One Out Of Three IS Bad – 7/8/14

penWho can tell me what the following figures refer to?

Sorry there are no prizes on offer though!

  1. 33%
  2. 69%
  3. 54%
  4. 57%

No ideas?

OK, I will put you all out of your misery.

These figures represent the percentage of penalty kicks that we have actually managed to score over the past four seasons.

Woeful aren’t they?

To put a bit of flesh on the bones:

In 2010/11 we managed to score a princely three out of the nine penalties we were awarded.

I really cannot bring myself to say anything more about that pathetic record.

The following season we scored eight of our first nine, and even when Gary Alexander missed, Niall McGinn managed to score from the rebound away at Colchester.

trottaThen it all went pear shaped and we missed two of the next four kicks including the fiasco at Stevenage when we threw away our last chance to reach the Playoffs when Donaldson and Saunders both hit the woodwork rather than the back of the net.

All in all, though, nine out of thirteen (plus McGinn’s effort) represented an adequate, if not startling success rate.

The last two seasons have been appalling.

We managed to only score seven out of thirteen in 2012/13, culminating in Marcello Trotta’s epic failure in the promotion decider against Doncaster.

Last season we actually improved, and scored eight out of fourteen penalty kicks, a figure that was indelibly tarnished once Alan Judge took over the job late in the season and missed three out of his four efforts.

Confusingly enough what also has to be taken into consideration is our perfect record of six out of six successes in the promotion playoffs and shootout in 2013 – where we excelled in high pressure situations.

Go figure!

There really is no rational explanation.

JudgeWhat also is interesting is just how many penalty kicks we have been awarded since Uwe Rosler and Mark Warburton have taken charge at the club.

Forty penalty kicks coming our way in the past three seasons just highlights how attacking we are and the success we have in getting quick players to run at the opposition in their penalty area.

Some of the individual penalty records of our players also merit comment.

Kevin O’Connor has scored nineteen times in twenty-four attempts and has taken more penalties than any other Brentford player since 1970.

Pretty decent but still only a 79% success rate.

Stephen Hunt was very reliable and but for a great save from Kuipers would have notched an almost unprecedented hat trick of penalties against Brighton and in total scored twelve out of fifteen.

Steve Phillips started well but incredibly missed his last four kicks yet somehow managed to keep hold of the job until he left the club.

Paul Evans too only missed once and memorably scored an arrogant dinked “Panenka” kick against Oldham back in 2001.

Stan Bowles had the most casual approach, swaggering up to the spot, before dummying the keeper as well as the crowd behind the goal with nonchalant ease and rolling the ball into the corner.

I never worried when Stan took the kicks and what amazes me is that he actually missed one of his twelve kicks.

forshawClass, total class.

Back in the 70s Terry Johnson was a perfect seven out of seven and Roger Cross never missed either.

Bobby Ross, my first Brentford hero won us promotion in 1972 with a perfect penalty kick against Exeter.

I remember Bill Dodgin going ballistic on the touchline when Andy McCulloch was invited by his team mates to notch his hat trick with a late penalty kick against Tranmere.

Hubris triumphed as the keeper smothered his weak effort.

I remember Peter Gelson blasting a vital last minute spot kick against Aldershot into Brook Road and Steve Butler almost hitting the corner flag against Chesterfield.

Horrid, horrid memories!

How about Andy Sinton who was entrusted with a last minute penalty kick on his Brentford debut against Bury and showed nerves of steel by slotting in the winning goal?

In more recent times Adam Forshaw scored five out of six last season by varying his approach yet he always looked like missing his second attempt at Peterborough where it was patently obvious to all observers that he had no plan for how to take a second kick in the same game.

Clayton Donaldson started with a successful kick at Preston before his crucial miss at Stevenage.

He also totally failed to hit the target with his last two gruesome efforts at Scunthorpe and Crawley where his pathetic first minute attempt that skewed wide of Paul Jones’s post earned me an immediate red card from our living room as my barrage of choice epithets was not well received by my wife or, indeed, the dog.

One of them growled menacingly at me, and – no – it wasn’t the dog.

Some missed penalties have a knock-on effect on the player’s career.

Who can say how Will Grigg’s season would have gone if he had managed to mark his home debut with a hat trick against Sheffield United – maybe he would have scored twenty goals and would now be looking forward to starting a new season in the Championship at Griffin Park instead of slumming it at the Moo Camp?

What about Paul Hayes?

Would he have gained some much needed confidence had he scored that penalty he missed against Yeovil soon after he came on as a substitute on his debut?

Maybe he too would have gone on to justify Uwe Rosler’s faith in him?

griggThe margin between success and failure in football is so narrow.

In these cases no wider than the length of a goalkeeper’s arm.

Sam Saunders too, for all his dead ball prowess, obviously finds it easier to score from twenty-five yards out rather than twelve as his meagre 40% penalty kick success rate indicates.

His costly miss at Sheffield United in 2013 also seems to have slipped under the radar and escaped censure given the euphoria after our last minute equaliser.

I really do not know whether the best approach is the side foot, as exemplified by Bowles, or the Martin Grainger thunderbolt.

Both were pretty much equally successful.

As for why our recent record is so poor, heaven only knows as players like Trotta, Saunders, Forrester and Judge are all excellent strikers of a ball – sorry Clayton, but anyone on the Ealing Road terrace who was forced to spend much of the prematch shooting practice ducking Clayton’s misdirected slices as they screamed into the crowd would agree that he wasn’t the cleanest striker of  a football.

Maybe there is such a feeling of confidence that we believe that we are bound to score goals anyway and needn’t pay too much attention to penalty kicks?

Perhaps with forty such awards in the past three seasons there is a subconscious feeling that if we miss one there is bound to be another one coming our way fairly shortly?

Your guess is as good as mine.

I don’t want to hex the current Adam Forshaw saga but it would appear likely that we will be looking for a new penalty taker next season.

Allan McCormack and Andre Gray have both scored from the spot, as, more memorably, did Harlee Dean and Tony Craig in the Swindon Shootout.

Kevin O’Connor, I fear, is unlikely to figure enough in the first team to merit consideration.

Jonathan Douglas followed Leo Roget’s example by hitting his effort at Barnet into the stratosphere so is unlikely to figure high on Mark Warburton’s list.

My money is currently on Alex Pritchard unless we bring in a new striker who qualifies.

I predict that the number of penalty kicks we receive next season with be less than half that of last year, but given that I am sure that every goal will count next season, we will score a far higher proportion of them.

Let’s hope that this is not a jinx!

In passing many, many thanks to my friend and fellow Bees author, Mark Croxford for providing all the facts that I have mangled in this article!

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Can We Take Any More Excitement? – 10/7/14

SergioSomewhere in the dark recesses of Youtube I am sure you can find some long-forgotten blurred and faded black and white footage of a Watney Cup tie forty-four years ago between Hull City and Manchester United.

That game in a short-lived preseason tournament, heralded the first ever penalty shoot-out in a professional match in England.

The first player to take a kick was George Best, and the first to miss was Denis Law.

Ian McKechnie, the rotund Hull goalkeeper who Brentford fans still have clear memories of from THAT Cup tie in 1971, saved Law’s kick, and was also the first goalkeeper to take a kick; but his shot hit the crossbar and deflected over, putting Hull City out of the Cup.

The penalty shootout has become recognised as perhaps the best, the fairest, the most heartbreaking and certainly the most exciting way to settle a drawn Cup tie and last night was no exception.

As always there was a hero and a goat.

Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero was the match winner plunging to make two decisive saves whilst Holland’s hapless Jasper Cillesen was unable to break his duck as four penalties whizzed past him. two of which looked eminently saveable.

As for Tim Krul, who had thwarted Costa Rica so effectively if controversially in the last round, he remained helpless on the bench as Louis van Gaal was unable to produce another rabbit from his hat, having already used all three of his substitutes.

Poetic justice perhaps as Krul’s gamesmanship in the previous shootout, aided and abetted by a weak referee had stuck in the craw of all but the most rabid Dutch fan.

Anyone wishing to understand more about the subject is recommended to read Ben Lyttleton’s new book “Twelve Yards”, a groundbreaking and fascinating exploration and explanation of the art, psychology, history and culture of the penalty kick – and how not to miss them.

Given that last night’s was the fourth match of the 2014 World Cup to be settled by a shootout then perhaps you feel that some of the teams could have done with an early sight of Ben’s book!

Brentford fans are no strangers to the horrors and delights of the penalty shootout and whilst it has been unpleasant, if perhaps cathartic, to dredge up some of the memories, there have also been some triumphs.

Perhaps the most painful shootout was in 1995 when a Brentford team finished second in the Second Division in the only season which saw only one automatic promotion place owing to Premier League restructuring – it’s Brentford Innit!

We should have won comfortably in the Playoff Semifinal at Huddersfield where Bob Taylor’s open goal miss still rankles and amazes and the referee missed Andy Booth’s climb all over Kevin Dearden for their equaliser at Griffin Park.

Penalties it was and Denny Mundee, who ironically had scored two penalties against Huddersfield in the League that season, managed to outguess himself and missed.

Argentina’s Ezequiel Garay showed how a centre half should take a penalty last night, driving an Exocet of a shot into the roof of the net, straight down the middle but unfortunately Jamie Bates did not follow his example and his weak effort was easily saved by Steve Francis and the Bees had lost.

I can still hear the eerie quiet that descended like a blanket of fog around Griffin Park as we filed out after the match struck dumb by shock and disbelief.

Richard Lee had a wonderful penalty shootout record for the club back in 2010/11.

He needed something to go right as his start at his new club had not gone well and he was out of favour with manager Andy Scott. A succession of loan keepers came in but Lee played in the Cup ties and his overall performance and then penalty save in the shootout from Jermaine Beckford won Brentford the tie against Eveton.

Better was to come in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy as he masterminded an unprecedented three successive penalty shootout victories against Leyton Orient, Swindon and then Charlton, when touched by genius, Lee saved three successive spot kicks, a feat only previously achieved by Graham Benstead against Wrexham in 1991.

Richard’s account of how he prepared and psyched himself up for these shootouts richard leemakes for fascinating reading and I can highly recommend his book “Graduation” to all budding goalkeepers.

Brentford’s last penalty shootout remains fresh in the memory as victory over Swindon in the dreaded Playoffs was secured after five perfect penalties from Sam Saunders, Paul Hayes (yes, Paul Hayes!), Harlee Dean, an emphatic thump from skipper Tony Craig followed by a wild-eyed celebration and Adam Forshaw’s cool coup de grace.

Simon Moore too played a match winning role by saving Swindon’s fourth effort and the side taking their penalties second won the day, a feat only achieved in 40% of all penalty shootouts.

Love them or hate them penalty shootouts are here to stay but penalty kicks have proved to be Brentford’s nemesis on so many occasions recently and I am sure that we will return to this subject as soon as I can face it!