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Sunday, 20 October 2013

The Inside Line: Brentford (22/10/2013)

With every passing day City's season gets closer and closer to crisis point. Yes, there are still thirty-plus games remaining, more than enough to climb the league and get comfortable - at least - and if you tracked 'form' I believe we'd still be on an upward trending curve.  But another game without a win, or a point even, at Gresty Road on Saturday means City are now rock-bottom, their lowest position in 30 years.

Tuesday night sees City welcome one of the pre-season favourites, Brentford, to Ashton Gate for the first in a short series of fixtures that look like they'll prove pivotal to the future of the season, if not the club.

So what can we expect from our opponents?

Until he recently joined Twitter, I'm sure many weren't aware that Bristol Post's City correspondent Andy Stockhausen was actually a Bees fan. It came to light for me with a response to an accusation about having an affinity to the Blue Few in the north of the city! Although now very much based in Bristol, Andy takes every opportunity to watch his boyhood club and was as devastated as anyone with last season's promotion heartbreak.

Lewis Hancock caught up with Andy between match preparation and fired some questions about Uwe Rosler's side at him.

Many tipped Brentford to be there or thereabouts again following last season’s third-place finish. Is that an accurate assumption or misguided view?
Given that Brentford managed to hold onto most of their best players and Uwe Rosler was given money to strengthen his squad in the summer, a majority of Bees fans felt automatic promotion was a realistic prospect in 2013/14. But expectations have since been tempered by a gradual realisation that League One is altogether stronger than last year. Doncaster and Bournemouth have been replaced by Wolves and Peterborough, promoted sides Bradford City, Port Vale, Rotherham and Gillingham are better-equipped than the ones they changed places with and a number of other teams, notably Leyton Orient and MK Dons, are coming out of transition and showing that they are ready to challenge at the top end of the table. 

Brentford’s much-vaunted home form of 2012/13 has dropped off as visiting sides have sussed them out and points conceded against the likes of Rotherham and Carlisle United at Griffin Park this season suggest a play-off place might well be the best the Bees can hope for.

How does Uwe Rosler set up his side to play?
He more often than not adheres to a traditional English 4-4-2 system, but has sufficient versatility within toe squad to be able to switch. He is likely to deploy more of a 4-5-1 formation at Ashton Gate, which easily becomes 4-3-3 when Brentford are attacking. 

As you would expect from a German manager, Rosler preaches hard work and discipline and the Bees are certainly well-organised out of possession. They get men back in behind the ball quickly and everyone knows his job. They prefer to sit deep away from home and rely upon swiftly-launched counter-attacks, an approach which suits a number of players blessed with genuine pace. They find it rather more difficult against teams that come to Griffin Park intent upon parking the proverbial team bus.

Who stands out as a potential match-winner in the Brentford side?
He may have come in for some stick from frustrated supporters this season owing to missing a number of clear-cut chances in front of goal, but Clayton Donaldson has been Brentford’s top-scorer for the past two seasons and will more than likely be so again this term. Blessed with pace and good feet and an ability to go past defenders, the experienced front-man remains the most likely source of goals. He can play down the middle, but is probably most dangerous when operating out wide and cutting in.

Will Grigg has got the backing of Rosler after receiving a fair bit of criticism for his goal tally so far this season (two goals in eight games). Do you think it’s only a matter of time before he adapts to Brentford’s style and finds his form from last season?
I think it’s more a case of him not being properly match fit rather than struggling to adapt to a different style. Whereas he was the attacking fulcrum at Walsall and the team was set up to accommodate him to a degree, he is required to work back off the ball now he is at Brentford. But his chief problem has been the injury that sidelined him for three weeks after he had made a promising start. He is still not as sharp as he could be and will require a run of games before he is back to his best. There is no doubting his pedigree, though, and I, for one, expect him to come good in time.

Are Brentford fans still haunted by that infamous Marcello Trotta penalty miss? Has it affected the youngster’s confidence on the pitch?
I fear Bees fans will always be haunted by that moment. Promotion was one kick away and we blew it. As for Trotta, he is a naturally confident lad and, no matter what individuals might think privately, the management and staff have closed ranks and been supportive of him. However, he is usually the first one to be targeted by irate supporters when things are not going well and he will have to learn to come to terms with this until he is forgiven.

Having watched every City game this season, who could cause Brentford problems?
I think it is fair to say Sam Baldock and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas will most defences problems in League One. But the guy I reckon will cause them an even bigger headache is Marlon Pack if he is allowed to pass the ball and set the tempo from a deep position. Brentford’s best chance is to detail a man to sit on Pack and, thereby, cut the supply lines to Emmanuel-Thomas and Baldock.

Finally, can I have a prediction for the match?

This is not me sitting on the fence or being diplomatic – I really do feel this one will end in a score draw. I’m going for 1-1.

The Exiled Robin

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