RAMBLE: Wednesday 1-2 Brentford
For some reason the traffic after the match was horrendous.
We’d been picked up at Sainsbury’s car park straight after the match.
A tactic which usually, via a few back whacks, leads us back to Grenoside by about five past ten.
We tried the usual route of going to the end of Clay Wheels Lane and swinging up to Fox Hill.
Cue the queue.
We sat in traffic without moving for 45 minutes.
As a minor domestic was unfolding in the front seats I decided to have a quick scroll through Twitter… oops, too soon, the mouth breathers are in full flow… Facebook then.
One notification… OwlsAlive need an emergency ramble as Hugh can’t make the game… Aye go on then, seeing as it’s half term.
Having agreed to ramble I had to start remembering.
Usually you go to a game knowing you’re going to write about it afterwards, making mental notes on key events, who said what… but not today.
So, cue Wayne’s World style flashback intro. “doodleoodledooledoo” <wiggle your fingers like what I presume to be sign language for rain>
Before the match Richard and I had been dropped off at the Horse and Jockey by his wife.
She was out for tea with a friend and had kindly agreed to pick us up after the match at Sainsbury’s, as long as we got a wriggle on because she wanted to be in bed for 10 for an early morning tomorrow.
We assured her it would be fine and bid her farewell.
The boy had declined the chance to come tonight, I think the half term soccer camp (which is superb by the way, well done to all involved at SWFCCP) had shattered him out and he opted for a bath and early night.
Pre match chat didn’t really involve football much.
I’d just got back from a long weekend away in Dublin sampling the culture and the Guinness and the history and the Guinness and the rustic coastal towns and the…. You get the message.
We compared notes on the bars and places we’d been – Richard having visited a few years back.
It was while I was in Dublin that I had the rare experience of following a match via push notifications, casting an eye over twitter to fill in some of the finer details.
Having a season ticket I go to all home games and usually without fail follow away matches on the radio.
Owls on tour
The first notification that came through was ‘Yellow Card: WESTWOOD (26) Foul.’
I knew it could only mean one thing, a penalty.
I surreptitiously left the phone on the table so I could keep one eye on it, waiting for the inevitable buzz to announce the penalty had been dispatched… nothing for a while until *bzzzzzzzzzz*.
Deflation, I cast one eye down… ‘GOAL: ABDI (29) NFFC 0 – SWFC 1’.
I went for a strategic wee to have a quick trawl through twitter for an update on what had been going on and after feeling sufficiently informed popped the phone away and looked up to see the only sticker slapped on the urinal cistern… Owls on tour.
A wry smile and whisper of WAWAW to myself and I was back to the unsuspecting wife.
We all know how that match unfolded and press build up to this game centred on the possibility of a 5 game winning run; a possible 10 point gap to 7th opening; a climb to 4th, cementing our play-off position; even an assault on the top two had been murmured in some quarters.
Back to the Jockey and after discussing travel and work a bit, we had a brief chat about the match and the couple of changes.
Where Saturday’s line up had a very 4-3-3 / 4-5-1 feel about it with FF and Reach flanking Rhodes, today’s changes looked like a return to 4-4-2 with Reach dropping to left back.
That left side really is looking a problem this season – Carlos seemingly unable to settle on a pairing that has the requisite understanding, work-rate, quality and positioning to make the shirts theirs to lose.
Seems strange with the amount of left peggers we have in the squad. Surely a combination of two from Pudil, Fox, Reach, Emmanuaelson, Bannan, Wallace and Jones could form a partnership to rival the heady days of King and Worthington?… Maybe not then.
Much to discuss
Today it was the combination of Reach and Bannan, and to my mind, the first time they’ve been used as a left flank pairing… could be wrong though.
There was relief and agreement that Abdi had kept his starting berth following a fine display at Forest, though admittedly there was a hint of anxiety that this was a flash in the pan.
Much of the overheard conversations in the pub also surrounded Forestieri’s leap into the crowd.
How he needed it… how the fans needed it… how it shows his true passion for the club.
Pardon me for being the party pooper but I don’t buy it.
For one, if another player who needs to bond with the fans had done that, Pudil, Hunt or Jones for example, they wouldn’t be getting the same adulation.
A bit of a show?
And secondly, this just seems to me another episode of ego preening and posturing from our little magician… “Yes you may have your £10m man but I run this town!”
Casting an eye at the time we noticed it was half seven and we still had nearly a pint on the go.
A few gulps and a quick trot to the ground, Richard and I parted at the Park hotel as he went to take his seat in the kop, me joining my brother on the Western lower reaches of the North.
Well, for the first 20 minutes I was close to getting a crick neck.
All the play was in our half.
We just weren’t in it.
Brentford were marking very tightly and picking up the all too frequent loose ball, applying pressure around our box. Some of their neat interplay led to a couple of attempts at goal that didn’t really trouble Westwood.
Our long hoofs forward were lapped up by their centre backs who were both taller and quicker than our forward line, negating two of our possible routes of attack.
I texted Richard on 20 minutes “how’s the match… not seen much of it from here!”
No sooner had I sent it and we had our first meaningful foray into the final third; Wallace, Palmer and Abdi linking up well but ultimately not coming to anything.
Struggled to get a touch
Then came two game changing decisions within the space of a minute.
Forestieri had drifted out left (finding the space that Bannan hadn’t even looked interested in getting in to all day) and received a quick throw in from Rhodes, before cutting inside the defender, darting into the box along the by line.
The panicked right back clumsily tried to lean into the attacker’s shoulder, only to miss it and instead hurl himself into Fernando’s back.
PENALTY! It had to be… surely?
The ref did nothing… I mean, NOTHING.
He didn’t point to the spot, he didn’t stop play and book Forestieri for diving, he didn’t even do the sweeping arm movements across his body to signify that he had indeed seen it but didn’t deem it a foul.
He just jogged away.
There was some confusion as to whether the striker needed some medical attention after the attempted GBH, with a Brentford player putting the ball out for a throw only for Fernando to get to his feet and gingerly re-join the game, presumably cursing the officials under his breath as his hands cupped his face.
We dutifully gave the gall back to the Bees and it was threaded into midfield where the ref gives Brentford a freekick for a clumsy tackle.
The age old debate starts… “How is that a foul but the one on Forestieri wasn’t?
If Nando wasn’t in the area it’d have been given as a foul so how is it different?” etc etc.
Inevitably, Brentford scored from the resulting free kick.
The ref was under the cosh now, losing control of the game.
Players knew that they could get away with pulls and niggles, also knowing that appealing for everything gave you a chance of getting the decision.
It was an abysmal performance from Bond.
Another shout went Brentford’s way… This time a corner given after the ball had ricocheted off one of the Bees player’s shins.
Again the inevitable happened… an unchallenged header in the centre of the box gave Brentford a two goal lead.
Now, despite what I have written in the last two paragraphs, you can’t pin the blame for this result on the referee.
The reason we were losing 2-0 was our sheer inability to handle two very straight forward set pieces.
Nothing fancy about either of them, just a ball into the box and a header beyond the flailing Westwood.
HALF TIME: Wednesday 0-2 Brentford
Talk at half time mainly surrounded the ineffective Bannan and fiery Forestieri, who now on a yellow card and with his nose out of joint, could easily see red before the end of the game with the ref performing the way he is.
But would Carlos ever take Bannan off so early in a game? We joked about how Carlos would probably take off Abdi (who had been our only bright spark to this point) and move Bannan inside.
We saw sense and called it though… Bannan off, Winnall on with Nando moving to the inside left.
The change, presumably along with some words of encouragement at half time, led to a second half of football that again nearly gave me a crick neck.
Bannan off, Winnall on
Wednesday were relentless, wave upon wave of attack.
Chances created and spurned.
9 shots on target, 8 of which were saved by the brilliant Bentley who we unfortunately found in inspirational form tonight, the other cleared off the line.
We somehow managed to amass 24 goal attempts in 45 minutes of football.
Admittedly, as well as the fine form of their ‘keeper, there were a couple of howlers of misses by Sasso (scuffing the ball wide with an open goal) and Fletcher (somehow managing to hit the post with a free header from 2 feet out) before Forestieri curled a sublime shot into the roof of the net on 92 minutes.
No one celebrated.
Some fans may ask why we can’t play like that all the time.
Well firstly, we’d be knackered; and secondly the gaps left at the back allowed Brentford to counter attack swiftly and easily.
The fact that they had a 2 goal lead away from home meant that they didn’t need to and showed little ambition to do so when presented with the opportunity.
If we tried playing so cavalier whilst at 0-0 or only 1 goal down we’d end up on the end of a hiding.
For me, it was the first time I’ve really seen Carlos hit the panic button.
Playing the last 10 minutes with effectively a 4-0-6 formation, Winnall dropping the deepest of the forwards.
For 10 minutes we had Forestieri, Rhodes, Fletcher and Winnall on the pitch at the same time… I’m sure if Hopper was fit we’d have thrown him on too.
FULL TIME: Wednesday 1-2 Brentford
As usual there were some positives and negatives to take from the game.
On the down side, that left flank remains a problem.
Bannan is out of form again and must surely fear for his place given the form of Abdi.
Bannan: out of form
We must do better at defending set pieces, are we beginning to miss Lees?
The positives to take are that we are beginning to see the kind of player we thought we were getting when we signed Abdi.
We’ve shown that we do have the attacking mentality and threat in our squad having gone at it relentlessly for 45 minutes, it’s clear that our current much maligned style of play is tactical… we do have the players to change it, it’s just not Carvalhal’s plan at the moment.
So, on to Leeds.
Undoubtedly the pack will be shuffled once again, probably with yet another left flank duo being trialled, hopefully with Tom Lees back.
But Carlos will probably keep us guessing… There are cases for dropping or resting or tactically swapping any of the outfield players. The only name I’m 100% positive of seeing on that team sheet on Saturday is Westwood.
I’ll end with a player’s post-match cliché… One run comes to an end… let’s start another one. We go again.
TWITTER: @OwlsAlive and @GrenoOwl