BRENTFORD 0 BIRMINGHAM CITY 1

Bill Hagerty feels glum as Brum withstand a Bees’ battering to hang on and win the last season opener to be played at Griffin Park.

 

Things can only get better – and hopefully soon. Memories of last year, when a 5-1 hiding of Rotherham in the first game was followed by a flurry of point-grabbing performances that saw Dean Smith’s team briefly top the division, faded fast as Birmingham snatched an unlikely victory from the jaws of humiliation. We wuz robbed? Well, yes and no.

Examining the stats, it is difficult to comprehend how the home side could have emerged from the fray unrewarded: 76 per cent possession, more corners won and 15 shots to just one indicate that Brentford should have had the points gift-wrapped and been on their way home in time for tea.  

It is of course the unconverted goal-scoring opportunities that tell the full story. Birmingham’s solitary effort after 18 minutes – a pin-point accurate looping cross from Steve Seddon headed in like a rocket by marauding defender Kristian Pedersen – stood out like a diamond in a sack-full of paste jewellery. 

And, having surprised the visitors just as much as it did Bees’ players and supporters, it enabled Birmingham to hang a ‘closed’ sign in their window and concentrate on ensuring the opposition didn’t get in.  

With Neal Maupay absent pending his likely departure and Said Benrahma apparently nursing an injury, this was a new-look Brentford that from the start displayed remarkable cohesion considering that most barely had time to shake hands with one another since arriving at the club.   

Pontus Jansson has rapidly established his authority as captain and along with Ethan Pinnock brings welcome height as well as muscle to the heart of the defence. Matthias Jensen appears the real deal in midfield and for much of the first half Ollie Watkins, a lone ranger up front, looked threatening – only a deflection on to keeper Lee Camp’s crossbar prevented his fierce finish putting the Bees in front.

Josh Dasilva, not wholly successful in auditioning for the role of Romaine Sawyers’ successor, sent a long shot wide and then it was Emiliano Marcondes’ turn to put the crossbar under stress, smacking the ball with considerable vigour when a Maupay-like simple side-foot would have done nicely, thank you very much.

The supercharged atmosphere, affected only minimally by the choir at the Ealing Road end obviously being in need of practice, was boosted by visitors’ crossbar and posts coming under further duress and Sergi Canos more than once bringing the best out of Camp. Henrik Dalsgaard was a constant threat, too, commanding in the air and as a wing-back giving the opposing defence the jitters.

But with five visiting defenders strung out across the pitch to form a wall so forbidding that Donald Trump could dismantle and ship it to the Mexican border, home hopes began to morph into broken dreams. Legs tired from attempting to penetrate it saw Marcus Forss replace Marcondes to add thrust to the attack, but an increasingly frantic Brentford still fell short.

It was, said head coach Thomas Frank, ‘quite frustrating’, a considerable understatement for the faithful even if some of the recent arrivals deserved full marks and, with other new faces yet to be blended in, promised much for the months leading up to the emotional peak of departure from this creaky, memories-packed old ground.

Not the start we all wished for,’ I observed to my mate Charlie. That’s the first time since 1992 that the Bees have been beaten at home in the opening game of the season.’

‘But we won the second,’ said Charlie.

Brentford: Raya, Jeanvier (sub Zamburek), Jansson, Pinnock, Dalsgaard, Dasilva, Jensen, Henry, Canos, Watkins, Marcondes (Forss).

Birmingham City: Camp, Colin, Dean, Roberts, Pedersen, Seddon (sub Harding), Maghoma (Mrabti), Gardner, Davis, Crowley (Sunjic), Jutkiewicz.