The team lead out the future generation of fans and players…
Second Season: Stand-in Superstar
The afternoon began with a shock: Ivan Toney was not in the starting line-up. Worse, he wasn’t in the list of substitutes either. Woe was almost tangible among the home side’s supporters. But not to worry – the sorcerer’s apprentice was on hand to spearhead the Bees’ late-season bid to finish ahead of West London rival clubs in the Premier League table.
Especially Fulham! said my mate Charlie.
Bryan Mbeumo’s undoubted talent has too often been hidden by the wizardry of Toney, his up-front partner and football professor when they trained together. Against the Hammers, it was left to Mbeumo to run the show, with Yoanne Wissa and Kevin Schade as his willing students.
The visitors helped a bit when West Ham manager David Moyes left out a handful of his key players, including Said Benrahma, not so long ago a crowd favourite at Griffin Park. Mbeumo led their replacements a merry dance, on one occasion intercepting a high through ball in an almost balletic one-foot movement to turn defence into attack.
And the goalscorer is…Bryan Mbeumo!
After twenty minutes In a first half which Brentford dominated, he also supplied the finish to excellent approach work that saw Matthias Jensen find him, unmarked and motoring towards goal. Mbeumo’s careful shot might have been saved, but keeper Lukaz Febianski, at full stretch, seemed to fumble the ball as it sneaked under him.
Febianski was constantly busy. Mbeumo shot wide – not unknown, remarked some cynics – but marshalled his troops well, so that Kevin Schade, hungry for his first Bees’ goal, and the persistent Wissa were each proving difficult to handle. Ben Mee was another irritant, having a fierce shot blocked on the goal line and deflected behind.
So the second goal came as no surprise when just before the interval, when Mee flicked on a Jensen long throw for Wissa to head the ball away from the keeper and into the net.
Moyes reacted to a threatened drubbing after the break. Almost certainly safe from relegation after a bruising season, he was now understandably worried that his team would fail to exploit their 2-1 advantage when travelling to the Netherlands for the second leg of their Europa Conference semi-final against AZ Alkmaar. So, on came Benrahma – to respectful applause – along with England international Declan Rice, Jared Bowen, and other West Ham hotshots.
Did it make any difference. You bet. David Raya, who had so far spent much of his afternoon as a spectator, suddenly found himself in a proper contest. With Rice running the midfield and the Bees’ defence stretched, they appeared to have clawed a goal back – much to the delight of their highly-vocal travelling support.
Vitaly Janelt closes in on Lanzini
Sadly, for them, it was a false alarm. A goalmouth skirmish that ended with Manuel Lanzini supplying Danny Ings with the ball he managed to stab home, only for lengthy deliberation and referee Michael Oliver’s visit to the VAR video screen revealing the decision of handball.
Of Thomas Frank’s handful of substitutes, Saman Ghoddos received an impromptu, warm response from the stands. It was announced earlier that Samman would be leaving the club at the end of the season. The attacking midfielder has featured mostly as a substitute and the crowd had always admired his spirit and enthusiasm.
But time moves on… with Frank celebrating his one hundredth victory in his time as head coach, although personal celebrating is not really his style.
‘I can remember my first win clearly,’ Frank told journalists earlier this month. ‘It was against Millwall at home… That first win was important. It was a good feeling and a little bit of relief, but then we lost three more”.’
He can now be proud of guaranteeing a top-ten place in the League this season, no matter what results are achieved at Spurs next week and, in the last game of the term, at home to Manchester City.
Hickey, Damsgaard and Janelt triangulate on the ball
A remarkable season, I observed to my mate Charlie, thanks to Ivan and the rest of the squad.
‘Especially Bryan,’ said Charlie.
Brentford: Raya; Hickey (Roerslev 85), Mee, Pinnock, Henry; Janelt, Jensen (Onyeka 70), Damsgaard (Baptiste 77); Mbeumo, Schade (Ghoddos 85), Wissa (Dasilva 77).
West Ham United: Fabianski; Johnson, Aguerd, Ogbonna, Emerson; Downes, Soucek (Rice 57); Fornals (Mubama 57), Lanzini, Cornet (Benrahma 57); Ings (Bowen 83).
Bill Hagerty is a contributing editor of the Bees United supporters’ group.
Pictures by Liz Vercoe