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Sunday, 26 January 2014

The Inside Line: Brentford (28/01/2014)

Lewis Hancock introduces the latest ‘Inside Line’:
City’s five-match unbeaten run came to a halt on Saturday and sees us remain a languishing ‘sleeping giant’ in League One’s relegation zone.  The defeat to Wolves was unsavoury but regrettably anticipated by many in BS3 considering City haven’t won at Molineux since 1931!

But what better way for Steve Cotterill to refocus the squad with a match just three days later, you might say?  Unfortunately, it doesn’t come much tougher than a team unbeaten in 16 league matches – including an amazing 14 wins – league leaders, Brentford.

Since the last encounter between the sides, the Bees’ are under new management in Mark Warburton following Uwe Rosler’s departure to Wigan, and their rich vein of form has seen them climb to the League One summit.

If last season’s near-miss is anything to go by, it comes as little surprise to supporters of League One clubs to see the West London club challenging for promotion.  There’s no doubt City will have to produce an excellent display to take all three points from Griffin Park and I spoke to Bristol Post’s City correspondent – and lifelong Bees fan – Andy Stockhausen, to hear his views on how the match may pan out.

Brentford have been on a very healthy unbeaten run in the league since October, skyrocketing into the automatic promotion places. How has Mark Warburton kept the side in such a rich vein of form since Uwe Rosler’s departure?
Continuity is the name of the game. Promoted from within following Uwe Rosler’s defection to Wigan, Mark Warburton has not changed a thing in terms of tactics, selection and overall approach. An intelligent man, he has made a seamless transition from director of football to first team manager. His mantra is “if it is not broken, don’t mend it.

Warburton won League One manager of the December in his debut month in charge. What does he bring to Griffin Park as a manager? How tactical is he?
Untried as a manager previously, it is difficult to say what Mark Warburton stands for at this early stage. So far, he has maintained a steady ship, declining to make changes and deviate from the path set by his predecessor. I have been told he is a good man manager and motivator, while his clever use of substitutes in recent games suggests an astute football mind.

It’s common for a team to hit good form towards the end of the campaign and look to sneak into the play-offs. Do you think Brentford have peaked too early or is there more to come from them?
I thought even before the start of the season that this Brentford squad ought to be up there challenging for automatic promotion. After missing out in such dramatic and heart-breaking fashion last season, nobody connected with the club is prepared to contemplate another spin of the play-off roulette wheel.

So, after narrowly missing out on promotion (need I say what happened!) last season, have the Bees got what it takes to go one further?
The disappointment of last season is driving the entire club forward, from the directors, staff and players, through to the fans and right down to the tea lady! There is a fierce determination to make amends and take a place in the Championship that should have been theirs’ last May. In my opinion, this is the strongest Bees squad since the one assembled by Steve Coppell in the 1990s and automatic promotion is a realistic goal. The team continues to improve and definitely has the ability to sustain its challenge until the end of the season.

Who has stood out so far this season and could cause City some problems?
Clayton Donaldson is an obvious danger. Top scorer in each of the last three seasons, he is once again proving deadly in front of goal. George Saville is another who could cause City problems with his pace and movement, but Adam Forshaw is the heartbeat of this team. If fit, he will dictate terms from the middle of the park. City will also have to stop Brentford’s full-backs from advancing if they are to disrupt the supply lines to in-form forwards Marcello Trotta, Will Grigg and Donaldson.

Talking of top scorer Donaldson, he was the key man for Brentford in the reverse fixture but now City have strengthened at the back by signing Karleigh Osborne and Adam El-Abd and have changed their formation, do you think Donaldson will be less of a threat?
City have definitely improved, but continue to concede sloppy goals and Donaldson is sure to fancy his chances, having scored against better teams previously this season. An elusive runner, his pace and ability to come inside from wide positions renders him difficult to mark. But he is nothing without good service and the key for City will be to close down in midfield and deny Brentford room.

City also have a different man at the helm since the 2-1 loss to Brentford at Ashton Gate in October. How do you think the game will pan out because of the changes and can I please have a score prediction?
Taken at face value, most punters will back a home win. But we all know football seldom goes to plan and I anticipate City giving Brentford a difficult game.

Steve Cotterill has identified City’s strengths and come up with a system (first adopted by Sean O’Driscoll) that suits the players at his disposal. As a result, City keep the ball for longer, move it more effectively and create more goal-scoring chances. But their failure to take a higher percentage of those chances has cost them and they will need to be clinical against a Bees defence that prides itself on keeping clean sheets. I anticipate a hard-fought encounter, but feel Brentford have the attacking quality required to nick a result.

Sorry City fans, but home advantage, confidence and momentum all point to a Brentford win. I’m going for 1-0 to the Bees.

Many thanks to Lewis and also to Andy for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer these questions. As football fans I’m sure we can understand if this is the one game in City’s season he’d rather we didn’t win, but equally all runs must come to an end and someone has to beat Brentford, at some point. Why not us?


The Exiled Robin

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