The Brentford bandwagon gathered further momentum yesterday afternoon when we won yet again this time away at MK Dons, relegating them in the process and the highlights of our amazing recent run can briefly be summarised as follows:
- We have gained a massive sixteen points through winning five and drawing one of our last six games
- Brentford are equal top alongside promotion challengers Brighton, in the form chart over that period
- Dean Smith has gone from zero to hero in the mind of some of our more demanding supporters and he could well be in line for the April Manager of the Month Award
- We have comfortably beaten hard, tough and physical teams in Bolton, Ipswich and Cardiff who have overpowered us in previous meetings
- We have scored sixteen goals in those six games, second only to Brighton
- We have conceded only five goals, a record bettered by only three teams
- This is our most successful run since we returned to the Championship
- Lasse Vibe has scored six goals in his last six games and finally looks the International striker he is
- Scott Hogan has returned to the squad with a bang, scoring three goals in just over an hour’s worth of football and his return from long term injury gives us much to look forward to next season
- We have won our last three away games, having previously only won once away since the beginning of the year
- We have scored thirty-four times in twenty-one away games to date, the best record in the Championship
- We have achieved this success despite suffering even more injuries to crucial members of the squad and being barely being able to name seven substitutes at times
- Unlikely heroes have emerged with the likes of Nico Yennaris and Yoann Barbet excelling in recent games
- Brentford now sit in tenth place in the Championship and are ahead of our West London rivals Queens Park Rangers and Fulham
That is all that springs to mind at the moment, but I hope you all agree that it is a really impressive list of achievements and one that would have appeared scarcely credible given how disappointed, worried and concerned we all felt as we shuffled nervously out of Griffin Park after our abject defeat to a poor Blackburn Rovers team a mere five weeks ago, our fourth loss in a row and one that left us looking apprehensively over our shoulder at the bottom three.
Now a top ten finish looks a real possibility as well as our being crowned Kings of West London should we maintain our form until the end of the season and ideally put Fulham to the sword next Saturday.
Following Brentford this season has been a real rollercoaster ride and never have Mark Warburton’s oft repeated words about games being decided by narrow margins appeared more wise and apposite.
We went into the first International break in October in deep despond in twentieth place with eight points and six defeats in our first ten games. The situation appeared dire but Lee Carsley and Paul Williams then inspired us to a run of four consecutive victories and by the time Dean Smith took over at the beginning of December we had risen to eleventh place with only one defeat in eight games.
Our last game of the year saw us win memorably at Reading after wonder goals by Ryan Woods and Sergi Canos and Dean Smith had led us to eighth place after three wins and only one loss in his first six matches.
The playoffs looked a possibility at the turn of the year but that is when everything went pear shaped as our next thirteen matches saw a massive decline in results with a mind-blowing ten defeats barely offset by a measly two wins and a draw.
That saw perhaps the nadir of our season as we went into the last International break in mid-March in eighteenth place with nervous thoughts crossing our mind about the possibility of dropping like a stone into the bottom three.
Our current run has seen all such negativity fade away and now we are looking upwards again and we find ourselves safely ensconced back in the top half of the table.
How do you explain a season in which our changes of fortune and constant ups and downs have resembled a game of Snakes And Ladders? Of course there is much that can be said about our massive and ongoing injury list which has seen so many key players missing large chunks of the season, the need to bed in a raft of new players, many of whom had no experience of the Championship or English conditions, as well as the squad having to cope with the differing approaches of three Head Coaches.
That is all very well and true, but I also feel that luck and good fortune – and the lack of them, have had a massive influence on our results. Dean Smith made an interesting comment recently when he stated that we are not playing much differently or better now than when we lost to the likes of Charlton and Blackburn in March. In other words games have been decided by a moment of genius, a piece of good or bad luck or the whim of a referee’s decision.
Being as objective as possible, four of the ten defeats in our last poor run could just as easily have ended in Brentford victories as Birmingham, Middlesbrough, Charlton and Blackburn Rovers were distinctly fortunate to to beat us and we should also have beaten Leeds United when they escaped with a late draw at Griffin Park.
Now it is quite simply our turn to have fortune favour us and that has resulted in a massive rise in confidence and I also believe that the better players feel about themselves and their team mates the more luck they will enjoy, in other words you can help make your own luck.
If you look back at our victory at Nottingham Forest which saw the beginning of our recent run of success, the first half was sterile with very little action as two teams on a bad run cancelled each other out and the opening goal was always going to be crucial.
The game turned on a massive and horrific defensive error which saw Lasse Vibe gifted with an open goal. Suddenly the game appeared easier for our players, confidence flooded back into their veins and they began to take chances rather than play the easy and safe pass. Vibe in particular, a player who had not scored since mid-December has suddenly been transformed into a goal machine and has gone on a prolific scoring run.
I shudder to think about what might have happened had Nottingham Forest scored first – not that they ever looked like doing so. Nobody can say for certain, but I doubt if we would now be feeling so serene and confident – narrow margins indeed.
As for yesterday, we had far too much in our locker for a poor MK Dons team who needed a victory to keep alive their slim chance of avoiding relegation. They were boosted by a early goal by Maynard who converted easily at the far post when the tricky Murphy skipped past Colin and set the goal up on a plate for the striker.
We had started the game slowly and looked slovenly and lacking in sharpness, concentration and commitment but the goal roused us out of our torpor and Canos equalised soon afterwards with a brilliant effort from outside the box which curled in a perfect parabola over the straining Cropper into the top corner of the net.
Button saved us soon afterwards after Murphy skinned Colin yet again and Maynard’s close range effort was brilliantly blocked by the keeper.
After that escape we slowly took control and Vibe almost turned in a shot from Kerschbaumer which was dropped by an inept goalkeeper who also did his best to gift Vibe a goal when he delayed his clearance interminably and allowed it to be blocked by the alert striker.
One all at halftime was probably just about right but we bossed the second half with Woods moving into the centre of midfield and dominating proceedings and he dovetailed well with the excellent McCormack and Yennaris.
Cropper had injured his shoulder and was replaced in goal by the young Burns who was afforded little cover and appeared well out of his depth at this level of football. Soon after the restart Vibe was sent away by a Barbet clearance and took his shot early before the keeper was able to set himself and his effort was perfectly placed into the corner for a well taken goal redolent of a player full of confidence.
Even then we did our best to allow a poor team back into the game and dozed off in the sunshine but Barbet picked Maynard’s pocket as he raced clear on goal and Revell missed horribly from point blank range. Murphy’s danger was minimised when Clarke replaced Colin whose attacking flamboyance did not compensate for his defensive shortcomings on the day.
Djuricin came on for Vibe and hit the top of the bar with a flicked header and he helped set up Woods for a rasping drive for the nerve-settling and match-clinching third goal which also followed a flowing move.
Now it was just a question of how many and Bidwell obliged with a fourth when his free kick from way out on the right touchline drifted past all the straining bodies in the penalty area and ended up in the far corner of the net. Gogia who had a brief runout as a substitute then came close to a fifth and the match ended with Brentford in total command.
A comfortable win indeed but one that could quite easily have gone the other way had MK Dons not been so wasteful with the opportunities that we so generously gifted them throughout the match.
Narrow margins yet again!