Shopping List – 23/5/16

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End Of Term Report – Part 3 – 17/5/16

Here are my thoughts on the remaining members of the Brentford squad as well as the players who left us during the season :

21. Lasse Vibe. Danish international striker Lasse Vibe signed for the Bees for around one million pounds from IFK Göteborg shortly before the beginning of the season and went straight from playing in the Swedish Allsvenskan to the Championship without the benefit of any preseason break. He found a place in the team playing firstly on the right flank  where he was a peripheral influence but he scored his first goal with a stunning long-range curling effort against Reading when moved into a more central role. He played alongside Marco Djuricin but won a regular place in the team as the sole striker after Djuricin’s injury against Blackburn. From then on Vibe pretty much trod a lone furrow up front until Scott Hogan’s recovery from injury late on in the season and eventually the pressure told on him and his effectiveness greatly diminished as he was slowed down by the effects of fatigue and overwork. After scoring with a fulminating volley against Huddersfield in mid-December he went over three months without scoring and clearly demonstrated that he was not best suited to the physical demands of playing as a target man. Smash the ball at or over his head and he would always come off second best against giant central defenders who totally outmuscled him and invariably won the physical battle, and with his confidence shot to pieces, he went on a ghastly run of poor performances marked by a series of missed chances and scuffed shots. He had hit the wall and the Championship was proving a tough learning curve for him. No striker scored for the Bees from the second of January until the second of April, a run of twelve matches that saw only eleven goals scored by Brentford and the abyss was beckoning until everything changed in the March international break. Vibe went away with the Danish squad and returned a new man, apparently revitalised by his international recall. Suddenly there was a spring in his step and his luck finally turned. Firstly when loanee Leandro Rodríguez suffered a hamstring injury which necessitated his withdrawal from the fray at Nottingham Forest and his replacement by Vibe and then when home defender Kevin Wilson’s gaffe gifted him a goal. Finally the floodgates opened as with confidence restored he went on a wonderful run of seven goals in seven games, and what goals they were. Close range tap-ins, flying headers, sumptuous outside of the foot finishes and long-range rockets. Everything he touched flew in and he ended up as equal top scorer with the highly creditable total of fourteen goals. More importantly, we learned to play to his strengths as his pace and vision enabled him to time his runs and get in behind defenders and he looked twice the player he had been just weeks earlier. The fans took to him from the beginning because he never let his head go down even when things were not going well for him and he was always a chaser of lost causes. He played with a smile on his face and the crowd responded to him. How far has he come in so short a time? A few weeks ago and I would not have been too upset if he had decided to leave at the end of the season, now I can’t wait to see if he can improve even more next season.

22. Jack O’Connell. Jack had a frustrating season as he was never able to establish himself in the team but at times he certainly looked the part in our central defence. He twice enjoyed runs of four and then three consecutive matches after Dean and Barbet’s red cards but he was unable to keep his place given the strong competition he faced. He scored a goal from a corner against Fulham and, unlike our other central defenders, he always looked dangerous at set pieces, and but for a brilliant save he would have repeated the dose in the home match against our old rivals at Griffin Park. At twenty-two he is still a youngster and he could yet develop into an excellent defender and a real asset. He lacks pace but reads the game well, is strong in the air and is no mug with the ball at his feet. I hope that he is patient and that we find a role for him next season.

23. Jota. Who could ever have imagined Brentford doing so well despite Jota starting only one game all season? Jonathan Douglas’s rugged challenge cost Jota damaged ankle ligaments which required surgery to repair and he had barely returned to the substitutes’ bench in December when personal issues forced his return to Spain, initially on loan to Eibar. Brentford treated him with sensitivity and compassion given the circumstances and we will simply have to wait and see whether he will be in a position to return within the next year or if we have seen the last of the Spanish maestro. I personally doubt that he will play for us again and, if so, we will need to maximise our return for him which will not be easy given that he will, I am sure, only wish to sign for a Spanish team. As for replacing him, you can’t, as how do you find another genius?

24. Akaki (Andy) Gogia. Andy Gogia was another foreign prospect signed on a free transfer from the lower leagues in Germany. A quick and tricky winger, he impressed with his pace, skill and energy in the preseason friendly against Stoke and scored with a deflected long-range effort. He started the season in the first team but it soon became clear that he needed time to get used to the pace and physicality of the Championship and also become more accustomed and attuned to living and working in a foreign country. His cause was also hindered by some niggly injuries and he never started a match after the beginning of October. He impressed in the Development Squad and looked more direct and effective when coming off the bench late on in the season. Hopefully he will be one for next season and he will surely receive another opportunity given that we will be looking for a new winger.

27. David Button. At twenty-seven years of age, and coming off his second consecutive season as an everpresent in the Brentford team, David Button is probably not yet at his peak and might improve even more, but he has firmly established himself as one of the most consistent and talented goalkeepers in the Championship. What a bargain he has proved to be since we rescued him from the depths of the Charlton Athletic reserve team for a mere one hundred and fifty thousand pounds. He certainly received sufficient practice last season as he faced more shots on goal than any other keeper in the league and he invariably met and overcame the challenge. He was directly responsible for only two goals, at home to both Middlesbrough and Charlton but otherwise he was reliable, dependable, consistent and also inspired and brilliant on occasion. His save from Garner at Preston was stupendous and one of the moments of the season and at times he seemed to be playing Derby County on his own at Griffin Park. He can still sometimes be tentative and vulnerable when dealing with crosses but he is otherwise technically extremely sound and invariably gets the basics right. His use of the ball when in possession was as calm and accurate as ever and he started so many of our attacks as well as providing a wonderful assist for Alan Judge’s goal against Sheffield Wednesday. Button now has a tough decision to make given that his contract expires at the end of next season. Should he seek pastures new or extend his contract at the club? He is guaranteed first team football in a young and improving team at Griffin Park, but could he do better professionally and financially elsewhere? The latest indications are that he might well decide to stay and every Brentford fan will fervently hope that this is the case as we are very fortunate to have him.

28. Nico Yennaris. Last season was a coming of age for Nico whose career at Brentford had appeared to be drifting into oblivion and many were surprised when his loan move to Wycombe Wanderers was not made permanent. Maxime Colin’s injury changed everything and Lee Carsley gave him the opportunity to deputise for him. Nico played like a man inspired, tough, tenacious in the challenge and eager to overlap, he ensured that Colin was barely missed and Nico was unfortunate to lose his place when the Frenchman recovered. His consistency was rewarded with a new three year contract, a move that initially attracted much criticism from some Brentford supporters but Dean Smith knew exactly what he was doing and the decision is now looking an extremely good one. He believed in Nico who was converted into a highly effective defensive midfielder who played a massive part in our late season success. He was all-action and all-energy, relentless in his tackling and pressing but he also showed his great ability on the ball and he passed it quickly and accurately. Nico was ideally suited for Brentford’s pass and move approach and he also scored two well-taken goals. From a player who at one time seemed to be going nowhere except out of the exit door, Nico proved to be a revelation and ended the season as the most improved player in the team and enjoying life playing for the first time for a Head Coach who believed in him. Of all the stories of the season, Nico’s was perhaps the most positive, surprising and satisfying.

29. Yoann Barbet. The best that I can say about French central defender Yoann Barbet’s progress is that the departed James Tarkowski has barely been missed. Signed from Chamois Niortais for a fee of around half a million pounds he was another unknown player from abroad who was definitely seen as one for the future. He impressed in his initial first team appearances as he vied with Jack O’Connell to be the deputy for the first choice partnership of Dean and Tarkowski, but his big opportunity came with the departure of Tarkowski and he certainly seized it. He received a temporary setback after an unfortunate red card at Sheffield Wednesday but he learned from the experience and soon scored his first goal for the club against Charlton. He proved to be a rugged defender who loves a slide tackle and he showed a good turn of pace. He also demonstrated great skill on the ball and sprayed long and accurate passes out to the right wing, memorably assisting on a wonderful goal for Alan Judge at Preston. He has adapted quickly and well to his new surroundings and is another star in the making for the Bees.

36. Josh Clarke. Josh certainly made the most of the opportunity given him to develop his skills as a fast, overlapping fullback and fought his way into the first team. Everybody loves a local boy made good, and his pace, enthusiasm and attacking brio shone through. He obtained some valuable experience on loan at Barnet, started four matches for Brentford and also impressed when coming off the bench, helping to make Scott Hogan’s late equaliser against Bristol City. He has been offered a new contract for next season and I hope that he decides to remain at the club, as at only twenty-one years of age there is still time for Josh to emerge and develop into a regular first team player.

37. Courtney Senior. Still only eighteen, Courtney Senior impressed in the preseason friendly at Boreham Wood showing pace and skill on the right wing. He made his first team debut against Oxford United and twice was an unused substitute before returning to the Development Squad for the remainder of the season. His time has yet to come, but he is a real talent.

39. Tom Field. Tom made an assured and highly competent debut as a nineteen year-old deputy for the injured Jake Bidwell in the local derby against Fulham. He showed great composure and an excellent temperament. He was never overawed by the occasion, defended well and also swung in a perfect right wing corner which was thrashed into the net by Scott Hogan. Another one for the future, and better still, he comes from a Brentford supporting family.

47. Sergi Canos. A total breath of fresh air, Sergi arrived on loan as an unknown eighteen year-old from Liverpool via Barcelona’s academy. He left the club with his head held high as a firm fan favourite having scored seven times in thirty-eight games and he totally surpassed expectations and proved to be a massive success. He so obviously loved every minute of his stay and played with enthusiasm, a smile on his face and with a real joie de vivre. Given his age and lack of experience he was inconsistent but he possessed the ability to turn a game on its head as both Preston North End and Nottingham Forest discovered to their cost and he was always full of tricks. He worked hard and learned how to track back but he had the pace, dribbling ability and sheer ability to create havoc at the other end of the pitch, netting after a mere twenty-one seconds at Huddersfield and scoring unforgettable goals at Reading and MK Dons. He made a massive impression on everybody at the club and we all took great pride and joy in his achievement when he made his Premier League debut for Liverpool on the last day of the season. Have we seen the last of him? Maybe but perhaps not, as if he is not considered good enough for Liverpool’s squad next season or does not agree a new contract, then perhaps he might yet return to Griffin Park and thrill and inspire us once more?

Andre Gray, Toumani Diagouraga, James Tarkowski, Ryan Williams, Josh Laurent, Leandro Rodríguez and Jermaine Udumaga all made appearances for the Bees this season before leaving the club. It was a forgone conclusion that Gray would go elsewhere and move up the food chain as he was a star in the making andcoveted by clubs who could pay him far more than us and we also had to sell him in order not to fall foul of Financial Fair Play restrictions. He played twice for us, firstly as a late substitute against Ipswich where he helped turn the game in our favour and scored a well-taken goal bursting down the middle at pace to put us back into a game that seemed lost. He and Philipp Hofmann also played together at Bristol City and terrified the opposition with Gray scoring with a perfect half volley at the near post as well as contributing to two other Brentford goals. He clearly demonstrated that he was a man in form and one who would take the division by storm – but unfortunately it was for Burnley and not us. Toumani Diagouraga was a wonderful servant of the club but we did well to extract a half million pound fee from Leeds for a player whose performances had declined from their impossibly high level of the previous season. He was no longer such a dominating influence on proceedings and his game suffered from the absence of Douglas alongside him, which forced Toumani to attempt tackles far more often, something that was not one of his strengths. He left with our gratitude and best wishes. The same cannot be said for James Tarkowski who acted in a totally unprofessional manner by virtue of his decision to down tools before the Burnley home game. As with Gray, we extracted a high fee for him and the progress made by Barbet means that he has hardly been missed. Tarkowski was his normal frustrating self, combining moments of brilliance both in defending and on the ball with times when he lost concentration, over-reached himself and cost us dear. Leandro Rodríguez was a loan signing from Everton who was brought in to support the flagging Lasse Vibe. He pulled a hamstring in his second match before he really had the chance to show us anything and returned to his parent club. Laurent, Williams and Udumaga all made brief appearances without convincing the club that they had what it takes to merit further opportunities.

The Highlights Of The Season – 10/5/16

What a season that was and here are my highlights which I will replay in my mind throughout the close season. Please feel free to add your own as there are so many I am sure that some have fallen through the cracks and escaped my attention:

  • Appointing a new Head Coach in Marinus Dijkhuizen who seemed to tick all the boxes
  • Paying a new record transfer fee for Andreas Bjelland
  • The excitement at signing a potential star in Chelsea’s Josh McEachran
  • Bringing in exciting young foreign prospects in Konstantin Kerschbaumer, Yoann Barbet and Andy Gogia
  • Hoping that Ryan Williams might turn into our set piece secret weapon
  • Buying two international strikers, Lasse Vibe and Philipp Hofmann
  • Andre Gray’s brilliant goal scoring form in preseason
  • Jermaine Udumaga scoring his first goal for the club in preseason against Sporting Clube Farense
  • Courtney Senior and Aaron Greene impressing against Boreham Wood
  • Giving Stoke City a football lesson with Gogia running them ragged
  • Thinking for a few weeks that we might manage to hang onto all our stars
  • The injury time comeback against Ipswich culminating in James Tarkowski’s ninety-sixth minute equaliser
  • Youngsters Josh Clarke, Josh Laurent, Jermaine Udumaga and Courtney Senior all making the starting eleven in the Capital One Cup against Oxford United
  • Scoring four times at Bristol City with Gray and Hofmann combining menacingly up front and Philipp Hofmann scoring a goal of true international class
  • Konstantin Kerschbaumer’s back heel at Bristol City which helped set up Alan Judge’s first goal
  • Sticking four goals past our former loanee Ben Hamer
  • Max Colin’s eye-catching debut as a substitute at Burnley
  • Lasse Vibe’s twenty-five yard curler against Reading
  • Sam Saunders making his comeback from injury against Reading
  • Signing Sergi Canos and Marco Djuricin on loan
  • Djuricin’s coolly-taken debut goal at Leeds
  • Uwe Rösler reacting to the attention of the Brentford fans at Leeds
  • Goalkeeper Mark Smith making the bench at Middlesbrough
  • Sergi Canos turning the game as a substitute against Preston
  • Marco Djuricin’s turning his marker and scoring the winner against Preston
  • The first win of the season at Griffin Park
  • David Button’s perfect assist for Alan Judge’s brilliantly taken equaliser against Sheffield Wednesday
  • Alan Judge hitting the bar against Sheffield Wednesday
  • The perfectly timed October international break which allowed Lee Carsley to put the squad through a mini boot camp
  • Beating Rotherham through two wonderful Alan Judge goals
  • Switching my mobile phone back on to learn about our unexpected win at Wolves
  • Our first clean sheet of the season at Wolves
  • Nico Yennaris seizing his opportunity at right back after Max Colin’s injury
  • Playing Charlton off the pitch after an uncomfortable first twenty minutes
  • Alan Judge’s goal and assist at Charlton
  • Alan McCormack hitting the underside of the bar at his old club, Charlton
  • The first win over QPR for fifty years with Marco Djuricin becoming an instant Brentford legend
  • Substitutes Kerschbaumer, Vibe and Hofmann all playing their part in the QPR triumph
  • Lee Carsley reviving our fortunes, leading us to four consecutive wins and winning the October Manager of the Month Award
  • Alan Judge winning the October Sky Bet Player of the Month Award after a series of inspirational displays
  • Brentford’s exceptional first half display against Hull
  • Kerschbaumer’s bending shot against the  post versus Hull
  • Sergi Canos’s first goal for the club against Nottingham Forest
  • Philipp Hofmann’s triple ricochet ninety-sixth minute winner against Nottingham Forest
  • John Swift’s Premier League class goal at Bolton
  • Dean Smith’s appointment as Brentford Head Coach
  • Playing MK Dons off the pitch at Griffin Park in Dean Smith’s first game
  • Outplaying Fulham at Craven Cottage
  • Sitting in the Hammersmith End with the Fulham fans and trying not to cheer us on
  • The deafening noise made by nearly five thousand Brentford fans at Fulham
  • The glorious moment when we thought that Jota had scored a deserved winner
  • Josh McEachran making his Brentford debut at Cardiff and instantly looking at home in our midfield
  • Jake Bidwell’s first goal for the club in his one hundred and eighty-sixth game
  • Forty-five minutes of perfection against Huddersfield
  • Lasse Vibe’s thunderous volley against Huddersfield after Tarkowski’s perfect chip forward
  • Totally outplaying Brighton but the ball refused to go in
  • Our amazing support from three thousand fans at Reading rewarded by Ryan Woods’s first goal for the club from twenty-five yards and the Goal of the Season by Sergi Canos
  • Michael Hector’s second yellow card for a embarrassing dive
  • Nemesis Keith Stroud sending off two opposition players this season
  • Thinking that we had sneaked a point at Birmingham when Hofmann equalised late on
  • Totally outplaying Middlesbrough at Griffin Park
  • The second half display against Burnley – forget about the first half
  • Yoann Barbet’s pass and Alan Judge’s cool finish at Preston
  • THAT save by David Button at Preston which ensured our victory
  • Josh McEachran selling the Leeds attack a dummy and clearing the danger in our penalty area
  • Sam Saunders running at the Leeds defence before scoring
  • The first five minutes at Sheffield Wednesday
  • A wonder goal by Alan Judge against Derby
  • Putting Wolves to the sword again
  • John Swift’s two-goal performance against Wolves
  • Josh McEachran’s slide rule pass to Jake Bidwell before our second goal against Wolves
  • Yoann Barbet’s first goal for the club against Charlton
  • The anticipation and excitement leading up to the visit to Loftus Road
  • Leaving the match early to escape the humiliation on the pitch and our supporters’ behaviour off it
  • Another international break, another opportunity to regroup
  • International caps for Daniel O’Shaughnessy, Alan Judge and Lasse Vibe
  • The relief at winning again after losing four in a row and at Vibe’s opening goal at Nottingham Forest
  • Confidence returning to the squad with a wonderful first half performance against Bolton
  • Nico Yennaris dominating the midfield and demonstrating his quality
  • Lasse Vibe – Goal Machine, after we finally learned how to play to his strengths
  • Alan McCormack and Ryan Woods ensuring that Luke Hyam finally got his just deserts at Ipswich
  • Two brilliantly taken goals by Lasse Vibe at Ipswich
  • Scott Hogan’s return and first goal for the club against Bristol City – another last minute equaliser
  • Hogan winning us the Cardiff match with two more late goals
  • Sergi Canos’s wonderful curling effort at MK Dons
  • Watching Jake Bidwell’s late free kick dribble through the MK Dons defence and bounce perfectly into corner of the net
  • Losing at Hull City – and not really caring as it was simply a match too far
  • The first seven minutes against Fulham
  • Sam Saunders’s lung-bursting run to score the first goal
  • Konstantin Kerschbaumer growing into his role and his perfect through balls for three of Scott Hogan’s goals
  • Totally embarrassing Fulham and comprehensively beating them
  • Tom Field’s remarkably composed debut and assist against Fulham
  • A twenty-one second opening goal at Huddersfield
  • Putting Huddersfield to the sword – yet again
  • Scott Hogan’s clinical finishing with seven goals in under two full games
  • Roy Keane leaving the stadium as soon as Scott was substituted at Huddersfield
  • The massive improvement in our set pieces
  • The renaissance of Josh Clarke
  • Youngsters James Ferry and Reece Cole making the substitutes’ bench
  • Josh Bohui playing for the England Under 17 team
  • Our last nine matches which netted us twenty-two points and twenty-four goals
  • Becoming a real team again on and off the field with club and supporters reunited
  • The influence of Dean Smith and Richard O’Kelly taking effect on the squad
  • Playing beautiful pass-and-move football the Brentford way again
  • Two top nine finishes in our first two years back in the Championship
  • Never being in the bottom three of the league table
  • Looking forward eagerly to next season and what it has to bring
  • Our foreign signings developing into excellent players once they had finally adapted to the league
  • Harlee Dean proving to be a real leader and reaching the two-hundred game mark for the club
  • Maxime Colin and Yoann Barbet settling in so well and promising so much
  • Jake Bidwell’s consistency and composure and also reaching the two-hundred game milestone
  • David Button – ever-present and a massive influence
  • Lewis Macleod finally getting onto the pitch, albeit briefly
  • Andreas Bjelland getting close to a full recovery
  • Sam Saunders and Alan McCormack earning new contracts and being a massive positive influence on their less experienced teammates
  • Thinking about the goals Scott Hogan will hopefully score next season
  • Everything about Alan Judge, a career year and such a wonderful player and rightly named as one of the top three players in the Championship and in the team of the season
  • Ryan Woods quietly going about his business and impressing everyone
  • John Swift scoring seven goals in his first real look at the Championship
  • Sergi Canos – an inspiration and perfect example of how a loan player should conduct himself
  • Getting the CPO verdict that helps bring the new stadium at Lionel Road even closer
  • Finishing as Kings of West London and the leading London club outside the Premier League
  • Mark Burridge and his Bees Player team
  • Poetic justice as James Tarkowski did not receive a medal at Burnley’s trophy presentation
  • Matthew Benham, Cliff Crown, Mark Devlin, Phil Giles, Rasmus Ankersen and their teams working so hard, effectively and creatively to ensure that we maintain our edge
  • On a personal level, having Richard Lee and Cliff Crown do book signings and the fantastic response to and reviews of my book Continue reading

What A Game To Miss! – 8/5/16


I was fully prepared to get up at the crack of dawn yesterday and schlepp up the M1 to Huddersfield. Twelve-thirty is an ungodly hour to start a football match, particularly if it first necessitates a three hour crawl up a packed motorway riddled with a frustrating series of speed restrictions.

Dead rubber it might well have been, but it would also be the last opportunity for me to get my football fix for a couple of months or so as well as to pay my own personal homage to a team that had put so many seemingly insurmountable problems behind them and whose dedication, perseverance, commitment and no little skill, now looked likely to be rewarded with a top ten finish.

Everything changed on Thursday with my wife’s out-of-the-blue suggestion that we take advantage of the favourable weather forecast and go away for the weekend.

Football and Brentford’s irresistible siren song invariably take precedence over all other matters throughout the long and interminable Winter months and home games are sacrosanct, but given the circumstances, would it hurt so much, would it be such a bad thing to, just this once, put the wishes and considerations of my family first and make the supreme and ultimate sacrifice?

My answer to that interesting philosophical question can be ascertained by the fact that Saturday lunchtime found Miriam and I ensconced on the beach at Poole Harbour and my knowledge of events at Huddersfield was confined to listening to the silver tongue of Mark Burridge on Bees Player.

So what happens? We only go and score five times away from home for the first time since, I believe, Plymouth in 1994, earn our largest ever away victory in the second tier of English football, and the Bees put on a massively composed and vibrant performance that simply emphasised the confidence coursing through their veins, and the final five-one score line by no means flattered them. Indeed one of my spies at the match commented to me that we should have scored eight.

That’s just how it is and my missing this mauling is surely punishment enough for my obvious lack of dedication to the cause, although it must be said that our weekend has been as pleasant and relaxing as we expected, and one has simply to weigh up the benefits and advantages of both options!

So the season finally ended in triumph and many of us perhaps wish that it could go on for a few weeks yet given the incredible happenings of the past month, but legs and minds alike are weary and badly need a rest if they are to come back recharged and re-energised for the start of next season.

Let’s just take a moment to reflect on the immensity of our achievements:

  • Brentford have finished in ninth position in the Championship, our second best finish ever at this level after last year, and one previously matched only in 1950 and 1951
  • 2015/16 is therefore our equal third most successful season since the end of the Second World War
  • By ending the season as the form team in the league with an unparalleled run of seven wins and a draw in our last nine games we have risen nine places in the table and scored twenty-four times in that period
  • We ended up a mere ten points away from the playoffs, so keep thinking about Fulham away and Middlesbrough, Charlton and Blackburn at home and what might have been
  • With a highly creditable seventy-two goals we were equal top scorers in the Championship
  • We were top scorers away from home with thirty-nine goals, including fifteen in our last five matches
  • Brentford were the Kings of West London, finishing comfortably ahead of rivals Fulham and Queens Park Rangers for the first time since 1948/49
  • Scott Hogan is perhaps the most prolific Brentford marksman in living memory as he played a total of one hundred and seventy-one minutes of football all season and scored seven times, an average of less than twenty-five minutes per goal

As for yesterday’s game, the Bees always had far too much in their locker for a poor and dispirited home team who gifted Brentford a goal after twenty-one seconds when Cranie underhit his backpass and Sergi Canos was onto the error in a flash and finished perfectly past Steer, who then saved brilliantly from Barbet’s header before being forced off by injury as the Bees threatened to run riot.

For the second time in three away matches we were faced by a callow, young replacement keeper, this time in Lloyd Allinson, who was to make a torrid debut.

He started well by foiling Hogan who actually missed a presentable opportunity before shooting narrowly wide of the near post as Brentford went into the interval only one goal up having hardly been bothered at the back.

That was all to change when Huddersfield equalised straight after the break when a quickly taken short free kick caught our back line dozing and Jamie Paterson, reputedly a Brentford transfer target, danced through a static defence, left Harlee Dean, otherwise imperious on his two-hundredth appearance for the club, on his backside and scored calmly and efficiently.

Rather than demoralising the Bees, this unexpected and totally undeserved goal roused them to new heights and Brentford simply stepped up the pace and blew Huddersfield away, scoring five times for the first time this season.

Hogan scored twice, each time finishing simply and without any flourishes or fuss after Kerschbaumer put him clean through with astute through balls.

Hogan lasted sixty-four minutes before being replaced by Vibe and the watching Roy Keane left soon afterwards. Surely Scott’s fairytale month couldn’t end with an international call up, or could it? Stranger things have happened and in-form strikers are always in great demand.

Good management again by Dean Smith who has ensured that Hogan is being nursed back into action and also kept hungry for next season.

Vibe emphasised our amazing recent transformation in terms of our newfound confidence and capability upfront by scoring within three minutes of his arrival with a venemous shot perfectly drilled inside the hapless Allinson’s near post after an incisive pass from Canos, who departed soon after to a hero’s reception.

Lasse’s seventh goal in as many games ensured that he joined Alan Judge on fourteen goals and he finished an excellent first season in English football as our joint top scorer once we had finally learned how best to utilise his ability to run in behind opposition defences.

Vibe then became the provider when he set up late substitute John Swift for a comfortable close range finish which was his seventh goal of an eventful season. A more than creditable tally from a highly promising young player.

Swift barely celebrated his goal, which was scored right in front of the Brentford hordes and I wonder if his mind is already on his next move rather than contemplating a potential return to Griffin Park?

Five goals almost became six as Vibe went close right at the death, and the season ended on a massive high for everyone concerned with the club.

There has been a definite change of style lately as Dean Smith has made us far less gung-ho and we now sit back more often and attempt to pick teams off on the break.

I well remember the new Head Coach’s first two away games late last year at Fulham and Cardiff when we scored four times and yet only came away with one point owing to our own kamikaze approach and defensive shortcomings. It finally looks like we have learned our lesson.

Now we are far more solid and organised defensively with Colin, Dean, Barbet and Bidwell forming an impressive and cohesive back four which is well protected by the speedy, mobile and combative Woods and Yennaris.

Suddenly there is pace coursing throughout the team with the likes of Colin, Yennaris, Canos and Hogan, and we are a real force to be reckoned with.

Konstantin Kerschbaumer too has finally proved his worth with assists for three of Hogan’s last four goals and he showed an unsuspected strength and determination to shake off an opponent before setting up Scott’s opener yesterday.

What a rollercoaster and topsy-turvy season this has been for the Bees and their supporters and we can now all relax and take a break before the serious business starts again.

There will be much hard work taking place behind the scenes throughout the close season but the foundations are firmly in place for a successful campaign next season.

As for the squad, I am led to believe that their ninth place finish ensures that they qualify for a bonus payment and few would begrudge them their reward.

Narrow Margins – 24/4/16

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!

Brentford’s Injury Hoodoo – 14/4/16

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Mixed Blessings – 10/4/16

On the surface this has probably been the best week of the season for Brentford with three consecutive wins over former Premier League teams, nine points gained that have seen us shoot up the table into thirteenth position, our Championship place as good as guaranteed for next season, and nine goals scored, five of them by Lasse Vibe who has suddenly and not before time emerged as the prolific and deadly marksman we thought we were buying and who has now scored a more than creditable twelve goals this season.

Ipswich Town became our latest victims and lambs to the slaughter as a determined and well organised Brentford team which broke forward with purpose and menace comfortably took the points and thus gained their first ever victory at Portman Road.

Every silver lining has a cloud and the gloss was taken off the victory and totally overshadowed by the awful injury sustained by Alan Judge who has suffered a broken leg after an horrendous challenge by Luke Hyam. There is much that I want to say about the circumstances relating to this injury as well as its ramifications for the player and his current club.

My blood is also boiling at the crass, one-eyed and indefensible comments expressed immediately after the match by the Ipswich manager Mick McCarthy, a man whom I had up until now held in high esteem, but no longer do so. Given how spitting mad, upset and concerned I am feeling, along I am sure with every Brentford supporter I am delighted that Stephen Burke had already kindly offered to provide me with a match report from yesterday’s game, just as he did for the same match last season.

He did a fine job then and I hope you share my opinion that he has surpassed himself today. By publishing his excellent work now it also allows me a day or so in which to cool off and gather my thoughts about the Alan Judge situation on which I will write very shortly, hopefully in a calmer, more objective and less emotional frame of mind, as if I put pen to paper today I believe that the libel lawyers might well be combing through my words and that they would find much to interest them.

Here is what Stephen had to say and many thanks to him yet again for his perceptive contribution:

It was quite a remarkable afternoon at Ipswich for Brentford FC.

It was our third victory in a row in just a week, with nine goals scored and Lasse Vibe responsible for five of them, after fans despaired about our lack of a striker. Our future in the Championship was also secured for another season.

It was our first ever victory at Portman Road against Ipswich – and our first win against “The Tractor Boys” since 1955.

And the three-one victory looked a very distant dream just couple of minutes into the game when Alan Judge lay on the ground in extreme pain after an awful tackle. With our best player taken out and replaced by Konstantin Kerschbaumer, who has consistently disappointed, it seemed like Brentford would be in for a long and difficult afternoon.

But the nine minute break as Judgey was treated and then carried from the pitch in obvious distress seemed to motivate and unify Brentford and shock Ipswich.

The home team had started on the front foot, pushing high up the pitch and causing jitters around several hurried clearances by David Button. Then came the terrible tackle on Judge which surely merited a red not yellow card for Luke Hyam.

But the Bees regrouped and started pressing themselves, forcing mistakes from a vulnerable Ipswich defence. Brentford looked much more like scoring, which was not surprising given that Ipswich had not scored in their last three matches. Their hopes of a play-off place this season were hanging by a thread. But they failed to compete with a buzzing Brentford.

The home crowd were clearly nervous too. Apart from the Bees fans, Portman Road was near silent. “Is this a library?” sang the Bees fans, who booed Hyam every time he touched the ball.

Vibe had already forced errors in the home defence and Kerschbaumer also missed a chance, before he redeemed himself by winning possession from Skuse, who claimed a foul, driving towards the byline and pulling the ball back to Sam Saunders. His neat and instant curling finish put the Bees a goal up just before the half hour.

The Bees kept pushing forward and could have had a second goal. Instead just before the end of the first half, Hyam tangled with Ryan Woods and was given a second yellow card for retaliation and dismissed – belated justice had been served but far too late.

This seemed to spur Ipswich on. They forced a couple of corners and Button saved well as added time amounted to nine minutes for the Judge injury.

Ipswich made two changes at half-time. On came Jonathan Douglas, the former Bees skipper, and veteran striker, David McGoldrick, as Ipswich tried to regain the initiative.

Douglas’s appearance was one of a number of sub-plots in the afternoon. It was odd that he hadn’t started the match but perhaps he had paid the price for missing a clear chance in the previous Ipswich home game. Douglas was on the front cover of the programme which featured an interview with the Irishman. Still, he was jeered by Brentford fans whenever he got the ball and looked a shadow of the player we saw at Griffin Park last season. Douglas has now earned a contract extension for next season given the appearances he has made in the current campaign but he looks like a player way past his best. There was also no sign of two other former Bees – Jay Tabb and Tommy Smith.

Ipswich started the second half on the front foot but after twenty minutes Brentford took control against the ten men. The second goal on sixty-four minutes was exceptionally well-worked. Ryan Woods who had a good afternoon in the heart of midfield played an excellent ball through to Colin, wide on the right. His perfect cross was headed deftly in by Vibe who perfectly concertinaed his body shape to meet a ball that appeared to be behind him. Just four minutes later Vibe dispossessed Berra from a home throw-in and raced towards goal before placing the ball perfectly past the Ipswich keeper with a perfect outside of the right foot finish.

When was the last time a Brentford player scored a brace in two consecutive games and five in a week? Vibe seems like a player transformed since the international break. His confidence is high and he ran all over the pitch, making life very difficult for Ipswich’s defence. he has now scored twelve goals this season, a more than decent tally.

At three-nil it was job done for the Bees. It could have been more, not least when Sergi Canos capped a good game with a stunning, dipping, deflected shot that hit the bar.

Inevitably it was a mistake – by Alan McCormack – that allowed Ipswich in for a late consolation goal. Until then, every time an Ipswich player had sight of goal in the second half, they shot over or wide, clearly lacking in confidence. Dean and Barbet had been immense in defence, snuffing out any opportunities.

Make no mistake, Ipswich were very poor. They didn’t look like a team on the edge of the playoffs. They relied too often on the long ball and were weak defensively, particularly down the Brentford right. Their fans started leaving after the  third goal went in and a flypast by a flock of seagulls was probably their most entertaining part of the match.  

What a difference a year makes. Just over twelve months ago, Ipswich and Brentford played out a hard-fought draw as they competed for what seemed then like the last playoff place.

A year on, the future looks far brighter for Brentford. A top ten place is again a real possibility for the Bees, with Kerschbaumer, Gogia and Hogan getting a chance to show what they can do. Ipswich are simply a neanderthal team led by a dinosaur of a manager, full of experienced players well past their best playing a horrible, outmoded and dated brand of football.

All of which is remarkable given the injuries that Brentford have endured this season. Let’s hope Alan Judge recovers as quickly as possible. A fully fit and functioning squad would make 2016/17 very exciting indeed. Bring on Aston Villa – and Ipswich!