Brentford one game away from banishing their Championship Play-Off jinx and silencing their doubters

4 min

If you sit in the right place in Brentford’s brand-new stadium, you can just about see the arches of Wembley shimmering in the distance.

For most of this campaign, that view would have served as a cruel reminder of the disappointing defeat of last season’s Play-Off Final as well as the eight other failed promotion bids before that.

Now, with fans back in the stands, the Bees again have a chance to face their Wembley woes head on after a resilient 3-1 victory over AFC Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon.

Trailing 1-0 from the opening encounter, the Second Leg had a little bit of everything – from penalties and breakaways to offside goalkeepers and managers repeatedly showing off their watches. 

The drama began even before a ball was kicked as Thomas Frank became a one-man Brentford mascot, running around every corner of the ground to rouse support from the 4,000 Bees fans in attendance.

And Christian Norgaard’s pre-match injury forced Brentford into a late line-up change, making it feel like the side had an even bigger mountain to climb.

The Dane has been a revelation in the middle of a back three and a calming influence on the side since his return from a long-term absence.

An influence which was clearly missed in the early part of a frenetic, adrenaline-filled opener which saw Bournemouth and Arnaut Danjuma literally race into a two-goal aggregate lead.

A fifth minute Brentford corner was cleared with the Bees’ defence appearing to be missing in action as the blisteringly quick Arnaut Danjuma collected the ball in his own half, running forward unchallenged before coolly slotting past an isolated David Raya.

While Bournemouth’s threat on the counter is well documented, it was Brentford’s own mental lapse that cost them with the age-old insecurities as to whether Thomas Frank’s men actually had the right constitution when it mattered, coming to the fore.

But this is Brentford 2.0 and ten minutes later, parity in the game was restored as referee Jarred Gillett awarded a penalty as Lloyd Kelly handled an Emiliano Marcondes cross.

Up stepped Ivan Toney to emphatically dispatch the most important penalty of his career to date, much to the frustration of Bournemouth keeper Asmir Begovic who charged at the Brentford forward as he went to pick up the ball to quickly restart the game.

Their confrontation earned both players a yellow card and foreshadowed a series of comical moments from Begovic. Later in the game, he flopped and appealed for a foul after being stepped on by his own teammate and had no issue taking his time on every goal kick that came his way.

The drama continued as Chris Mepham seemed to forget what sport he was playing, grabbing at Bryan Mbeumo’s legs as he was through on goal – Gillett had no option but to produce a red card.

Suddenly the tie was in Brentford’s hands but they still needed to show why they were the Championship’s leading scorers this season.

Vitaly Janlet’s thunderous strike five minutes after the interval helped ease any nerves before Marcus Forss secured a huge comeback to book Brentford’s place for a second successive Play-Off Final. 

READ MORE: Brian Burgess’ Brentford Legacy: From the terraces and stadium planning – to a Queen’s Birthday Honour

They will go into it not only determined to ensure history does not repeat itself but also with huge confidence and a number of players hitting form at just the right time. 

Bryan Mbeumo, atoning for missing a sitter in the opening leg, terrorised the Bournemouth backline – not only pressurising Mepham to see him subsequently sent-off but continually winning the ball back in excellent positions.

Sergi Canos’ mid-season revitalisation has also helped boost the Bees with defensive duties in his wing-back role not going unnoticed alongside his attacking threat.

While the fans will surely celebrate tonight, Thomas Frank clearly only had one thing on his mind. As he paced around the stadium at full-time, his message to the supporters was clear: “One more game.”

One more chance to create history, to disprove all the cries of “bottlers” from opposing fanbases and conquer the demons of previous Play-Off heartbreak.

One more game to get Brentford to the promised land of the Premier League.

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