|SATURDAY 8 FEBRUARY 2020|
SHOTS (on target)
Bee sting in the Tail
Brentford were looking to make it a hat trick of wins against Boro who previously were undefeated against their West London rivals for twelve games winning ten of those. A pre-game stat revealed that Boro had scored the fewest goals via set-pieces (eight) of any side in the Championship this season. That unwanted statistic won’t have surprised Boro fans who have watched some of the poorest free kick and corner routines known to man these last few months.
Thomas Frank’s injury news meant that Pontus Jansson would be missing along with key man Sergi Canos, Marcus Forss, and Nikos Karelis. Boro however would have new boys Moukoudi and Morrison both available for debuts depending upon how they performed in training during the week. The semi returned pair of Ryan Shotton and George Friend would still be deemed unavailable until their match fitness levels had improved. Long term absentees Ayala, Dijksteel and Roberts would all remain sidelined.
With Brentford in fifth and Boro languishing in eighteenth the Travelling Army would probably be expecting a fruitless trip or hopeful that the away day Boro who turned up at the Hawthorns and Deepdale do it again this afternoon at their last visit to Griffin Park. Harold Moukoudi was making his debut allowing Spence to be rested with Howson at RB and McNair in front pushed into midfield and Morrison on the bench.
Boro entered the pitch in their Inky black away shirt and white shorts and socks combo, a case of mix and match for the kit man with the winter sun shining on packed Griffin Park Brentford got the game underway with Dael Fry getting a boot to their inaugural probe. Boro had reverted to a back four pushing up the pitch and closing down quickly. The early tactics from Boro getting in amongst them quickly seemed to be having a positive effect in preventing Brentford getting their flowing football going.
A cross into the Boro box on seven minutes was partly cleared as Coulson slipped and a deflected shot went out for the first corner of the game. A couple of minutes later Moukoudi stood his ground in an unconvincing but effective manner from Benrahma. Dasilva then tried to find Benrahma again but Howson was alert to quickly see off the danger as Brentford now started to exert with a little bit of possession. Watkins was too quick off the mark approaching fifteen minutes and adjudged to be offside. As play restarted Coulson came close for Boro almost adding to his goal last week in our best opportunity in the opening quarter hour.
Dasilva tried his luck against Moukoudi again but the big loanee from St. Etienne was once again up to his task in clearing his lines in a somewhat agricultural but very effective and no-nonsense manner. Watkins was next to come up against Moukoudi from a free kick but like his team mates previously found that Harold was big, strong and impenetrable. On twenty minutes Boro had a heart stopping moment as the ball came off a beaten Pears’ upright from Dasilva but Fry was the first to react, stretching to head it off the goal line.
Twenty-five minutes in and the Bees were applying serious pressure as Benrahma fired in a shot blocked by Saville going out for another Brentford corner. As the ball was delivered to the back post there was a scrambled melee which Boro seemingly cleared off the line but Ref Peter Banks blew, awarding a goal to the appealing home fans delight with Jenvier the Bees opening scorer. A very messy goal to concede by Boro but one that was seen coming. As the game got underway again Jensen very nearly doubled his tally as Boro were now looking punch drunk. The Brentford onslaught was now relentless with Boro struggling to cut out the supply and deal with the speed and finesse of the Brentford attack.
Jensen found Watkins and the omnipresent Moukoudi dealt with it but they came straight back at us earning a corner in the process. The corner was poorly delivered Boro style straight to Tav who cleared but we struggled to hang onto any possession and Brentford reasserted themselves courtesy of a goal kick. Thirty minutes elapsed and Boro were already looking to the half time whistle to get their act together. The four at the back may have been what Woodgate wanted but there seemed little to no threat on the wings allowing Brentford to punish us at will and we offered nothing in response or at least nothing that was coherent.
Johnson cut into the eighteen-yard box and played in Tav to test Raya in a limited response to what had been fifteen minutes of total oppression from the Bees who had been well and truly buzzing. The Brentford pressure had eased at this point as Boro tried to get back into the game, a McNair free kick was hit too high and hard, going out for a goal kick as that damning stat about Boro and set pieces was once again illustrated. Our middle of the park looked wayward and struggling to find fellow Boro shirts with no creativity.
The first Boro corner came with five minutes of the half remaining predictably wasted and allowing Brentford to break out with speed requiring Coulson to rescue our blushes but in doing so allowing a dangerous set piece to Brentford. Jensen sent it in which fortunately was poorly delivered but equally poorly cleared by Boro with the Bees coming straight back at us again with the shot fortuitously going high and wide of Pears’ goal. A short Brentford corner saw Benrahma send it out across the far side in a wasteful effort as the home side seemingly wanted to outdo the visitors in who could make a complete mess of their set pieces.
Dalsgaard caught Wing in possession setting up an attack as the pressure continued ending in another corner to the home side. One minute of the half remained as the ball was whipped in and Fletcher who up until that point had been anonymous in his isolated lone striker role cleared away the danger. A Boro free kick in the dying seconds saw McNair float the ball in which was frustratingly easily cleared as the whistle sounded for half time.
The opening ten minutes was to Boro’s credit but after that it was all one-way traffic. Our flat back four stifled the creative outlet usually offered by Spence and Coulson. The midfield of Wing, McNair and Saville had looked disconnected and offered nothing offensively. Tav was involved but nothing of serious note and Fletcher must have tested positive for the Coronavirus this week as none of his team mates wanted anything to do with him.
Once again, the set up of four at the back coincided with a poor Boro showing, allowing Brentford the freedom of the flanks. Going in only one goal behind on forty-five minutes was probably the biggest positive Woodgate could take from the half along with the performance of Harold Moukoudi. Surprisingly after an ineffective first half there were no changes in personnel from Boro as they strolled back onto the pitch. Those in the away end were hopeful that there would at least be tactical changes if not physical ones as Boro got the second half underway.
McNair tried to pierce the Brentford defence early on but ran out of ideas and into the Brentford defence of three red and white striped shirts. The early exchanges saw a bit of Boro possession but we were slow, predictable, laboured and then suddenly a curling cross from Johnson clipped off Raya’s crossbar and Wing’s follow up was cleared from which Brentford broke and won a corner at the opposite end. Then a second corner in quick succession was lofted to the back post but fortunately an unmarked Watkins couldn’t control it. Boro had been guilty of leaving an attacker unmarked at the far post in the first half and clearly not learnt from it
Another McNair free kick was wasted, ending up with Johnson who struggled to get something on it conceding a goal kick in the process. It was very poor fayre from Boro so far, marginally more assertive perhaps in the second half but looked like we lacked continuity. As the game approached the hour mark a Coulson break saw his cross put out for a corner. McNair sent it in but it was headed out by Dalsgaard to Lewis Wing whose shot was routinely collected by Raya. A quick throw in then caught Brentford sleeping as Lewis Wing delivered one of his long range strikes which bounced and flew into the net past a despairing Raya on fifty-eight minutes.
The Travelling Army jubilation didn’t last long. Brentford’s Mbeumo replicated Lewis Wing and fired in a fierce shot of his own from distance after a poor Fry clearance straight to him which deflected off Moukoudi wrong footing Pears to restore the home sides lead. Boro came straight back at Brentford winning a corner, Johnson came off for Britt Assombalonga before it was taken. Tav sent it into the box and Fletcher rose majestically as if spurred by the arrival of Britt glancing it past Raya from five yards out, 2-2 on sixty-three minutes!
On sixty-four minutes another Wing strike had hopes high in the away end as the game now resembled attack v defence, swinging manically from end to end. It looked like a conventional 442 set up for Boro since the substitution with Wing on the left, Tav right and Britt partnering Fletcher. In a Benrahma attempt to break free Tav blatantly pulled him back for the games first yellow. The free kick was delivered in, met by Howson and it was Howson who then broke trying to set Britt free but the play broke down with Coulson. After a bit of theatrics from Mbeuno was ignored unrequited retribution was sought on Paddy McNair for a free kick to Boro.
A brilliant opportunity arose as Britt beat his man but with Fletcher screaming in the middle the execution of Britt’s pass was shall we say “rusty”. Britt was involved again moments later, fouling Dalsgaard as he looked to be keen to make his mark in the game. Brentford then made a substitution with Marcondes coming on for Jensen as the game had now turned a bit loose and messy which suited Boro rather than the coiffured Brentford playing style.
Tav made way for Nmecha with Lewis Wing now swapping flanks and fifteen minutes remained. Wing then brought down Watkins allowing a dangerous set piece as Brentford piled bodies into the Boro box which when despatched evaded everyone with its pace. Nmecha then tried to set up a Boro attack as the game continued with its frenetic nature in total contrast to the controlled and measured first half from the Bees. Just ten minutes now remained, McNair got a cross in but Britt fluffed his lines when he should have scored with Fletcher desperately trying to connect behind him. Saville who had a steady and solid second half then rescued Coulson as he was exposed as the game continued toing and froing. A free kick awarded just outside the Boro box to the Bees was in the desired perfect free kick specialist position. Benrahma faced a double wall of striped shirts and the navy shirts of Boro but managed to clear both the Bees decoy wall and the Boro defensive one to go safely over.
A Bees attack down the flank with a clever series of interpassing found Benrahma who skied his shot once again. The game was now in a lively phase to say the least as Brentford went for it but leaving gaps behind for Boro to exploit. Boro’s last Substitution was troubling for its logic with Fletcher coming off the field of play for Gestede. A striker for a striker when you have a valuable point away from home against one of the division’s better sides? Not only that but a very limited striker with little to no pace and a very poor first touch with a record for not scoring? A defender maybe considering you already had two strikers on the pitch, a creative and tricky midfielder who might do something special or create some magic, but no, we brought on Gestede! I can only assume it was in hope that he may win a header at a set piece perhaps in the way that Fletcher had done earlier to actually score!
As the game restarted the Bees tore down their right wing (yet again) and after some nifty passing set up Ollie Watkins, arriving in timely anticipation into the box despatching his shot to score Brentford’s third of the afternoon, 3-2, game over and out.
Lewis Wing found Gestede whose tame effort was saved by Raya with less than two minutes remaining and Brentford now utilising delaying tactics. A late free kick was launched up to Gestede which was cleared, delivered back in by Coulson as the fourth official held up four minutes. Thomas Frank made a tactical sub with Mbeumo going off for Roerslev in a very muddled and delayed switch. When the game finally got back underway a cross to Britt was too close to Raya allowing the Bees to waste even more time. Late into added time a Boro free kick was overhit as was seemingly de rigueur all afternoon allowing Brentford another opportune moment to delay.
George Saville then took Watkins down conceding a free kick to order at the corner flag as once again Brentford took it short, recycling the ball, killing the game in the process. Seconds later another free kick to the Bees near the corner flag ended the game as Peter Banks blew for what will be Boro’s final game at Griffin Park.
A very poor first half tactically but much better in the second from Boro but without ever looking totally joined up and far from convincing. Stark contrast to the fluid organised Brentford attacking display. The Gestede substitution when we were holding on for a draw with two strikers already on the pitch was eccentric to say the least and not a tactic that I have witnessed very often in many years of watching football. Granted had we nicked it at the death instead of Brentford then a masterstroke would have been claimed but if we go down by one point at the end of the season then this will be the day.
In the second half we hustled our way back into it and may feel unlucky not to come away with the point but in fairness Brentford deserved their win and the positive for Boro was that Moukoudi looks a good acquisition with a MOM performance.