Date: 8 November 2011
Oh dear, despite an excellent game on Saturday, tonight’s fiasco doesn’t bode well at all. It seems to suggest we have no ‘plan B’. If Thomas ever can’t play again (tonight he was cup-tied) what are we going to do? As soon as the team was announced most supporters said, “That can’t work. Symes can’t hold the ball up. He can’t play up front on his own.” There’s no satisfaction in having been proved so right. But also, we have no fallback plan for if Flahavan ever gets injured: Jalal was a total disaster area, and even with our first choice back four in front of him couldn’t defend our goal to save his life. Well we can’t play the same eleven as last Saturday in every match for the rest of the season so I conclude that, with this squad and this coach, we’re heading for relegation.
So I’ve mentioned the team line-up: Jalal/Symes for Flahavan/Thomas but otherwise unchanged in a 4-4-1-1 system. No-one had a great game. Jalal was at fault for Brentford’s first two goals (scored right in front of the away end), and Cummings’ flank wasn’t being defended properly in the second half so he must take the blame for several second half goals; but in a congested standing area, on a level with the pitch, and with pillars getting in the way wherever one stood, it was hard to judge exactly what was going wrong.
Indeed the appalling stadium facilities are worthy of mention anyway (it saves me talking about the match for a while!). The floodlights were fully switched on at 5:45, two whole hours before kick-off, suggesting a club with money to burn. Some of this cash should be spent on the away entrance, so congested with security staff (Danny Hollands was being searched very thoroughly when he tried to come in!) and inadequate turnstiles that as the match kicked off fans were still queuing right down the street. Many missed five or ten minutes of the match; indeed we only arrived just in time for Brentford’s first goal. Inside there was the usual congestion with queues for toilets and for the one snack bar all overlapping each other, and no-one able to move. The matchday announcer was absolutely dreadful: screaming so loud into the microphone that, if we’d been interested in the identity of all the goal scorers, we’d never have learned it from him. The terracing itself, as I’ve already mentioned, afforded a very poor view of the pitch. And in our case (though Brentford can’t be blamed for this unless you put it down to a lack of stewards in key places) an obnoxious fellow stood alongside us, permanently effing and blinding and waving a lit cancer stick in everyone’s face. It was a relief to all concerned when he finally did what he’d been threatening to do from the start, and went home early.
But apart from that one guy, the team can’t complain about the support they received from the fans. We all cheered them to the end, out-singing the home fans, and even Shwan Jalal’s name was still being sung after the final whistle - though this could be in part because of the suspicion that we’ll never see him playing for the first team again. He’s served the club well in previous seasons, and it’s a shame for him that his swansong should have been a 0-6 reverse, especially as he didn’t even get to wear his own shirt for his final game. Presumably because of a cock-up by the kit man, Jalal wore a “35 Seabright” shirt throughout, and - to be honest - third choice keeper Seabright couldn’t have done any worse...
I’m not going to detail the goals themselves because they were hard to see, for the reasons started, and are in any case best forgotten. From the start the 4-4-1-1 wasn’t working, and Brentford’s two early goals left us with a mountain to climb. Despite this we held on till half time, and indeed Jalal managed no fewer than three good saves in the last five minutes of the half. We then regrouped into a 4-4-2 system, and the arrival of the impressive Sheringham gave us all hope, though it was a shame that the only way this could be achieved was by sacrificing Fogden. (I guess Symes and Arter were kept on at this stage because of the possibility of a penalty shoot-out.) Unfortunately Brentford scored their third goal within three minutes of the restart, and this seemed to sap us of any remaining confidence we may have had. Purches flagged during the second half and was replaced by Molesley who showed some real belief. After one Bournemouth corner, just in front of the away fans, the home side broke quickly and Molesley was forced into a rash ‘yellow card’ tackle to prevent us going any further behind. We did have a couple of shots on goal in this half, one where Sheringham fed Symes and one where Pugh fed Sheringham, but apart from this Brentford’s keeper wasn’t tested and we couldn’t break the deadlock.
Then in the final fifteen minutes everything fell apart. Brentford scored three more. The substitution of 40 year old Fletcher for Symes seemed almost laughable, though in fairness Fletcher put on a spirited display and won most balls in the air. The fans switched to gallows’ humour, singing “we’re gonna win 7-6” when there were less than five minutes on the clock! At one point a Brentford player hit the side netting, we switched to singing “we’re gonna win 8-7” and the scoreboard briefly showed 7-0, before everyone realised this one wasn’t actually a goal. At the end no-one whinged, everyone wandered off into the night, the stewards lining our edge of the pitch weren’t challenged, the policemen lining Brentford station platform must have wondered what they were there for as we stepped silently onto our trains, and some Bournemouth fans had a long trip home - one even telling me he’d taken the following day off work because he’d be getting home so late. He probably won’t do that again in a hurry.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):