Hull City come to Griffin Park on Tuesday night bang in form as they are unbeaten in eight games and they sit proudly in second place in the Championship table and look certain to mount a strong promotion push in an effort to regain their recently lost Premier League place.
They are certain to provide tough opposition but the Bees are none too shabby themselves at the moment given their four consecutive wins and three clean sheets on the spin. They will also be bursting with confidence after that momentous first win in fifty years over close rivals Queens Park Rangers as our supporters almost blew the roof off at Griffin Park with their celebrations on Friday night.
There is further spice to the proceedings given the early return of Moses Odubajo following his controversial three and a half million pound move to the visitors just before the start of the season and Hull also made repeated efforts to divest us of Andre Gray before being pipped at the post by Burnley.
Some Bees supporters queried why Moses and Andre would even contemplate joining a team like Hull but the reasons were pretty clear to me. Despite their relegation last season they have retained a squad packed with Premier League experience and, buttressed by their parachute payments, they are able to make financial offers to prospective new signings that dwarf anything that we are able to put on the table.
Anyone who thinks that we are a bigger club than Hull City is totally deluding himself and that situation cannot conceivably change until we have moved into our new stadium at Lionel Road and ideally won promotion to the Premier League.
Our prospects against them depend to a large degree on the strength of the team that we are able to field. Friday’s match will have taken a lot out of us and there are sure to have been a lot of bumps and bruises that will need shaking off.
The inspirational Alan Judge, the fulcrum for so much of our recent success, was forced off late on with a tight hamstring and we will miss him desperately if he is not risked on the night. Better though perhaps that he misses only one match rather than several if he does further damage to himself. He will also be looking forward to a potential return to his old stamping ground at Blackburn on Saturday as well as the two crucial Republic of Ireland playoff matches too. Personally I very much doubt that he will play against Hull City.
The squad is getting stronger by the week and if Alan doesn’t play then it will be interesting to see who replaces him with Sergi Canos and the improving Konstantin Kerschbaumer both in the frame. Canos is largely untested and unpredictable but he possesses that spark of creativity and individual genius that could make something happen for us and he would be the brave selection choice. Lasse Vibe might also have a case too depending on how Lee Carsley decides to set us up on the night.
Hull have generally had the better of things against us but there have been several memorable clashes in fairly recent times that still stir the emotions.
Surely none of the near eleven and a half thousand fans present will ever forget Brentford’s rampant performance in a Football League Cup Second Round tie in September 1968? Fourth Divison Bees blew their Second Division opponents away and flying winger Allan Mansley was unstoppable as he celebrated his recent twenty-first birthday with two goals in a wonderful and unexpected three – nil victory which saw the Bees defeat Hull for the first time in eighteen meetings. It was an incredible night of high drama and excitement with the supporters barely believing what they were witnessing.
Our next cup meeting in 1971 ended far less happily and in highly controversial circumstances when two late goals gave Hull an extremely fortunate FA Cup Fifth Round win over a brave and resilient Brentford team that deserved far, far better. Bobby Ross put us ahead with a classic diving header from John Docherty’s cross and Brian Turner’s shot which would almost certainly have sealed another giant killing cruelly came back off the post before a Hull equaliser that came against the run of play after a poor defensive clearance. Ken Houghton’s winning goal was dubious in the extreme after an aerial challenge on Gordon Phillips that was surely a foul and goalkeeper Ian McKechnie taking far more than the permitted four steps before whacking his clearance downfield. The rotund keeper then piled insult onto injury by celebrating the winner with a somersault.
The local paper report lyrically summed up our feelings far better than I possibly can:
Such a sense of outrage and grievance among the stricken, silent supporters of Brentford as they gazed despairingly at a Boothferry Park arena which had been so unbelievably vindictive.
Six thousand seven hundred and ninety-three fans filed into a chilly Griffin Park in December 1979 totally unaware of the drama that was to follow. The Bees had lost their two previous games and changes were afoot, one of which saw the reintroduction of striker Bob Booker who had signed for the club a year earlier in return for a set of tracksuits and had done little or nothing since then to suggest that we had not overpaid for his signature. Freshly returned from a confidence boosting loan spell at Barnet, he seized his opportunity and scored three times in an amazing seven – two victory over a shellshocked Hull City team. The rest as they say is history as Bob went on to become a Brentford legend.
Our title winning team of 1991/92 was also potent in front of goal and we took Hull City apart at Griffin Park early in the season with a four goal salvo before halftime. The best attempt didn’t count after Marcus Gayle almost broke the net with an indirect free kick and needed to have the rules gently explained to him as he cavorted in glee and wondered why nobody else was joining him in his wild celebration.
Squad rotation is traditionally something that is reserved for the upper echelons of the game but Brentford rested nine of their normal team for the last league game of the season in May 2005. The opportunity presented itself as Hull had already confirmed their promotion and the Bees had earned their playoff place with a last-gasp winner at Wrexham in the preceding match. Chris Hargreaves and Jay Tabb were joined by such luminaries as Jerrome Sobers, Charlie Ide, George Moleski and Ryan Watts and the Brentford team included no less than six debutants. Despite trailing to an early goal the young Bees ran, chased and harried and their efforts were rewarded with a headed goal from a corner by Sobers whose only Football League game this was to be. Not a bad way to both start and finish a career. Remarkably Jay Tabb won the game for the Bees with a beautifully taken late solo goal and over nine thousand fans went home happy although Sheffield Wednesday and our customary playoff oblivion were just around the corner!
As for Tuesday, hopefully there will be a five figure crowd as the Bees deserve a near full house given their recent efforts and success. Hull have the resources and strength in depth to rest players and utilise their entire squad. We have had an extra day’s rest and need to take full advantage of the additional recovery time and hope that Hull are also fatigued after their second long journey in a few days after comfortably disposing of MK Dons on Saturday.
This will be a tough challenge for Brentford and I can only anticipate thrills and spills given the history of our previous encounters with The Tigers.