Spread the love

Beesotted’s Jem Rampling looks back in detail  at a night to remember in TW8

Overall performance 

The Premier League has its own peculiar mathematics. There are a bunch of teams who win every week, there’s another bunch who mostly don’t. If you fall into the latter group, you can pass a month without a three point haul and yet not slip significantly down the table. For a team seeking to survive a tally of one point per game is fine, so wins when they come are a big deal.

With this in mind tonight’s game always looked to be a big one and Watford go home rueing what they could have won but for a late capitulation. Rumours of a Covid outbreak at Jersey Road had us grateful for relative familiarity on the team sheet, yet it was an unusual starting eleven with Pinnock and Canos missing alongside the established absentees. Janelt dropped to the left centre back position alongside Jansson and the ever-improving Goode, Roerslev stepped into Canos’ golden boots, and Mbeumo led the line with Yoane Wissa behind.

And Brentford started brightly. Baptiste had an early volley well saved by Bachmann, then played Mbeumo through with a sumptuous pass in a move that drew a fine clawing save from the Watford stopper. It was pleasing to see both Baptiste and Wissa turning with the ball, creating their own space and driving forward deep into the heart of the Watford hive. Without the option of lumping it long to Toney there was a requirement to attempt a more sophisticated style of attacking play, and in the early stages of the game Brentford’s approach had a freshness that had been recently lacking.

Watford won a corner with their first attack of note, King sending a low curling drive which bounced off the far post for Janelt to put behind. Cleverley’s delivery was perfect for Dennis to score from close range, but Jansson should have made it much harder for him to do so. A more commanding goalkeeper and a towering centre back, such as Raya and Pinnock, would probably have dealt with the danger.

The shock and injustice hit Brentford hard, momentum being lost until well into the second half. The attacking play became deeply static and predictable, and with Henry appearing to struggle with his  fitness the burden of creativity fell upon Jensen’s hopeful sand-wedge passes and the overlapping runs of Roerslev.

Frank made changes with twenty minues left. Forss came on for Wissa but rarely saw the ball whereas Ghoddos added impetus when replacing Jensen. Crucially Janelt was allowed to progress further forward and become increasingly influential in our offensive drive, the quality of his delivery exceeding anything hitherto produced.

Janelt himself nearly levelled, weaving into the box before drawing a rather messy save from the exposed Bachmann. Jansson then got the goal that his offensive positioning has been hinting at in recent months, but only after an unnecessary and nausea-inducing VAR check. A point had been salvaged, but Pontus had no time for celebration suggesting only that he was thinking of three.

And three it was. In the true spirit of Christmas, Troost- Ekong gifted a trailing leg which Ghoddos expertly bought and, in Bamford time, Brentford had a penalty. Up stepped Mbeumo to nonchalantly wrap up the win, cueing scenes, Freed From Desire, and the best discotheque this side of Ealing Broadway.

Best performers 

One name, Norgaard. This guy is a special player, and to my eyes he carried many of his teammates for long spells in the middle part of the game when the confidence had drained from those around him. At his best he glides around the park like an ice skater, with the action drawn to him as if he held gravitational influence. He was everywhere tonight; harrying, breaking up Watford’s play, creating his own space with the quality of his touch, setting our forward players on the break with smart decision making and execution. This was peak Norgaard, committed to his responsibility as a senior player, digging out maximum return from a winnable fixture. Not just the best player on the day but one of the best individual performances I have seen in recent years watching this club.

Room for improvement 

Being that we are heavily reliant on squad players at present, any criticism must be qualified accordingly. Yet Watford scored with their first real threat and with the end of the Leeds game still close to mind our set piece vulnerability comes into question. In this unforgiving league you need big players to have big moments in key areas of the box, and for much of the game tonight it felt as if our best work was being done where it didn’t really count.

Likewise our attacking play, which had looked spirited in the opening quarter of the game, lost itself once we went a goal behind. It became predictable, trying to create space for the overlapping full back, and Watford had looked pretty comfortable with it until they buckled under our late desperate onslaught. It was the intensity, not the guile, that turned the tide and the squad still lacks the volatile trickery of a Benrahma or a Sawyers to unpick these Premier League defences.

A word on the opposition 

Watford didn’t bring much to the game. That they came close to a first clean sheet of the season said more for our creative predictability than their talents. They were, of course, missing their main x-factor player in Ismaila Sarr, and perhaps would have come with more adventure had he been in the side. Without him they presented a generic, anonymous, undistinctive line-up although by the 95th minute I had developed rather a soft spot for William Troost-Ekong. Definite relegation candidates.


Had it stayed 1-0 it would have been a big defeat, one to linger over our campaign alongside the loss to Norwich. Instead we are sitting pretty in the top half of the table, confident that we can achieve results with key players missing and enthusiastic for what awaits when our absent first teamers return. On balance of play and on endeavour we deserved the win, but we were fortunate in the way it came. We need to be improving our work in both boxes if we are to optimise our Premier League potential.

Jem Rampling