Brentford were dumped out of the EFL Cup First Round after falling victim to Exeter City’s extra time winner – a result and a performance that has many fans demanding explanations as to why the competition isn’t being taken seriously enough.
With Dean Smith raising concerns about fitness levels and his player’s 90-minute match fitness, Tuesday evening’s cup match in the West County was the perfect opportunity to boost stamina and confidence levels against lower division opposition – especially in light of Saturday’s mediocre showing at Huddersfield.
However, it was widely predicted that there would be changes to the team and few who made it down to St James Park were that surprised to see a mixed selection with fringe and emerging players, including extended trialist Emmanuel Ledesma, starting and more experienced players waiting on the bench if called upon. Hofmann was also given an opportunity to shine from the start. But shine he did not.
There are lots huffing and puffing about the weak team, but in truth, the younger lads weren’t the reason that Exeter weren’t despatched – Bonham, Holldack and Field had decent games – and although Josh Clarke was a little too predictable and may not be the solution to our wide-man inadequacies right now – being trusted with a whole game will have done him no harm.
Whether the early loss of Alan McCormack completely knocked Brentford’s game plan or not I doubt – Yennaris, Woods, Ledesma and Saunders failed to unlock the Exeter defence and the threat posed by Field and Clarke, overlapping down the flanks, was snubbed out fairly comfortably. It has to be said that Hofmann looked completely ineffective.
Hofmann was eventually replaced by Hogan with a little under 15 minutes of normal time remaining, and looked bright, but there was simply no service or threaded balls through the home side’s defence – the real star of the night was undoubtedly 15-year-old Ethan Ampadu who looked unfazed and composed all night for the home side – even after taking a battering in extra time where it looked as though his dream debut could end in tears. With the right guidance he could be a genuine star of the future.
With the game petering out to a 0-0 conclusion in 90 minutes, the groans around the away end were audible as extra time became a reality – everyone dreading a long journey home in the small hours. But surely the Bees wouldn’t make that journey worse by getting knocked out at the first hurdle again?
Hmmmm! That eventuality became a reality when Ryan Harley found the bottom corner of the net after being set up well by ‘Bees target’ Ollie Watkins. It was a decent finish, but there are few excuses that explain why a League Two side made Brentford look so average again. As you will hear from listening to the Beesotted Pride of West London post-match Podcast below – the fans weren’t impressed!
You couldn’t doubt that the players wanted to win this game and they battled to the end, and if last season showed us anything we have to remember that the season is a nine-month rollercoaster, but on the first two outings of the campaign there are clear inadequacies in wide positions and we have stopped running at defenders with any penetration.
It would be good to see more of new Bees signing Justin Shaibu, who arrived on Monday from Danish side HB Koge, as he looked bright in the final stages of extra time – hopefully he can emerge as an exciting player in the B Team and challenge for more first team action.
This is certainly not a time for getting things out of all perspective or for some fans to scurry back into the dark corners of last year, but things have to improve quickly… there’s no better time for that to happen than this Saturday against Ipswich… but it is going to take a marked improvement from virtually every outfield player in the current squad, plus at least two new faces as and when they are identified.
The Ipswich scouts certainly won’t be worried about what they’ve seen so far – unlike the travelling Brentford fans who have already clocked up hundreds of miles to see their team splutter.