Brentford 2, Tottenham Hotspur 2

Henry returns as fast and furious as ever

Third Season: Here we go again!

As I was saying before being rudely interrupted by the cricket season, what a terrific campaign Brentford conducted in finishing ninth in what was only their second Premier League experience. Was it a footballing flash in the pan? And can it be repeated, or even improved upon, in the months ahead?  Read on for the highlights of a 2023/24 debut, during which these questions were not necessarily answered but gave us a hint or two.

But first, to set the scene, a few quirky pre-match points – quirky because we are talking Brentford, after all.

The matchday programme, for example, in which the squad lists on its back page did not include their shirt numbers. Confusing for those who don’t memorise such data and others lacking in the knowledge that Harry Kane – tucked fourth from bottom on a 32-strong list – was on his way to Germany, while David Raya, prominent among Bees’ goalkeepers, was by now quite likely trying on sweaters for size at Arsenal.

Not quite as quirkily but worth noting nonetheless, who should have reappeared on the Brentford roster but the much-loved Sergi Canós, last seen heading for Olympiacos in Greece but now apparently a Bee once more, even if so far unseen, after a year on loan. What’s the story? I think we should be told.

Then there was the water problem, which delayed the start of this game by seven minutes, The trouble appeared to be that there was none, other than the bottled variety. Water, that is. Much head-scratching with Brentford officials and referee Robert Jones eventually decided the game could proceed, although less hardy supporters must have been beginning to feel it was like half-past Tuesday rather than a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Goal!

And so to the game, which the Bees began at a gallop. Christian Norgaard was a welcome returnee in midfield and a new signing from Wolves, centre-back Nathan Collins, slotted so smoothly into the defence that Ben Mee’s absence thought a minor injury was barely noticeable.

David Raya’s replacement, Mark Flekken, displayed confidence in both distribution and roaming his area and beyond and all was well until another club debutant, Spurs’ James Maddison, provided a free kick that enabled Christian Romero to score a goal that took VAR considerable time to decide that Romero had not been offside.

Brentford bounced back when Mathias Jensen was bundled to the ground by Son Heung-min, much to the referee’s disinterest. Jenson wasn’t having any of that and thumped the ball into touch and raced to discuss the matter with Mr Jones. Good move: a visit to the pitch-side monitor convinced the referee of an offence and Bryan Mbeumo, with a little jig reminiscent of suspended partner Ivan Toney, despatched the penalty.

Spurs were invigorated from the start of the second period and the Bees found little solace in walloping the ball out of their own penalty area in the vague direction of the visitor’s. Slowly they worked their way back into the game and what had seemed an interminable first period – 11 minutes were added by the referee – raced by.

Which is exactly what Rico did when bursting out of his own half at mounting speed and contributing a cross for Yoane Wissa to supply a most untypical finish, a slow-motion drive that took the merest of deflections to beat keeper Guglielmo Vicario.

Before the game was over Henry was to deliver the same type of run and the same brand of cross, only for Mbeumo to waste one of Brentford’s best chances. It was the sole error for the striker; he gains in stature with every game.

A new team mate, Nathan Collins; Roerslev defends against the fast fresh legs of Spurs’ Perišic

Memorable moments included an overhead kick by Wissa that would have beaten a less alert goalkeeper, and a magnificent block with outstretched boot by Flekken when Richarlison was almost ready to run off and celebrate his score.

As it was, the equaliser came four minutes into added time, when minutes of resolute Spurs’ pressure was ended by Brazilian Emerson Royal scoring from close in.

As is his wont, Thomas Frank used all five substitutions, while Ange Postecoglou, Spurs’ new head coach, employed just three. Players from each side and possibly a large number of supporters were exhausted come the final whistle. including Ivan Perišić, who although on the pitch for 15 minutes was most notable for not having his name on the squad sheet.

‘Quirky or what?’ said my mate Charlie.

Brentford: Flekken; Hickey (sub Roerslev 72), Collins, Pinnock, Ajer (Zanka 84), Henry; Janelt, Nørgaard (Baptiste 72), Jensen (Damsgaard 49); Mbeumo, Wissa (Schade 72).

Tottenham: Vicario; Emerson Royal, Romero (Sanchez 14), van de Ven, Udogie; Bissouma, Skipp (Sarr 75); Kulusevski, Maddison, Heung-min Son (Perišić 75); Richarlison.

Bill Hagerty is a contributing editor of the Bees United supporters’ group.

Pictures by Liz Vercoe

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