Beesotted contributor Paul Harrison rounds up the key stories and talking points ahead of Brentford’s momentous final two league games.
WEST BROM DEFEAT SEES BRENTFORD FOUR POINTS FROM PREMIER LEAGUE
West Brom suffer a shock 2-1 defeat to relegation-threatened Huddersfield, leaving the door wide open for Brentford to sneak into the top two and achieve automatic promotion to the Premier League.
The result has also secured Leeds’ promotion, and all but secured Huddersfield’s survival.
Huddersfield took the lead within minutes of kick-off to send Brentford fans delirious. But West Brom pushed and pushed, nabbing an equaliser just before half-time – Dara O’Shea nodding home, albeit from an offside position.
West Brom were knocking on the door in search of a winner. But with just minutes left, against the odds, Emile Smith-Rowe snatched all three points for Huddersfield in the most dramatic of circumstances.
What does this mean for Brenford? Two wins from the Bees’ final two games will guarantee automatic promotion. All the Bees need to do is extend the winning streak from eight wins to ten.
Crucially, Smith-Rowe’s winner means that the Bees can get away with one win and one draw (4pts) in their final two games. Brentford’s vastly superior goal difference to West Brom would, in that scenario, bring Premier League football to West London.
Much easier said than done. There’s still a lot of work to do over the next few days, but … THANK YOU HUDDERSFIELD.
GOAL OF THE SEASON? pic.twitter.com/b5uary2Mdn
— Griffin Park Grapevine (@bfcgpg) July 17, 2020
BEES IN FINAL PUSH
The ball is in Brentford’s court. It’s in our hands.
One game at a time.
First up is Stoke on Saturday lunchtime (12.30pm KO, live on Sky Sports Football).
The Potters have responded well since last week’s 5-0 humiliation at Leeds, picking up four points in their last two games – a 2-0 win over Birmingham and a 1-1 draw at Bristol City – to all but mathematically secure another season in the second tier.
They have a host of players ruled out through injury – Sam Clucas and Nick Powell are the latest doubts after being subbed off in the week.
Ben Rowley from The YYY-Files joined the Beesotted podcast (below) to discuss the match and Stoke’s season so far. Ben talked at length about why the Potters have struggled to adapt to the Championship since relegation two years ago.
Under Nathan Jones’ stewardship Stoke got just 8 points in their first 15 games and were sat rock-bottom. However since Michael O’Neill took charge in November they have picked up 42 points in 29 games – the ex Northern Irish gaffer has steered them to safety and saved their season.
Potters fans are looking forward to a potential O’Neill rebuild this summer.
Brentford’s final game is against Barnsley on Wednesday night (7.30pm KO) – the final ever league match at Griffin Park.
Barnsley currently sit in 24th, rock bottom on 43 points and four points from safety. They host Nottingham Forest on Sunday afternoon, in desperate need of a win to keep them in the second tier.
But they may also be handed a lifeline – potential points deductions for Wigan and Sheffield Wednesday could bring safety closer than it currently is. The very muddled and confusing relegation situation was discussed in depth on the Beesotted podcast (above).
Barnsley ran Leeds close on Thursday evening, and were arguably unlucky to lose 1-0 – the Tykes had twelve attempts on goal compared to just three for Leeds.
All this suggests Brentford will still need to be on their A game to achieve automatic promotion.
LEEDS WIN PROMOTION
With West Brom losing, Leeds United’s promotion to the Premier League was confirmed – and their 16 year absence from the top flight came to an end.
Leeds are thoroughly deserving of their promotion having sat in the top two for almost the whole season. Marcelo Bielsa’s reign in the dugout has lifted the club and the city too. After the heartbreak of last season, going agonisingly close before stumbling over the line and losing to Derby in the play-offs, this feels like redemption.
In the club’s 100th anniversary year, in a year where many of their past legends have sadly passed away, in a bizarre season disrupted by a global pandemic – this felt like it had to be Leeds’ year. And it is.
Congratulations Leeds. The Premier League will be richer for your return.
Ironically they are away to Derby on Sunday – just a point from that game secures the title for Leeds.
THE PROMOTION PICTURE
West Brom’s final game is at home to QPR (Wednesday, 7.30pm KO). Brentford might still need their West London rivals to do them a favour if things start to go awry.
Looking elsewhere, the play-off picture is still a little unclear. Fulham can finish no lower than 4th, and it seems likely Nottingham Forest will secure 5th. Cardiff (67pts) are in pole position to come 6th, and will guarantee a play-off ticket with wins over Middlesbrough (Saturday, 3pm) and Hull (Wednesday, 7.30pm).
If the Bluebirds slip up though, Millwall (65pts) and Swansea (64pts) are the two teams poised to scrap for 6th.
Millwall are still to play QPR (Saturday, 3pm) and Huddersfield (Wednesday, 7.30pm).
Swansea have Bristol City (Saturday, 3pm) and Reading (Wednesday, 7.30pm).
What does this mean for Brentford? If the Bees stumble and fail to make the top two, it’s likely they will be facing the team finishing 6th in a play-off semi-final.
FANS ALLOWED BACK IN OCTOBER
The government are targeting October as the month for fans to return to stadiums.
Pilot projects are taking place at the end of July, including two county cricket matches. If these pilot projects have successful outcomes then an October return date should be confirmed.
For Brentford, this has put the final nail in the coffin for Bees fans to attend a competitive match at Griffin Park. And with only a matter of weeks left before developers take over the site, there is little chance of a farewell friendly taking place either.
The club want to give fans the chance to say goodbye to the iconic 116 year old stadium, and may do this in the form of a socially-distanced “open day”.
Brentford have sold close to 10,000 season tickets for the new stadium, so there will be logistical issues associated with opening the stadium up come October.
It is expected that fans will have to socially distance within stadiums – the capacity of the ground could shrink from 17,250 to a “COVID capacity” of around 8,000.
It is still unclear what this would mean for season ticket holders.
MADS BIDSTRUP SIGNS
Brentford have completed the signing of 19-year-old Danish midfielder Mads Bidstrup.
He joins on a pre-contract agreement after leaving RB Leipzig’s youth setup, and will link up with Brentford’s B team on August 1st.
🗣 “I’m absolutely thrilled.”
— Brentford FC (@BrentfordFC) July 17, 2020
Currently unconfirmed, but word on the street is that Brentford have had a £5m bid accepted by Peterborough for Ivan Toney.
The Posh striker was the runaway top scorer in League One this season, grabbing 24 goals even though Peterborough missed out on the play-offs.
Brentford have been in talks with 19-year-old Liverpool left back Yasser Larouci.
He is set to leave the current Premier League champions, having only played once this season in an FA Cup fixture.
Dru Yearwood is close to leaving Brentford, with a £1.5million deal nearly agreed between the Bees and MLS side New York Red Bulls.
20-year-old midfielder Yearwood joined from Southend last summer, but has only made five first-team appearances since then.