room wall by Psycho Pearce who would now throw on the likes of Britt Assombalonga, and the home team could not be as inept as they had been in the first half?

The former Peterborough striker formed a new three man attack but Brentford took the wind out of the home team’s sails by scoring a game clinching third goal straight after the break.

Gray ran at the defence and was pulled down by Wilson for as clear a penalty as you could ever see.

Pritchard picked the ball up without any discussion and calmly slotted the ball home as the keeper dived the wrong way.

Interestingly enough in his post match interview, Alex said that he had been totally unaware of our recent problems and adventures from the penalty spot, and calmly stated that he had always been confident of scoring.

Long may he continue taking them with similar results.

With the job apparently done, Brentford sat far too deep, and, as a result, allowed Forest to come back into the game and they dominated the last quarter as they sought to regain some self-respect.

Button came into his element making three excellent saves and dominating his penalty area.

Craig and Dean put their bodies on the line and won everything as well as never resorting to the panicky, booted clearance.

Pass, pass, pass is the mantra that has been driven into the head of every Brentford player, and last night it really showed as we kept playing our way out of trouble.

Eventually the pressure told, and Antonio sent a wonderful long range drive screaming past Button, but even so, the best two chances were created by Brentford, Gray driving into the box past two terrified home defenders, who waved him past before Darlow managed to push his shot away and Judge, the orchestrator of so many of the good things that we did, curled a beauty inches beyond the far post with the keeper merely an interested and helpless bystander.

This was a famous triumph for the team and management alike, and one that now sets the benchmark for how well we can perform.

We totally out-thought and outplayed Forest, and we were a potent combination of skill, movement and tenacity and left our illustrious opponents trailing and gasping in our wake.

Douglas and Diagouraga were heroes, yet again, although another booking means that Jonathan will be sitting out Saturday’s blood and thunder local derby at Millwall, but we will cope – we always do.

Moses too seemed to flourish facing the play and terrorised the home team with his pace and attacking brio as well as dealing calmly with a tricky customer in Burke, until he was forced off by a knock, but emergency right back Stuart Dallas coped admirably with a totally unexpected role and looked comfortable in his new position.

I have left Andre Gray until last.

He was a man inspired and Forest just could not cope with his pace, power, strength and movement.

He could have scored three goals and the penny finally seems to have dropped with him as he realises that he is more than good enough to thrive at Championship level, and, in the future, maybe even higher.

On a personal level, the day was a total joy as I spent the entire afternoon with my daughter who is studying in Nottingham and allowed her to run amok with my credit card in American Apparel, before enjoying a wonderful relaxed dinner with her in town.

The game was merely the cherry on top and she was also totally caught up in the excitement and the atmosphere and wants to come and see us play again.

Another convert, and not before time!

Today I feel tired but I have a satisfied smile on my face.

This is a great time to be a Bee and, given the evidence of what we were privileged to see last night, the best is yet to come.

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7 thoughts on “Joy! – 6/11/14

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