West Brom started the remainder of the season with a goalless draw at home to Birmingham last Saturday.
But the point was enough to take them to the top of the table above Leeds on goal difference.
It means that with eight games to go, they are seven points clear of third-placed Fulham, who they still have to play, and 14 ahead of Cardiff in seventh.
With it feeling like a new season, form from February and March probably means very little.
But if you add the Birmingham draw to the Baggies’ other recent results, then they will arrive at Griffin Park on Friday evening (7.45 kick-off) without a win – or a goal – in three Championship matches.
Their last game before the break was a goalless draw at Swansea and two weeks earlier they lost 1-0 at home to Wigan.
Their form before that had been impressive, though, with five wins and a draw from six matches.
Overall, West Brom have the best away record in the Championship this season with 11 wins and six draws from 19 matches on the road. Their only defeats have come at Leeds (1-0 in October), and Cardiff (2-1 in January).
It will also be an emotional night for Romaine Sawyers, who will be making his first visit to Griffin Park since his summer move to The Hawthorns.
Romaine has, not surprisingly, been a regular in the West Brom team this season, as he was in his three seasons with Brentford.
He had a spell as our captain and played nearly 150 games in our colours, scoring eight goals – with his first a never-to-be-forgotten second in the 2-0 win at QPR in October 2016.
West Brom’s visit was due to be our last scheduled match under the Griffin Park floodlights and had it gone ahead, Romaine would have had a very warm welcome from the Brentford fans.
This is the Baggies’ second season at this level since 2009/10, ending an eight-year stay in the Premier League – their longest spell in the division, although not their longest in the top flight.
In the previous decade, they spent their time alternating between the top two divisions on several occasions.
Last season, they finished fourth in the Championship before losing 4-3 on penalties to Aston Villa in the play-off semi-finals, after drawing 2-2 on aggregate.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
Slaven Bilic was appointed as West Brom manager last June to succeed Darren Moore, who was sacked three months earlier.
It was his first job in England since his two-and-a-half year spell in charge of West Ham.
He also had six years in charge of the Croatia national team – leading them to two European Championships – and has also managed Hadjuk Split, Lokomotiv Moscow, Besiktas and Al-Ittihad.
In Slaven’s playing career, he had spells at West Ham and Everton, and also represented Hajduk Split, at both the start and end of his career, and Karlsruhe as a defender.
He won 44 caps for Croatia, helping them to reach the semi-finals of the 1998 World Cup.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
Brentford and West Brom have not met too often over the years, and this is only the third season in which we have been in the same division since 1949.
They did the double over us in our Division Three title-winning season in 1991/92.
The home match in the October resulted in a 2-1 Baggies victory. They took the lead in the first half through Kwame Ampadu but Marcus Gayle equalised with a direct free-kick after the break, before Don Goodman snatched a late winner.
In the return, first half goals from Bob Taylor and Wayne Fereday were enough to give them the points.
Our paths next crossed in the two-legged first round of the Worthington Cup in 1998/99. Again West Brom, two divisions above us in what is now the Championship, struck twice in the first half of the Hawthorns first leg through Micky Evans and Lee Hughes, but Kevin Rapley kept us in the tie with an 89th-minute reply.
And we pulled off an upset in the second leg as goals in the last 35 minutes from Jamie Bates, Charlie Oatway and Lloyd Owusu gave us a 3-0 win on the night at Griffin Park and a 4-2 aggregate victory.
The Baggies gained revenge at the same stage of the competition, then called the Carling Cup, in 2003/04. They were again in the second tier, this time only one division above us, and the first round had switched to a one-legged affair
They took an early lead at The Hawthorns through Rob Hulse but just before half-time, Brentford goalkeeper Paul Smith was sent off. Substitute Alan Julian managed to keep West Brom at bay until the last 14 minutes, but then Bernt Haas, Hulse again and Scott Dobie saw the hosts to a 3-0 win.
That was it until last season, when we met in a live Sky game on the first Monday evening in December. The Baggies dominated but could not score until the 77th minute when Harvey Barnes found the breakthrough, with what proved to be his last home goal for the club.
That looked to be that but the Bees had other ideas and deep into injury-time, Emiliano Marcondes crossed for Lewis MacLeod to head a dramatic equaliser to ensure that the game finished 1-1.
The return was decided by a superb 51st minute goal from Kyle Edwards, on his first league start for the Baggies. The 1-0 win left them fourth in the table, seven points off the top two, and us 14th – eight points off the play-off spots. It was our first home Championship defeat in six games.
This season’s game at The Hawthorns, again in December, like last season’s also finished 1-1 with both goals coming from right-backs just before half-time.
Henrik Dalsgaard headed us into a 43rd-minute lead from Mathias Jensen’s left-wing corner for his first goal of the season, but Darnell Furlong equalised with an almost identical goal in the first minute of stoppage time.
BBC WM Sport’s West Brom reporter Rob Gurney tells us what it was like being at the Baggies’ behind-closed-doors draw with Birmingham, the impact Romaine Sawyers has made at The Hawthorns this season, and how he got his football fix during the lockdown.
Q – How is the West Brom squad different to before the lockdown – anyone back from injury or any loans or contracts ended?
A – Apart from Jonathan Leko, who returned from his loan at Charlton after suffering ACL damage, everyone else is fit. So Grady Diangana and Ahmed Hegazi are both back from hamstring injuries. Hegazi played the full 90 minutes against Birmingham on Saturday; Diangana was a second half substitute and he, Sheffield United’s Callum Robinson and Benfica’s Filip Krovinovic, have all agreed to extend their loan spells until the end of the season.
Matheus Pereira’s permanent move from Sporting Lisbon for around £9m is awaiting confirmation as I write, after reaching the agreed criteria when the loan agreement was struck.
Temporary contract extensions for goalkeeper Jonathan Bond, defender Lee Peltier and midfielders Chris Brunt and Gareth Barry have been signed, although it’s already been announced that Brunt will leave The Hawthorns at the season’s end, after 13 years at the club.
Q – How did the Baggies play in the Birmingham game?
A – The stats don’t lie. Albion had 67% possession and 20 shots, but only two were on target. That, numerically speaking, encapsulates the 90 minutes perfectly.
Slaven Bilic said he was frustrated by the result, but not the performance, although bemoaned the lack of an end product in the final third of the pitch.
He also told me it was “forbidden” to talk about the lack of atmosphere; it’ll be exactly the same for the remaining games.
Q – What was it like being at The Hawthorns on Saturday?
A – In more than 30 years covering football, I’ve never reported on a behind-closed-doors match, and it was an extremely odd experience. Albion were very courteous and professional in getting the media to observe the strict protocols, but it didn’t feel “normal” in the slightest.
If we didn’t think before that football is all about the fans, we can certainly appreciate that now.
Surreal doesn’t even come close, and there are eight more of these occasions left!
Q – How do you think the lockdown has affected West Brom’s promotion chances – if at all?
A – It’s the same for everybody, but as Bees’ fans will know, some adapted better than others!
An eighth home draw of the season against Birmingham looked like an opportunity missed, but then Leeds lost at Cardiff the next day, so The Baggies find themselves top on goal difference.
I still think it’s hard to look past Albion and Leeds for automatic promotion, but defeat at Griffin Park would certainly put the cat amongst the pigeons!
Q – What impact has Romaine Sawyers made this season?
A – Along with Jake Livermore, he’s been terrific in the middle of the park. I saw a stat the other day that said his pass completion rate was 90+%, and that doesn’t surprise me. He takes care of the ball, makes the odd mistake, but always looks to rectify any unforced error. He does the simple things really well, often receiving the ball from the ‘keeper and dictating things from there.
Romaine’s vision is another outstanding feature of his game. I wish he’d shoot more, though!
Q – How did you feed your football passion during the lockdown – watching old matches, reading football books or did you switch off from the game completely?
A – A bit of both really; I took in the second Sunderland series on Netflix, watched some of the BBC’s World Cup and Euros Rewind matches, and caught the occasional ITV Football Classic game (especially my club Coventry beating Tottenham in the 1987 FA Cup final!)
I dipped into a few of my football books, and I’ve got thousands and thousands of programmes that I managed to leaf through some of during the lockdown.
Q – Finally, can you tell me the likely WBA line-up and formation?
A – It will be interesting to see if Slaven Bilic sticks with 4-2-3-1, or reverts to 4-3-3, which served him well before lockdown.
Filip Krovinovic was very unlucky to only make the bench at the weekend, having been a major catalyst since the turn of the year particularly.
Playing with Livermore alongside Sawyers in a two-man midfield, negates Livermore’s availability to move forward, which he’s done with tremendous effect at times this season.
He’s the definition of a driving force in the three-man system, but Pereira (six goals; 12 assists), has tended to be more effective in the number 10 role, rather than out wide, so it’s a conundrum for Bilic.
Pereira has been the outstanding player, for me, in the Championship this season.
The side I’d be inclined to go for at Griffin Park is:
Dara O’Shea, Semi Ajayi, Ahmed Hegazi, Kieran Gibbs
Jake Livermore, Romaine Sawyers, Filip Krovinovic
Matheus Pereira, Hal Robson-Kanu, Callum Robinson
But that would mean taking Darnell Furlong out of the right-back position, although O’Shea has been favoured for his defensive capabilities by Bilic for the majority of the season, and removing the enigmatic Matt Phillips from one of the wide berths.
The three-man midfield becomes a five when they haven’t got the ball, so that might be the better option in a game such as this, trying to nullify Brentford’s potent threat going forward as much as possible.
Let’s see which way he goes…
BEESOTTED SCORE PREDICTIONS
Some of the Beesotted crew have given me their score predictions for Friday’s game.
3-1 to Brentford as we build on the excellent Fulham victory. The results from the restart matches have been massively positive and I can see that continuing at Griffin Park on Friday evening. COYB! Dave Lane
1-0 Bees. West Brom will have learned some lessons from their failures last weekend and be desperate for points, but the Bees will stand firm and leave with a victory despite the lack of the Griffin Park faithful. Also, as a side note, I’m looking forward to seeing Sawyers back at Griffin Park. On the tele at least. A gentleman and a joyous footballer. Robin Hood
0-0 and seven drinks breaks. Lou Boyd
2-1 to Brentford as the first-ever behind-closed-doors competitive fixture at Griffin Park sees the Bees battle to a victory in what is proving to be an historic season for us in the Championship. Liberal Nick
HOW TO FOLLOW THE GAME
The match is being played behind closed doors, but is being shown live on Sky Sports Main Event (if the Fulham game is anything to go by with added crowd noise) and on Sky Sports Football (without added crowd noise) – broadcast details here.
Bees season ticket holders can watch for free on iFollow if you have redeemed your code – other Bees fans can watch on iFollow for £10 per game – full details here.
If you live in London and can’t watch the game, then you can hear live commentary on BBC London Digital from Phil Parry and Sam Parkin.
There is also live commentary on talkSport2.