Saturday’s visitors Wycombe have already played Brentford twice this season – and have held us to two draws over 90 minutes.
They became part of Bees history when they were the opponents for the first competitive game at the Brentford Community Stadium in the Carabao Cup first round in early September.
And they held us to a 1-1 draw, before we got through on penalties.
The return at Adams Park, straight after the November international break, finished goalless, so despite our current 17-match unbeaten run in the Championship and the huge difference in the teams’ two positions in the table – Saturday’s match is likely to be far from straightforward.
Wycombe have found it hard going in their first-ever season at this level – they have only won three of their 23 Championship games and are currently 10 points adrift of safety.
They could not have had a much worse start – losing their first seven matches.
However, things then started to improve, and after a draw with Watford they then won back-to-back games – beating Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 at home and then triumphing 2-1 at Birmingham.
They then drew four of the next six matches, including the Bees’ visit, but they have lost five of the seven league games since – with their only victory being 2-1 against Cardiff to end 2020.
They do have one cup win to their name this season after beating Preston 4-1 in the FA Cup third round, but their run ended in the fourth round on Monday when they lost at home to Spurs by the same score.
Wycombe joined the Football League in 1993 and have spent 14 seasons in the third tier and 13 in the bottom one.
They won promotion via the play-offs in their first season – and have come up from the bottom tier on three other occasions.
The other notable achievements in their League life were to reach the semi-finals of each of the two major cup competitions.
They made the last four of the FA Cup in 2000/01, where they lost 2-1 to Liverpool, and the semi-finals of the Carling (League Cup) in 2006/07, where they beat Premier League Fulham and Charlton on the way to the last four, where they lost 5-1 on aggregate to Chelsea, having drawn the first leg 1-1 at Adams Park.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
Gareth Ainsworth has lost his title of the Football League’s longest-serving manager to Simon Weaver of promoted Harrogate. However, while Weaver has been managing outside the League, Ainsworth’s reign is the longest of any club which was in the League at the end of last season.
Gareth took charge at Adams Park in September 2011 after a brief spell as player-coach.
Two seasons later, he kept Wycombe in the Football League on the final day of the season, and the following year he reversed their fortunes as they lost in the play-off final to Southend, after achieving the club’s best-ever points tally of 84 to finish fourth. The League Managers’ Association named him their League Two manager of the year for that season as a result.
In 2017/18, Ainsworth clinched his first promotion with a third-place finish in League Two, before last season leading them into the Championship for the first time, via a 2-1 win over Oxford in the League One play-off final.
As a player, he was a midfielder and played in all four divisions in his career which took him to Preston, Cambridge, Lincoln, Port Vale, Wimbledon, Cardiff, QPR and Wycombe.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
Games between Brentford and Wycombe often produce plenty of goals – this season’s first Championship meeting aside.
Over the years, the clubs have met in the League, FA Cup, League Cup and Football League Trophy.
The first-ever meeting at Adams Park in September 1994 set the tone as Wycombe won 4-3.
We won 4-1 there in the Auto Windscreens Shield in January 1999, but in December 2001 came out on the wrong end of a thrilling 5-3 defeat – watch the highlights below.
We also lost 4-0 there the following season, but had won 4-2 in the FA Cup in Buckinghamshire earlier in the campaign.
Probably the best goal ever scored in Brentford-Wycombe encounters came at Griffin Park on Boxing Day 2007 – Glenn Poole’s amazing volley from a corner. It was the only Christmas cracker Bees fans could celebrate that day as the Chairboys earned a 3-1 win, but you can watch Glenn’s goal and the highlights below.
The following season, with both sides going for promotion from League Two, we shared six goals in a high-quality 3-3 draw at Griffin Park – highlights below.
And there were fewer goals when we met at the higher level the following season – the Griffin Park encounter ending 1-1. Highlights below.
Before this season, the last campaign in which we met in the league was 2011/12.
A Kevin O’Connor penalty gave us a 1-0 win at Adams Park early in the season, but the return in the January will always be remembered for a Gary Alexander hat-trick. Further goals from Sam Saunders and Toumani Diagouraga earned us a 5-2 win, despite replies from Dave Winfield and Ben Strevens.
As mentioned earlier, Wycombe have twice held Brentford to draws over 90 minutes this season.
In the Carabao Cup, Ethan Pinnock headed the first competitive goal at the Brentford Community Stadium in the 32nd minute of our first round meeting.
Dominic Gape was sent off three minutes into the second half, but Daryl Horgan scored in the 76th minute to take the game to penalties.
Mathias Jensen and Nick Freeman both missed the target in the shoot-out, before Luke Daniels saved from Scott Kashket to take Brentford through 4-2 on spot-kicks.
The return produced our second successive goalless draw, following the home game with Middlesbrough.
In a game of few chances, Bryan Mbeumo had a 28th-minute shot tipped on to the post by Ryan Allsop, while David Raya made a late save to deny Daryl Horgan.
Phil Catchpole, the BBC Three Counties Radio football commentator and host of the Ringing The Blues podcast tells us what has been the hardest thing for Wycombe to adapt to in the Championship, discusses whether or not they can stay up, and looks at the influence of ex-Bee Darius Charles.
Q – How would you assess Wycombe’s season so far?
A – Educational! We all knew that it would be a tough season due to the size of Wycombe’s budget, but despite only winning three games so far it’s also been great fun. In nearly all the matches, we’ve been competitive and there has been real progress to watch in the performances. A couple of injuries to really key players has hampered us too, which happens at all clubs, but because Wycombe have a small squad for this level, it’s made a big impact.
Q – What has been the hardest thing for them to adapt to in the Championship?
A – The ruthlessness of our opponents each week. The first couple of months seemed to be a pattern of missing a chance or two and then being punished for making one defensive mistake and having to chase the game. Progress is being made, however, and the belief that Wycombe will somehow avoid relegation is still present.
Q – What are the chances of them pulling off a “great escape” and staying up?
A – The odds are stacked against us, just as they were at the start of the season. The table doesn’t lie after this many games, but the performances have warranted more than the 15 points Wycombe have got so far. Gareth Ainsworth has built his entire reign and success at Adams Park on belief and he reckons we can still do it. He reckons we need 35 points out of a possible 69 available…
Q – How has Gareth Ainsworth handled managing at this level for the first time?
A – It’s been a very honest approach so far. He admitted that he would need a bit of time to get his head around the Championship and it’s panned out that way so far. There’s no chance of spending our way to safety so it’s been the trusty excellent man-management skills, improving the players we have and digging out some diamonds on loan.
Q – Brentford have failed to beat Wycombe over 90 minutes twice this season – what have they done to stop the Bees?
A – Wycombe are very good at disrupting the rhythm of teams and games. Slowing things down, frustrating opponents and battling incredibly hard. If teams aren’t up for getting stuck in, then they have often been left disappointed at full-time. This was incredibly effective in L1 and L2 and we’ve seen it occasionally work in the Championship too.
I think Brentford rolled their sleeves up at Adams Park earlier in the season, but I think we caught you at a good time, before you’d really hit your stride. The League Cup game was an anomaly due to the amount of first-teamers out for both sides.
Q – Ex-Bee Darius Charles has made a remarkable comeback from injury to relaunch his career with the Chairboys – how influential is he?
A – Massively. His story is incredibly powerful and not just for other footballers. You can only be inspired about what Darius has achieved in these last two years after being advised to retire. The other night he was competing against Kane, Son, Bale and co. Off the pitch he is just as important. I’ve been lucky enough to have several conversations with him and you always walk away from these a lot wiser.
Q – Who should else should Bees fans watch out for?
A – Admiral Muskwe has been signed on loan from Leicester. He is here to hopefully make us more clinical in front of goal as chances have been created and often not taken. We’ve only seen him in the cup so far but the early signs look good and Gaz is a bit of a magician in the loan market.
Curtis Thompson is a player who is pivotal for Wycombe. A combative central midfielder, it’s been a joy to watch him glide up from L2 to the Championship.
Q – Finally can you give me a possible line-up and formation please?
A – Good question. I’ve probably got more chance of getting this week’s lottery numbers than any accurate injury/Covid news from Gaz – He likes to spring a surprise!
4-3-3 tends to be the favoured formation…
Grimmer Knight Charles McCarthy
HOW TO FOLLOW THE GAME
The match is being played at the Brentford Community Stadium at 3pm on Saturday, behind closed doors. Season ticket holders who have frozen their tickets have free access to watch the match on iFollow, and others can buy a match pass for £10.