Brentford fans are hurting but the dream is still very much alive

“No it’s not a dream, we’re stuck with it,” rages Basil Fawlty in a famous rant in the Gourmet Night episode of the classic TV series.

And that is how Brentford supporters felt when waking up on Sunday morning after seeing automatic promotion to the Championship so cruelly snatched away.

While the pain is beginning to ease for many as they look towards the play-offs, it is worth remembering that that penalty is not the only reason Bees players are not already on their holidays.

If Brentford’s away record had come close to matching any of their top-six rivals then they would have probably been champions, not just automatically promoted.

Their total of only seven wins on their travels was the worst in the top seven but only two of the teams in that section of the table lost fewer games than the Bees on the road.

Compare this to their 14 victories at Griffin Park which, together with six draws, gave them the best home record in the division.

Kevin O'Connor of Brentford
O’Connor has play-off experience.

Some of this must be down to the tactics of only playing one up front in many away games.

This kept chances to a premium and often meant that top scorer Clayton Donaldson played a wide midfield role from where he could create but had fewer chances to score.

Two up front worked much more effectively in my opinion, as was shown in the second half at Swindon and the entire games at Crawley and Crewe.

It was the preferred tactic at home, where the Bees won twice as many games as on their travels.

During a season all teams can look back at matches where they have thrown away stupid points and Brentford are no exception.

Failure to beat relegated Hartlepool or Bury in four matches proved costly.

However, that was countered by very late points snatched at Tranmere, in the 96th minute, Walsall, with two goals in the last two minutes, Sheffield United with nine men in the 89th minute and Notts County with a last-minute winner.

And it is moments like this which have made it such a memorable season.

Finishing third is a tremendous achievement from this side and one which most fans would have taken at the start of the season.

There is disappointment after last Saturday, but there should also be immense pride in the resilience, never-say-die attitude, team spirit and the passion shown by this group of players.

And the season is not yet over.

Yes, Brentford have an abysmal play-off record – never promoted in six attempts – but while the fans remember all those miserable moments, the majority of the players do not.

Apart from Kevin O’Connor, this is new territory for the squad and that means they do not carry the same play-off baggage as the supporters.

The end-of-season lottery is always hard to predict – but Swindon have a lot of injury problems and Sheffield United are in wretched form. Yeovil finished the season strongly but came unstuck at Bury on the last day of the season, while the Bees have to recover from last Saturday’s drama.

A good motivational tool would be to watch the end of the Doncaster game together as a group.

I finally got round to watching the Football League Show feature this morning and I am not ashamed to say that it brought tears to my eyes. The whole penalty incident, the Rovers goal and their fans celebrating was still quite upsetting.

But if the Brentford players can be shown this prior to taking on Swindon on Saturday, the motivation of going one better in the final three games will be huge.

And if things do not work out, then the future is still bright.

In 2001/02 Brentford faced an identical scenario to the Doncaster game – beat Reading to go up to what is now the Championship or draw and face the play-offs.

They missed out on automatic promotion and ended up losing to Stoke at the Millennium Stadium, after which the team broke up.

Whatever happens this time, the entire first-team squad, except Harry Forrester and Sam Saunders, is under contract for next season.

So the club will be in a good position to try to stay in the Championship or to go for promotion once again from League One.

Follow me on Twitter at @ianwestbrook



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