Well it couldn’t last for ever.
Brentford’s incredible, unforgetable and unprecedented run of five consecutive wins ended on a cold, raw, Huddersfield December afternoon when the wind whipped across the Pennines and the scoreline was as bleak as the conditions and surroundings, as Brentford subsided to a narrow and perhaps slightly undeserved defeat by two goals to one.
It was a match which highlighted the importance and accuracy of so many of Mark Warburton’s maxims and truisms about how to succeed at Championship level.
Taking them in no particular order:
Take care of the football – we didn’t, we were careless in the extreme, as despite having fifty-nine percent of possession we gave the ball away with monotonous regularity, often in highly dangerous positions.
Be clinical with your chances – we weren’t, as is demonstrated by a tally of twenty-two shots at goal with eight on target, and only one goal scored.
Games at this level are decided by fine margins – absolutely, as we came within a hairsbreadth of equalising on so many occasions late in the game and the referee’s eccentricity and inconsistency certainly assisted the home team.
Drop your standards and you will get punished – we did and we were.
We came into the game bursting with confidence and left shaking our heads in disbelief at how we had gifted the points to a home team totally lacking in confidence and out of form after a poor run of no victories in their previous four games.
I was also concerned to hear a comment from a disgruntled Bees fan leaving the ground remarking that we should not be losing to a team like Huddersfield given our respective positions in the league table.
Arrogant, ignorant and dangerous talk, indeed, as we are still tyros and neophytes and have much to learn about this level.
We still have our L Plates on, and Huddersfield are a Championship team on merit and therefore possess an abundance of talent and players who are highly experienced at this level and can really hurt you if you allow them the time, space and opportunity to do so.
Alex Smithies must have been wearing a Superman top under his goalkeeper’s jersey so often did he foil us, Mark Hudson was an impassable barrier in central defence and Nahki Wells, Sean Scannell and Grant Holt led our defence a merry dance and at times threatened to tear us apart.
An unchanged Brentford team took the game to Huddersfield early on and our confident, slick passing and approach work regularly opened up the home defence but we failed to capitalise upon some glaring chances.
Toral set up Judge who fired narrowly wide, Odebajo’s deep cross found an unmarked Douglas who, unforgivably, headed wide of the gaping goal when it appeared easier to score and Smithies readjusted brilliantly to turn Judge’s deflected shot over the bar.
There was an early warning for Brentford when Wells twisted clear to shoot wide of the near post but, just as had been the case at Bolton, the game was there for the taking early on, but we spurned our opportunities and paid a heavy price when Huddersfield finally got their passing game together.
They worked the ball from their right to left where Robinson, in acres of space with Moses caught infield, crossed low to Wells who beat Dean to the ball and his low pass across goal was hammered home by Scannell.
It could have got worse as our performance levels dipped, we were second to every ball and stood off the Huddersfield attackers and allowed them space to turn.
Holt systematically beat up and bullied Tony Craig, aided and abetted by an indulgent referee who allowed him to get away with all his tricks, and Bidwell seemed hypnotised by Scannell like a snake by a mongoose and backed off the winger with disastrous effect. Wells too ran in behind our defence on numerous occasions but thankfully had left his shooting boots at home.
This was a bad period for the Bees as the crowd roused itself from its torpor and got behind the home team who responded well.
We recovered and came again before the break and created more excellent chances, with Bidwell’s long range volley being turned round the post, Gray just unable to force in a loose ball and when the clever Pritchard weaved his way into space his shot went inches wide of the upright.
A curate’s egg of a first half ended with our fine attacking play let down by poor final passes, loose finishing and by our allowing the home team space and time to hurt us.
Surely things would change in the second half, and they certainly did, as we got even worse.
We started slowly, forgot to track the runners, played for a non-existent offside, allowed Robinson to cross from the left flank, and, just to cap it all, Bidwell chested the ball into his own net when Scannell missed the cross.
A litany of errors that resulted in our now having to chase the game and having the proverbial mountain to climb.
But climb it we did.
We pushed men forward and inevitably left even more gaps at the back.
Wells missed yet again when Craig stretched and missed a through ball and Button saved brilliantly.
Dallas gave us more power and a threat on the left flank and had an effort saved before Tommy Smith, who, not for the first time, made a massive difference when he came on, capped an intricate move from a throw in by slipping a clever pass into Douglas, whose late run left him with the space to score with a nonchalant outside of the right foot flick into the corner.
Huddersfield dropped deeper and went into panic mode, wasting time with impunity as the referee looked on and did nothing.
We battered them for the last quarter of the game with Moses and Bidwell pushing on and creating havoc.
Chances came and went but were not taken.
Pritchard and Judge argued over a free kick in front of goal and Alex had a mild hissy fit when his entreaties were rejected before Smithies arched backwards to tip Judge’s effort over the bar.
Dean set up Smith for a careful side-footed effort that was turned round the post before Judge’s centre was headed back by Dallas and the ball fell for Douglas five yards out.
This was the moment, and time seemed to stand still as Dougie set himself, took aim and hit the ball powerfully with his left foot.
Surely the equaliser, but the ball hit a defender on the line and squirmed clear.
It wasn’t going to be our day, a realisation which was confirmed when, deep into injury time, Proschwitz went down on the edge of the box.
No penalty was the inevitable decision by the referee who, to add insult to injury, penalised the stricken striker for hand ball.
It was a quiet and reflective group who shared a car back to London, lost in their own thoughts regarding what they had witnessed that afternoon.
This was a game that we would probably have won comfortably if we had scored early on when we cut through their defence seemingly at will.
It was equally a match that could have drifted further away from us if Huddersfield had taken advantage of the numerous chances created by their trickery and pace up front, combined with our careless defensive play.
If we had equalised late on then perhaps the home team would have collapsed and allowed us a late victory.
The fact is that we lost and contributed greatly to our own downfall.
This season is simply a series of learning curves and Brentford were taught some hard lessons yesterday and they will need to do their homework on the training ground next week.