Bristol City have made a superb start to the season and have not been beaten since the opening day of the campaign.
The Robins have been especially strong away from home where they have won three – at Derby (2-1), Hull (3-1) and Stoke (2-1) – and drawn two – 1-1 at Birmingham in their opening match on the road and 3-3 at Preston on Saturday.
At Ashton Gate, they have only won one game – 2-0 against QPR – while they have drawn with Middlesbrough (2-2) and Swansea (0-0), and lost 3-1 to Leeds on the opening weekend.
However, they lost to QPR in the first round of the Carabao Cup – slipping out 5-4 on penalties after a 3-3 draw.
It will be a big night for goalkeeper Dan Bentley, who makes his first return to Griffin Park since joining City in the summer.
Dan, who has been ever-present in league and cup for the Robins so far this season, played 125 games (123 Championship and two FA Cup) for us in three seasons after joining from Southend.
He only missed one league match in each of his first two seasons, but last term his campaign was ended by an injury at Middlesbrough in early March.
This is City’s fifth consecutive season in the Championship and 11th in the last 13 years.
City and Brentford are two of five Championship clubs who have never played in the Premier League, with Luton, Millwall and Preston being the others.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
Lee Johnson is now the 10th longest-serving manager in all four divisions, and second longest-serving in the Championship behind Neil Harris, after taking charge of Bristol City in February 2016, replacing Steve Cotterill.
Johnson, son of Torquay and ex-Bristol City manager Gary, played 199 games for the Robins in a six-year spell – with Yeovil the other major club in his playing career, which also took him to Watford, Brighton, Hearts, Derby, Chesterfield and Kilmarnock.
When he moved into management with Oldham in March 2013, he was the Football League’s youngest boss at the age of 31.
Two years later, he moved to Barnsley and he guided them to the 2016 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final before immediately leaving for the Ashton Gate job.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
Brentford suffered our first Championship defeat against Bristol City in seven meetings last season, when they visited Griffin Park in Thomas Frank’s first game in charge.
We had been unbeaten in our previous six matches against the Robins since our promotion in 2014, with four wins and two draws.
Three of the wins came at Ashton Gate – 4-2 in 2015/16, and 1-0 in each of the following two seasons. Our Griffin Park results were 1-1 in 2015/16, 2-0 the next season and 2-2 in 2017/18.
City’s visit last October was a miserable start at the helm for Thomas Frank as Niclas Eliasson’s 89th-minute goal gave City a 1-0 win.
Chris Mepham was sent off just before the hour mark for his second yellow card as the Bees’ winless Championship run increased to six games.
We stretched our unbeaten run at Ashton Gate to five games on Boxing Day as we picked up a 1-1 draw in the return match,
Eros Pisano headed City into a first-half lead from a corner, but Neal Maupay volleyed home his 15th goal of the season eight minutes into the second half to earn us a point.
BBC Radio Bristol sports editor Richard Hoskin, speaking before Saturday’s draw at Preston, tells us why Bristol City have started the season so well, what Lee Johnson has brought to the club in his long time in charge, and how Daniel Bentley has settled in at Ashton Gate.
Q – Why have Bristol City had such a strong start to the season?
A – You’re asking me this question before Saturday’s trip to Preston, but generally City’s away form has been impressive. Indeed – they headed to Deepdale unbeaten on the road since Easter Monday. City deserve credit because they’re challenging towards the top of the table despite a number of injuries to key players.
Q – What were the expectations at the start of the season – promotion push, mid-table or relegation battle and why?
A – At the start of the season, the mood at Ashton Gate was to improve on last season – which was an 8th-placed finish. More specifically, after a couple of near misses – I think there were genuine hopes and expectations for a top six finish.
Q – What transfer business – in and out – did City do over the summer?
A – City were VERY active in the summer. City signed all three Chelsea loan players from last season on a permanent basis, including Tomas Kalas for a club record fee, as well as Kasey Palmer and Jay Dasilva. They went abroad – signing the likes of Hungarian international Adam Nagy, and Pedro Pereira on loan from Benfica. Benik Afobe made an instant impression after signing from Stoke – unfortunately he injured his ACL in a freak training ground accident and is likely to miss the rest of the season. Free agent Ashley Williams also moved to Ashton Gate after being released by Everton. In terms of outgoings – City lost talented defender Adam Webster to Premier League Brighton, although they received £20m for his services. And City said goodbye to popular midfielder Marlon Park, who joined Cardiff.
Q – Lee Johnson is one of the longest-serving managers in the country – what has he brought to the club in his time in the role?
A – Stability and an identity. He’s firmly established at Ashton Gate – and given his experience in management, you have to double check he’s still a couple of years shy of his 40th birthday.
Q – How has Dan Bentley done for City so far this season?
A – Very well. He’s been a commanding figure in goal, with good distribution and important saves – while off the pitch I’ve been impressed with his positive attitude and authority.
Q – It’s Bristol City’s last-ever visit to Griffin Park, barring a cup tie or play-off, so what are your memories of previous games in TW8?
A – In my time at BBC Radio Bristol – my memories of trips to Brentford include Leroy Lita bagging two goals one Christmas… Gary Johnson’s first ever game in charge, winning 3-2 at Griffin Park… a couple of victories in the League Cup… and last season Niclas Eliasson scoring a late winner. One thing that has changed over the years is the lack of street parking! But generally while I’ll miss Griffin Park, I look forward to visiting your new ground in the future.
Q – What style of football should Brentford fans expect to see from City?
A – Attractive football, playing from the back. City aren’t afraid to attack away from home, with wing-backs and two strikers. It should be an entertaining game.
Q – Which players should we watch out for?
A – I deliberately missed him out when you asked about summer signings. But watch out for Han-Noah Massengo. Signed from Monaco, the French teenager has become an instant fans favourite. And without going over the top, he has the potential to reach the very top.
Q – Finally can you give me a possible City starting line-up and formation?
A – Probably 3-5-2 – although City are very flexible. Daniel Bentley in goal – back three of Wales captain Ashley Williams, Taylor Moore and Nathan Baker (if fit). The impressive Jack Hunt and Tommy Rowe wing-backs. In midfield Han-Noah Massengo, captain Josh Brownhill and Kasey Palmer. Andreas Weimann and Famara Diedhiou up front. This is just a guess – Callum O’Dowda, young Antoine Semenyo, talented winger Niclas Eliasson and Sammie Szmodics could all feature.
BEESOTTED SCORE PREDICTIONS
Some of the Beesotted crew gave me their score predictions for Wednesday’s game before the trip to Barnsley.
0-0 Passing just does nothing Lou Boyd
I’ll say 2-1 win. I think we’ll concede, but I feel that the attacking talent will work against Bristol who are not impenetrable. Tom Fiddler
Wednesday is a special night for me personally as it’s the 48th anniversary of my first-ever Brentford game – a 6-1 win against Northampton, with a hat-trick from John O’Mara, in Division Four in 1971.
PUBS IN BRENTFORD AND TRAVEL NEWS
For Bristol City 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. Whereas The Ealing Park Tavern (back in the day, the infamous Penny Flyer) is fairly busy now that they seem to have lifted their “no football fan” policy.
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 our 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.
However, there is some strike action on South Western Railway this weekend, so you can check on the service here.
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.