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Bees are looking for playoff victory against Bournemouth. Can Brentford do it? Of course they can says Billy Grant. But they have to start cutting out the mistakes

Ask any Brentford fan if her or she loves the playoffs and the answer will most certainly be a wholehearted NO. The novelty of telling people our chairman back in the 80s – Martin Lange – was the person who came up with the idea of the playoffs and pushed it through with the Football League has well and truly worn off. 

I clearly rememberour first playoff campaign in 1991. We sort of snuck in the back door on the last day with a win away at Southend. That day was rather hazy as we arrived by boat – 200 of us setting for a six hour rather boozy cruise down The Thames in the first of what was soon to become a plethora of boat trips to football matches.

The win set us up with a not-so-tasty match-up with Tranmere who had beaten us a couple of weeks earlier.  Noel the owner of the pub we drank in at the time – The New Inn –  (he now manages the Royal Horseguardsman) drove us all up to Birkenhead in a mini-bus for a jolly good night out.

Brentford lost on aggregate.

But like the team,  we were just happy to be there. And at the time, we had no idea that that sinking feeling of playoff defeat would soon become cyclic.

Roll on another eight defeats and it’s full time at Wembley – having been beaten by arch-rivals (sounds like something out of Batman) Fulham last year. When the final whistle blew, I have to be honest. I had become so anaesthetized to playoff defeat  -having to deal with playoff defeat for so many years, I literally hardly felt a thing

Having been present at every single loss (in the pub beside Griffin Park during Covid times counts as being present in my book) has certainly  helped numb each painful episode. But on a positive note, the serial playoff loss has actually made me much more philosophical and realistic about our expectations. 

So this time.  Will it be tenth time lucky? I knew before we lined up against Muff (as we call them) that we were up against it. They’re a good side. 

Bournemouth have arguably the most expensively assembled squad in the Championship. And at the beginning of the season, they looked like they were going to romp it. 

But then they got themselves ‘Championship-ed right up’ travelling along the rocky Championship road which has wrecked the ambitions of the likes of ex Premier League teams such Leeds. And Sunderland. And Aston Villa. And Blackburn. And Reading. And Huddersfield.

Suddenly Muff were falling to the likes of relegated Sheffield Wednesday and mid-table Luton as it looked like Championship-itis had got a hold of them them and was looking to railroad their ‘return home’ party.

Chris Mepham of Bournemouth and Bryan Mbeumo of Brentford during the Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Semi Final 1st leg between Bournemouth and Brentford at the Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth. Picture by Mark D Fuller/Focus Images Ltd. 17/05/2021

When Brentford played them in December at New Griffin Park – right in the middle of our incredible 21 game unbeaten run – we turned them over. The first ten minutes The Cherrries looks like they were going to wipe the floor with us. But after riding that storm we didn’t look back. The Bees were superb and well worthy of their win.

In the return match at The Vitality stadium last month, we were even more dominant – despite Pontus Jansson’s dismissal.  A 1-0 victory to the Bees flattering our hosts somewhat as Brentford missed a hatful of chances. 

So surely Brentford. The form team going into the playoffs. With two wins against their opposition under their belt already this season. They should have the psychological edge over their South Coast rivals no at the start of this playoff campaign?

Unfortunately, it’s never that simple with Brentford as we discussed in this week’s Pride Of West London Podcast (link above). 

In the game at the Vitality, Brentford never quite rose to the levels of those previous two matches.

If two or three key players have good games, Brentford has a good game.

If those players have an indifferent or dare I even say it, a bad game, Brentford have a bad game. 

We really needed everyone to be firing on all cylinders on the South Coast. 

Jensen and Fosu in the middle of the park – I’ve seen them have better games let me say. 

Norgaard – a great player. For this game, not quite the player we have see dominate that space week after week. 

Ivan Toney was quiet as was Forss. But it’s hard to score if you’re not getting the service. 

Not taking anything away from Bournemouth. They caused us plenty of problems.  And if there were any plus points from that performance, despite being lacklustre, we didn’t give Bournemouth a plethora of high quality chances – only Solanke’s 18th minute chance and Danjuma’s 55th minute goal being opportunities of any decent quality recorded by the South Coast team. 

And it could be argued.

If only Pontus Janson wasn’t caught doing the hokey kokey deep in the Bournemouth half – giving the ball away cheaply which saw Muff break with pace and score.

If only Mbuemo had actually


Just scored an open goal which was easily the best chance of the match.

If only ….

Things could have been very different indeed. 

But we didn’t

But on the plus side, the fact the fact that a below-par Brentford still had more than twice as many high quality chances than their opposition – even though they failed to score from them which is very, very Brentford – gives me hope. 

Unfortunately, none of these high quality chances fell to 31-goal Ivan Toney. If they did, different gravy. 

Some may say that we were unlucky. Others will say we bottled it once again whilst under the cosh.

Whichever way you look at it,  it’s only half time.

Bees fans feel we may have got away fairly lightly on Monday. If Bournemouth were a tad more clinical, they could have been out of sight.

But saying that, every Bees fan I have spoken to feels that we are very much in the game.

Not because we still have that ‘happy to be here’ feeling that never left after the trip up to Tranmere. 

It’s because there are a few shining lights that have given fans hope.

The surprise appearance of long-term absentees through injury – Henrik Dalsgaard and Rico Henry – is a good sign.  

Our form plummeted in and around their disappearance. And we had to massively compensate the way we played and, eventually, rejig our formation to try and get ourselves back on track after a disastrous set of results which saw us plummet from top of the league down to fifth place in a matter of less than two months. 

I may be wrong but there was a shift in body language from Bournemouth when these players came on. They were slightly more cagey.

And Brentford, I felt decided to revealing a couple of cards hidden up their sleeve in a “we’ve got a couple more tricks up here … see you at the weekend” type manoeuvre. 

So Saturday. Yes Bournemouth have the upper hand. And yes maybe they may sit back and let us come at them and pick us off. 

But I have a sneaking feeling there are a few more twists to this contest. 

The players are playing in their own manor in front of 4,500 fans who have not had a proper chance to get into their new stadium and shout for their team in a game that really matters.

I can tell you for now the fans will be absolutely potty for it on Saturday. In the pubs from the crack of dawn, clever organisation has allowed us to gather in the stands in groups bigger than the usual 2s and 3s you see in your come-of-the-mill socially distanced matches.

So we’re really hoping the fans will be the 12th man.

On the pitch, Brentford don’t have the same pressure that they had last year. We’re a different animal when we have nothing to lose. And currently we don’t

So I’m hoping we just go for it. Let our shoulders drop and take the game to Bournemouth in the same way that we took the game to Preston a month or so back where we played with absolute zero fear which saw us score five goals with no reply. 

Can we do it against Bournemouth?

If we can stop Pontus doing another hokey kokey. 

And if we can get our players to pass to their team mates rather than the opposition. 

And if we can break out from defence to attack with the verve and speed that we have been doing all season. 

And if we can feed the ball to goal machine Ivan Toney. 

Then maybe


We can talk about the idea of Brentford putting those ghosts of playoffs past to rest