Regular Beesotted contributor Jim Levack looks back at a frustrating game of two halves against Derby County.
I was always taught to avoid clichés ‘like the plague’, but there are times when they’re simply the only phrases that sum things up.
‘Jekyll and Hyde performance’ is the perfect description of Brentford’s baffling tale of two halves.
If the first showed us edging back to our imperious best with near total control of a limited Derby side, the second was a staggering role reversal.
To the extent that it looked like a different side had taken the field after the break with the almost inevitable outcome of a late equaliser that looked increasingly on the cards with each slowly passing minute.
Derby switched it up with three changes at half time to win almost every second ball in midfield, and the Bees had no response.
Was it extra energy, greater numbers in key turnover areas or exploiting weaknesses of players out of position or short on match fitness? Or complacency, a touch of misplaced arrogance after such a dominant opening?
Little sticking up top, poor ball retention in the middle, unforced errors and second touches that were often tackles – compare that to the sweeping, one-touch swagger of the first 45.
The internet was almost instantly awash with theories about where it went wrong. That’s fine. Football is all about opinion and everyone’s is welcome… as long as it isn’t personal.
Mine, for what it’s worth, is that the sticking plaster of Mads Bech at left back is an issue. Great player getting better with every game, but let’s be honest he’s a centre back forced to do his best because we have no left back.
Also at 2-0 up and seemingly cruising, Wayne Rooney’s ploy seemed obvious unless I missed something watching on the telly. Take control of the middle, keep the ball and pile wave after wave of pressure onto a Brentford defence that appeared unable to play through so went aimlessly long.
Ivan Toney cut an isolated figure by the end but worked tirelessly along with close challenger for Player of the Season, Vitaly Janelt. But it was never going to be enough as we simply couldn’t regain a foothold in the game.
That in itself is a worry because let’s not kid ourselves, Derby are a very average side this season… and they’ve denied us four points.
All of that said though, what happens next depends on whether you’re glass half full or empty type of supporter.
Empty and we’re in the play offs, still not a bad outcome and one where we’ll be stronger mentally – hopefully – than last season. Josh Dasilva and Rico Henry will be back from injury for the final run-in too.
Full and you look at the green shoots of the first half at Pride Park when the Bees looked the closest to their calm, composed and confident best, a couple of glaring misses that would surely have wrapped things up, aside.
I’m a pessimist at heart but I think I’ll opt for the half-full approach because until the break it was the closest I’ve seen us to our very best this campaign.
Christian Norgaard and the skipper will get fitter, Ethan will return refreshed and with just 900 minutes of football give or take, it’s still very much all to play for.
There will be many more twists and turns with rivals facing off against each other and us, but if we repeat the first half show we put on in the Midlands, we have a great chance.
Right now, more than ever, it really is all about ‘taking each game as it comes’ – there’s another cliché for you.