Wow – what a month November was for Brentford!
It had it all – the first away wins of the season, some quality goals from some confident players and finally a victory over a big team in a big game.
Last month I wrote that the Bees needed to cure their victory drought on the road if they were to have a chance of success this season
And in five away games during the month, they did just that with three wins – two in the league and one in the FA Cup. They also picked up two draws – one in each competition.
The first of those triumphs, at Boreham Wood, was the result of a highly professional performance that, apart from a 10-minute spell in the first half, ensured that there was never a sniff of a cup upset from the Conference South side.
Three days later the Bees travelled to fallen giants Portsmouth. There they protected an early Clayton Donaldson goal for 80 minutes thanks to a dominant performance from their five-man midfield and some good defending, albeit in a game of few chances for either side.
After a 2-1 home win over Carlisle stretched their unbeaten run in all competitions to five games, Uwe Rosler’s side faced up to the pivotal week of the month.
In eight days Brentford faced three games against sides in and around them in the table – Preston and Swindon away and then pre-season title favourites Sheffield United at home.
A last-gasp goal from Antonio German, his first for the club, rescued a point at Deepdale before another strike from Donaldson, this time 15 minutes after the break, was enough to put paid to Paolo Di Canio’s Robins.
The game at Swindon was another brilliant away performance and a tribute to Rosler’s tactical planning.
He started the match with a five-man midfield once again but with the contest level at the break as he hoped, he then switched to 4-4-2 for the second half as he had planned to do before kick-off.
The switch paid off in style when Paul Hayes, moved forward from midfield, provided the flick-on for Donaldson to lash into the net for his ninth goal of the season.
The Bees were inspired again by another masterful performance from Jonathan Douglas.
Against his former side, the acting captain overcame the disappointment of a first-half booking, his fifth of the season, which he knew would rule him out of the Sheffield United game, to lead by example and see the side to victory.
The week ended with a superb first-half performance against the Blades, capped by a wonder goal from Harry Forrester, which was enough to secure a 2-0 win, move Brentford into the play-off zone and inflict only United’s second League defeat of the season.
And the final match of a busy month was the 1-1 FA Cup draw at Bradford City, during which Donaldson, visiting the city of his birth, struck his 11th goal of the campaign.
There is no let-up in the amount or quality of the fixtures in December.
First on the agenda is another cup tie – the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy southern quarter-final at Southend, who are now potential FA Cup third-round opponents for the Bees if they beat Bury in their replay.
This competition has always proved a popular one for the club, especially for several of the current squad with memories of the trip to Wembley in April last year still fresh in the memory, and they will be determined to wipe out the nightmare of last season’s disappointing penalty shoot-out exit at Barnet.
Then the run of league games against promotion rivals continues with back-to-back matches against MK Dons, Notts County and Stevenage.
I think the ‘pay what you can’ ticket promotion for the Stevenage is a great move by the club.
Supporters have been invited to name their price for a ticket with a minimum cost of £1 and 50% of any ticket bought for more than £5 going to Sport Relief.
The club are hoping to get a five-figure gate on a weekend which often has lower crowds than normal because of Christmas shopping and other early holiday activities.
The two league games to end the year are against teams in the other half of the table in Colchester and Shrewsbury, both of whom failed to score in their visits to Griffin Park earlier this season.
Going back to the FA Cup draw and, with all due respect to Bury and Southend, the tie for the Bees, if they beat Bradford in their replay, is yet again a bit of an anti-climax.
In their four previous third-round appearances in the past 10 years, Brentford have been paired with Doncaster, Stockport, Luton and Derby, although at least the Rams were in the Championship, and for some reason they never get a plum draw at this stage of the competition.
Nevertheless these are exciting times to be a Brentford fan and with only three defeats from 20 league games, they will be hoping the November momentum continues for a long time to come.
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