Blackburn arrive for Saturday’s televised lunchtime kick-off at Griffin Park as the Championship’s joint most in-form team.
Tony Mowbray’s side have picked up 14 points from their last seven games, with four victories and two draws, to move within three points of the play-off places.
And this is despite the loss of star man Bradley Dack to long-term injury before Christmas, and the subsequent absences of other key men Lewis Holtby and Joe Rothwell with shorter-term problems.
Blackburn have had a real up-and-down season – with two early pairs of wins followed by a six-game winless run, and then a sequence of five victories in the next six matches – including the 1-0 win over us.
Then from mid-December to mid-January, they endured another run of one win, four draws and two defeats before enjoying their recent good form.
Most of their away games have had a decisive result – they have only drawn two games on the road, winning six and losing eight.
They had little joy in the cups this season – going out in the second round of the Carabao Cup 2-1 at Sheffield United after a 3-2 win over Oldham – and then losing 2-1 at Birmingham in the FA Cup third round.
Blackburn fan Tom of Rovers Chat talks about Rovers on this week’s Beesotted podcast, which you can hear below:
Blackburn famously won the Premier League title in 1995 and they and Leicester are the only sides apart from the two Manchester clubs, Arsenal and Chelsea to have achieved that.
They were founder members of the Premier League and played in all but two of its first 20 seasons, until they were relegated for the second time in 2012.
They have been in the Championship almost ever since, finishing in the bottom half in four of their six seasons and being relegated in one of those – 2016/17.
However, they were promoted straight back 12 months later.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
Tony Mowbray is the second longest-serving manager in the Championship, behind Bristol City’s Lee Johnson, and 15th longest-serving in all four divisions, having replaced Owen Coyle at Blackburn in late February 2017.
When the former Middlesbrough, Celtic, West Brom and Hibernian boss arrived, Rovers were three points adrift of safety with 15 games remaining, but he produced an amazing upturn in form which ended up with them only being relegated on goal difference on the final day of the season.
He continued the revival the following season as he led Rovers to promotion from League One at the first attempt as runners-up to Wigan. Last year they finished in a comfortable 15th.
Tony has previously managed Ipswich, Hibs, West Brom, Celtic, Middlesbrough and Coventry.
As a player, he made more than 550 senior appearances as a centre-half for only three clubs – Middlesbrough, Celtic and Ipswich.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
Blackburn have had the better of us since our Championship meetings began – winning five of our nine games and holding us to a draw in another one.
After we did the double over them in our first season in the division in 2014/15 – winning 3-1 at Griffin Park and 3-2 at Ewood Park – things have mostly gone their way ever since.
The following campaign, we drew 1-1 in Lancashire when Tom Lawrence cancelled out Lasse Vibe’s opener before half-time, in a match in which Marco Djuricin suffered an injury which kept him out for two months.
Shane Duffy scored the only goal in the 86th minute to give Rovers a 1- 0 win when the teams met in TW8 the following March, even though Rovers played most of the second half with 10 men after the sending-off of Grant Hanley.
In 2016/17, Blackburn earned only their fourth win of the season, in their 17th game, when they beat us 3-2 at a snowy Ewood Park in November, in a match in which all five goals came in the first half.
Scott Hogan put us ahead in the opening minute but Danny Graham equalised 15 minutes later and then put Rovers ahead from the penalty spot moments later.
Hogan levelled for Brentford on the half hour mark but an own goal by Harlee Dean proved decisive.
They completed the double on the final day of the season in a match they had to win to have any chance of avoiding relegation. However, other results went against them and so their 3-1 win, earned with goals from Charlie Mulgrew, Danny Guthrie and a Craig Conway penalty, with Lasse Vibe replying, proved irrelevant. The Bees also had Harlee Dean sent off
Rovers continued their hold over us last season, as they inflicted our first defeat of the season with a 1-0 win at Ewood Park. Kasey Palmer scored the only goal early in the second half.
But we ended a five-match winless run against them last February with a 5-2 Griffin Park victory, having been 2-0 down after seven minutes.
Bradley Dack and Danny Graham seemed to have put Rovers in total command early on, but Said Benrahma quickly replied and then the Bees, shooting towards Brook Road in the second half, ran riot after the break.
An Ollie Watkins double, followed by goals from Neal Maupay and Sergi Canos, extended our unbeaten league run to seven games.
We suffered another Ewood Park defeat in our first meeting of the season on a Wednesday night in November, when an early goal from Bradley Dack was enough to give Rovers a 1-0 win and all three points.
Q – How would you assess Blackburn’s season – as expected, better than expected or worse than expected?
A – Rovers are having a season of ups and downs really. Home defeats by Luton and Charlton and blowing a two-goal lead at Preston have been a low point. Six wins out of eight leading up to Christmas a real high point as well as a 5-0 away win at Sheffield Wednesday.
They ended last season 15th, they’ll certainly be hoping for an improvement on that. I’d say it’s been as expected, but the players deserve a lot of credit for picking up results without several important players.
Q – What are Rovers’ chances of claiming a play-off place?
A – I think if you surveyed Championship football fans – not many would say Rovers would finish in the top six. That can work to their advantage though. I’d say it’s a tall order to break into the top six, but predicting this division is well beyond me.
Q – How are they coping with the loss of so many important players to injury like Bradley Dack, Lewis Holtby and Joe Rothwell?
A – Those three are a massive loss, as has been Corry Evans to a fractured skull and damaged eye sockets. The loss of Greg Cunningham to an ACL injury was also a huge blow. He’s up there with the best full-backs in the league. If they were to reach to the top six with arguably five first-choice players missing long term, it would be an incredible achievement.
Q – What business did Blackburn do in the January transfer window?
A – The only change to the squad has been club captain Charlie Mulgrew returning from a loan at Wigan. No ins or outs. It’s fair to say the manager and the board were all frustrated at the lack of activity.
Q – How good a job is Tony Mowbray doing at Ewood Park?
A – He’s managed Rovers longer than he’s managed any of his other former clubs. He’s a good fit with the club. He’s really keen to have another crack at managing in the Premier League. He’s got a big summer rebuild coming up with players out of contract and loanees going back to parent clubs.
Q – It’s Rovers’ last-ever visit to Griffin Park – what memories do you have of previous meetings in west London?
A – The visit that stands out is the one that resulted in a 3-1 victory but being relegated due to Birmingham and Forest both winning. I wasn’t at the match when Shane Duffy scored the winner but that was an iconic celebration. The less said the better about last season’s visit, being two up and …………losing considerably!
Q – What style of football should Brentford fans expect to see from Blackburn?
A – Mowbray has tried to adapt a less direct style this season. It’s still a work in progress really. They do try to play the ball out from the back as much as possible – but I wouldn’t say it’s quite the style that Brentford have.
Q – Which players should we watch out for?
A – Adam Armstrong. The player who has really taken the initiative since Dack went out of the side. He’s been playing centre-forward largely since the turn of the year and has been brilliant. He’s in the best form he’s produced in Rovers colours.
Ryan Nyambe is also in the form of his life.
Q – Finally, can you give me a possible Rovers starting line-up and formation?
A – Walton
Nyambe,Lenihan, Adarabioyo, Bell
Samuel, Buckley, Downing
BEESOTTED SCORE PREDICTIONS
Some of the Beesotted crew have given me their score predictions for Saturday’s game.
2-0 Bees. A tight, nervous first half, but the Bees up it in the second. Ali Mullaley
3-0 Bees. Although riding their luck a little, Mowbray and Blackburn have found ways to win without super Bradley Dack. That should come to an end on Saturday, as Watkins scores a hat-trick and Raya keeps a clean sheet against his old side. XG David Anderson
1-0 Bees. Raya the hero against his old team as the Bees splutter to a win. Pinnock’s set-piece again provides Brentford’s goal. Greville Waterman
PUBS IN BRENTFORD AND TRAVEL NEWS
With a 12.30pm kick-off, The Globe will be throwing open its doors at 9am, so you can have breakfast and a pre-match drink or two. Other pubs will also be opening early, but check before arriving there.
For Blackburn fans coming to Griffin Park for the final time, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming and away-fan-friendly (as it should be). As you are probably well aware, Brentford is well known for its four pubs – one on each corner of the ground. The Griffin is closest to the away end (like 30 secs walk) and is very popular with away fans – but also very, very busy. The New Inn is on the other side and is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal and the newly-opened and renamed The Brook pub – which has jumped on the craft beer bandwagon – are the other options.
Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) …. The Globe (Windmill Rd) & The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) are both incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs and about 1 min walk from each other …. frequented by ‘away fans in the know’.
The Plough (Northfields Ave) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields.
The ‘Northfields run’ makes a much better pub crawl route than South Ealing – getting off at Northfields station, turning left and stopping off at The Plough (2 min walk), The Lord Nelson (10 min walk from The Plough) & The Globe (1 min walk from The Nelson) en-route before ending up at The Griffin (8 min walk from The Globe) by the away turnstiles. There’s also a relatively new tiny microbrewery pub in Northfields called The Owl and The Pussycat (Northfields Ave) – right turn out of the station away from the ground as opposed to left.
If you decide to get off at South Ealing station, we’ve heard a few people pop into Roddy’s Bar. If you like your craft beer, another fairly new pub worth checking out is The Black Dog Beer House, formerly The Albany, on Albany Road, which is fairly busy before and after the match. There is a pub right by Brentford mainline station referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.
For real ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman (Ealing Road) can probably hold 15 of you at a push. The Brewery Tap (Catherine Wheel Road) is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super-adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit One Over the Ait (Kew Bridge Road) – a spacious boozer right next to Kew Bridge, and across from the site of the Bees’ new stadium at Lionel Road. This pub is situated on the location of the now-demolished Oxford & Cambridge pub where Brentford Football Club was founded in 1889. There is also The Express Tavern (Kew Bridge Road) – an ale pub with a retro feel. If you sit in the garden, you can see Brentford’s new stadium towering over you.
There are a load more pubs in the river in Kew if that takes your fancy – just take a walk down Strand On The Green. A quick Google search and you’ll find them all. There are many, many more too if you have a look around. Parking near the stadium is a no no but is pretty easy in the streets north of Griffin Park on the other side of the A4 Great West Rd via Ealing Road or Windmill Road. Make sure you look out for the parking signs which change from area to area.
Getting to Brentford from town – many fans get the tube to Waterloo (Northern, Jubilee lines) or Vauxhall (Victoria Line) then take the Overground train to Brentford.
The reality is the tube is easier and quicker (and cheaper). It’s 35 minutes to South Ealing or Northfields stations from King’s Cross or Euston (even less from Paddington) on the Piccadilly Line and then 15 minutes walk to Griffin Park from there (4 mins on the bus) – more if you take the Northfields to Brentford
If you’re feeling lazy you could take the E2 bus from outside Northfields station (turn LEFT outside the station) to either outside The Globe pub (3 stops – serves The Lord Nelson too) or Brentford FC (4 stops – 5 minutes).
If you get off at South Ealing, you can get the 65 from the bus stop across the road – right outside the station.
You can check out Transport for London’s guide to travel on the Tube and Overground.