How Goals Win And Lose Matches – 19/4/15

Well if it is goals that you want to see then Brentford are certainly the team for you in the Championship as their forty-four league games to date have seen the ball hit the back of the net an incredible one hundred and thirty-two times, a record bettered by only three other teams, oh and let’s also not forget that ridiculous and remarkable Capital One Cup tie at Dagenham way back in August which would add another twelve to the total. The Bees are the fifth top scorer in the league with seventy-three goals but it is illuminating to break down from whence these goals have come.

Only twenty goals have been scored by strikers, fifteen by Andre Gray, reputed to have been signed as our number three striker but by default our number one all season-long, four by the amazing disappearing man Chris Long who might still be back at Everton but could also conceivably be returning to Griffin Park next week, and the other by the misfit Nick Proschwitz, who has recently worked his way back into the Coventry City team and has been featured on the last two Football League Shows doing what he appears to do best – missing clearcut chances.

Our undoubted strength is in midfield where we invariably field five players and it is not surprising that the bulk of our goals, forty-seven in all, have come from that area. Alex Pritchard with eleven and Jota are in double figures with Jonathan Douglas notching a eye-catching eight goals followed by Stuart Dallas and Jon Toral each with six. Sam Saunders and Alan Judge have scored twice, far less than one would have expected from the Irishman, with Moses Odubajo and Tommy Smith netting just the once. Our back four have hardly contributed to the scoresheet with Moses scoring twice from right back and Harlee Dean and Alan McCormack getting one each. Millwall and Wolves also scored an own goal and I am still surprised that Jake Bidwell made no effort to claim the goal at Wolves, as he might well have got away with it.

Alan Judge easily leads the way with assists, two more on Saturday against Bolton taking him onto twelve. Pritchard is next in line with seven followed by Gray with five and Douglas, Odubajo and Bidwell have four. I have previously remarked upon the dearth of goals from within the six yard box and we have only scored six times from headers all season, four by Douglas and one each by Toral and, remarkably enough, Jota who is actually a lot better in the air than he would like us all to realise. None of our strikers have scored with their head, Gray came closest when he hit the post against Derby and also missed horribly and crucially late on at Wolves back in December. Our set piece record is also pretty abysmal with two goals scored direct from free kicks by Pritchard and Judge, Gray poaching a rebound against Cardiff and only four goals resulting from corners. Sam Saunders has barely featured this season and our delivery has not been the best but there has been a lack of devil, numbers and strength in the box and our pulse rarely starts to race when we are awarded a free kick or corner. In case you all think I am carping at our offensive record, that is really far from the case as I am well aware of our myriad strengths, in particular our speed at launching counter attacks, as was evidenced by Alex Pritchard’s beautifully worked goal yesterday when Tarkowski, Gray and Judge turned defence into attack in an instant, as well as the way in which we create chances through the individual skill of so many of our players.

There is so much to admire and appreciate in the way that we play and perhaps we simply have to realise and accept that our cavalier, attacking style leaves us exposed and vulnerable to counter attacks. I am reliably informed that within the game we are considered to be one of the most open teams in the League and also one of the worst at coping with quick opposition breaks, as Millwall, Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday have demonstrated in the last few games. Our two centre halves split as soon as Button takes possession of the ball, always looking for the quick throw or side-footed pass to them and both fullbacks appear to spend far more time in the opposition half than their own. This is all well and good when we keep possession of the ball and has obviously contributed to so many goals at the right end, but it leaves us wide open and often fatally exposed and shorthanded when we turn the ball over to the opposition. Given our overall success, it is hard to quibble when it all goes pear-shaped as it is totally unreasonable to ask footballers to play in a certain way then bitch and moan when it goes wrong, as long as the mistakes do not get out of hand. Unfortunately though it has been going wrong far too often lately.

As Mark Warburton has made a point of emphasising on countless occasions, we have no Plan B apart from doing Plan A even better. In principle that is all well and good and is a wonderfully brave and confident policy but I really feel that it is naive and even pig-headed in the extreme and has come back to haunt us. Yes, keep playing your football but also take note of the match situation and respond to what is going on around you. We conceded a late, late equaliser at Derby County last weekend that was like a stab to the heart given how cruel it was after we had totally dominated the game. The goal came deep into stoppage time from a cheaply conceded throw-in well in our half. Apparently there were words spoken in the dressing room after the game, possibly about being more clinical and professional and getting the job done, and perhaps it was even suggested that instead of trying to retain possession and run down the clock in a dangerous position the ball should have been launched forward into Row Z deep in the Derby half of the pitch. If that was indeed the case I wonder what the reaction of the manager would have been? I know what I would have liked to have seen happen in the ninety-third minute with us clinging onto a narrow lead at one of our closest rivals! There is a time when pragmatism has to rule the day.

We have only kept nine clean sheets all season and have conceded sixteen goals in the eleven matches since we last kept the opposition at bay, not a disastrous record, it has to be said, but still far too generous when we are chasing promotion, and the excellent total of twenty goals we have scored in the same period has only gleaned us three wins and a meagre fourteen points. If anything we are looking leakier and less organised at the back and even easier to score against as the season progresses, rather than tighter and it has got to a point where we now need to score three times at home in order to win a game given the eight goals we have conceded in our last four games at Griffin Park, all against also-rans and none of which have seen us emerge victorious.

Just looking at those goals in more detail sees a destructive pattern emerge that is really a microcosm of our entire season. The two Cardiff goals, which came out of the blue at a time when we appeared to be in complete control and cruising to a comfortable victory, were both self-inflicted disasters. Dean bumped in Button and the ball squirmed free and fell right at the feet of Macheda in front of the empty goal and then we were cut open by one quick pass and Button came and stopped, was left high and dry in no-man’s land and Revell lobbed him for a gift wrapped winning goal. Frankly I do not think that we have recovered from those two body blows as our defending ever since has become ever more sloppy, careless and dare I day, kamikaze? Millwall scored from a quick ball over the top which caught out Dean and Tarkowski and a breakaway with us short of numbers in defence. Forest punished us with a long hoof from the keeper which drifted over our defence and led to a slip by Tarkowski and then we were exposed by a quick break down our right hand side with our fullbacks caught upfield.

We now come to yesterday’s defensive shambles which has almost left me speechless. Diagouraga played a careless pass aimed at Jota which was quickly returned by the Bolton leftback. Dean and Tarkowski had gone wide in anticipation of a short pass and the centre of our defence was left wide open. Heskey played in Le Fondre who just about kept himself onside and the finish was perfection. The second goal encapsulated everything frustrating and infuriating about the team and we way we play and must have left Warburton metaphorically tearing his hair out. Button played a short goal kick to Toumani who was pressurised and he passed it sideways to Tarkowski  (who should have received it in the first place). He returned it to Button, but no he didn’t, as he left the back-pass suicidally short and Davies nipped in to score the most demoralising, stupid and, quite frankly, totally unforgivable goal of the season. The fiasco looked just as ridiculous on television last night. It would have been harder to choreograph it if we had tried, and how Wolves and Ipswich fans must have laughed when they saw the damage, perhaps terminal, that we had inflicted upon ourselves. It was a pathetic shambles of a goal and one that could well cost us our Playoff position. It was also the fifty-ninth goal we have conceded in forty-four matches, the thirteenth best record of the season. I subjected myself to a horror show last night and watched all of them back again and nearly a third of them could reasonably be attributed to our own shortcomings.

We had more than enough time to regain the lead and recover the crucial two points we had thrown away but with a not fully fit Pritchard already replaced by Dallas, the substitution of two attacking and creative sparks in Gray and Judge by Toral and Smith begged many questions. We had little to bring on from the bench and apart from a couple of flurries never really looked like scoring the third goal that we so desperately needed. I am not going to get sidetracked today onto our overall striker situation, and what did or didn’t happen in January, as I shall doubtless return to this subject at the end of the season, but all I will say in passing is that for the last fifteen minutes or so yesterday we appeared to revert to the infamous 4-6-0 formation last seen in August at Blackpool and to finish a must-win match with Harlee Dean and Tommy Smith as our makeshift strike force surely speaks volumes and quite frankly, is totally unacceptable given the prize that we are still seeking. As I said, more on that another time soon!

At least we have taken the season into the penultimate match and we have to remain hopeful, but the Playoffs are a tall order now particularly given how profligate we are in defence. We have failed to eradicate costly errors all season and they are now coming back to haunt us.

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18 thoughts on “How Goals Win And Lose Matches – 19/4/15

  1. I have to say that I am fed up with Warburton defending the indefensible. “A simple mistake”. The feeling where I stand on the Ealing Road terrace was less forgiving. I was not impressed by his Radio London interview. I am all for a manager being supportive and positive but a bit of honesty wouldn’t go amiss.
    The goals we gifted to the opposition in the last three 2-2 home games were appalling, and we haven’t learnt lessons. Frustrated and disappointed with a touch of annoyance summarises my feelings at the moment.

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    • I hope that my similar feelings have come out loud and clear in my article. We have totally blown this massive opportunity and the striker situation although valid is a red herrings a sit is the idiocies at the back that have done it for us.

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  2. perhaps now is a good time for a change in the management set up. We are now to predictable and will struggle next season if we continue as we are. I remember at the start of the season looking at the bench and thinking WOW what a subs bench we have but alas due to injuries in part we have not been able to keep a strong enough bench. its easy to suggest mark Warburton could or should have done this or that however I’m no professional football manager so what would I know but I also feel we have a right to moan this season because as brentford supporters we have waited a long long time to be able to witness what is without doubt the best team I have seen in my 4 and half decades of watching the bees play, we as fans kick every ball feel every decision that goes against us we feel all the emotions. So tho I would love to be involved in a play off final perhaps it’s best we stay where we are til we fine tune a few things and lets remember we are still progressing and I for one still every home game stand up at 2.55pm and look at a full griffin park in awe and thankfulness that I have witnessed what we have all witnessed this season.
    Thank you brentford fc.

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  3. ‘He’ll learn from that’ is a refrain that should come back to haunt Mark Warburton, because clearly we haven’t.

    The play-offs are still mathematically possible, but frankly it’s a distant and fast disappearing possiblily.

    All in all, it’s been a bittersweet season. Sweet because I don’t think anyone really believed we’d be in this position, seventh with two matches to play, at the beginning of the season; bitter because at the New Year, when we seemed to have got a handle on the division, I would not have been happy with our current position twenty-odd games later.

    No need for me to rake over once more the whys and wherefores – they’ve been well aired, many times. All I feel is that if we are to finish just outside the play-offs (as now seems likeliest), then I’d rather we’d done so like Bournemouth last year, on an upward path, rather than seeming to go backwards.

    So, bittersweet with more bitter than sweet.

    Of course, big wins at Reading and at home to Wigan might still see us into the play-offs – Ipswich have two tough games left – but I’m not holding my breath.

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  4. Is it my imagination but did the downward slump begin with Tony Craig being dropped to the sub bench? I think that in the last two games we have to shake things up so that we are not so predictable. If Long is back, then play with two strikers. It was noticeable that Bolton ended yesterday’s games with – I think – four strikers on the pitch. Jota needs try something different. With videos of games available to all clubs it is easy to see our pattern of play and plan for counter measures. we have nothing to lose by trying something different as it is unlikely that Ipswich will lose two games but it would give the fans some hope as we can all see where the problems lie.

    Nevertheless, it has been a hugely entertaining Season and certainly the most memorable since I started supporting the Bees in 1963. And thanks Greville for all your insightful posts.

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  5. Thanks Mike. I cannot see anything changing i approach for the last two games. We just need to hope we eradicate the asinine errors and that the ball bounces kindly for us.

    Appreciate your kind words too. There will be a book coming out from all the blogs in the Summer. Please look out for it.

    As for next season, I am not sure if I have the time or energy to continue.

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  6. I have, in a very haphazard way, kept some of the Match statistics available on either the BBC or BFC websites, and commented on Beesotted about shots on target and goals scored

    You have given a far greater range of statistics in your articles and I wonder whether the lack of understanding for me – and, probably, many others – about this statistical method being pursued by the Owner, could be helped by an article by you, or someone in the ‘know’. Perhaps there is a central pool of Statistics that you can point me towards.

    Always interesting articles, echoing my own thoughts on many occasions,but mainly the despair at the constant repeated mantras of excuse, to which you have alluded.

    Simon

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  7. After Derby I felt it best to lower my expectations, so I have mentally accepted that we won’t reach the playoffs. If by some fluke we do then, given our past record . . . do I prepare for the worst and hope for the best? At the start of the season, my hope was A) to stay up, B) get a few good seasons in to consolidate and build, and then C) aim for playoffs, or automatic promotion. This was, I think a good strategy. After the Doncaster game, it seemed the worst thing that could have happened, and yet that experience really did help us for the following season. We became mentally tougher, grew in confidence, and all that has helped us this season. And what of the victors, Doncaster – just one season. So maybe not reaching the playoffs may be a blessing in disguise, albeit it somewhat effectively disguised at the moment.

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  8. well this w-k i was forced to watch the wolves V Ipswich match one again not sen much of these teams but what a total lot of rubbish they both were.Seeing this game it took me back of my time of playing ouf the ball up field and hope someone gets on to the ball typical of Mick McCarthy teams even when wolves were in the top division when he was manger there with just the one forward and not much change as manger of Ipswich and for Kenny Jacket if i remember Greville he played for your second favorite side lol Watford who played the long ball game under Graham Taylor.We are in my opinion way above these two teams and even taking in and faults and that i think sums up our season .We are a good footballing side but sadly do not have that killer punch or maybe the capabilities to kill teams off and i not thinking just of Andy Grey its a team game.Who knows theres still a chance so we should go for it and next its Reading. I would like to thank you greville through this blog i can follow with great details the team of my heart and all that was installed when as a boy i watched R Fenton A Mansell ect and followed when my boys dream of playing for my local club THE BRENTFORD FC

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