Must beat Doncaster to win promotion
26 April ~ Only Brentford's older fans will have memories of more than one season, 1992-93, played outside the League's bottom two divisions. However, on Saturday they know that a win at home to promotion rivals Doncaster will be enough to ensure a return to the higher reaches of English football. Anything less and it will be promotion for Doncaster and play-offs for the Bees. Sadly, history does not give much cause for optimism. Brentford have failed in all six of their third-tier play-off attempts, including three finals.
In 1997 Crewe, inspired by Danny Murphy, romped to perhaps the most one-sided 1-0 win that Wembley has ever witnessed and five years later, Steve Coppell's team were comfortably beaten by Stoke at Cardiff. Brentford even contrived to finish second to Birmingham in 1995, the year when only one team was automatically promoted.
To that litany of failure can be added three losing Football League Trophy finals and, perhaps most traumatically of all, the final game of the 2001-02 season when they faced an identical situation to Saturday's as they needed to beat Reading to secure promotion at the Royals' expense. Jamie Cureton's equaliser 13 minutes from time broke Brentford hearts and Reading's subsequent success made us all wonder what might have been.
Nonetheless, many of us are daring to dream that this Saturday it might just be a different story. On paper, it's too close to call. The teams are separated by just two points. Before last Saturday's games there was even a potential scenario where both teams could have finished level on points, goal difference and goals scored which would have given the authorities the real problem of fitting in an extra play-off before the play-offs.
Brentford have League One's best home record, Doncaster the best away record. But there is a real belief in this team. Uwe Rösler has developed an attractive passing game rarely seen at Griffin Park over the years and there is a spirit, fitness and resilience about this squad, exemplified by the fact that they have outscored opponents by 20 goals to nine in the last 15 minutes of games. Just in the last two weeks, they have rescued two seemingly impossible situations, coming from behind in the 85th and 86th minutes against Portsmouth and in a remarkable game at Sheffield United, a last-minute Bradley Wright-Phillips goal earned the nine-man Bees a point.
Although Brentford will be without the suspended Tony Craig (a victim of the Battle of Bramall Lane), a rested Clayton Donaldson returns to the team and with both Wright-Phillips and Marcello Trotta in goal-scoring form, Bees fans are hopeful yet understandably nervous and apprehensive. One thing is certain – they will want to finish the job on Saturday as the agony of another play-off campaign would be just about too much to bear. Chris Dean