STOKE CITY 1 BRENTFORD 1

Stewart Purvis sees the Bees dominate but pay the price for one mistake

As police motor-cycle escorts guided two double-decker buses full of Brentford supporters to Stoke station (they know how to treat visitors in the Potteries) the man in the next seat handed me his phone with a text  on it. 'The team to watch' was the message, apparently the judgment of a pundit on BBC Final Score. 

Who were we, proud Bees fans, to disagree but in truth it was a small consolation prize after the draw that should have been a win.We'd just watched our team outclass- no other word for it- a team of Stoke's premiership players, reinforced from other former Premiership clubs and with the return from loan of Bojan who once broke Messi's record as Barcelona's youngest player. No wonder they were the bookies' favourite for promotion but the noise on our bus and the one finger salutes from the Stoke fans we passed told who were the better team, and it wasn't the Potters.

The man on the bus thought Josh McEachran had been the man of the match until he was subbed on 55 minutes, but agreed there were plenty of other candidates among them goalscorer Ollie Watkins and Romaine Sawyers, today named as the captain for the day of the team that doesn't have a captain. So dominant were the midfield led by Sawyers in the first half hour that it was easy to forget that Ryan Woods, having been saved for the nation, wasn't in the starting line-up or even the bench. My busmate thought we hadn't missed him. Dean Smith said afterwards that Ryan's head was not yet 'in the right place'. Reflecting on the Woods-free midfield my own mind went back to an end of season lap of honour when Josh McEachran and Lewis Macleod, their seasons destroyed by injury, skulked at the back of  the procession. Lewis even wore a hat to hide his embarrasment at a wasted year. But just when I was rejoicing at their sheer artistry now on display in midfield, behind them something horrible happened on 28 minutes. I had it down as a 50-50 , half of the blame on Bentley for rushing out when he didn't need to and half to Mepham for not looking where he was heading the ball. Stoke's new striker Afobe could believe his luck and helped it over the line, 'scored against the run of play' doesn't quite capture the moment.

Captain Sawyers urged his defenders to get over it but Stoke inevitably took heart and there was almost a second when Bentley and Mepham nearly did it again. Then Konsa headed off the line, symbolic of an impressive display that, pardon the heresy, was better than his centre-back partner's. At the other end Maupay, for the second time, hesitated when through and when the trigger definitely needed pulling.

In the second half Brentford re-established their dominance with sub Benrahma showing he was tough enough to cope with the distinctively Stoke style of defending. The Bees were always more likely to score and after good link -up play with Maupay it was Watkins who placed it elegantly to the left of England World Cup squad goalie, Jack Butland. When Maupay tried the same a few minutes later Butland got a palm to what would have been a deserved winner.

On Friday Dean Smith had told Bees United that he expected our supporters to be 'vociferous' at the Bet365 Stadium and they certainly were, taunting the home fans with 'Where's your famous atmosphere!' All the noise, nearly all the action and most of the skill belonged to Brentford. No wonder that at the end, the 1,390 Bees fans gave a great ovation to 'Deano' and his men and the Head Coach punched the air in response as if to say 'here's to the next one (and let's make sure we win it)'. Then we got on the bus knowing that in the first Championship match in their new away kit 'the Jaffa Cake boys' had much the better of some very flat Staffordshire oatcakes.

Stoke:Butland,Bauer,Shawcross,Martuns Indi (sub Williams),Pieters,McClean,Fletcher (sub Crouch),Allen,Ince,Bojan (sub Etebo),Afobe.

Brentford:Bentley,Dalsgaard,Konsa,Mepham,Barbet,McEachran (sub Mokotjo),McLeod (sub Yennaris) Sawyers,Watkins,Maupay, Canos (sub Benrahma)

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BRENTFORD 5 ROTHERHAM 1

Bill Hagerty welcomes Bees storming to top the Championship table in first game of the new season

Brentford 5 Rotherham 1

England didn’t hang about winning in a spectacular finish on the third day of the first Test match against India, leaving plenty of time for a pint on the way to Griffin Park for Brentford’s season opener.

‘Trouble is,’ mused my mate Charlie, ‘how are Brentford going to compete with that for class and excitement and not leave us with that old anti-climatic feeling?’

Answer: they could and indeed did, dismantling their Yorkshire visitors with a performance that almost eradicated from memory last season’s dismal beginning – five defeats and two draws in a seven-match run. After all, that was then and now is now.

We had only a few minutes to wait, following Rotherham’s interesting and rather pretty double-starburst running exercise prior to kick-off, to get a hint of pleasures to come. Neal Maupay, buzzing in the box and endlessly irritating the opposing defence, like all good goal-poachers should, could probably see the whites of goalkeeper Marak Rodák’s eyes as he snapped up a loose ball.

And Rotherham were on the back feet, all 22 of them, from then on, with Romaine Sawyers hitting the bar and the Bees building on what would by the end be 70 per cent possession. Come the water break – rightly instigated in order to keep the players alive through 90 minutes of searing heat – we were enjoying, and Rotherham were on the wrong end of, some superb football.

Sergi Canos, doubtless relishing weather not dissimilar to that back home in Spain, was proving an especial pain to the visitors and scored a crackerjack goal in the fading minutes of the first half. Even bearing in mind Rotherham’s difficulty in adjusting to the demands of the Championship – a notch or two up from the standard of League One, from where they jumped last May – Brentford were looking good. No, better than that – why, everyone appeared willing to take a shot at goal, a tactic sometimes noticeably lacking in the recent past.

As if to emphasise the point, Ollie Watkins smacked a thunderbolt in off the underside of the crossbar soon after the visitors performed another but less spirited starburst exhibition before the start of the second half. And when Rodák couldn’t quite hold on to a Lewis Macleod shot, Maupay was there – of course he was – to put the ball away. Those sometimes vociferous fans who had dismissed Neal’s ability – although never his commitment – must have now been contemplating washing their mouths out with soap and water when they arrived home.

With Said Benrahma, Alan Judge and Kamohelo Mokotjo replacing Canos, Maupay and Watkins, the Bees lost a little fizz and towards the end and allowed Will Vaulks to put Rotherham on the scoresheet – ‘Disappointing,’ Dean Smith correctly observed later – but not before Macleod had racked-up Brentford’s total to five with a neat finish from just outside the box.

Not a bad afternoon’s work, I observed happily. ‘Top of the Division!’ said Charlie. ‘Ere we go, ‘ere we go. ere we go.’

And Charlie is not an easy man to please.

Brentford: Daniel Bentley, Henrik Dalsgaard, Ezri Konsa, Chris Mepham, Yoann Barnet, Lewis Macleod, Josh McEachran, Sergi Canos, Romaine Sawyers , Ollie Watkins, Neal Maupay.

Subs used: Alan Judge, Said Benrahma, Kamohelo Mokotjo.

*The EFL highlights TV show, now located on Quest – as indicated, it takes a while to find – presumably were unimpressed with the result, shoehorning in what seemed like 30 seconds of Griffin Park action towards the end of its Championship coverage. Poor judgment, even if any other match was half as thrilling, which none was. Discuss

BRENTFORD 1 WATFORD 2

Brentford 1  Watford 2 (pre-season friendly)

Bill Hagerty sees the Bees gift Watford two goals to give Premier League visitors a fortunate victory

 

The last pre-season friendly before the start of the new season was anything but, or so it seemed after half-an-hour when Romaine Sawyers and Watford’s Argentinian midfielder Roberto Pereyra engaged in a personal pushing and shoving contest – a decidedly unfriendly incident. Only to be expected when the Bees meet the Hornets, said my mate Charlie, and one that earned a stinging rebuke from referee Gavin Ward.

 

But this turned out to be the only unpleasantness in a lively, competitive game that Brentford – the better side for most of the 90 minutes – should have won. Sadly, a cluster of wasted chances and two embarrassing defensive errors saw the home side slide to a disappointing defeat. Now where have we heard that before?

 

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WYCOMBE WANDERERS 0 BRENTFORD 1

THE MORNING AFTER MATCH REPORT

 

Wycombe Wanderers 0  Brentford 1 (Pre-season friendly)

 

Bill Hagerty watches the Bees work hard but get scant reward against League One returnees Wycombe

 

With memories of a spectacular World Cup still fresh, a spectator’s return to domestic football promised to be no more exciting than the usual pre-season friendly. But, hey, this was a pre-season friendly that occasionally sparked into pre-season hostility. The home side, patently still celebrating their promotion, crackled with energy. Brentford, realising this was no stroll in Adams Park, responded in kind. 

 

Dean Smith’s eleven for the first half looked promising, with Luke Daniels – the lone survivor for 90 minutes – grabbing his chance to challenge Daniel Bentley between the posts, and new signing Ezri Konsa, an authoritative six-footer bringing welcome height to the defence.

 

The bench was uncommonly crowded, this being a substitute-friendly fixture, so much so that the sight of players jogging the touchline to the corner and back signified nothing except a probable shortage of seats. Ryan Woods, not listed on the team-sheet for unexplained reasons, remained an enthusiastic dugout spectator throughout.

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