Brentford’s performance against Huddersfield yesterday touched the heights but also, at times, plummeted the depths. For forty-five minutes the Bees were totally unstoppable and tore the visitors apart. Everything Brentford attempted came off and their combination of accurate passing, interchanging of positions, vision, dribbling and, just as importantly, hard work and relentless pressing, ensured that we fully merited our three goal lead at the interval – and it could easily have been a lot more.
After a minute’s silence impeccably observed in memory of the late, great Jimmy Hill, a wonderful visionary, Huddersfield chased shadows as Alan Judge pulled all the strings in midfield. Sergio Canos was almost unstoppable on the right wing and Lasse Vibe’s movement was far too much for the lumbering Hudson and Lynch at the centre of the Huddersfield defence.
Dean Smith took note of the potential effects of having played on such an energy sapping pitch at Cardiff on Tuesday evening and rotated his squad. There were recalls for Max Colin, Harlee Dean and Canos in place of Yennaris, O’Connell and Kerschbaumer and Alan McCormack returned to the bench. The fact that there was no space for Yennaris and Kerschbaumer in the eighteen simply highlights just how strong our squad is becoming.
Any nerves or self doubt as a result of our late and cruel defeat at Cardiff evaporated when we scored early on when Vibe found Swift who played a one-two off a hapless defender before slipping Canos through and the youngster turned Holmes, who was far too tight on him, and placed his shot precisely into the far corner for a goal which emphasised his class and massive potential.
Huddersfield’s confidence was shot to pieces and they funnelled back and allowed us all the space we needed to rip them to shreds. Diagouraga and Woods were given the room, time and freedom required to drive us up the field and it came as no surprise when Tarkowski strode forward imperiously, picked out Vibe’s run and chipped the ball into space and Vibe was set free behind a faltering defence and he took the ball on unchallenged before thundering a shot high into the roof of the net from a tight angle.
Whenever our hapless visitors did manage to string together a few passes – mainly backwards or sideways, the Bees swarmed around them, never gave them a moment’s peace and regained possession with ease. This was a footballing masterclass and whilst a Huddersfield team, lacking it must be said most of its first choice midfield through injury, were totally inept, it is impossible to overstate just how well we played. We were awesome and it was a performance as good as, if not better, than anything we have seen on this ground in living memory.
Our third goal came when Hudson was reduced to a tactical handball as the only way to stop Vibe bursting past him and Judge’s free kick from way out on the left wing was driven in towards goal and evaded everybody, friend and foe alike, before nestling perfectly in the far corner of the net.
The score could really have been almost anything at halftime given Brentford’s total dominance and the brilliance of their play and whilst the applause rang out from three sides of the ground, our visitors left the field to a cavalcade of boos from their supporters.
Unfortunately football matches last ninety minutes rather than forty-five, and what had appeared to be a stroll in the park became a far more even and competitive match. David Wagner could have substituted any of his players at the break but he hit the jackpot when he brought on Nahki Wells and Kyle Dempsey who revitalised his faltering team.
They went up a couple of gears and caught us cold with a well-worked goal within a minute of the restart when Wells found Lolley who scored emphatically from close range.
Suddenly the game changed as our visitors, who had absolutely nothing to lose and with lost pride to regain, went for the jugular with Dempsey, playing behind the front two, causing us problems as he ran at our suddenly exposed back four.
Dean and Tarkowski, totally unemployed defensively in the first half when they had the lumbering Miller in their pocket, now found themselves under pressure and found it hard to deal with small tricky opponents who ran at them unchallenged from midfield.
We creaked ominously and a second goal might well have turned the game on its head, but the Bees are never more dangerous than when breaking away at pace, and Judge gained possession on the halfway line from a Huddersfield corner and his run was ended by a bodycheck from Chilwell. A penalty it was and Alan converted emphatically to reach double figures in goals – a quite remarkable achievement for a midfielder at this point of the season.
Wells, Lolley and Dempsey continued to cause us problems and several efforts whistled narrowly wide of our goal as the game flowed from end to end.
Colin made an impressive return to the team, strong in defence and quick to support the attack and he won a ball that he should not have been allowed to do, before shooting narrowly over the bar. A raking move ended with Vibe missing the ball when unmarked right in front of a gaping goal and substitute Jota was far too casual and languid when sent clear on goal and his lame effort was easily saved before Vibe, challenging for the rebound, was taken out for what appeared to be a far clearer penalty kick than the one that had previously been awarded, but this time Mr. Gibbs kept his whistle to his lips without pointing to the spot.
There was a further bit of nonsense when Diagouraga tripped and fell on the ball deep into injury time and Paterson was able to streak away and his shot was parried by Button into the path of Dempsey who scored a goal that was totally deserved given the quality of his, and his team’s second half performance.
It is strange to come away from a two goal victory feeling slightly frustrated and flat but the difference between Brentford’s display in the first and second half was immense. As Huddersfield went up several gears, we changed down, thought that the job had been done, and were punished accordingly.
It just goes to show that you cannot take anything for granted in the Championship.
Without carping too much given how good were were before the break, what changed in the second half is quite simply that we were for once outworked by the opposition and we stopped pressing and challenging, allowing skilful opponents to have the space to run at pace at our suddenly exposed defence.
That is a lesson that we must learn, and learn quickly. There is no substitute for hard work and we fell short in the second half yesterday.
Brentford are now the second highest scorers in the league behind Fulham and, on average, there are three goals scored in every Brentford game.
Thrills, spills, skill and excitement are all guaranteed when you come to Griffin Park!
The recipe for success is to continue doing what we did in the first half yesterday, ideally eliminating the casual and unforced errors and remembering that a match lasts for ninety minutes or more.
Do that and we could become unstoppable.