Brentford went to Stoke for the first time since 2001. That season, the two third tier teams were battling for promotion to the league now called The Championship.
Stoke beat Brentford at the end of that season at the playoff final in Cardiff. Brentford we’re subject to more years wallowing around in the lower leagues. Meanwhile Stoke found themselves hob-knobbing with the big boys – the likes of Chelsea and Man United and Arsenal – as the Premier League beckoned.
Roll on 17 years and the two teams meet again. Brentford now firmly established in The Championship after four top ten finishes. And Stoke newly relegated from the Premier League.
Stoke – red hot favourites for the title at the start of the season with the side managing to hold onto many of their Premier League stars like England goalkeeper Jack Butland. Striker Bojan Krcić. And midfielder Joe Allon.
On top if that, they added to the side in the summer with the likes of striker Benik Afobe and midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo
All on paper top quality.
However on Saturday, you would have mistaken the team in brown and orange from West London for being the ex-premier league team as they gave their Potteries rivals a footballing lesson for a large part of the game.
1400 Brentford fans certainly brought the noise from London – the atmosphere from the away end was top drawer. “Where’s your famous atmosphere” Bees fans sang to the Stoke fans who were a shadow of the crowd who sang “Delilah” in a cauldrenous Brittannia Stadium last time we visited.
The Ryan Woods transfer debacle saw the midfield maestro not even make the squad – Dean Smith opting to stick with the same 11 players who put Rotherham to the sword the previous weekend.
And the players started off where they left off last week. Slick passing football which had Stoke City very much on the back foot from the get-go. At points, the football Brentford were playing was quite simply breath-taking.
Sawyers was majestic. The ball coming back to him as it it was on elastic – ready for him to ping it for for another exquisite pass. His link up play at times with McEachran was quality.
Ollie Watkins has seemed to have matured over the summer – proving to be a constant thorn in the side in the Stoke defence. Stoke fans before the match – after watching the Rotherham highlights – said that our forwards would tear Shawcross to shreds. Watkins picked his pocket a few times – even threading one ball through to Maupay for a near-miss.
Meal Maupay was a his usual pain and really should have added to the two goals he scored last week against Rotherham.
So after dominating for such a long period, it was most frustrating was to allow Stoke into the game by gifting them a goal. A mix-up between Bentley and Mepham saw the ball passed over the top of the advancing keeper for Afobe to slot the ball into an empty net.
All the good work done in the first 30 minutes was suddenly undone. Brentford were on the back-foot to a Gary Rowett side. A position he loves to be in. Lock down the hatches time for Rowett and gang. For the first time in the game, Stoke had the upper edge.
To be fair, other than the cock-up, the Brentford defence looked solid. Bentley hardly had another save to make. Mepham and Konsa – 40 years between them – looked totally calm and collected in the middle of defence. Taking command during the Bees’ wobbly period, Konsa cleared the decks – heading off the line from Barbet had one of his best games at left back for a while – putting in tackles left, right and centre to leave the Stoke players reeling. Dalsgaard dovetailed between defence and attack to keep the Stoke players on their toes.
The second half saw the Bees maintain control of the game. Mokotjo on for the excellent McEachran – to add a bit of steel to the midfield – he played his part linking up well with Watkins and Maupay. Nico and Benrahma on for Canos and McLeod as Dean Smith looked to keep the energy high with his high-pressing visitors keeping the pressure on their opponents. They got their just desserts when Ollie Watkins scored a 25 yard goal after a well-worked move from the Bees to send the Bees fans into raptures.
As good as Brentford were for creating goalscoring opportunities though, it was the little individual errors that cost them overall. Misplaced passes. Shots that went just the wrong side of the post. They had the opportunity to finish Stoke off but they take the chance by the scruff of the neck. Something that the team needs to work on if we are going to really challenge for a Top six place. There is an argument to say that Jack Butland – as opposed to Tom Ince – was Stoke’s man-of-the-match. He pulled off at least two first class saves to keep the Bees at bay.
Stoke fans on the Beesotted Pride of West London post-match Podcast – recording in the pub after the game – were very forthright in their views on the match. He felt Bees fans should feel aggrieved that they didn’t take all three points from the match. They also felt that Stoke are going to have a long season ahead of them – especially if they presume that they’re going to smash #TeamsLikeBrentford every week.
Stoke manager Gary Rowett was realistic about the task he has ahead of him.
“It’s no good being a good player on paper, you’ve got to show it on the pitch.. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got to get down to that work very quickly and kind of stop feeling sorry for ourselves”.
Meanwhile Dean Smith was in no two minds who should have got the three points for the match.
“They gave us trouble just before half-time, but we were the better team second half and should have won the game. I felt we dominated the game at times. We scored a great equaliser and were then denied a stone-wall penalty for a foul on Ollie Watkins which left him with a nasty gash.
“Stoke have got a very talented squad and to come here and dominate the game says a lot about our squad.”
On paper of course a point is a good result away from home. But there was not one Bees fan who travelled that day who didn’t think Brentford didn’t deserve all three points.
Experimental 361 described Brentford last season as “Energetically wasteful”. We were the team who created by far the most chances in the division. However we also failed to convert a large proportion of those chances.
To be fair, we took nine games to get to the same amount of points last season that we have at the moment. And we’re currently 6th – three points behind Boro in 1st place after playing one game less than they have. So thing’s aren’t all that bad.
However, we must look back at our last campaign and learn from our mistakes. We missed out on a playoff place by a whisker due to our early season ineffectiveness in front of goal. Let’s hope we won’t be looking back to this game and ruing the two points dropped at Stoke come May.
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