Bees fail for seventh play-off campaign
21 May ~ In recent years, it's become an established pattern that Brentford just don't win promotion via the play-offs. In their seventh play-off campaign they have failed again, this time in a tense match against a resolute Yeovil Town, who now join England's second tier for the first time. It's a memorable moment for the Somerset club and their fans. Brentford fans could only rue the defeat, their team having been so close to automatic promotion and playing attractive football for much of the season.
There wasn't much to choose between the teams. Two points separated them, their goal difference was identical and both had endured end-of-season wobbles. However, Gary Johnson's team had beaten Brentford twice in the league, providing a nagging worry for Bees fans, alongside memories about the unfolding nightmare of their defeat against Doncaster in the final league game (Match of the month in the current issue of WSC).
Not that pre-match worries affected either teams' vocal support during the game; the noisy 41,955 crowd was a credit to both clubs. However, nerves on the pitch seemed a significant factor. Uwe Rösler's players appeared anxious and unfocussed for some of the first half. By contrast, Paddy Madden's wonderfully crafted goal after only six minutes gave Yeovil a huge boost and they proceeded to control much of the first half.
Brentford didn't respond effectively, apart from a Marcello Trotta header, well saved by Marek Stech. Just when Brentford looked able to restrict the half-time deficit to 1-0, Yeovil scored again after 42 minutes, with Dan Burn's downward header somehow evading the Brentford defence and keeper Simon Moore. Yeovil's dominance had paid off and their fans, a sea of green and white, cheered them off at the break.
The second half was a different picture. A thunderous headed goal from Brentford's Harlee Dean after 51 minutes signalled an onslaught on the Yeovil goal, roared on by the London club's fans. Brentford's technical skills began to work in their favour. Adam Forshaw almost scored after a skilful run, substitute Bradley Wright-Phillips's shot was well saved by Stech. Shaleum Logan and Clayton Donaldson also came close but Yeovil's disciplined defence held on.
"Not again," I heard a Brentford fan say as the final whistle approached. The six added minutes passed and that was it. Cue joyous scenes among the Yeovil contingent, both on and off the pitch. Some of the Brentford players slumped to the ground. We've seen these events in football many times before but there is still something about play-off finals that makes the emotional disparity between winners and losers particularly stark. The Brentford fans eventually trooped out, knowing that it was back to League One next season. On the Wembley pitch the Yeovil teams carried on celebrating as the green and white hoards applauded them. Steve Burniston