After the excitement of an unusually eventful and positive pre-season and a home win to start yet another campaign in Brentford’s natural home in League 1, a routine 2-0 away defeat at Sheffield United. It is, of course, very early in the season, but is this going to be same old Brentford once again?
Thankfully, despite only sporadically threatening to make the scoreline less one-sided than the 2-0 it ended up, there were enough small signs of encouragement to keep some sense of optimism going. McGinn, on loan for the season from Celtic, had a great run, beating several players, culminating in a shot that, although always swerving wide, on another day would have made the cut for goal of the month. After several years of depressingly aimless long-ball play, at least the team tried, and moderately often succeeded, in passing the ball around and looking like that was its preferred way of playing. That there was too little end product and players like Weston continued to infuriate by being ineffective when we all know how lethal they can be, sometimes, was perhaps predictable, but there’s at least a glimmer of hope that if the team can develop into the right attitudes it is going in the right direction.
I missed the first 20 minutes after enjoying the morning with OMB too much (after a swim and a trip to Pizza Hut where he’d uncomplainingly eaten some apple and carrot slices before tucking into the nachos he really wanted in his salad bowl I could hardly begrudge him his favourite ice cream or rush him back up the hill from Kirkstall). Luckily, the rail network’s propensity for delay was our saviour. We managed, through a combination of both our train into Leeds and an earlier express to Sheffield being delayed enough to get us door to door from Headingley to Bramall Lane in an hour. I’m not sure we missed much, but the impression was of the first half being reasonably well balanced.
That was, of course, blown away by conceding the first goal early in the second half and seeing McGinn and Donaldson being substituted by Saunders and MacDonald. It will be interesting to read Uwe Rosler’s press conference to see what tactical reasoning was behind these substitutions. I’d prefer that they were tactical substitutions that didn’t work than that there was any injury or other reason for them. In the rest of the second half, apart from a few long sequences more akin to those in practice games where the Bees passed the ball around nicely but without an obvious underlying attacking momentum, and a flurry of chances during time added on, the chances of a comeback were vanishingly small.
I’m hopeful that this is an unrepresentative early game. It doesn’t hurt to keep everyone, both on the pitch and in the stands, focused on the hard grind that it will take to transform Brentford from near-perpetual residents of League 1 to being realistic promotion contenders. Some convincing victories over non-league opposition and a comfortable win against a Yeovil side that is unlikely to trouble the top half of the table in May 2012 was the phony war, now the reality of the task is more clear and expectations should be tempered by this.
Ideally, I’d like Brentford also to be a club that would not be fated for immediate relegation back to League 1 if it did manage to go up. That was the case in the only season in the past half century when the Bees did make it to the second tier and which, if being realistic, would have been our fate had we been promoted in any of the near miss seasons we have had in the 18 years since (barring 2001-02 when it would have been possible to imagine establishing at Championship level without it being complete fantasy).