Despite the unexpected and remarkable fillip of two goals on Saturday against Ipswich so late that they arrived almost at the end of the classified results on Sports Report, there was still an almost perceptible sense of foreboding before tonight’s Capital One cup tie against Oxford United.
Head Coach Marinus Duikhuizen had announced that he would make extensive team changes and give valuable match practice to his previously unused squad members as well as some deserving members of the Development Squad.
Supporters with only a short memory could recall recent matches in the same competition when a similar course was followed without much success.
Two seasons ago a young team, naive and wet behind the ears was massacred by a full strength Derby County who thankfully and mercifully declared at five after a mixed squad had barely squeaked through in the previous round against Dagenham.
Last season another weakened side played out that remarkable 6-6 draw against a plucky Dagenham team who were almost allowed to win a game in which we had threatened at times to run riot.
The Griffin Park pitch, so lush and true last season was another massive concern as despite extensive close season attention, it now resembled nothing more than a sandy beach painted green and the uneven, lumpy and bumpy surface was a ticking time bomb which threatened ankles and cruciates alike and had defied Brentford’s best efforts to play our customary brand of incisive one touch football on Saturday, and stymied by the vagaries and inconsistencies of the surface, the Bees had resorted to an inelegant and untypical long ball game.
There had also been an ominous silence regarding Andre Gray. Perhaps no news was good news but we remained in total ignorance about his future and whether he would be in the right frame of mind to be included in the starting eleven.
The injury list was also growing on a seemingly daily basis with Alan Judge, Jota and Harlee Dean, Josh McEachran and of course, Scott Hogan all unavailable and, as for Lewis MacLeod, mention of his name brought about a bemused shrug as the current whereabouts and state of fitness of this elusive young man remained a closely guarded secret.
Well, however concerned we were at the prospect of the match, the reality was far worse than even the greatest pessimist could have envisaged as a ludicrously weak Brentford team which treated the competition, the opposition and, indeed, our supporters with utter disrespect was hammered by an experienced and commited and crucially, unchanged Oxford United team who barely had to go through the motions or break sweat to stroll to an easy four goal victory. And we were lucky that it was only four.
Oxford were a team who played as a cohesive unit, Brentford were a disparate rabble, a cobbled together collection of strangers and callow kids who lacked leadership and frankly were a disgrace to the shirt.
In the club’s defence the Head Coach had stated that he would rest players but nobody could have expected the eleven players who actually started to have rested to the extent that they did throughout a first half which saw them lethargically chasing shadows and falling three goals behind within ten minutes.
All three were the result of staggering and almost laughable defensive howlers by Bjelland and Bonham which were ruthlessly punished by Sercombe, Hylton and, spectacularly with a forty yard lob into a empty net by Roofe after the hapless Bonham went walkabout.
There were eleven, yes, eleven team changes from Saturday with none of the starters against Ipswich being named in the team. There were seven debutants in Bjelland, Barbet, O’Connell, Williams, Udemaga, Laurent and Senior and the team was completed by Bonham, Clarke, Vibe and the most experienced player on view in Yennaris.
Indeed the entire team had played less than ten first team matches between them. No wonder the performance was shambolic as such a scratch eleven who had never played together before and surely never will again could not be expected to succeed against a team of hardened opponents who played to win.
Just to make things even worse Bjelland limped off before the interval and then your correspondent was hit flush on the head by an errant Brentford shot during the half time break and knocked over, thus ending his active participation as a spectator.
A suitable ending to a terrible evening and thanks to the club’s paramedics who were helpful, kind and solicitous to me as I felt extremely dazed and shocked.
I am told that the second half was another non-event for Brentford who finally lost by four clear goals.
Squad rotation is one thing, what Brentford did tonight is quite another. We have lots of promising players with massive potential and tonight will have done them no good whatsoever as they were hung out to dry and perhaps some budding careers have even taken a backward step.
Play a couple of them certainly, but surround, protect and encourage them with a coterie of first teamers. To make eleven changes and field a team with so little experience was a disaster waiting to happen and a catastrophic decision by the new Head Coach who fully deserves the criticism he is sure to face.
This was a night of shame and embarrassment for the club coming at the worst possible time just when a new regime is seeking to establish itself with the fans.
Dijkhuizen has inherited a tough enough job with all the raised expectations after last season’s achievements and the massive success of Mark Warburton, without making it even harder for himself, something that he has now done after the disappointing events of tonight.
I am going to bed now feeling a bit dazed and sick and the blow on the head, nasty as it was, is not the sole cause of my discomfort.