What is it with Birmingham City? They must love playing Brentford. We haven’t beaten them since the promotion season of 1992 when we won 3-1 at St Andrews. What a great night that was. But little did we know that it would be the last time we will have seen the Bees beat our deadly foes for a quarter of a century.
“You battered us” a Birmingham City fan said to me as I walked back from the ground to the pub. Scant consolation when your team has come away with zero points after dominating the match pretty much from start to finish. Yet another match against the West Midlands side that has resulted in Brentford not getting what they deserved.
How frustrating is that?
Dean Smith changed his formation. Only this week on the Beesotted Pride of West London pre-match podcast, we pondered on how would Brentford could accommodate our four centre backs – non of whom in our eyes deserved to be benched.
So when it was announced that he had decided to play three centre backs with Bjelland moved from his temporary left back position to the middle with Barbet playing on the left, the experiment was met with raised eyebrows in the pub before the match and anticipation. As it goes – despite the Bees letting in two soft goals and losing – the experiment went pretty well for Smith.
The game was all Brentford apart from (and if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry .. but ironically) the two goals Birmingham scored. 64% possession. 22 shots on goal. I can’t remember Bentley making any more than two saves in the whole game. Barbet and Yennaris had early shots blocked. Then, against the run of play, Clayton Donaldson earned the Blues a 14th minute penalty – going down in the box after a late challenge from Daniel Bentley. He had lost the ball but has learned very professionally since leaving us how to make the most of these disadvantages.
From that moment on, the Bees were going to always be on the back foot. But to be fair to them, the lads came back fighting, causing Birmingham all sorts of problems right until the final whistle. So much so, Blues manager Garry Cotterell was even forced to change his formation to try and combat our marauding wing-backs (to coin an old-fashioned phrase).
Yoann Barbet and Maxime Colin bombed up and down the flanks causing all manner of problems for the Birmingham defence. Barbet is a bloody good player who offers Brentford a different option. He is incredibly unluckily not to have found a regular place in the side this season. He’s an incredibly skilful defender who surprises (or should I say p!sses off?) defences again and again when he pops up in their half and does ‘stuff’.
Brentford passed the ball with confidence and, unlike last week at Blackburn, created some great chances whilst playing Birmingham off the park for large periods of the game. Vibe produced saves from Blues keeper Kuszczak in both halves. He also missed a golden opportunity in the first half on the goal line – when it looked easier to score – but seemed to freeze before eventually shooting after being put through by Hogan (did the Birmingham player handball the shot on the line? It looked remarkably close).
Colin had a long distance shot spilled by the Blues keeper who then saved Hogan’s follow up. Kuszczak then pulled off a world class reflex save from Hogan who’s header from three yards was miraculously not only parried but somehow put over the bar.
Birmingham’s second goal came from a set piece. Once again. After we had let ourselves badly defending the ball in the air against Blackburn, we’ve only gone and done it again again with another side known for their ariel prowess. Whether or not the free kick should have been given is another thing. But the luck wasn’t in Brentford’s corner. Donaldson evaded our three central defenders to flick the free kick on for Shotton to tap the ball in at the far post.
Hogan scored his 11th goal of the season – a deft looped header over the oncoming keeper – after good work by substitute Josh Clarke. Kaikai was then unlucky not to have equalised as his curving shot was tipped onto the crossbar by the Blues man of the match Kuszczak who also saved a goal bound shot from Josh Clarke.
Brentford deserved a draw at the very least and it looked like they had got their just desserts when a Bjelland header evaded Kuszczak to sneak into the bottom left hand corner. Needless to say it was chalked off – the referee ruling offside against Hogan (we presume) who tried to get a final touch on the ball as it evaded the keeper. Cheers !!!!
Listening the post-match podcast above, both Brentford and Birmingham fans reflected on how unlucky Brentford were not in taking one if not all three points.
Dean Smith remarked after the match:
“We passed the ball well and created chances. Our problem was we didn’t take them today. If we played Birmingham ten times and played like that, we would win nine of them”
Meanwhile a very honest Gary Rowett said:
“We didn’t get close enough to Brentford. You have to give them credit for their movement. They changed formation which caused us problems. We were pretty fortuitous. If I was a horse, I think I’ve won the Grand National today.”
The initial confusion when the team was announced was quickly dissipated by the performance. On another day we would have beaten Birmingham 5-2. Easily. But as cliches go, when you’re luck’s out … your luck’s out.
But, despite the performance, the facts are there written in stone. Brentford have won only 1 game in the last 8 – losing three matches on the bounce. The Bees’ current form is not too dissimilar to the stinking run we had just after Christmas where Dean Smith and his side couldn’t buy a win. The main difference between then, and now, is the actual football we were playing. A year ago we were dire. We lacked passion. And, quite frankly, we were all over the place at times. But as of late, Brentford have played well enough to have taken three points off both Blackburn and Birmingham, and arguably should have beaten both Derby and Wigan. Yet get a couple of wins under your belt and suddenly your tails are up.
Birmingham are 4th in the division. Yes they are a big team. Yes they are organised. But Brentford were miles better than them over 90 minutes. It’s fine margins in this division. And you can see why we end up beating the top teams one week then losing to the bottom sides the next.
Dean Smith has a huge task ahead of him. To raise the confidence levels and get the team bouncing before the trip to Norfolk at the weekend. Norwich are in a similar dire run of form and if there is any team we are likely to nick three point off at the moment, Norwich is the one.
But to do that, we have to park the silly mistakes, stop giving the ball away cheaply and play with the confidence, skill and passion that we know the team are able to do. We have the ability in the side. We just need to apply it. For the full 90 minutes.
A couple of wins can put us back on track. But a couple of losses sees us pulled into a battle down in the pits of The Championship – and that’s a Christmas present that we could all do without for sure.
Richard Cadette and Carl Hutchings will no doubt give us more insight on the rivalry with Birmingham City in the 90s. They will be joining Paul Gibbs for our Xmas Bees-Up in the Brewery on Friday 16th December – an evening of football, music and drinking. You can find out more info by signing up to the social club by clicking here.
You will then be giving information to the event in the confirmation email. Brewery Tour tickets sold out 24 hours after going on sale with regular tickets going fast so get in there quick.
Find out more about our elected charity BallBoys – a charity to raise awareness for testicular cancer (which is the most common cancer in young men aged 15-49 in men) – by clicking on the link here.