Spread the love

Beesotted’s Tim Street looks back at a night never to forget against Everton, and looks forward to making new history against The Toffees.

Brentford host Everton this weekend for the first time since, as a then-League One side, knocking the Premier League giants out of the Carling Cup 11 years ago.

Not only was it probably Brentford’s best cup upset since their famous FA Cup run of 1989 (just ahead of Sunderland in 2006 for me), but it was also the last one Griffin Park saw before the old girl took her final bow.

A Griffin Park night under the lights always had the right ingredients for a bit of magic, and that night in September 2010 was certainly no different. Andy Scott’s men had already, in the previous round, put out a Hull City side only relegated from the Premier League four months earlier.

It wasn’t just a scratch side that David Moyes brought down to Griffin Park for the third-round tie either. The League Cup may have been all but reduced to a reserve team competition these days, but that night, both sides were pretty much at full strength.

In fact, of the Everton starting line-up, five were full internationals (Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka, Phil Neville, Marouane Fellaini and Yakubu), while Seamus Coleman was only a month away from his first call up to the senior Irish national side. Sylvain Distin and Leon Osman were seasoned top-flight performers too, so only Magaye Gueye, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and keeper Jan Mucha were really what one might have considered fringe players.

It is also telling that the line-up Everton put out against Fulham four days later contained only four changes – two of whom (Stephen Pienaar and Mikel Arteta) came on against the Bees – the other two being the two Tims, Howard and Cahill. All of which means it was only a very slightly weakened Everton team, not far off being full strength, which made Brentford’s achievement all the more remarkable in an age of diluted cup upsets.

And so, onto the action. I was recently speaking to Andy Scott, Brentford’s manager that night, who remembered it as one of Myles Weston’s finest moments in a Bees shirt, saying he’d had Everton right-back Seamus Coleman on toast. It was Coleman who landed the first blow for the Toffees though, popping up at the other end of the pitch to give Everton a sixth-minute lead with a fine finish.

Yakubu missed with a free header and Fellaini hit the post as the Premier League side looked to assert their dominance and build on their early lead, but Weston was certainly proving to be a thorn in their side as the hosts started to get back into the game.

The Bees were denied a penalty when Bilyaletdinov knocked Weston over in the area, but Weston was to have his revenge four minutes before half time when he crossed for Gary Alexander to head the equaliser past Mucha.

Having been denied an earlier penalty, Weston was rewarded with a spot kick when he was sent sprawling by Coleman, only for Charlie MacDonald, normally so deadly from the spot, to have his kick saved by Mucha, diving low to his left to keep out the striker’s effort and keep the scores level.

Minnows don’t normally get as good a chance as that to slay a giant, and it seemed like Brentford would be made to pay, but Richard Lee saved well at the other end from Bilyaletdinov and Gueye while Fellaini saw a header cleared off the line, taking the game to extra-time.

When not even an added 30 could separate the sides, it would be down to penalties to decide it, and successful efforts from Baines, Neville and Arteta for Everton were answered equally by Weston, Nicky Forster and Michael Spillane for the Bees. After six kicks it was 3-3 – who would blink first?

The answer proved to be Jermaine Beckford, who only six months earlier had broken Brentford’s hearts with a late equaliser at Elland Road, when a Ben Strevens strike had look set to give the battling Bees a famous victory over Leeds (before such things became nothing to write home about).

Beckford’s effort was saved by Lee, and the next man up was MacDonald, who had seen his spot kick saved during the normal 90. Would he hold his nerve this time? Of course he would, the popular striker putting his side on the brink of a famous victory with a textbook penalty.

Brentford still had one kick left, but with Kevin O’Connor off the pitch, it’s not clear who would have taken it. Alexander perhaps, or Sam Saunders. In the end, it didn’t matter as Jagielka smashed Everton’s fifth penalty against the post and Brentford were through 4-3, sparking a pitch invasion and wild celebrations under the bright lights.

Sadly, that was where the fairytale ended, although it could have been so, so different. A month later, Scott’s men travelled to St Andrews to face Birmingham City in the fourth round, taking the lead through a superb volley from Sam Wood, only for Kevin Phillips to equalise in heart-breaking fashion for the hosts deep into injury time.

Just like in the last round, the tie went to penalties, and this time the Bees came up short as Spillane and Craig Woodman missed from the spot. O’Connor, David Hunt and Lewis Grabban all found the net, but it was Birmingham who went through 4-3 on their way to lifting the trophy, defeating Arsenal 2-1 in the final at Wembley in February.

By then, Brentford had a new manager too, Scott having been sacked a few weeks earlier following a dismal 4-1 defeat at Dagenham & Redbridge. A run of seven games without a win, six of them defeats, saw the promotion-winning manager of just a year-and-a-half before shown the door and Forster take temporary charge.

As it turned out, Brentford did get a trip to Wembley that season as Forster led them to the Johnstone’s Paints Trophy final – but once again the fairytale finish was lacking as a dismal performance saw them lose 1-0 to Carlise United in the Bees’ first appearance at the renovated national stadium. New Wembley, same old Brentford.

By then, however, the seeds of change had been sown. Matthew Benham’s involvement had increased steadily over the previous few years, and a year later he took over the club fully. The work begun by Scott was carried on by Uwe Rosler, Mark Warburton, Dean Smith and, finally, Thomas Frank – bringing Brentford to a place where they were competing with Everton on a level ground rather than trying to claim their scalp in a cup.

As an aside, although that win over Everton was Brentford’s final big cup upset at Griffin Park, they came close to another three years later when they were within seven minutes of knocking European champions Chelsea out of the FA Cup. Chelsea’s manager that day? The very man that will be in Everton’s dugout on Sunday – Rafa Benitez – who has since got the better of the Bees twice with Newcastle United too. How sweet it would be for the Bees finally get one over on Rafa this weekend and add to his Everton woes.

Tim Street