Sometimes you win a match but deep down you know that you were lucky and that the result was a travesty and a distortion of reality. I can still quite clearly remember a Huddersfield team brilliantly marshalled by the gifted Chris Marsden playing us off the park at Griffin Park back in October 1990. Luckily that was at a time well before the obsession for collecting match statistics came into vogue and the possession figures remain a mystery. Fortunate indeed for the Bees who were pushed back for the entire ninety minutes and relied on Graham Benstead and stand-in central defender Simon Ratcliffe to keep the visitors at bay. Having absorbed everything our dominant visitors could throw at us, Ratcliffe’s long ball forward with six minutes to go found Eddie May who finished clinically and we had stolen all three points.
Conversely you can lose a game and still come away satisfied at a job well done and at a more than decent performance that bodes well for the future.
Last night was a case in point as Hull City finally emerged as victors by two goals to nil but only after being decidedly second best for the entire first half to a Bees team who played excellent, slick, passing football and really should have been leading at the interval.
The second half told a different tale as our highflying visitors finally creaked into gear and took total control and eventually fully deserved their victory.
There is an old expression – never give a sucker an even break, and quite frankly, we let Hull off the hook. We played really well in the first half, kept possession well and created several clear opportunities which were all spurned by Djuricin, Vibe and Woods. McGregor made three excellent saves but he should have been left helpless on at least one occasion. Vibe too had a more than decent shout for a penalty when his shirt was tugged as he ran through but his appeal fell on deaf ears.
Djuricin also created space for himself right after the break but scuffed his shot wide and then Hull took over. They began to take control of the midfield and both full backs overlapped with menace. We were forced back and smothered with all our out balls covered and we found it hard to get out of our own half of the field. The goal finally came when the excellent Clucas combined well with Robertson and when McCormack fatally stopped his covering run, the fullback strode on unchallenged to thrash the ball past Button who was beaten at his near post.
Vibe had been replaced by Kerschbaumer to help address our problems in midfield and the substitute came so close to equalising when after Tarkowski made a rousing forward run, his beautifully taken instant volley from outside the area seemed a goal all the way but frustratingly bounced clear off the post and the rebound was skied over by Woods.
We wasted a free kick for a back pass well inside the area which caused much merriment as Hull raged at the referee for his decision, but otherwise that was that and we were left to appreciate Hull’s dominance with substitutes Huddlestone and Diame a class above anything we could offer. They saw the game out comfortably and deserved their second goal scored late on by Clucas after a short corner.
A short while ago there was uproar amongst some Brentford fans at the prospect of Moses Odubajo leaving us for Hull City who they considered to be a smaller club than us. Last night I am sure finally dispelled that ridiculous assertion.
Hull City took in over sixty-six million pounds last season from television rights payments and will be the recipients of sixty-four million pounds in parachute payments over the next four years following their relegation from the Premier League.
Their starting eleven cost about thirty-five million pounds in transfer fees and their three substitutes another eleven million. Every time they brought in a replacement (with the exception, of course of the clumsy Harry Maguire) they improved and went up a gear.
They simply had far too much in their armoury for us and we did so well to match them, and indeed, outplay them for half of the match.
By way of comparison, our team cost well under three and a half million pounds and I am sure that their wage bill exceeds ours by a quite laughable amount. No wonder Moses decided to forgo the social delights of London and join them. He will quite probably be celebrating promotion next May, his bank balance will have been swollen and he will be playing alongside a massively strong squad packed full of internationals. What’s there not to like?
That being said there was much to be happy about last night. We more than matched one of the best teams in our division for half the match and imposed our own style of football upon them. We have regained much of the confidence that was lost after our stuttering start to the season and there are several subtle changes to our approach that have become evident now that Lee Carsley has had time for his influence to take effect. We press far higher up the pitch and generally show far more energy and bite in our efforts to regain possession. Our fitness levels have gone up a notch or two and we are no longer running out of steam. We still pass the ball around in our own defensive area but we are taking less risks and are getting the ball forward quicker with Button kicking the ball more often. We are packing the midfield which enables us to keep possession for longer periods but McCormack, Woods and Swift are quick to get upfield in support of the lone striker, Djuricin.
We achieved all this last night without our most influential player, Alan Judge, and for half the match we barely missed him. Good news indeed as it confirms just how well the entire team is playing. Of course we could have done with his industry and imagination as it might well have made the difference between us going in goalless at the interval and enjoying a confidence boosting halftime lead.
There is talk that he might be back on Saturday when I am sure that he will be keen to show everybody at Blackburn Rovers that they were wrong to let him go. He will then be off with the Republic of Ireland squad for their two crucial playoff clashes. That elusive first cap is not too far away!
Like every other Bees fan, I don’t like losing games, but there is a way to lose, and last night was one of those occasions when despite the final result there were so many positives to take out of the entire proceedings – a bit like after the Norwich clash at Griffin Park last season.
We lose, we learn, we move on. Such is the way of life in the Championship. Unlike last season when we kept doing the same things match after match, many of them, of course, really good, others less so, there is a real sense that we are far more flexible now and ready to learn and adapt whenever necessary.
The future is looking bright at Griffin Park.