Brentford hoping to avoid another Notts County nightmare

The very mention of a crunch April game against Notts County is enough to send shivers up the spine of Brentford supporters of a certain age.

Because, on the eve of another Magpies visit which could help decide where the Bees will play next season, if you were there it is impossible not to cast your mind back 19 years and wonder ‘what if’.

To put what happened into context let me explain the background to the match.

Brentford were playing in the second tier for the first time since 1954, which was a unique experience for a fair percentage of their supporters.

Halfway through the season, ironically after a Christmas holiday 1-1 draw away to County, the Bees sat comfortably in 10th place in the table with no evident relegation worries.

Although they had lost captain and inspirational centre-half Terry Evans on the first day of the season, Brentford had more than held their own – with a home draw at West Ham and win at Sunderland among their more impressive results.

However, the new year brought a bad run from which they could not escape.

Slowly they started to slip down the table with injuries playing a part and forcing them to play two wingers as full-backs.

That was the case during an embarrassing 6-1 thrashing at Millwall, which was made worse by the fact it was televised live on ITV.

After a run of one win in 13 games they were in the relegation zone for the first time.

A brief revival of two wins and two draws gave the fans hope and lifted Brentford back up to 17th with six games remaining.

On Easter Saturday the Bees went down 3-2 to a Derby side, who earlier in the season had deprived them of a place at Wembley in the Anglo-Italian Cup final.

So the visit of Notts County two days later, on 12 April, was crucial to Brentford’s survival hopes.

The Bees had not won a home game since Boxing Day and when County took a fifth-minute lead it appeared to be the same old story.

But Alan Dickens quickly equalised and then in the 65th minute Gary Blissett gave the hosts a priceless lead.

The rest of the game seemed to drag and when it moved into injury-time fans’ nerves were shredded.

It was then that referee Mr Biggar indelibly etched himself into Brentford history. In those days there was no board signalling how much extra time the officials would play – the crowd just had to wait for the referee to blow the final whistle.

There had been hardly any stoppages in the second half but still the game kept going and going until in the sixth extra minute County inevitably equalised.

No-one knew where the time had come from and the game kept going for another couple of minutes – but when the match did finally end the players and fans were simply devastated.

The Bees never recovered and although they finally recorded a home win in their final game at Griffin Park by beating Barnsley 3-1, they went down meekly after a final day 4-1 hammering at Bristol City.

But it was the day the Magpies flew away from Griffin Park with their extra point which is even now talked about as the one when Brentford’s relegation fate was sealed.

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