Brentford contributor Jim Levack feels that – despite playing some great football in parts over this season – the Bees’ soft underbelly will be the one factor that will hold them back from achieving bigger and better things.
It’s quite rare that I feel much sympathy for football managers, but when my colleague Tom Moore pressed Dean Smith on his side’s inability to hold a lead I have to admit I winced a little.
Dean was clearly not happy with the questioning from the GetWestLondon man, who asked his views on the fact that Brentford had effectively gifted sides 16 points from winning positions as of post-Burton (18 points to date) already this campaign.
He sidestepped the line of questioning with the kind of decisiveness he showed as a player, but secretly – and especially after the QPR debacle – he must be questioning his side’s mental strength.
Let’s not beat around the Bush – yes I can still find room for some humour – the final two minutes of Tuesday night were an embarrassment. But let’s be realistic also… there had been a couple of warning signs earlier in the game, especially after the introduction of the big lump up front.
Back at the start off the season I predicted a second place finish for Brentford so do feel a degree of vindication that my forecast would be pretty much bang on but for the defensive frailty that seems to haunt us whenever the chips are down.
Whatever happens I think we’ve shown enough this season to indicate that we won’t be dragged into a dogfight near the foot of the division – in itself an incredible achievement given where we’ve come from – but being brittle at the back is a recurring worry.
It was ironic that prior to the Rangers game I’d been critical of Neil Warnock’s Cardiff on social media. They’re a side hewn in his own horrible image, time wasting from the 20th minute or the second they get their noses in front and able to make the nasty decision when and where it matters on the pitch.
I hate the way they play the game and sincerely hope they’re not challenging in May, but Im happy to contradict myself here and say I wish we had just a pinch of their cynicism. We’re a young side granted, but we do have two international centre backs who should know what to do at the death.
I can’t imagine a side with a genuine leader at the back gift wrapping two sloppy goals like we did to Rangers. Frankly the defending was amateurish and we got what we deserved.
The argument that it’s down to Dean Smith is nonsense too. He made the right changes, bringing on Sawyers for a blowing Canos and Maupay to hold the ball up, even if the latter went by the wayside as we failed to find the right ‘out’ ball. Bottom line is players have to take responsibility and some went missing or simply panicked when it mattered.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a massive fan of the way we play the game and am an ambassador for the now finely tuned system that supports it, but I’ve always had a sneaking feeling that there’s a bit of a blind spot when it comes to having someone ‘a bit naughty’ in the side – someone who plays with a snarl – to put the dark arts into practice when necessary.
I once said as much to Dean and he looked at me as if I’d just dropped in from Saturn. It’s clearly not a route the club wants to go down and that’s fine as long as we accept that there will be more draws and defeats from winning positions.
The argument that refereeing decisions cost us at Loftus Road is a bit of a red herring. Referees at this level are appalling, have clearly never played the game, don’t want help from their erroneously named assistants and are supremely arrogant – that is something we should now expect as par for the course and deal with it accordingly.
If the ball had been played up to Maupay who then took it to the corner – something else I’m not a huge fan of – we’d be celebrating another memorable derby win and a 10th place slot today.
As so often happens, the best bits of the football analysis come at the end, and former Brentford striker Tommy Smith summed it up perfectly when he said the Bees have a “soft underbelly”. At this level there’s no room for that. Lose concentration and you get punished.
Brentford’s players are, from what I’ve seen, by and large all good, decent human beings who will learn from the pain of Tuesday night, and that is to be applauded. But when it comes to getting into the top six, there needs to be more steel, whether that’s from the outside or the result of a steep learning curve.
What better way to show how much we’ve learned in such a short space of time than with the visit of another old friend – Fulham – on Saturday.
A win then and the result from Monday, which left me with the same night horrors I suffered after that Doncaster game, will be seen as a point gained
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