The whole of last week and let’s face it, the week or two before it have been hugely frustrating for all connected to our beloved Brentford FC. Not to labour the point but we had player injuries, player sales, players being linked to other clubs, pitch gate, poor performances and supporter unrest. So going into an away game against a newly promoted and dangerous Bristol City, you could have been forgiven for thinking that it all pointed to a disastrous defeat.
After just two minutes into the game we were all reaching for the Prozac as we fell behind to not just another goal but as a result of being worryingly thrown aside in the middle of the park. The new city forward Kadjia rifling his shot past Button to the rapturous applause of the Bristol City faithful.
Cue meltdown? Surprisingly not. Whilst not at our best, the Bees bounced back thanks in no small part to a howler from Ben Hamer. This wasn’t a dropped catch or a shot through his legs that he inadvertently fumbled but if you are a Bristol City fan you could be forgiven for thinking that Benjamin had done his best to help his old team out. Gray’s rather tame effort being parried into the path of Alan Judge meant we could level things up with ease.
Rather than spark a Brentford onslaught however, Brizzle came back with a flurry of chances. Steve Cotterill said in his post match presser that his team should have been 5-1 up. It’s probably the only accurate thing he said all day, but more on that in a moment. We really weren’t at the races and when they went and scored from a corner. I must admit that I feared for us for a short time. We appeared to get overrun far too easily and just as against Ipswich we failed to get a foothold in midfield and could not retain any meaningful possession.
They say there are turning points in any season and whilst we may only be two games in, I believe the following red card could just be it. I shan’t refer to the tackle from Freeman as a tackle from here on in, but shall be forever known as “the assault” the babbling buffoon that is Steve Cotterill believed that not only was it not a red card purely because Freeman was not looking at Dean when he assaulted him but that Harlee didn’t need to put his head there. Harlee, how utterly ridiculous of you to attempt to head a ball that is six foot off the floor when you need to defend your goal. Why on earth didn’t you perform some form of gymnastic act and equal Freemans impressive reach with his leg and kick it away. Silly boy!
There is no doubt though that the red card changed the game. Brentford took the game to City and found their form. There can be no doubt that they were in control before the card but you can only beat what is in front of you and they can count themselves lucky that they were not reduced to nine men after an elbow on Tarkowski has left him looking a bit like the elephant man. When the chips are down however, all you can ask is that your big players step up. We had received a boost in the red card but we were losing and it had been a hell of a week. The players could have gone into their shells and would it have been a surprise had we played out a frustrating 60 minutes and lost the game?
The likes of Alan Judge, Harlee Dean, Toums and Andre Gray showed fight and got us back into it. Dijkhuizen was quick to deflect the blame for Tuesday’s debacle away from his players but should in my mind at least, take some credit for this win. After Alan Judge had whipped in a cross that was deflected in via a Bristol City defender, the Bees were on top and after that were never really tested.
After Gray had powerfully put us into the lead, Dijkhuizen was not content and brought on Lasse Vibe to bolster the attack. Hoffman then showed what a good player he is when his turn and shot fired us into a two goal lead.
Yes, you could say we were fortunate to catch a break when we were 2-1 down but I would argue that the job was far from done when that happened. Dijkhuizen didn’t settle with going in front and pushed for me. It was a positive result after a rough week.
But yet again we are struck down with another injury. Dijkhuizen revealed after the game that Jota will be sidelined for 3-4 months with an ankle injury sustained against Ipswich. That is quite surprising as he had said in the pre match press conference that he did not know if he would play, it gave an indication that it wasn’t too serious. Our injury list now reads like a starting line up. Bjelland out for ten months, JT out with a broken nose for hopefully not too long, Macloed out until someone can find him and discover just what an earth is going on, McHechran out for 3 months, Tebar, a player that fans are yet to fully believe in but nevertheless apparently determined to show his worth to the team, out for a month, Hogan out for ten months, Jota 3-4 months. Throw into the mix that Andre Gray’s future is far from certain and it leaves us alarmingly thin on the ground.
This is all why I would ask any supporter having doubts about Dijkhuizen and his ability to achieve better than last year, to reflect on the hand he has been dealt. Having been at the club for a matter of a few months in total he has seen three of his first choice players out with long term injuries, two more he is yet to even see play out for the foreseeable future, one fringe player injured, his first choice right back sold, his leader from last season discarded (who knows if that was down to MD or not?) and his star striker unsettled ahead of a proposed move away. He has also been given the task of continuing on the impressive standard of football from last year whilst being given a sandpit to play on.
The pitch has been spoken about in so much detail recently that it seems pointless going over it again but needless to say it cant have been easy for the Head Coach to bed in a group of players and get your philosophy across when your first team surface is appalling and you cant even use two of your show pitches at the training ground. It must all seem rather amateurish.
The club has been dealt some huge blows recently with Bjelland, Jota, McHechran etc but the players and Head Coach have shown in the two league games this season that there is still more than enough spirit within the group. The right back position has been bolstered, we may need to bring in a centre midfield or two but come Christmas you would hope that we would be somewhere near full strength and a huge plus point for me has been Alan McCormack. He has come back into the side and shown he can do an effective job. It would be unfair to say that Kershbaumer has been poor in the two games but he is taking time to adjust. He looks good on the ball but not necessarily robust enough off it. Macca may just be the answer in the short term at least. If he was to go next to toums, deep in the midfield you can nullify his lack of pace whilst giving the team some real manace. Kershbaumer would be good coming off the bench and we would have the steel we have been missing. It’s great to see him getting games at the moment and he clearly has a point to prove.
It is most certainly testing times but this squad may have just hit the turning point, and coming so early in the season that is a real plus. Keep hold of Gray and add a player or two on loan and I might even just crack a smile.
Up the bees!
The BIAS blog is the space to challenge perceived wisdom, entertain readers and inform our members. The views expressed are those of the author and they don’t necessarily represent BIAS policy and (pay attention journalists) shouldn’t be attributed to BIAS.