For a second consecutive season, Brentford have been consigned to the Championship Play-Offs after another “close but no cigar” league campaign drew to a close last weekend.
There seems to be a different feel this time around though, as the Bees face AFC Bournemouth as the team in-form in comparison to last season where they entered on the back of two consecutive defeats that had denied them automatic promotion.
As Brentford closed the season with a four-match winning streak to sit top of the Championship form table for the final six games, Bournemouth recorded three straight losses, including one at home to 10-man Brentford, to sit 12th the the form table – the second lowest of all four Play-Off sides.
Looking further back over their last ten games, Bournemouth pip the Bees by just one point in the form table, as they fill second and third spots respectively with the loss to Brentford ending a run of seven consecutive league wins for the Cherries.
Form does seem to be a helpful asset come the Play-Offs, as both the last two winners, Aston Villa and Fulham, entered the knock-out tournament in great form.
Villa signed off the 2018-19 campaign with 10 wins out of their last 12, while Fulham made it five wins in seven before beating Brentford at Wembley last season.
Even so, it is worth remembering Swansea City came into last season’s Play-Offs with just one defeat in seven and an impressive 4-1 win over Reading to secure their semi-final showdown with Brentford.
And despite managing a 1-0 win in the first-leg at the Liberty Stadium, Brentford turned on the style back at Griffin Park to overhaul the deficit and go through to the Wembley final 3-2 on aggregate.
Going into Monday’s encounter with Bournemouth, Brentford should also be buoyed by doing the double over the Cherries this season – Tariqe Fosu grabbing a 79th minute winner at the Brentford Community Stadium in December followed by a 1-0 victory at Dean Court last month despite being down to ten men.
Brentford also did the double over Fulham in the league last season but in the end when it came to the most important game it was the Cottagers who came out victorious at Wembley, proving that previous results can hold no bearing when promotion is on the line.
A third place league finish also means Brentford have home advantage for the second-leg and overall. Since the Play-Offs began in 1987, the side which has finished third in the second tier has been promoted on 11 occasions out of 34 – significantly more than the other three positions, which all have similar success rates to each other.
And while games at home haven’t quite been the same without fans, it’s worth noting easing restrictions will allow for some supporters to be in the stadiums for both games which could be crucial for the decisive second-leg at Brentford.
But of course this is Brentford and it is hard to ignore their abysmal Play-Off record – nine previous attempts, nine failed Play-Off promotion bids.
While last season only added to the heartache, perhaps the experience will prove beneficial to Thomas Frank’s side and the club will finally reach the Premier League for the first time in their history.
One thing is certain though, expect nothing and anticipate anything in the lottery that is the Play-Offs.