High-flying Brentford are relentlessly charging towards a place in the Sky Bet Championship Play-Offs this season, boasting the division’s best goal difference with the highest numbers of goals scored and second-least goals conceded in the division.
As a result, taking a place in English football’s top tier for the first time since the 1940s looks like a distinct possibility for the Bees in their final scheduled season at their long-time home, Griffin Park.
The accolades from across football have rolled in for Thomas Frank and his team, but nothing is decided just yet. There are still seven matches to go, and few would bet against Brentford having a very good chance of promotion to the Premier League.
Ollie Watkins in particular has risen through the league pyramid to contribute with his best season in front of goal in the Championship, netting 23 times in a marquee campaign for the former Exeter City man.
Here’s how a quite remarkable season has shaped up in West London so far…
Solid early season foundation
After an extremely busy summer in the transfer market that saw plenty of Championship experience added to the Bees’ ranks, hopes were high that the farewell campaign at Griffin Park would be a fitting one as they get set to move to their new home.
It was a tricky start for Brentford, who won just one of their opening five matches - not unexpected following high player turnover in the summer months.
Watkins runs back to the centre-circle after scoring a point-saving goal against Hull in August
Slowly but surely, though, things started to click for Frank’s side. The winter months saw the Bees get into a winning habit and, by the season’s midway point, they had climbed into the Play-Off places - and have stayed there ever since.
Free-scoring Bees keep up momentum
Brentford’s attacking prowess combined with one of the toughest defences in the league has seen the Bees steadily make their way up the table.
But their ruthlessness in front of goal is what has got the rest of the division taking notice. Although a solitary strike from top scorer Watkins was the difference when the Royals visited Griffin Park in November, their attacking in other matches has been clinical.
Frank’s men have scored three goals or more in no less than 13 of their matches so far this season, including a 7-0 demolition of Luton Town, as well as putting five past Hull City and hammering Bristol City 4-0 earlier in the campaign.
Former Royal Tariqe Fosu is congratulated on his first Bees goal, completing a 5-0 rout of Sheffield Wednesday
Small murmurings that their form may have begun to tail off after a five-game winless run were swiftly put to bed in their final match before the season was curtailed, with a 5-0 hammering of Sheffield Wednesday putting the Bees firmly back on track before football was halted.
Bees overcome huge tests after return
The prospect of facing two fellow promotion contenders back to back after football’s restart was a daunting one, but Brentford responded with aplomb after taking a late win over West London rivals Fulham in their first competitive match since March.
Said Benrahma and Emiliano Marcondes struck in the 88th and 90th minutes respectively to seal a crucial win that brought the Bees to within a point of third-placed Fulham.
It wouldn’t get any easier for Brentford, however, as they then welcomed table-topping West Bromwich Albion to Griffin Park in another crucial clash at the sharp end of the standings.
Thomas Frank and the Brentford players celebrate an impressive win against high-flyers West Brom, last time out
Their performance at Griffin Park on Friday night sparked late hopes of an automatic promotion push, with a fine 1-0 win over the Baggies moving them to within five points of the Championship’s top two.
As has so often been the case this season, Watkins was the difference on the night when he bundled in from close range with a quarter of an hour on the clock. Frank’s side then showed strong tactical nous in managing the rest of the game and seeing out a well deserved clean sheet on the night. It’s now up to the Royals to take three points from the Bees this Tuesday night, but that could well prove to be the Championship’s toughest task at the moment.
How they last lined up...
Brentford: Raya, Dalsgaard, Pinnock, Jansson (c), Henry, Marcondes (Baptiste 70), Norgaard, Dasilva (Mokotjo 83), Fosu-Henry (Mbeumo 70), Watkins, Benrahma.
Unused subs: Daniels, Rasmussen, Valencia Castillo, Dervisoglu, Jeanvier.