Perception v Reality – 11/1/15

seI have just spent a fascinating  four minutes and forty-five seconds listening to the post match thoughts of Rotherham manager Steve Evans after Brentford’s hard fought and narrow one-nil victory yesterday. And very interesting they were too.

Perhaps it would be best if I simply note down what he said in an interview that took place very soon after the final whistle, admittedly at a time when emotions were still running high and there had not been a cooling off period or any time for any serious reflection or reasoned analysis of the game beyond the immediate evidence of his own eyes. We can then attempt to look at his comments more objectively and I will try and dispense with my innate Brentford supporting bias when I reflect on the truth or otherwise of his assertions.

1. Everyone in the ground knows that we should have been three-nil up at halftime.

Rotherham had the strong wind in the favour in the first half and we tried to play a high line and our offside trap let us down on several occasions.

Matt Derbyshire was mobile and lively for the visitors and timed his runs well to get in behind our defence, but he had one major drawback for a striker – a total inability to hit a barn door with his shots on goal. He looked nothing more than what he is, a striker totally bereft of confidence who has scored the grand total of one measly goal in the League Cup all season.

He dithered and let Button smother at his feet, allowed Tarkowski to dispossess him far too easily when in on goal, shot wastefully over and then passed to nobody when he had the opportunity of a close range shot from a tight angle.

Smallwood also broke the offside trap after a well-timed run, and had a wonderful chance but failed to put his foot through the ball when totally unmarked and directly in front of goal, and the ball dribbled through embarrassingly to a relieved Button. That was a lucky let off!

Several other long range efforts threatened the crowd behind the Ealing Road goal more than the Brentford keeper.

Brentford were second best for the first half an hour of the game, slow to react and lacking in energy, tempo and confidence. Their normal slick passing was conspicuous by its absence and they sorely missed the spark and vision of the injured Alan Judge.

That being so, from time to time our passing combinations and skill on the ball created holes in the Rotherham defence. Moses Odubajo, who mesmerised the visitors for the entire game, breezed past two defenders and his cross was met by Stuart Dallas whose header might have been goal bound but hit Jonathan Douglas and inched past the near post.

Alex Pritchard’s trickery and skill on the ball took him past a defender and gave him the space for a measured lob which went narrowly over the crossbar, and his late free kick whistled past the post with Adam Collin a mere spectator. Andre Gray did have the ball in the net from Jota’s pass but was just offside.

So on the balance of play Rotherham did create the better chances in the first half and Smallwood should have gobbled up his opportunity. A one-nil scoreline in their favour would not have flattered them but it was obvious as the half progressed that the Bees were growing into the match.

Veracity Verdict (out of five)3 as he loses two marks for exaggeration.

2. They got a fortuitous goal coming from the goalkeeper shanking a ball.

Firstly let’s give Steve Evans some credit as he admitted that it was a great strike by Stuart Dallas, and he is also correct in that David Button hit a hasty clearance under pressure which went low and hard straight to the feet of Jake Bidwell just over the halfway line. So, yes, the pass was fortuitous but let’s face it, Brentford had quite a lot to do to score from there and they did it extremely well.

Bidwell, Pritchard and Dallas exchanged slick passes down the touchline and the full back’s centre was met by Jota whose low volley was blocked by a defender straight to Dallas who had anticipated cleverly and made ground to the edge of the area, and his instant falling right footed volley from twenty yards was beautifully struck and far too good for Collin who managed to get a despairing hand to the shot which was perfectly placed into the corner of the net.

So I will give Evans a Veracity Verdict of 2 as Button’s clearance could have gone anywhere, but went straight to where Bidwell invariably positions himself as a potential target for his goalkeeper’s clearances. Rotherham then had several opportunities to defend against the goal but were outsmarted by our skill, movement, passing ability and the eventual lethal strike from Dallas who has now scored six goals this season in all competitions and deserves far more credit than he gets.

3. It was the save of the season for me. If he makes one like that then he would not be playing for Brentford would he?

Making allowances for his tangled and tortured English, the message is clear. Evans feels that his team was robbed of their just desserts by David Button’s fantastic late save from a close range Paul Green header that seemed bound for the roof of the net before the giant keeper arched backwards to tip the ball over.

It certainly was a wonderful reflex save and the ball seemed as though it had gone past him before he managed to stretch out a long right arm and turn the ball over the crossbar in less time than it takes to write this sentence.

But save of the season? Not for me as I think it was easily bettered by his miraculous tip over from Lee Novak of Birmingham, who had a free header at goal from almost under the cross bar.

Button has improved dramatically over the course of the season and we have almost got to the stage where we expect him to pull off seemingly impossible saves as a matter of course, so I will give a Veracity Verdict of 3.

4. They’ve had a bit of a football battering today. We’ve out-passed them and outplayed them and dominated the game for long spells.

Well, I would agree that we were tentative and immobile early on and Rotherham were sharper in the challenge and created the better chances in the first half, but it was a different tale after the break. After we scored, confidence flooded back and Brentford spurned many chances for a match clinching second goal. Andre Gray was put clean through and fired wastefully against the keeper’s knee before Jota, forced onto his right foot, amazingly spooned the rebound over the bar with the goal gaping. Douglas was denied a tap in by a brilliant Wooton clearance close to the goal line, Pritchard hit the post with a bobbling long range effort with the goalkeeper nowhere, and Douglas had a late effort cleared off the line.

Rotherham huffed and puffed but created very few clear chances and Brentford should have been well out of sight before Button’s late match winning heroics from Green’s header.

Perhaps we should simply let the match statistics speak for themselves:

Brentford had a massive 66% of the overall possession, although previous defeats have demonstrated that it is what you do with the ball rather than possession for its own sake that wins matches. Over the course of the ninety-five minutes duration of the match, Brentford played a total of 612 passes with an impressive 78% passing success rate compared with Rotherham’s 319 and 58% respectively. Brentford managed fifteen shots with five on target and Rotherham had seventeen with only four troubling Button.

Those figures illustrate quite clearly that Brentford more than edged proceedings – they dominated them, and after the tentative opening minutes of the game when Rotherham failed to make their chances count, the home team were well on top.

Veracity Verdict – 0

5. Look at the three players we have pulled from the wilderness, Adam Hammill, Danny Ward and Jack Barmby. They’d play in the Brentford team, everyone of them.

Would they indeed? Adam Hammill is an established Championship player who has had a spell in the Premier League at Wolves but has failed to settle anywhere, has a conviction for assault and at twenty-six is unlikely to get much better. No thanks.

Danny Ward is more intriguing as he is a highly talented left winger who has so far failed to show his true potential. He looked a world beater when on loan at Swindon five years ago and at twenty-four he could still possibly justify the near one million pound fee that he commanded from Huddersfield, but again, I would pass.

Jack Barmby is far more of an unknown quantity. The son of Nick, he obviously comes from wonderful football genes and earned a place at Manchester United before moving to Leicester City after a decent loan spell last season at Hartlepool. He looked clever on the ball and troubled us early on with his movement. Of the three, he would be the one I would possibly take given his youth and development potential, but I do not think he would be anywhere near our first team at present.

Veracity Verdict – 0

6. His movement caused carnage in the Brentford defence.

Amazingly enough Evans is referring  to Matt Derbyshire who I have commented on earlier in this article. It must be said that he did lead the line effectively and took up good positions, made good runs and get behind our back four on several occasions. But carnage? Come on Mr Evans! I would refer you to a dictionary which defines the word as “the slaughter of a great number of people.” Did I miss something yesterday or is Steve Evans simply engaging his mouth again before exercising his brain?

Veracity Verdict – 0

7. Brentford are a quality side and have spent £10million on transfers and we have outperformed and outplayed them for long spells.

I would refer you to the answer to question four above concerning the second part of that assertion, and as for the first. Words simply fail me. Transfer fees are notoriously hard to estimate as they are largely undisclosed nowadays, but I have had a quick stab on the pack of a fag pack and I have gone through the entire squad, not just this season’s signings, and also included Will Grigg. My figures are entirely based on guesswork and rumours in the press and on social media, and I have no idea how accurate they may be. I have come up with a figure of around £5.5 million for the entire squad, but that includes fees paid in previous years for the likes of Tony Craig, Will Grigg, James Tarkowski, Toumani Diagouraga, Jake Bidwell and David Button. Obviously there are loan fees, agents’, signing on and relocation fees to add on top but it is clear that the figure plucked out of the air by Evans yesterday is wildly exaggerated. Brentford have also brought in substantial sums from the sales of Adam Forshaw, Simon Moore and Harry Forrester which have greatly reduced our net outlay.

Perhaps if Steve Evans had concentrated more on quality rather than quantity and not embarked on a wild trolley-dash that has seen him bring in well over twenty players this season he would not be sounding so bitter and envious about Brentford’s recruitment policy.

Veracity Verdict – 0

Thank heaven for Mark Warburton, who invariably tells it as it is and does not attempt to embellish, obfuscate or exaggerate. Supporters are far brighter than many people give them credit for, and football managers cannot pull the wool over their eyes if they expect to retain their credibility. Honesty is always the best policy.