The Long Good Friday! – 31/10/15

Please excuse the late appearance of this article but Friday was a long, long day.

I left what I thought was plenty of time to get to the ground as I wanted to savour the incredible atmosphere that would be generated by a packed Griffin Park – but it wasn’t to be.

The North Circular was a carpark owing to an accident at Hanger Lane and we inched forward seemingly centimetre by centimetre and were getting nowhere. Nerves were fraught and things were so bad that I even contemplated abandoning the journey and making do with the televised coverage – an appalling prospect given what this game meant to all true Brentford supporters.

Fortunately my friend Ian, a died in the wool Manchester United fan, calmed me down and he knew the back doubles and we roared through an industrial estate, eventually hit the Edgware Road and after the journey from hell left the car at Willesden Green, took the tube and finally arrived late, tired, hot and very bothered soon before kickoff.

Matters could only improve, and they certainly did so as the Bees put on a performance which incorporated an intoxicating and unstoppable combination of grit, determination, passion and organisation tempered with no little skill and ability and they fully deserved their reward of their first victory over the old rivals, Queens Park Rangers for fifty years.

Marco Djuricin became an instant Brentford legend when he outmuscled Clint Hill and got in front of the veteran QPR defender to score emphatically at the near post from Alan Judge’s perfect near post centre. Toumani Diagouraga, so imperious throughout, also deserves massive praise for his instant turn and trickery on the ball which created the space for his trademark disguised outside of the foot pass that set Judge away down the left flank.

A beautifully created and executed goal that fully deserved to win any game.

Of course Rangers had quality in their squad, but they could not match our sense of togetherness, will to win and total commitment and determination to work hard and cover for each other. Brentford have become a team again in every sense of the word and there was also much skill on display from us as we probed for openings.

The first half was a cagy affair with neither team prepared to take chances and risk defeat. Brentford had the lion’s share of possession but were unable to beat the press and get through a congested midfield. Judge, McCormack and Swift went close but it was the visitors who eventually showed some ambition and got the skilful Phillips and Luongo on the ball. The latter hit the junction of post and crossbar with a firm header and then the inside of the far post with a curler and had either gone in then I might well be writing a totally different account today, however fortune smiled on us and we certainly deserved the rub of the green given how hard we worked throughout the match.

The second half was a totally different story as the Bees started on the front foot and Rangers were reduced to long ball mediocrity and the imperious Dean and Tarkowski won every aerial challenge and the midfielders were always on hand to mop up the second balls. Bidwell was exceptional, anticipating and snuffing out any danger and he finally came out on top of his tussle with the speedy Phillips and Yennaris was never noticed, evidence indeed that he has settled into his role without fuss and he performed exceptionally well on the night. He has quite clearly demonstrated how well a player can perform when he is finally given an opportunity and feels that his manager has faith in him.

Good defending requires everyone to muck in and share the load and the Bees worked in packs to press and win the ball back. It is quite noticeable that the intensity levels have risen recently and we have gone up a gear and play far more on the front foot. We still pass the ball around the back four, probing for gaps but we have become far more risk adverse, get the ball forward quicker when it is necessary to do so and we are taking less chances of turning over the ball in potentially dangerous areas of the pitch.

The other key to our success has been reverting to a five man midfield. This means that Djuricin is forced to fend for himself and chase scraps but he never stopped putting himself about and he worked tirelessly and made a total nuisance of himself. He also had the energy and increased fitness levels to retain his composure in front of goal when the opportunities came. He took his goal beautifully, anticipating the centre quicker than his opponent and having the strength to ward off the physical challenge of his marker. He also came close immediately after halftime when he was left in space from McCormack’s clever flick and his instant volley was brilliantly saved by Green.

Diagouraga and McCormack covered each other and worked hard to win the ball back and then use it effectively and Judge, Swift and Woods dovetailed well, switching positions and ensuring that we won the midfield battle and showed some composure on the ball. Ryan Woods is quietly establishing himself as a player of real quality. He plays with his head up, rarely gives the ball away and wins far more than his fair share of challenges.

The three substitutes Kerschbaumer, Vibe and Hofmann also provided evidence that they are all finally coming to grips with the demands of the Championship and provided fresh impetus when they came off the bench. Most encouragingly the penny seems to have dropped with Hofmann and he used his size and strength to good effect and held the ball up well.

Alan Judge was substituted late on with a tight hamstring which might require an enforced rest but what a month the effervescent bundle of energy has enjoyed with three goals and four assists in his last four games. Championship Player of the Month perhaps? And what about the reluctant hero, Lee Carsley? He still insists that he sees his future in coaching and that he is simply keeping the seat warm for a more experienced manager. That might well be the case but the truth is that the players trust and respect him and have bought in totally to the methods and pattern of play that he and his coaching staff have introduced.

Remember that incredible November last year when Andre Gray won the Player of the Month Award and Mark Warburton was named as Manager of the Month? Perhaps history will repeat itself shortly with Judge and Carsley. Exciting times indeed and proof that two weeks is an extremely long time in football, as a mere fortnight ago we were in the depths of despair and were anticipating a horrid looking clash with relegation rivals Rotherham with apprehension and pessimism and with the abyss of the bottom three looming before us. Now four consecutive wins and twelve glorious points later we have been catapulted into the top ten in the Championship table and are now beginning to look at the playoff places rather than the bottom three. Proof indeed of the narrow margins in football and the massively competitive nature of the Championship.

I was a young impressionable schoolboy back in August 1965 and still remember the sense of wonder and excitement of being taken by my Father to Griffin Park for the opening day of the season clash with our neighbours QPR. I left the stadium skipping and jumping for joy after we had demolished our rivals and put six goals past the helpless Frank Smith. It has been a long, long wait for that feeling to be repeated.

The journey home last night was equally arduous and interminable but it really did not matter as I was walking on air and our long wait was finally over. Brentford had defeated Queens Park Rangers. I have waited over fifty years to write those words. The victory meant so much to me and I know it did the same to so many other Brentford supporters.

What a wonderful evening!

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8 thoughts on “The Long Good Friday! – 31/10/15

  1. Greville,

    As you say two weeks appears a long time in football. The improvement since the scrappy win against Rotherham has been remarkable. We seem to have got our mojo back and are playing with an intensity and desire somewhere near approaching last season.

    Being a little older I can remember a few other wins against Rangers, but this one was one of the sweetest. Sure they had a good 10/15 minutes just before half time, when they twice hit the woodwork, but in all honesty that was all they offered throughout. Our midfield dominated, the back four were superb and we got our just reward with a very well taken goal resulting from a delightful build up.

    Probably far to early to be thinking of promotion, but beat Hull on Tuesday (will be a tough ask) and the rest of the Championship will know that the Bees are back in business. Happy days indeed and suddenly the league table looks so much better and the rest of the season more appealing..

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  2. I can’t really add to your comments Greville. A great professional performance. Apart from the woodwork incidents, no really heart stopping moments, and none of the suicidal defence errors we have been used to. Much more relaxing to watch on that score. I endorse your comments re Hoffman. In have been critical of him, but last night he seemed much more comfortable.He is big, strong and good at holding the ball.

    What a turnaround. So much more to look forward to know. Lee is soon going to have the unenviable situation of deciding who to leave out when the injured players become much fit.

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  3. Great pre & post game writing this week sir, leaving me little to add in truth. Perhaps the early season slump and disastrous MD period was all about karma. Or maybe our penance prior to the events of the last month, culminating in the huge win last night. In the past few years our club has put a lot of deep historical wrongs right, bees fans can walk tall in West London now in the knowledge that we are no longer plucky little Brentford and should routinely rub shoulders with QPR, Fulham and co. We are rising again after the lost generations, who knows how far we can take this? Maybe a win at Wembley is in order?

    It wasn’t the highest quality game last night in truth, we rode out luck, far better sides than QPR await, but who cares the test was passed & it meant so very much. Credit to all involved from the owner down, and to Lee Carsley & his players for slowly fixing the small things that were costing us, fitness, solid defending, the end of some of the unnecessary passing around the back, midfield solidity and guile, and the poacher that is Djuricin. Still much to do, but clearly Lee knows what he is doing.

    Congratulations to Alan Judge and family on the birth of their son, how apt that it would happens for our magic man on such a momentous night.

    The season is alive again, and the super bees are rising!

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  4. As RebelBee says, another brilliant article and one which I don’t think would benefit from my usual rambling response! Just want to second what everyone has said, really. We looked fantastic and apart from hitting the woodwork twice Rangers did nothing and looked incredibly ordinary.

    I can’t believe we are watching pretty much the same Brentford team that struggled to beat Rotherham only a few weeks ago. The transformation has been amazing and utterly breathtaking to watch. Everyone played well but I have to reserve special praise for Toumani who played like a cross between Vincent Kompany, Javier Mascherano and Michael Carrick. His deft pass to set up Judge who in turn set up Djuricin was sublime in the extreme.

    I also have to echo the thoughts about the ‘European’ players, who are now starting to really gel brilliantly as they are introduced into matches more slowly and without so much pressure / expectation on them.

    Yes, let’s not get carried away, but let’s also celebrate the fact that apart from the likes of Brighton, Derby, Hull, Middlesbrough and Burnley, the Championship really is full of extremely average teams this season and for me, with the players that are set to come back over the next few weeks, reaching the playoffs once again should now be a realistic possibility.

    My player ratings v QPR:

    Button: 8 (solid as ever, not really tested but always commanding)
    Yennaris: 8 (his transformation continues and he looks better every game)
    Bidwell: 8 (another solid performance from the captain)
    Dean: 9 (imposing and formidable – when will he sign a new contract???!!!)
    Tarkowski: 10 (a Premiership-quality performance for me)
    Diagouraga: 10 (surely his best ever game in a Brentford shirt?)
    McCormack: 9 (tenacious as ever, used the ball very well)
    Woods: 7 (another good performance, still loads more to come)
    Swift: 7 (was at the heart of a lot of the action but no real flashes of brilliance)
    Judge: 8 (his usual effervescent performance, with his pass to Djuricin the highlight)
    Djuricin: 9 (quiet first half, but kept running and took his goal well – his passion for the cause is wonderful to see)

    Subs:

    Kerschbaumer: 8 (played some nice football at the end, a transformed player to the one that played under MD)
    Vibe: 6 (didn’t really have a chance to show what he can do)
    Hofmann: 8 (looked strong and positive – getting better all the time)

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  5. By the way, Greville, wanted to put in a request for an article regarding the (integral) players who are yet to sign new contracts: namely Judge, Dean and Button. The thought of these three leaving, either in January or at the end of the season is almost unthinkable (although I do see potential replacements in the shape of Macleod, Barbet / Bjelland and Bonham).

    Anyway, I thought that a piece on that / contract negotiations / why Judge (in particular) is still yet to sign might make for an interesting read. Would love to read your thoughts on what’s going on and what the potential ramifications could be.

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  6. Good Stuff Greville. The beauty about a result like Friday is they rewrite history. As someone eloquently put it yesterday, it is now over 10 years now since Rangers have beaten us!

    Since we last spoke, common sense and hard work have turned the mood and luck with the players. They say football is all about fine lines, but it’s more about being being sensible professional and practice what you do well with a dash of inspiration thrown in, cue the mercurial Judge.

    Where our season goes is an appetising thought, but the slide into a self inflicted footballing demise has been stopped. It doesn’t take a lot to make us fans happy, players happy by playing to their obvious strengths. Victories over QPR aren’t season changing, but they are huge in bench marks for the future progress of our club! Plenty more nights to follow like Friday will be on the menu.

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