The past five days saw Brentford face two very different opponents. The first: a promotion rival, whose outstanding team have seen them reign top of the championship for most of the season, until recent weeks where they have slipped outside the automatic places. The second: a team at the foot of the table, struggling and facing relegation to league one.
The last time we had faced these two sides was all the way back in August. Seems so long ago doesn’t it? Summer skies, short shorts and sunglasses. In contrast, now we all snuffle into our seats praying the next 90 minutes won’t see us catch pneumonia. These two games proved to heat up the week, giving us reassurance that Brentford’s season was far from over.
After Warburton’s departure was confirmed, it was followed by more misery as we faced a gruelling last minute loss to Watford at home and a 3-0 defeat to Charlton. This led to headlines of uncertainty for the rest of Brentford’s season, and also saw us fall out of the play off zone for the first time in months. It was not a good time to be a Brentford fan.
With positive minds, we put our thoughts to Saturday’s game against Bournemouth. A side who had drawn their last two matches and were being over taken by their rivals Derby and Middlesborough. We looked to get back to winning ways, and most importantly, prove that we were not going to be deflated by the reality that Mark Warburton would be leaving us in the summer.
The first half showcased the real quality of both teams, with both using counter attacks to their advantage and the first 5 minutes ticking away slowly in what felt like forever. On 9 minutes, Irishman Jonathon Douglas shot past the Bournemouth keeper to put the bees in front, even sweeter for us as he had just signed a one year contract with the Bees. Victory did not last forever though and with Bournemouth constantly at us, they equalised on 22 minutes. With the intensity growing, the Bournemouth players seemed overly frustrated and began to try their way with cheating. Lucky for us, the referee was not fooled by these playground shenanigans. Two of the oppositions players received yellow cards for diving which was appalling – a team considered to be so brilliant were trying to cheat in order to make things go their way. Poor Eddie Howe’s tactics didn’t seem to go in his favour this time.
On the cusp of half time, little Alex Pritchard slotted home a goal to put the Bees back in front. As the second half whistle went, I thought to myself, do not let them get to you Brentford, do not sit back, hang in there Bees. Hang in there? I didn’t need to think this for a minute. Our defence worked superbly in the second 45 minutes, with the Tarkowski and Craig combination keeping Bournemouth away and David Button pulling off some fantastic saves when he needed to. But the ball seemed to stay down the other end, and we missed chance after chance (the usual story), with Jota hitting the cross bar and Gray unable to see his finishing through. Even in the dying minutes, the threat Bournemouth posed was still aware, although the final goal of the game settled the score line. On-loan Everton striker Chris Long, who had worked at the opponents defence long enough, finally shot past their keeper to secure the three deserved points to Brentford and make his first goal for the club. This was just the beginning of a better week for us, and if we thought this was an amazing performance, we were in for an even more thrilling mid-week match.
Moving on swiftly to Tuesday night, the buzz was still flowing at Griffin Park, as we welcomed bottom of the table Blackpool. That morning I had read an article based on Matthew Benham’s planned model, which was the reason why Warburton wasn’t to stay next season, and it really opened my eyes. Benham is not a stupid man. Yes, he is a gambler, but everyone takes risks don’t they? If you don’t take risks, you won’t have change, and without change, things can get rusty. That isn’t to say I agree with Warburton leaving, he is a fantastic man and should be extremely proud of the job he has done at Brentford, and will never be forgotten. Benham and Warbs share different philosophies. Benham has plan for a modal that involves a continental structure and mathematical approach – don’t ask me to explain what this actually is though. A club Benham has invested in, FC Midtjylland in Denmark, are using this model and it is found to be working. In fact, it is better than working, it has helped them achieve more than they could ever imagine. I am now starting to believe that change is good. Of course we as fans are going to be hostile at first to a change when we think change is not needed, but when we have a smart owner like Benham, there is nothing to fear.
The cold Tuesday night games will be over soon, and as always you can never be complacent about how you will perform against a struggling club like Blackpool. My mum kept saying how she thought it would be a “banana skin” but that’s just the negativity of someone who has supported the club over 30 years. In fact, it was far from a banana skin. It was as if we had seen the banana, purposely slipped on it, launched ourselves upwards instead of down, and kicked Lee Clark and his men in the face.
Let’s keep this as brief and nice as we can. Blackpool were dismal, clueless and stomped all over. We were dominant, exciting and outstanding. No matter how many people want to comment that it was “only Blackpool” or that they were “down to 10 men”, this doesn’t stop me bragging about the fact we took the mick out of them. And for all those who want to bring these points up, all I have to say is we now hold the most shots made, out of the top two tiers this season. Yes we made more shots than Manchester City. 42 shots to be precise. And I am delighted – Toral lit up the ground with his hatrick and played absolutely brilliant. Alex Pritchard owned the pitch, as he galloped through the Blackpool defence and set up chances for pretty much our whole squad. Overall, I thought it was an excellent team performance as a whole and the 42 shots provide clear indication that the Bees are a force to be reckoned with.
I must say I do admire the Blackpool fans that did travel down to see their team get walked all over – not to mention the injuries they received and the awful tackle by Dunne that saw him sent off.
After 2 fantastic wins, I can honestly say I cannot wait for Brentford to continue their journey through the Championship, even if they do drive me insane sometimes. The wins reflect our fighting spirit as a club and that nothing can bring us down; it is clear that Brentford are back and they’re hungrier than ever to get back into their play-off spot, where they belong. Do not underestimate us. If someone told me when we got promoted last season that we would currently be sat 7th in the Championship, I wouldn’t believe you. Now I better believe it.