Crazy game, crazy goals, and a crazy score, as we came from behind to lead 3-1 at the break but couldn't hang on for the win.
It was a fairly gentle start this morning, as it takes nearly as long to get across London to Brentford as it does to get to King’s Cross from Bishop, so there was plenty of thinking time on the way down. Thinking about being rather negative about Milwall in the latest ALS, for a start. Some of them went and did something wonderful, raising over £2,000 for the Bradley Lowery Foundation, which they hope to present at the game at the Sol after having a pint or two with any of our fans who’d care to join them. Which just goes to show that you shouldn’t tar everyone with the same brush simply because of the club they follow.
Anyway, I met up with young Liam at King’s Cross, then headed towards Chiswick. We arrived at the Globe bang on opening time, welcomed Harrison senior and junior, then reminisced with vintage Sunderland fans about lunatic away days forty odd years back, as well as bumping into home fan Billy the Bee. It was a smashing warm-up before getting to the "quaint" Griffin Park.
To be honest, the news that Kone was playing didn't go down too well, but we lined up
Jones Kone O'Shea Oviedo
Honeyman Watmore Grabban McGeady
.in our pale blue outfits, kicking away from our fans. Not much had happened before Catts, another whose selection had caused "discussion" when announced, lost the ball and the Bees broke into our box, and hit Steele's right-hand post. There seemed to be acres of space for the loose ball to drop into, which it did, and Yennaris was first to it by a mile. 0-1. Here we go again, and it wasn't even ten past three.
Never mind, being behind is nothing new to us, and thankfully we were back in it five minutes later when Grabban was played in down our inside-left channel, outpaced his marker, and sorted his feet out nicely to slot it across the keeper and into the far corner - and it wasn't even quarter past three. Madness in the away end, as we'd actually deserved to get level, and we stayed on top of the game - apart from when the Bees buzzed down our right and gave Billy all sorts of problems. Thankfully, what they did get into the box was dealt with by Kone, who'd decided that he'd be a footballer for the afternoon, and O'Shea.
McGeady was doing this usual stuff, running at opponents, and Watmore was doing the same, but in his entirely different style - as Harrison junior commented, he never looks like he has the ball completely under control. Which is why he's a nightmare to play against, and why the home side sat so deep in the first half. There were a few chances for Watmore and Grabban to get behind their defence, but they managed to have an extra man to get in the way.
The afternoon's first comedy moment arrived when we conceded a free 20 yards out. We took an age to get a ten-man wall in pace, when Steele had clearly indicated that four was what he wanted. Not to worry, as their man took into account the wind, the length of the turf, and the position of all of our players, then carefully curled the ball ten yards high and five yards wide. The second came soon after, when their attempted volley in the box saw their man miss the ball completely and spin round twice before falling over. Even Billy Jones struggled to keep a straight face.
Heading for the break level after having a lot of good possession might have been frustrating to some, but we're Sunderland and we weren't getting beat. On 40 Watmore won a corner on our right, and Brian Oviedo curled one into the teeth of his namesake Hurricane Brian. Bentley, in the home goal, flapped at it under no pressure whatsoever, and the ball looped back over him and into the net. Hahaha! That's what we normally do!
We'll take 2-1, we said as two added minutes were announced. Honeyman looked to have been pushed over in the box as he attempted to charge down a clearance, but the ref, not for the first time, let play continue. The added time was virtually up when Watmore scudded down the inside-right channel and into the box, only to be barged over. The ref couldn't ignore that one, and up stepped Grabban to plant the penner firmly past the keeper with the last kick of the half.
3-1? We'll take that, even if Brentford had been comically bad at times. Even Harris junior was daring to dream of witnessing an SAFC victory for only the second time in his life.
No changes for the second half, and we almost immediately conceded a free just outside the box. Same again, please, we asked, but this time Jozefzoon (not, for once, a typing error) curled this one across Steele and into the far-right corner. Bugger, we'll have to have hang on for 43 minutes, but they'd been shaky enough in the first half to suggest we could score again.
Brentford were much more positive after the break and when we replaced Watmore with twenty-odd minutes to go, we lost an important outlet. McManaman didn't do badly, but he's a twisty, turny player unlike Watmore's in-your-face style and outright pace. To be fair, Duncy was probably knackered. Of course, with Grabban in the middle there's no point slinging in crosses as he'll not win a header, but McGeady did fire a shot into to side netting after realising this. Vaughan came on for Grabban in a straight swap, but, while he put himself about as usual, he didn't get a real scoring opportunity.
Brentford made a couple of changes that lifted both their fans and their play, as we sat deeper and deeper to invite them on. Kone was called on time and time again to produce the sort of no-nonsense defending that once made him a favourite, and Steele made a couple of decent stops. He was, however, helpless when, with twelve to go, Maupay hit one from distance. In the split second between the ball leaving his boot and hitting somebody's backside, he'd gone to his right, where the ball should have been, and was virtually leaning on his elbow as the ball flew into the other corner. A real bugger of a goal to concede, especially after we'd dealt with all the "proper" Brentford attacks, and there had been plenty.
Grayson obviously settled for a point at this stage, putting Gooch on for McGeady, and when five added minutes were announced there was a collective intake of breath from the visiting fans - could we hold out? We did, but Hell's Bells, if you go 3-1 up against a side as weak as Brentford - no Simon, despite your post-match comments, they are nowhere near a good side, for all their effort, and Griffin Park is NOT a difficult place to come -you should come home with three points.
From being well on top and on our way to three points, we couldn't really have complained had they got a fourth, and Harrison junior will have to wait to see his second SAFC win.
Man of the Match? I'm tempted to give it to Kone, based purely on improvement, but I'll give it to Watmore for scaring the bejasus out of them.
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