This weekend we are set to return to an oft-visited ground in Griffin Park, home of Brentford. We`ve enjoyed, or endured, numerous visits to Braemar Road over the last century and even the one before it. Yes, it was the 19th century when the Chairboys met the Bees for the very first time. I wonder whether those who followed the Blues back then also partook in a pre-match apéritif in one of the four pubs on each corner of the ground.
“Southern League slaughter”
Those familiar with the Wanderers history won`t need reminding that life in the second division of the Southern League at the turn of the twentieth century was tough. That first clash came in October 1898 at the Bees former Cross Road, South Ealing ground and the hosts won 9-2. The following September saw the visitors beaten again, but this time just 1-0.
It got worse in February 1901 when Brentford trounced the Blues 11-1! They ended that season as Champions and were promoted to the first division so the sides didn`t meet again until December 1905 when the Chairboys made their first visit to Griffin Park for a F.A. Cup fourth qualifying round tie. 4,000 spectators saw the home side run out 4-0 winners.
“Football League famine”
There was a gap of almost 88 years before the next meeting in November 1993. The Wanderers were basking in the glory of their inaugural Football League season and travelled to West London for a Football League Trophy tie. Keith Scott put the visitors ahead in his penultimate game before moving to Swindon Town and defender Glyn Creaser marked his return to action after his fight with a forklift truck with a brace to seal a 3-2 victory.
It proved to be a high watermark as in the next eight visits the Blues managed to score a grand total of one goal. The following season saw both sides meet in the third tier for the first time and with both still harbouring hopes of a play-off place they cancelled each other out in a goal-less draw at Griffin Park which local ITV stations had to find some highlights to show later in the evening. The game was marked by the debut of Steve McGavin.
Away fans witnessed a lamentable performance on a Tuesday evening in January 1996 as Alan Smith`s tenure continued its` downward spiral with a 1-0 defeat. It was to become a familiar scoreline. Under John Gregory the two teams again played out a goal-less stalemate on a Tuesday evening in March 1997 with Mickey Bell clearing off his own goal-line before Dave ‘red boots` Farrell blazed the visitors best chance wide.
The following season saw the clash bizarrely shown live by Sky on a Friday evening and a meagre crowd saw the Wanderers finally hit the net. It took just three minutes with Steve Brown finding Mark Stallard and he hit a low shot past Billy Dearden from just inside the box. Sadly on the half hour porker Robert Taylor levelled after being set up by Marcus Bent and the game finished all-square at 1-1.
“Not Pretty but Vacant under Sanchez”
The Bees were relegated at the end of that season but made an immediate return and the (non) rivalry was renewed in February 2000. There were however no goals as goalkeeper Martin Taylor claimed a well-earned clean sheet. Seven months later the two sides were facing each other again and you can guess the outcome. Yes it ended goal-less. This time it was the Blues fans who were left feeling frustrated after Brownie`s penalty was saved by home goalkeeper Plafur Gottskalksson.
Just a month before the sides met in March 2002 the Wanderers had claimed an injury-time victory at Bournemouth to keep their play-off hopes alive. Sadly in that time the sides` form had collapsed and they failed to score again as defender Ivar Ingimarsson`s goal after six minutes proved to be enough to give the hosts a 1-0 victory.
Despite it being a sunny September afternoon there was plenty of doom and gloom six months later as sides met in manager Lawrie Sanchez`s 200th game in charge of the club. He had just had another rant at fans following a 2-1 home defeat to Crewe and the Bees claimed the points with yet another 1-0 win.
Home goalkeeper Paul Smith pulled off a superb save on the stroke of half-time to deny Dannie Bulman and the game was decided with just under twenty minutes remaining when Paul McCarthy conceded a penalty with a clumsy challenge on Rowan Vine and Stephen Hunt beat Taylor from the spot.
“Another draw snatched from the jaws of victory”
On a baking hot April Saturday in 2004 the sides played out another 1-1 draw. The visitors were almost safe under recently appointed boss Martin Allen whilst the Blues were already relegated under Big Tone. The Wanderers went in front nine minutes after the break when Nathan Tyson tapped home Danny Senda`s low cross at the far post.
With 18 minutes remaining the Bees levelled when Ian Simpemba deflected Matt Harrold`s shot past goalkeeper Wayne Henderson and into the net. Senda missed an absolute sitter with nine minutes left, hitting the post from three yards after being teed-up by Tyson. The late Mark Philo almost won it in the final minute but screwed his shot wide after a slaloming run through the home defence.
“Goals, goals, goals”
Finally the goals started coming when the sides renewed acquaintances on Boxing Day 2007. Paul Lambert’s Blues had recovered from their wet nightmare at Stockport with a winning run and came from a goal down to win 3-1 against the Bees. Glenn Poole put the hosts ahead midway through the first half but had defender Ben Starosta sent off on the stroke of half-time.
Argentine maestro Sergio Torres curled home an equaliser ten minutes after the break before Scott McGleish put the visitors in front just six minutes later after pouncing on a fumble from goalkeeper Simon Brown. Four minutes later John Sutton headed home to record a first league (and still our only) victory for the Chairboys at Griffin Park.
In March 2009 both sides were chasing automatic promotion from League Two. The Wanderers had squandered a nine-point lead to their opponents but showed their worth in a pulsating encounter in front of almost 11,000 fans. Jordan Rhodes put the home side ahead inside two minutes beating debutant goalkeeper Marek ?tech. Another debutant was soon to make his mark with striker John Akinde finding the net to level on the quarter hour.
Seven minutes later and ?tech was picking the ball out of his net again after allowing David Hunt`s free-kick to beat him. The visitors were soon back on level terms with ex-bee John Mousinho bundling the ball home from close-range. Akinde then stole the show with a sensational solo effort. He left Alan Bennett for dead before shooting low into the net to make it 3-2.
Sadly the Chairboys were unable to hold onto their lead. Tommy Doherty was shown a straight red for throwing an elbow at Hunt and with just nine minutes remaining striker Sam Williams thumped home from the edge of the box to equalise and the game finished 3-3.
“Yet another stalemate”
The last meeting between the two sides came almost two yeas ago. In February 2010 Gary Waddock`s side looked destined for the drop and squandered a first half lead to draw 1-1. Debutant Kevin McLeod found Kevin Betsy with an inch-perfect pass and the winger finished with aplomb. Goalkeeper Tom Heaton was making his debut following his loan move from Manchester United but he was unable to keep out winger Myles Weston`s angled shot with a quarter of an hour remaining.
Our record in West London doesn`t inspire much hope and we keep following up a good result with a dreadful display but how`s this for an omen? After losing 6-0 to Huddersfield Town two years ago we played Brentford three games later and won 1-0 (courtesy of a Matt Harrold penalty).
“All that`s left are memories”