In truth, yesterday saw the Bees stroll to a comfortable victory over a poor Milton Keynes Dons team and the two goal margin should have been doubled if not even tripled given the fact that the Bees controlled the game totally once the impressive Lassse Vibe scored with what was our first attempt on target after twenty minutes..
From then on the floodgates should have opened and a four goal lead at the interval would have by no means flattered Brentford who created and then frittered away chances with the generosity of potentates distributing largesse – they knew there was more to come and could afford to be so generous and profligate.
The second half continued in the same vein with the Bees in total control but for us long-suffering supporters, we could never relax despite the sumptuous quality of some of our football.
It was almost torture at times as the chances kept coming without consummation, and gilt-edged opportunities too, and a sense of frustration and concern prevailed as we waited with resignation for the careless error, the quick breakaway or set piece that might enable our outplayed visitors to get out of jail and steal away from Griffin Park with an ill-deserved point.
But this is New Brentford and despite our profligacy up front, we kept the back door tightly bolted and eventually the second goal came and we could finally breathe more easily.
MK Dons were always a benchmark for us in Division One as they used to set the standard for ball possession and the quality of their passing, and looking at yesterday’s stats, they pretty much matched us for possession and pass numbers but we have now left them far behind us and trailing in our wake as we were so much more incisive than our visitors who went backwards and sideways with mindnumbing regularity and Maynard and Bowditch were lightweight upfront and were never able to cause the imperious Tarkowski and the improving O’Connell any problems that they were unable to deal with.
The speedy Murphybut the afterburners on and beat Yennaris once early on, but never again, as Nico smothered his threat and was also lively and impressive when supporting the attack. As for Jake Bidwell, he set a captain’s example, had his usual long range shot fly high, wide and not too handsome and put a perfect curling cross right onto the head of the straining Lasse Vibe who converted the chance with élan.
The strong wind played tricks with the ball blowing back towards Ealing Road but we kept the ball on the deck and coped easily with the elements, as well as being turned round to play towards our supporters in the first half by the wily Karl Robinson who is well aware of our preference to attack Ealing Road after the break.
Our visitor’s most effective players were our goal frames as Alan Judge, who has been named as Man of the Match more times than any other Championship player this season, struck the top of the post with a wonderful curling thirty-yard free kick which sailed over three walls – two of which were set by us, before bouncing clear with the excellent David Martin totally helpless in this instance and merely waving it past and hoping for the best.
Sergi Canos was left with a clear run in on goal by Vibe’s persistence and hassling of the central defenders and hammered the ball onto the crossbar when a little less impetuosity and more control would surely have seen him scoring and, early in the second half, Vibe turned inside after some lovely interplay, and hammered the ball onto the crossbar.
Alan Judge also missed carelessly when sent clean through by Kerschbaumer’s brave header but he hit Martin’s head as the keeper spread himself when the goal was gaping. Kerschbaumer then saw his poke cleared off the line, Vibe had a clinically taken effort disallowed for offside but also shot horribly over when he saw the whites of the keeper’s eyes after Button’s brilliantly placed half volley sent him away down the right wing.
The litany of misses continued in the second half with Judge firing over from close range after a corner was flicked on by a defender and Woods was also denied right in front of an empty net before the clincher finally came.
We are not the most dangerous of teams from corners, let alone short corners, but this time we hit the jackpot, aided and abetted by some lumbering and inept defending. The ball was played to Sam Saunders whose raking cross was headed for the arms of Martin before it was headed almost out of his hands by Kay and Alan Judge sent the ball back towards goal, rather than shot, where it eluded a bunch of straining defenders and slowly trickled past the unsighted Martin and settled into the corner of the net.
It was ironic indeed given the quality of some of our earlier play which cut our visitors apart that the match clinching goal came from a lucky break, but one that was long overdue and well-deserved given the earlier happenings of the afternoon.
This was a wonderful start for the new management duo of Dean Smith and Richard O’Kelly who must be jumping for joy at the obvious quality, and more importantly, depth of the squad that they have inherited.
Yesterday we were without the suspended Harlee Dean and his return to the squad cannot now be guaranteed given how well the new partnership of Tarkowski and O’Connell has settled down. They look comfortable and well-matched together and Tarks is a far better and happier player on his more natural right hand side of defence.
The acid test of our new central defensive pairing will come next Saturday when they will have to deal with the massive threat of McCormack, Dembele and Smith at Craven Cottage but we have an embarrassment of riches in this position given the talent of the emerging Barbet who is patiently learning about the English game and waiting for his chance to arrive.
Nico Yennaris had his best ever game for us yesterday and will not relinquish his shirt to Max Colin without a fight. We certainly have two high quality right backs.
Yesterday we were without the injured John Swift and Alan McCormack also tweaked his groin in the warmup, yet we shrugged off their loss, never missed either of them, and totally dominated the midfield.
Toumani Diagouraga was imperious, comfortable on the ball, showed vision and commitment and drove us forward. Ryan Woods was finally moved to his favoured central spot and was the glue that held us together. You never really notice him until he isn’t there, as was the case after his late substitution when we lost our way for the final few moments. He is fast becoming an indispensable part of the team.
Konstantin Kerschbaumer also justified his selection with a hardrunning display which demonstrated his quality and good use of the ball. He has been slow to settle and I do not see him as a first choice when everyone is fit but he is fast improving. Sergi Canos stepped in at the last moment and excited and frustrated in equal measures but he is a massive talent and has now proved that he is fully capable of starting – rather than just finishing – games. he led Dean Lewington a merry dance and will be a massive asset to us as the season progresses.
Alan Judge was simply energy personified and was unstoppable at times and he is the fulcrum of the entire team. Sam Saunders also showed that he is fully restored to fitness and put in a good shift off the bench.
If that is not enough, yesterday saw the return of Jota and our first sight of Josh McEachran. Jota was given a short runout and looked as good as ever as he glided over the turf and also put in a couple of enthusiastic challenges. Welcome back to The King after so long and frustrating a break. We must not expect too much too soon from him but his return is an enticing prospect. Josh too will add immeasurably to our strength in depth. Oh and maybe Lewis Macleod will also be challenging for a place one day in the not too distant future.
I cannot remember when we last, or ever, boasted so much strength in depth, talent and quality in midfield.
Lasse Vibe, or our Jamie Vardy, as Dean Smith so memorably referred to him, was energy personified and never gave his opponents a moment’s rest. He held the ball up well, looked sharp, brought others into the game and looked dangerous in front of goal. Maybe we will be fine with just him and Philipp Hofmann as our only available strikers for the next month?
I have left the best to last. Yes, we were excellent on the ball and at times resembled last season’s team in terms of our quality, pace and incision but what stood out yesterday was how hard we worked without the ball. We pressed and challenged as a team and were tireless and relentless in our efforts to win the ball back.
Perspiration and inspiration in equal quantities – surely the sign of a good team?
Dean Smith’s era has started off with a bang and there is much to look forward to as he begins to impose his influence on what, with key players finally returning from injury, is starting to look a high quality squad with excellent options in every position.
Craven Cottage awaits!