Despite a much-improved performance, and creating several clear-cut chances against Manchester United, the Bees slipped to a third Premier League defeat on the bounce. Beesotted’s Lewis Holmes was on report duty for the Red Devil’s visit to West London.
Well that was a marked improvement on previous outings. The Bees welcomed nigh on £1bn worth of talent to TW8 on a chilly evening down Lionel Road. Things heated up from the off though, and a tremendous first 45 probably should’ve seen the Bees out of sight by half time. David de Gea was kept busy from the off, saving a double effort from Jensen (more on him later) and one from Pinnock, while Janelt and Big Mads had shots blocked and Christian Norgaard blazed over. Cod psychology time: the pressure to end our patchy run of form might’ve been weighing on the whole team, because while United were utterly under the cosh attempts (Cristiano who?) whenever a chance presented itself it was snatched rather than coolly dispatched.
Those missed chances were mightily rued after the break. Ralf Ragnarok (don’t @ me) clearly brought down the hammer of Thor at half time, as United came out with a lot more urgency: Anthony Elanga and Fred Fred (not a typo) combined beautifully to take out or defence and nod past Jonas Lössl. Breathtaking stuff and that sinking déjà vu feeling: we’re chasing another game here. And we were chasing even harder after seven minutes; Ronaldo displaying a little of his pomp to set Bruno Fernandes off, the latter unselfishly teeing up Mason Greenwood and poor old Jonas is picking the ball out of his net again. Job done for United not long after that; Fernandes providing again, this time for substitute Marcus Rashford. As has been the case so many times this season, the Bees didn’t give up and Ivan Toney snatched a late consolation (my stubborn refusal to ship him out of my fantasy football team rewarded) but it was too little too late. Another day, another loss – but not quite as disheartening as those against Liverpool or (shudder) Southampton.
Matthias Jensen has had a lot of flak flung his way this season but he deserves high praise for his performance last night. Something has changed. Three Weetabix, King Kev beasting him at Jersey Road, Brian Reimer whispering sweet nothings in his ear – whatever it was, can we see more of it please. He was all over midfield in the best possible way, gripping an area of the pitch where we’ve been lacking so many times this season. The section of our fanbase that needs a scapegoat will harp on about the misses, but that fails to acknowledge that the whole team was profligate in that first half. If Jensen can stitch together a decent run of this sort of form, he’ll win a lot of his detractors over.
Room for improvement
I’ve tried googling and I can’t find a name but if we’ve got a finishing coach, he belongs in this section. I’d politely suggest he buy himself a second mobile, call himself up and have a word. Whether it is pressure or not, we need cooler heads when bearing down on goal. De Gea is world class, but a little ice in the veins would’ve seen him humbled last night.
The number of goals shipped in recent games is starting to alarm, even for a laid back optimist like me. There’s not much between Lössl and Fernandez, but our towering centre backs are better than recent performances suggest. When we’re done turning our attackers into cold-eyed deadshots, we need to turn the backline into Terminators.
A word on the opposition
They’re a team struggling for identity at the moment, often accused of being a group of individuals rather than a collective, but Ragnarok’s clearly worked some magic on them at half time. A completely assured performance after the break, Dr Jekyll to the first half’s Mr Hyde. Their game management was quite remarkable after getting their goals as well; Andre Marriner going embarrassingly dewy eyed at everything they did. Fans of the big clubs (and United, lolz!) will sneer at this and call me bitter, but starstruck Premier League referees are out there and you really notice it as a fan of a newly promoted club. A little parity would go a long way improving the game for everybody.
Another league loss – the fourth from the last five – but not one to ruminate over too much, as evidenced by the fact that there was relatively little grizzling on the socials post-match. Our early season form sees us still sitting relatively pretty in 14th, 10 points clear of the drop, and more performances like that will see us picking up more points very soon. Wolves are on a great run of form at the moment, but there’s an apple cart just waiting to be upset on Saturday if Frank and his team turn out like they did last night.