I have a few football friends, travelling companions and fellow Brentford fanatics who I generally accompany to away matches, but one by one they cried off during the week.
Some didn’t want to spend the money in the week before Christmas and wanted to keep their cash for minor necessities and trivialities such as food and heating.
One was shopping, another decided to spend the weekend with his wife, and man flu claimed a couple of others.
It looked like I was on my own, not a state of affairs that has stopped me in the past, but somehow this time I just didn’t fancy a long solitary drive there and back in a day, and on Friday I made my mind up to give this one a miss.
What a mistake, as I missed yet another Bees triumph and a first half performance of pure class with the invention, pace and movement that you have come to expect from a Brentford team rewarded with three cracking goals.
Whilst those far more committed than I dined out on the sumptuous feast laid on for them at the Cardiff Stadium, I was left to make do with the bread and water diet of a cold blustery afternoon spent shivering on an exposed touchline watching my local Ryman League team Wingate & Finchley.
It wasn’t a bad match, I have to say, as they edged to a narrow one-nil win over a tough Grays team, and there was plenty of skill and effort on show from both sides, but that was little or no consolation as the text, Twitter and Griffin Park Grapevine updates I received throughout the afternoon made it perfectly clear to me that I was in the wrong place and had made a terrible decision.
There was some very minor solace as I was back at home well in time to watch the final of Strictly Come Dancing with my wife, but as I tried to concentrate on the dancers pirouetting and preening through their choreographed routines, my mind kept wandering and, instead of admiring their pyrotechnics, I found myself instead picturing the twinkle-toed Jota and Alex Pritchard performing a perfect pas de deux as they danced in unison and glided through the Cardiff defence with the ball tied to their bootlaces, and I knew exactly where I should have been on Saturday afternoon.
From what I have seen on the scandalously brief highlights on the Football League Show I would have been far more like Len, Bruno and Darcey and less like Craig and given them both straight Ten’s for their routines which touched the heights of perfection.
I spoke briefly to Mark Burridge and Mick Cabble too, who kindly filled me in on our display and the pure theatre of the entire afternoon’s proceedings, as in front of a crowd of nearly twenty-two thousand, the biggest of the season so far, Brentford didn’t freeze on the big day but simply rose to the occasion and put a massive team to the sword that this time last year was competing in the Premier League.
Yesterday was probably the zenith of a half-season already littered with massive achievements, with the promise of many more to come.
Mark and Mick are both sound, experienced and keen observers of all things Brentford and do not easily get carried away, but they were both drooling at the utter brilliance of the first half display and the sheer resilience, guts and organisation displayed after the break, when quite naturally, the home team, their pride dented and their ears burning from a halftime rollicking, finally abandoned their suicidal four-four-two formation and matched us up in midfield, went for our throats and with the encouragement of an early second half goal, put us under the cosh and made us defend for our lives to hold onto a fully merited victory.
Good to see that we managed to withstand the onslaught without the second half presence of colossus and inspiration Jonathan Douglas and hopefully his exit at the break was purely precautionary rather than a serious problem as we will need him in the packed holiday programme.
Harlee Dean went down as if poleaxed in the first few minutes of the game, and for quite a while it seemed as if his afternoon would be over almost before it had begun, however the sight of James Tarkowski eagerly stripping off his tracksuit top, ready to sprint onto the pitch was apparently more than enough to revive him, and Harlee went on to have an impressive match at the heart of our defence!
From what I have seen and heard, Alex Pritchard was the star of the show.
His early finish for our first goal was predatory and eye-catching in its simplicity and perfection as the ball was threaded through the eye of the needle straight into the bottom corner of the net well out of the reach of the diving David Marshall..
The ball was hit with pace, accuracy and power and with his wrong foot too.
Praise too to Jota who put in a determined challenge in the opposition penalty area to help ensure that the ball fell perfectly at the feet of his colleague just waiting to strike.
Pritchard is so quick to see and select the best option and his instant, incisive and perfectly weighted pass put Andre Gray through on goal, just as he did at Millwall, and unlike at Wigan when his finish plopped frustratingly onto the roof of the goal, this time the lob was judged to perfection and the ball dropped unerringly into the roof of the net for his tenth goal of a massively productive season.
Pritchard also had a foot in the third goal when he ran unchallenged from his own penalty area, threaded a short pass to Jota and waited in vain for a return as the elegant Spaniard bewitched a horde of helpless and bovine defenders and sent them all the wrong way with swivel of his hips before he delicately placed an unstoppable curling left-footed shot into the far top corner of the net from the corner of the penalty area.
Len and his fellow judges would surely have approved!
The Ole’s resonated around the stadium and from what I have been told, the Brentford supporters were not the only ones that wondered at and applauded Jota’s trickery, mastery of the ball, precision, and perfect technique.
That being said, the denizens of the Cardiff message boards vented their incoherent and semi-literate spleen at the perceived shortcomings of their own team and manager after the match, which were, in truth, many and varied, without bothering to praise us for our performance or give any thought as to how and why we had defeated their team.
Typical of the comments were this pre-match boast:
Today will go down in history as the day we beat a team by ten clear goals.
Followed by an in-depth analysis soon after the final whistle:
And none of their players are good enough to play for us as they were League One players about six months ago.
As Cardiff fans we aren’t going to accept signings that poor.
God, please give me strength at such hubris, ignorance and arrogance.
Although having given it some further thought, the more we are ignored, underestimated and belittled the more I like it and the better it is for our prospects.
Leroy Rosenior, however gets what we are trying to do and is a big fan.
His comments on last night’s Football League Show were as succinct as ever, but he got straight to the nub of the issue:
Brentford have a small squad but great spirit and I am not sure if there are clubs around with as much quality.
So apologies to those who were perhaps expecting a full and detailed match report, but I wasn’t there, so I can only give you my second hand impressions of a wonderful day for the club which provided further evidence, if more was indeed required, that our promotion challenge is for real.
Anyway, this is not a mistake I intend to repeat and my tickets to Wolves and Brighton have already been booked and are safely stashed away in my desk drawer.
Now if I can just find somebody to go with – any volunteers?