” 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.
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.
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.
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.