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Beesotted’s Tim Street has come over all nostalgic following this week’s FA Cup Third Round away draw to Port Vale.

Brentford’s being drawn away to Port Vale in the FA Cup third round brought about a fuzzy feeling of nostalgia – the sort of meeting which seemed a regular fixture of the Brentford-supporting landscape in the early years of this century.

 The most famous meeting between the two sides, of course, was the Football League Trophy final in 2001. It was Brentford’s first trip to the Millennium Stadium, but it proved to be just as fruitless as their post-war trips to Wembley, where hopes and expectations were soon dashed by a cold dose of reality.

 There was a brief glimmer of hope that April afternoon in Cardiff when Michael Dobson, with an extremely rare goal for the Bees, put Ray Lewington’s men (former coach Lewington having succeeded Ron Noades following a humbling FA Cup defeat to Kingstonian four months earlier), in front after just three minutes.

 Although Brentford held onto their lead until 13 minutes from time, in truth, Vale had been knocking on the door pretty much since Dobbo’s opener. A Marc Bridge-Wilkinson penalty drew them level following a foul by Darren Powell, and the air of inevitability came to pass five minutes later when Steve Brooker bagged the winner for the Valiants.

 It was a foreboding of what was to come for Brentford as they returned to the Millennium Stadium a year later for a League Two (third tier) Play-Off final against Vale’s Potteries rivals, Stoke City, after coming within 13 minutes of automatic promotion under Steve Coppell. This time, it was even more of a no-show from the Bees as a side which knew it was about to be ripped apart regardless went down with a whimper 2-0.

 Another strange feature of that 2001 final was the fact that the two teams met in a League Two dress rehearsal at Griffin Park just eight days earlier, where a naturally cagey affair saw Brentford foreshadowed what was to come the following weekend by taking an early lead through Paul Evans, only to be pegged back by a late Bridge-Wilkinson penalty for a 1-1 draw.

 Strangely, the same thing would happen next time Brentford reached the Football League Trophy final too – a Jeffrey Schlupp brace giving them a 2-1 League One win over Carlisle United eight days before losing 1-0 to the same team at Wembley, when it perhaps mattered most.

 But back to Port Vale, and another interesting clash between the two sides was played out at Griffin Park in late April 2007. The Bees had already been relegated to League Two three weeks earlier following an Easter Monday defeat at Crewe, which had earned manager Scott Fitzgerald his marching orders.

 It was former youth team manager Barry Quin who stepped into the breach and led the team out that day, and the Bees rallied for a rare bright point in their worst Football League season on record – also earning Quin his only win in his three-match spell as caretaker manager.

 With Brentford leading 2-0 at half time through a Charlie Ide double, Vale pulled it back to 2-2 with two goals in four minutes from Luke Rodgers and former Bee Leon Constantine. A Joe Keith penalty restored the hosts’ lead, and although Vale hit back through another Constantine strike, Darius Charles struck the winner for Brentford a minute from time.

 Incidentally, Constantine, who had left Griffin Park four years earlier after making only two starts and a clutch of substitute appearances during a year-long spell with the Bees, was one of those players who had come back to haunt them before in dramatic fashion. Who can forget his Boxing Day hat-trick in Torquay’s 3-1 over Martin Allen’s Brentford in 2004? And to bring things full circle, Torquay’s keeper that day was none other than Oli Gottskalksson, Brentford’s keeper in that 2001 final against Port Vale.

 The year before that aforementioned 4-3 game, I remember travelling to Vale Park for a televised Monday night game, which Brentford lost 1-0 after putting in their then-customary dismal performance in front of the cameras. Covering the game for the Hounslow Chronicle but not having a car at the time and unable to bag a lift – and with no trains back after the game – I took my place on the supporters’ coach.

Unfortunately, with an unhappy Martin Allen keeping the team in the dressing room for a rollocking, and us local reporters having to take our place in the queue behind the Sky cameras for interviews, it was a good hour or so after the full time whistle that I finally took my place back on a coach of disgruntled people just wanting to get home. Fortunately, they’d been waiting for Peter Gilham as well and not just me!

 I also remember travelling up to Vale Park for the opening day of the 2013-14 promotion season, where Shaluem Logan gave Brentford the lead with a stunning strike in a 1-1 draw. The return match at Griffin Park, a 2-0 win for the Bees featuring a rare Will Grigg goal in the red and white stripes, was the last time the two teams met until they do battle in January’s cup tie.

 Before that, there’s obviously plenty of Premier League football to be played, starting at home to Watford on Friday night. The Bees will, of course, be without Ivan Toney once more as he continues to isolate following his positive covid result – but there were at least signs during Sunday’s 2-2 draw at Leeds that being without the talismanic frontman for a couple more games may not be as disastrous as first feared.

 It’s not ideal, obviously, especially with a revitalised Manchester United rolling into town after Watford. But Sergi Canos, released from his defensive duties and restored to a more attacking role, seemed a new player at Elland Road, while Mads Roerslev, taking Canos’ place at right back, once again looked the promising prospect who shone so brightly at the tail end of last season. Canos will be another big miss as he serves a one-match suspension, but hopefully we’ll get to see what Yoann Wissa can go given a start rather than coming off the bench.

 No mention of Sunday’s game could be complete either without a salute to the other Bees goalscorer, Shandon Baptiste, who was finally a much-needed creative presence in the Brentford midfield. If, as feared, we see little, if anything, of Josh Dasilva this season, Baptiste could become an increasingly important figure in the middle of the park for the Bees.

Tim Street