Monday, February 07, 2011


I am a bit late today, sorry, I was looking at the english non league games today, but could not find anything of value.

However, we will be heavily involved in these in the coming month or two, so many non league teams have a massive number of fixtures to play and will be forced to play three matches per week, for several weeks, in order to complete their fixture list, in the Conference North for example leaders Nuneaton have played 25 matches, third placed Alfreton just 18 and the league will NOT be extended beyond April 30th. Many of these players are part time and have commitments outside football and their club is also likely to be involved in lower league cup compettitions too. They will have to pick and choose the matches they will focus on and a little team news is going to go a long way !

This has all come about because of the dire weather at the turn of the year, which has also left the pitches in a bit of a state, which is further likely to take it's toll, playing three games in a week on heavy, broken up pitches and working a 5 day week at the Post Office too, is a far cry from the EPL........... unless you are a Wigan player ! I think the groundstaff at the DW Stadium will be working overtime this week !

Only going to discuss the JPT Southern Final second leg today, which is a bit of a mouthful, between tiny Exeter City and the mighty Brentford, not that I am biased in any way, shape or form.

The tie is finally balance after a 1-1 draw at Griffin Park ( The Theatre of Sleepless Nights) and both clubs will be very motivated to progress and earn a day out at Wembley later in the year, which will brighten up what has been a dismal 2011 for both teams so far. City have won just once this year, beating Walsall, who were fairly hapless at the time 2-1 at St James Park, with the visitors having a lot of goal scoring chances. Brentford had lost six from seven in the league before beating Plymouth 2-0 on saturday, that was a good solid performance from the Bees, but I should add that many home fans were of the opinion that Argyle were the worst team they have seen this season, but, to be fair, the team in green have had a lot of off the pitch distractions to deal with.

This will also be the third start in six days for both and there are bound to be some very tired legs on the pitch tonight, even allowing for a little squad rotation, it is worthy of note that City faced both Southampton and Huddersfied last week, two of the better team in the division, they did a lot of running and to concede six on home soil in four days, is not good for the confidence, so advantage Brentford there. The two teams know each other well and in addition to the two 1-1 draws at GP, the Bees earned a famous 4-2 win in the league here three months ago, when everything in the garden looked so much rosier ! That was an incredible game, as City thought they were hard done by, despite Brentford having a "good " goal disallowed and missing two penalties ! They could have scored seven on the road, yet the highlight of the day was three Bees players arguing for what seemed like minutes over who was to take the second penalty !

So, three previous games, both teams scored in each, City have yet to win but might argue that were the better team for long periods in two of them. I am not so sure ( of course not !), Brentford could have scored 5-6 here and also dominated the league match at Griifin Park, I don't doubt that these are two very well matched teams, but Brentford have the better squad IMO and have a weight lifted off their shoulders after coach Andy Scott left the club last midweek. I have some sympathy for Scott, who's record at Brentford looks very good on paper, but his playing budget was huge compared to recent incumbents at the usually cash strapped club and the level of expectation from board and supporters alike in TW8 is so much higher now. Losing with a touch of style has been the Bees motto since I was in short trousers, but the football dished up this season has been poor, with just one or two exceptions, there were too many instances of terrible team selection, confidence was shot and a long relegation battle was fast becoming likely. So, the cries of Scott out were finally listened too and Brentford striker, hero, crowd favourite and all round good egg Nicky Forster was put in temporary charge of the club, with the aim of stopping the rot, collecting three points at the weekend ( so far so good) and getting the bees to Wembley.... simple !

Forster is a very different character to Scott, the former boss never endeared himself to the supporters who are used to a close relationship with their manager, so, when the results turned, so did they ! NF has been very open, talking to everyone either through the media or social network sites and immediately got everyone behind the team. The lift in the mood at GP Towers over the weekend was palpable and when the second goal went in, the change in the players was amazing, there were a few turns and flicks, that would not have come off the previous week, or even been attempted, and shock, horror several consecutive passes between team mates ! Here is a section from one of Forster's post match interview ...

(NF): Yes, I thought the lads were fantastic, I really did. From the start, all the way to the end. At the end I said in there that the players managed the game themselves. From the moment we scored we grew in belief. In the second half we won that comfortably I thought. As I said they managed the game themselves and there wasn’t a lot for us [the management team] to do.

I thought the crowd was instrumental today. They started off in great spirits and the goals lifted them as well and both helped each other. I don’t think those on the sidelines or behind the scenes deserve the credit. I think the players deserve the credit today, and the fans too.

Interviewer: You asked the players to express themselves and they did it?
NF: I thought they did and I thought Myles Weston was back to his best. Talking about managing themselves, I put Myles on the left and Sam Saunders on the right, and half way through the first half I realised they had swapped over and I hadn’t told them to do that!

Myles thought he could get at Duguid and get crosses in and they did. I challenged those two players to get crosses in and feed the two boys up front.

I’m not going to single anyone out, as a team I thought they were fantastic.

I know it is only one win, but it is more about the mood at the club, everyone is moving in the right direction and Forster has the respect of the players, which Scott had probably lost. Incidently, I heard that within 60 minutes of the decision being made to part company with Andy Scott, that Brentford had received 46 applications for the job ! Many people have said that former boss Martin Allen is favourite for the job, I cannot see that, to my mind that would be a backwards step and not what I would expect from the current board/ owner. People have short memories, many fans would be happy to see him back, but far too often Allen didn't have a plan b, let alone plan c and his style of management seems a little dated to me, I would be surprised if he was seriously considered, but what do I know ? I understand that he, Dennis Wise, Gary Johnson and Ray Wilkins were all at the match on saturday, for no reason other than something to type, I can tell you that Wilkins has a strong family connection with the club, his brother Graham and father George both pulled on the famous ( in my household) red and white stripes and "Butch" was born in nearby Hillingdon.

Back to the game, City striker Jamie Cureton ALWAYS scores against Brentford ( three already this year) and despite missing the last two games, you can almost guarantee he will pass a late test and play tonight, he will get plenty of stick from the travelling supporters and give them some back when he scores his usual goal ! Ben Hamer, who has had four ( I think) loan spells at Brentford is also likely to be passed fit to take his place between the sticks tonight for City, last game he played for the Bees was that 4-2 win here back in October, football is a funny old game, Hamer will geta warmer reception from the visiting fans.

I feel both teams will once again score, the game is likely to get very stretched especially in the second half , I believe fitness levels at both clubs are good, but the two games against stronger sides last week might just have taken a little more out of City and they always concede at home ! I will take Brentford with the handicap start and refound confidence. By the way, did I say that Cureton always scores against the Bees ?

Brentford +0.25 1.97 +

Good Luck.

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