After going 21 games unbeaten and hitting the top of the Championship in February, all the pieces appeared to be falling seamlessly into place in Brentford’s automatic promotion push.
Then came the loss to Barnsley, kicking off a run of three straight losses while two poor draws in their last two outings have left the Bees fourth, seven points off second-placed Watford.
The question now is will Brentford somehow find a way to recapture their early season form or should they be cautiously looking over their shoulder at just maintaining a top six finish as the campaign enters its final stages?
Thankfully, Brentford’s three upcoming games are against bottom-half opponents, but one in particular stands out: a midweek clash with Birmingham City.
Arguably still recovering from last season’s Play-Off heartbreak, Birmingham took full advantage with a 1-0 win in the opening game of the season but with an international break under their belt, the squad should be well rested to claim three crucial points to get their automatic promotion charge back on track.
Much of Brentford’s hopes will depend on the form of rivals Swansea and Watford though, and while the Swans went into the international break on the back of two straight defeats, Watford are currently on a five game winning run.
The Bees welcome Watford to the Community Stadium in the penultimate game of the season and although it is unfair to assume that whoever wins will seal automatic promotion, it could still go a long way in determining the final slot alongside Norwich City.
It’s also worth considering Brentford have a game in hand on Watford and on paper, a much easier run-in than both the Hornets and Swans, so should be optimistic about their chances.
That being said, there are still problem areas Brentford will need to resolve if they want to be playing Premier League football next season.
Although Ivan Toney is the league’s top scorer with an incredible 28 goals so far, the rest of his team-mates appear to be finding new and more inventive ways to take their chances.
The recent draw at Derby was a prime example of Brentford’s inability to be clinical. They allowed the Rams to come from two goals down at half-time to grab a point in a game where the Bees should have been four or five up at the break if they’d taken their chances.
Alarmingly, Brentford also sit first in the table for points dropped from winning positions with 18 points lost, four more than next closest Watford.
The games against Derby and Forest were symptomatic of the problem with the side lacking in any real intensity in the second period following commanding first-half performances with both opponents being allowed to get back in the game.
These lapses need to be eradicated if Brentford are to be successful; they cannot sleepwalk through periods of the game otherwise they will be punished.
Injuries have also been a problem but hopefully the recent return of vocal and encouraging Pontus Jansson will provide a much-needed lift to maintain solid first-half performances throughout the entire game.
Josh Dasilva and Rico Henry have also been big misses over the past few weeks but the international break will give both more time to fully recover.
Brentford may not be in the position they’d hoped for at this stage of the season, but there is still plenty of cause for optimism in their pursuit of automatic promotion.
Their current form may suggest they are down but they are certainly not out and an away win against Huddersfield on their return will keep them firmly in the hunt
There’s still all to play for- after all, it is the Championship – anything can happen.