Dagenham & Redbridge 6 Brentford 6 – Bees Win In Tiebreak! – 13/8/14

dagYou can just imagine Brentford manager Mark Warburton giving his team his final instructions just before this surreal, ridiculous, incredible, unbelievable match kicked off last night.

” Keep passing the ball, just support the man in possession and the goals will come. Oh, and keep it tight at the back – it’s about time we kept a clean sheet.”

Famous last words as the crowd at Victoria Road were treated to twelve goals plus six more successful penalty kicks in a shootout finally won 4-2 by the Bees.

History was made last night as the 6-6 draw equalled the highest scoring draw in UK football history and it was the first time a Brentford team has ever played in a match that ended with this scoreline.

I was one of the lucky ones who saw the unforgettable 5-5 draw with Barnet in the same competition back in 1991 but last night’s game was even crazier than that one.

I talked yesterday about the potential problems posed by squad rotation and Mark Warburton treated the competition with the respect it deserved and fielded a strong team that included Marcos Tebar and Stewart Dallas as well as all seven substitutes from Saturday’s match plus Kevin O’Connor and Toumani Diagouraga.

Alan Judge and Andre Gray were included amongst the substitutes should they be needed, as indeed they most certainly were.

Brentford purred into action with two clinically taken Stewart Dallas goals from short corners – yes, the Bees scored twice from corner kicks, with both chances being expertly created by the highly impressive debutant Montell Moore.

The football early on was crisp and easy on the eye, and the clumsy home defence was pulled from pillar to post and carved open with embarrassing ease, and it just looked a matter of how many we would win by.

Maybe we became complacent as the home team scored with almost their first attack as a driven low left wing cross was expertly finished at the far post.

No worries, Brentford regained almost total control of the game with Tabar and Diagouraga imperious in the midfield.

A comic cuts mix up allowed the impressive Nick Proschwitz in behind Scott Doe for his first Brentford goal and Tommy Smith was then within inches of making it four.

Dallas was dangerous every time he gained possession of the ball, Smith and Moore combined well and it was a highly impressive first forty five minutes.

Unfortunately Mr Hill decided to play three minutes of injury time given that Yennaris had gone off with a dead leg, and in that time our midfield gave the ball away sloppily, the defence went walkabout as Craig hung back as the others moved forward for a non-existent offside and Lee was left totally exposed as the ball was dinked expertly over him.

Schoolboy defending.

So a potential 4-1 scoreline became 3-2, and by such narrow margins are football matches decided.

Dagenham went into half time re-energised and cock a hoop and Brentford had lost the initiative and never really regained it.

The second half was a battle and Boucaud deservedly levelled when he danced around Diagouraga and his swerving twenty five yarder was too well placed for Lee to get there.

The cavalry came on in the form of Judge and Gray but we created little apart from Dean’s close in header which was blocked and with Tabar’s withdrawal we lost control of the midfield where Dagenham buzzed around us, their confidence high, but then on eighty two minutes, Smith and Judge combined perfectly and the latter’s low cross was turned in expertly by Gray for the sort of close range poacher’s goal that we so rarely score.

Game over?

Not a chance of it as right on time came a disgraceful equalising goal when a quick throw from well inside the home half went over our entire defence, caught too far upfield and dozing gently, waiting for the final whistle, and Hemmings left O’Connor trailing in his wake before hammering a cross shot over the arching Lee into the far top corner.

Genius or fluke? Who knows but it was extra time.

mooreMontell Moore put us back in front with an excellent angled shot into the far corner, a goal taken with massive composure but then Smith limped off with a groin strain and we were down to ten men.

Our nemesis Jamie Cureton responded to his customary warm welcome from Brentford fans with long memories, by slotting in from the edge of the area after we gave the ball away through overplaying and the force was now with the home team.

Cureton missed a sitter and then Liam O’Brien made a wonderful save from Dallas to prevent the hat trick and our regaining the lead.

The second half of extra time was all Dagenham and it came as no surprise when more gaps in defence occurred as we were over run and Hemmings slotted home through Lee’s dive.

Brentford looked shell shocked and an embarrassing defeat seemed on the cards particularly when Judge fizzed one just wide, but we summoned up one last surge and Bidwell’s near post free kick tempted the keeper out of goal and Harlee Dean beat him to the ball for an unexpected late equaliser.

Even then we almost threw it away as Dean sliced horribly just past his own post and then we allowed a free header from the corner which inched wide of the post.

So it was penalties, taken in the gathering gloom down at the home end.

Finally sanity prevailed as we again overcame the disadvantage of taking our kicks second and Dallas, Judge, Craig and O’Connor all scored calmly and expertly whilst Richard Lee did what he does best and made two exceptional saves.

We have now scored our last nine Penalty Shootout kicks in a row, evidence, indeed, of our ability to keep calm and not let the occasion get the better of us.

We had finally won and scraped through to the next round after a night of almost unbearable excitement.

Yes there was much to be pleased about, in particular our early attacking combinations and clinical finishing but the defensive play and covering were truly laughable – that is if you didn’t want to cry.

We lacked pace at the back and the midfield stopped tracking back.

We were horribly exposed time after time and made catastrophic errors of judgement that would have had any AFC Bournemouth scout rubbing his hands with glee before Saturday’s game.

Mark Warburton is not known to be a shouter, but he would have had plenty of reasons to let rip after last night’s defensive debacle and shambles.

In years to come there will be around five hundred Brentford fans who will be able to say “I was there” at this unforgettable match but there is much talking and work that needs to be done on the training ground before the weekend.

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Squad Rotation – A Necessary Evil? – 12/8/14

faridThere has been lots of talk recently on social media and on the fans’ websites regarding the Bees Player Live situation.

What cannot be in any doubt reading what has been said in all the messages posted is the excellence of the service provided in particular by the evergreen Mark Burridge and Luis Melville and their assorted friends, colleagues and guests and how much it is valued by its listeners.

Bees Player Match Day Live is a service provided by the fans – for the fans, and its quality, empathy, depth of coverage and knowledge is pretty much unrivalled throughout the football world.

It helps fans distanced from Griffin Park by circumstance, as well as those no longer able to attend matches, to stay close to the action and keep in touch with the exciting happenings at the club.

There is so much positive happening at Brentford FC at the moment and we are really fortunate to have an enlightened leadership and excellent staff at all levels who are determined to do what is right both for the club and all of its supporters.

Mark Devlin, Chris Wickham, Mark Chapman, Mads Tarrant and many others like them are all steeped in Brentford and football alike and are also sensible and talented individuals.

I will not speculate on what has been mooted as the cause for the decision to change the structure of Bees Player, as that is between the club and the individuals concerned, but it has provided a real dampener at what is otherwise a time of great excitement and positivity for everyone connected with the club.

I just hope that even now, a solution can be found and that the service can be restored to its former glories as soon as possible.

I remain in hope.

I am also hopeful of progress in tonight’s Capital One Cup clash at neighbours Dagenham & Redbridge.

I wrote recently about our relationship with Dagenham as well as some of the tonkings we have suffered on recent visits to their ground (https://bfctalk.wordpress.com/2014/07/06/turning-my-back-on-the-premier-league-6714/) and we are well overdue a victory there.

We narrowly beat them at the same stage of the competition last season, squeaking through by three goals to two.

Farid El Alagui made the vital difference, coming on as a substitute and turning the game on its head with two goals at a time when a severely weakened side was struggling to find its rhythm and looked like crashing out of the competition.

There is a lesson there for Mark Warburton and a balancing act that he needs to judge perfectly when it comes to team selection tonight.

On the one hand he has a whole raft of new players trying to bed their way into the team, and they would all probably benefit from playing as often as possible and developing a relationship with their new team mates.

On the other, he has several squad players who need match practice and the opportunity to make their case for regular selection for the first team and who might otherwise risk going stale given that the Development Squad has yet to start its season.

We also face three league matches in a hectic seven day period and need to balance the need to rest players and keep them sharp as well as avoiding unnecessary injuries.

There is also the risk of throwing players together in odd formations who are not used to playing with each other.

This was the case in the second half against Osasuna when a mixed squad was easily picked off by our talented visitors.

We obviously want to boost our confidence with a win tonight and maybe earn the right to play a Premier League team in the next round with the financial rewards that would accompany such a draw.

Uwe Rosler was lucky that his squad rotation didn’t come back to haunt him against Dagenham last year, but it certainly did in the next round when he sent out a horribly understrength and inexperienced team who were duly pulverised by Derby County, who thankfully took pity on us and declared after their fifth goal.

I suppose that players such as Josh Clarke, Aaron Pierre and Alfie Mawson can look back with pride in playing a first team game for Brentford, but you can’t tell me that poor, hapless Jack Bonham really benefited from the experience of being an Aunt Sally as he faced a non stop barrage of shots on the night.

Uwe learned his lesson after the Stevenage fiasco, and apparently being told a few home truths by the players, stopped rotating players, started to play a settled team and was rewarded with a long unbeaten run – there is a message there somewhere!

So Mark Warburton has a job on his hands tonight, and has several tough decisions to make particularly given the fact that he has shown that he favours stability in team selection, and that players who deserve to do so should stay in the team.

Who starts in goal?

David Button, who would be playing against a former club, or Richard Lee?

Does he break up the established back four and pick both Harlee Dean and Nico Yennaris?

Dean is another former Dagger and would be keen to return to his former stamping ground.

Will Jake Reeves or Toumani Diagouraga start?

Will Nick Proschwitz and Tommy Smith be given the chance to build up their match fitness?

Does he risk injury to Andre Gray or would it be a good idea to play him in the hope he builds up his confidence by scoring tonight?

Could Adam Forshaw feature on the bench, or is that situation still unresolved?

Will he play some of the promising youngsters such as Raphael Calvet, Josh Clarke or Montell Moore?

I really do not envy him his task as he needs to strike a balance and ensure players get match practice, stay fit, do not pick up injuries, develop working relationships and partnerships on the pitch and also win matches.

Not much to ask for is it?

Turning My Back On The Premier League! – 6/7/14

lee price

There are some teams like Fulham and QPR who we Brentford fans see as deadly rivals, others such as the appalling MK Dons that we cordially detest.

On the other hand I have never heard a Brentford fan have a bad word to say about Dagenham & Redbridge who we will be visiting in the first round of the Capital One Cup next month.

So why is that?

Because we recognise that they are a true blue collar club, punching way above their weight and massively overachieving to even remain in the Football League.

In John Still they had a miracle worker as manager who every year seemed to produce yet another rabbit from the hat whose eventual transfer fee would help keep the club solvent for another season.

Dwight Gayle anyone?

I have never had much luck on my visits to Victoria Road – or the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham Stadium to give it its full title.

Back in March 2009 I decided to give the game a miss as it was due to be televised live on Sky TV but when I arrived home that evening I was bemused to discover that the match had been postponed owing to a floodlight failure.

By the time the game was eventually played in April, we were a win away from the title and all thought that we would be holding a promotion party after the match.

How wrong can you be?

Hubris was invented for moments such as this as we were taken apart on the night as two tricky wingers in Matt Ritchie and a certain Sam Saunders created chance after chance for the goal-hungry partnership of Paul Benson and Ben Strevens.

Future Bees goalkeeper David Button played for Daggers that night but I have no memory of his performance given that he was totally untested.

The score could and should have been in double figures but we limped away after a 3-1 mauling with our tail firmly between our legs and grateful that it was only three.

Promotion would have to wait for another few days.

Our final visit to East London came two years later after the Daggers had achieved the minor miracle of getting promoted to the First Division.

We arrived there one night in the dog days of the Andy Scott regime.

His time had surely come and he duly went immediately after the inept 4-1 defeat – or abject surrender in a game notable for the utter lack of effort from a Brentford team who slept-walked through the entire ninety-minute horror show.

Our last meeting came in the Capital One Cup last season when Uwe Rosler introduced us to his new and totally bonkers squad rotation principle and a severely weakened team scraped home 3-2 thanks to Farid El Alagui’s injury time winner.

We also made a triple transfer swoop on “The Dagenham Three” five years ago bringing Danny Foster, Ben Strevens and Sam Saunders to Griffin Park.

Foster was a sound and totally undemonstrative right back whose one amazing feat was to be arrested for vandalism after allegedly dancing in the streets of Aviemore, in the Scottish Highlands,wrapped in some lager advertising banners!

He soon drifted off to Wycombe where he was joined by Strevens who had been plagued by injuries at Griffin Park.

Sam Saunders though proved to be a keeper.

He managed to overcome a slow start when he fell out of managerial favour but has since proved to be a crucial squad member. Fitter and sleeker, the skillful Perma-tanned winger played a vital role in last season’s promotion both as starter and super-sub and his incredible pratfall freekick goal against Swindon last season still brings tears of laughter to my eyes!

It is good to know that we have also helped the Daggers out on occasion too.

Luke Norris had a productive loan spell there last season, Alan Connell played for them yesterday and goalkeeper Liam O’Brien – the invisible man at Griffin Park who went through the entire season playing one Development Squad match, will be trying to establish himself as the Daggers keeper next season.

If successful he will be replacing Chris Lewington, an inconsistent and unpredictable goalkeeper whose foibles and eccentricities have been lovingly portrayed by Sun journalist Lee Price who, disillusioned by the Premier League prima donnas, voluntarily removed himself from his pedestal as yet another Southern based Manchester United supporter to follow his local club throughout last season.

His account of the season, “Turning My Back On The Premier League” has just been published and is available on Amazon for £5.59 in paperback or £4.28 for the ebook.

In other words it will cost you about the price of a burger or hot dog at Old Trafford.

It is an original and thought provoking read as Price adroitly points out the differences between the two clubs in terms of the spectator experience and expectations, their affinity with the club, and the approach, attitude and lifestyle of the players.

What comes through is the life-affirming joy of following a “real” club which engages with the local community and listens to the opinions and bitches of its supporters as it needs every single one of them to remain on board if they are to survive.

Much of the football is hit and miss or dross but every so often comes a match touched by genius as was the case when Daggers made up a three goal deficit to promotion bound Scunthorpe and Luke Norris equalised late on after a storm of tropical intensity had flooded the pitch.

Price is an acute observer and recognises that the difference between say Wayne Rooney and the soon to be released Daggers striker Josh Scott is that whilst Rooney is predictably and consistently brilliant, lower league players like Scott have moments when they too can bring off the seemingly impossible feat of skill, punctuated, unfortunately, by pratfalls and far longer spells spells of mediocrity.

Price had a wonderful time following his new heroes, particularly given the bleakness of the short-lived David Moyes regime at Old Trafford.

His book should be required reading not just for lower league fans who will nod in recognition and appreciation of  his perception and accuracy, but more importantly for every supporter of a Premier League team who is blithely unaware of what happens below the top echelons of the game.

They are missing a potential treat.