View from the opposition: Pass masters Brentford enjoying team spirit as hopes start to build
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Ahead of this afternoon’s Griffin Park encounter, Brentford supporter CHRIS FAIRBANK explains how the Bees have pieced together a potential push for the Championship play-offs.
Just how pleased are Bees fans with the job Dean Smith is doing this season?
Bees fans are pleased with Smith, he doesn’t do things in a flashy way and in just over two years has made the squad his own, very few players remain from the Mark Warburton days. We started the season very slowly and didn’t win until late September, but few fans were calling for his head, we knew what he and the team could do, everyone has been justified in our performances since. If we keep hold of everyone in the January transfer window we will be very strong going into the home straight, players are returning from long-term injury and there is a confidence around the club at the moment. The fact that we started so poorly meant that few consider us as play-off contenders and long may that continue.
Do you think a place in the top six is achievable?
Yes. We have developed a solid defence, our midfield has always been productive and effective and the return of Lasse Vibe to the squad has been significant. Emiliano Marcondes joined in January and is ready to go, Alan Judge and Lewis McLeod are returning from long-term injuries and are chomping at the bit to get time on the pitch. We are our own worst enemies, we often waste chances and have failed to shut games out. The last few weeks have seen us improve on those two areas and climb up the table. No reason why we can’t secure a play-off spot, sitting just three points outside the play-offs at the moment. Our last six games of the season (on paper) are winnable and if we are within six or seven points at that stage, I would back us.
Which players have been key to your good form?
It is very hard to pick just one or two players. There is no coincidence that since young Wales U21 captain Chris Mepham came into the side at centre-back, our form has turned around. His partnership at the back with Andreas Bjelland is a joy to watch and the two look supremely confident, which is bizarre given Mepham has only played a handful of senior games. Ryan Woods in the midfield and attacking threat Ollie Watkins have been important. Romaine Sawyers can pick defence splitting passes, as we saw at Carrow Road, and pushes the tempo of the team, Vibe is in good form up front. Dan Bentley in goal has recovered from a poor patch before Christmas to instil confidence in the defence. Yoann Barbet has been brilliant as stand-in left-back. Sergi Canos brings energy and drive for 90 minutes. Its a cliché, but it really has been a team effort.
Were you surprised at how dominant Brentford were at Carrow Road last month?
No, we play our own game and have dominated possession and passing in almost every game this season. There was talk that Daniel Farke made his players nervous before the game about how much we passed the ball and about how much we liked to play football, but all players want to play good football, so I don’t buy that. I was surprised by how disjointed Norwich were. From an outsiders point of view the wheels seem to be coming off a little.
How has Sergi Canos been getting on?
Sergi has been great, he has had a couple of injuries which meant he missed a large chunk of the season. He is back in the squad and pushing for a first team start, which he may get on Saturday. He is a real fans favourite, he plays football with a smile on his face, with intensity and pace. We don’t really understand why he didn’t play at Norwich, a victim of circumstances perhaps. Whilst the last few months have seen him used as an impact sub off the bench, his energy against tired legs could be the difference on Saturday.
Any City players you will be wary of?
I would have said Alex Pritchard, still held in incredibly high esteem by Brentford fans. Maddison, Murphy and Hoolahan are all dangerous players. Oliveira has taken the second most shots in the Championship, I believe, just behind our Ollie Watkins. I’m not convinced about Oliveira’s quality, but any striker that shoots often has a chance of doing damage.
And finally, what is your prediction for the game?
We are doing very well at home this year, and won five of our last six in the league. So 2-0 Bees.
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