On a Saturday when the chill in the air sought fit to freeze the very marrow in our bones - while we clung onto vague memories of a balmy autumn and dressed accordingly - the Brook Road Stand seemed to hum with a sense of anticipation. We were 15 days and an international break away from that win, giving us just enough time to peel ourselves from the ceiling to witness a continuation of the 66 year domination at Griffin Park.
Aside from Liam Trotter being elevated to the starting eleven for Jonny Williams, this was the same side that strode onto the hallowed turf during that bonfire evening. Once again, no Chris O’Grady in the squad and neither was Chris Burke. What we did have though was a welcome return from injury for Michael Mancienne, together with the potential pop and fizzle of Williams, Walker and Osborn, while Evtimov, Wilson and Blackstock rounded off the numbers. In light of the recent atrocities, all players and officials stood on the centre circle while an impeccably observed minute’s silence was undertaken prior to kick-off.
Like so many of our games thus far, that the score remained 0-0 going into half time was something of a surprise. Within the first 20 minutes we had pressured and probed to find openings in the Brentford final third. Good work on the wing from Mendes, Lansbury sitting deep to feed the forward runners, Vaughan doing what Vaughan does best and Oliveira forcing a couple of saves from the Bees keeper. We had started brightly. That Mendes tried to beat one man too many on several occasions was a slight bone of contention. Getting his head up and making that decisive pass is all that’s missing.
We didn’t have it quite all our own way, but Dorus wasn’t really tested in the first half with Brentford creating a couple of half chances that didn’t hit the target. A couple of wasteful efforts from Mendes, a good effort from Jamie Ward and more shots from Oliveira that were either saved or blocked wrapped up the half. That we were not awarded a penalty around the 20 minute mark after Harlee Dean unceremoniously dumped Mills onto his backside when advancing into the penalty area will remain a mystery however. It seemed only a matter of time before the deadlock would be broken.
We started the second half as we finished the first. A shot from Lansbury that was never really going to bother the keeper was followed by some great work down the right by an advancing Lichaj. His cross met the head of Oliveira, whose downward header had the keeper scrambling to make a save. Our best chance yet. At the other end, Dorus had to wait until the hour mark before he was called into action and in doing so produced probably the best save of the game, diving full stretch to deny Swift. That was to be his last contribution as Brentford blinked first, making two substitutions in quick order. Canos replaced Swift, followed by Hofmann replacing Vibe as the hosts looked to change their fortunes in a game they couldn’t wrest control of.
Cue our season in microcosm – part one. With barely a shot to their name, it was inevitably Brentford that scored first. A goalmouth scramble – the result of an inswinging corner – couldn’t see a man in yellow get enough boot on the ball to clear their lines. So up stepped Sr. Canos, rifling a shot from inside the box to send the home crowd into raptures. Sixty-four minutes had passed and we were undone. But it wasn’t for the lack of chances – again. Mr. Dougie saw fit to make a double substitution on 68 minutes, replacing Mendes and Trotter for Williams and Blackstock and barely 5 minutes had passed before Williams was in the thick of it. Working his special kind of pop and fizzle on the left was causing a bit of a stir in the Brentford ranks. A tackle befitting agricultural standing saw a man in yellow – I think it was Pinillos - in a bit of discomfort on the floor. The award of a free kick resulted in Harlee Dean hanging onto the ball while our Johnny attempted to wrest it from his grasp. One flailing arm connecting with the head later and the ref couldn’t really get the red card out quick enough. Brentford were down to ten men and we smelled blood.
The hosts made the inevitable tactical change, bringing O’Connell on for Judge who’d had a quiet game, but it wasn’t long before Lansbury found the ball at his feet just outside the Brentford penalty area. A little shimmy into the box, a curled effort inside the left hand post and the Forest faithful erupted. It was definitely game on and Brentford were there for the taking. Soon after, a lovely cross from Ward found Dex who just missed the target with his resulting shot. Brentford were sitting deep and inviting pressure. The inevitable counter-attack followed and another fine save from Dorus denied Canos the opportunity to put the Bees back in front. But, in fairness, aside the chance for Dex at one end and Canos at the other, the remaining 15 minutes of the game provided very little in terms of pressure and attacking intent from Forest. It was as if they were afraid to lose the game and had settled for the point. That’s always a poor state of mind to be sucked into; and so it proved to be.
Cue our season in microcosm – part two. With the opposition down to ten men and looking like they were expecting us to score a second – as did the whole of the crowd – the lack of that final coup-de-grace, coupled with an entirely warranted 6 minutes added on, signalled hope for all. But we didn’t push. Just prior to full-time, Walker had replaced Oliveira, so we had two strikers on the pitch which would indicate the mood of the Forest hierarchy. Yet there seemed to be a reticence in the ranks to go for the jugular. We were seeing out the 6 minutes and taking the point, but Brentford had other ideas. It was difficult to see what actually happened in front of the Ealing Road Terrace. A Forest player on the ground, what looked like appeals from his teammates, a despairing Dorus making a save then stretching a hand up while sprawling amongst a throng of players, a deafening roar as the inevitable winner for the hosts nestled in the back of the net in the 95th minute. We were undone. But it wasn’t for the lack of chances – again.
You can follow Sean on Twitter at @G_T_Spectacles
And he also runs the website: www.garibalditintedspectacles.