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Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom
I'm a director of Maidenhead United Football Club. For ten seasons one of my roles at the club was to produce the match programme. The aim of this blog was to write football related articles for publication in the match programme. In particular I like to write about the representation of football in popular culture, specifically music, film/TV and literature. I also write about matches I attend which generally feature Maidenhead United.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Judge ment day for Brentford

Good Friday presented an ideal opportunity for some afternoon entertainment with Brentford taking on Preston North End at Griffin Park, a short bus ride from my home. At start of play both sides had a chance of automatic promotion, although Brentford's was far more viable, with Preston guaranteed a play off place anyway, the system for which was explained to some young fans by an elder relative sat in front of me on the 237 en route to the game. 
A carnival atmosphere was guaranteed whatever the result due to the game being allocated as "Gentry Day" by Preston fans, a new tradition instituted a handful of years ago whereby anyone associated with the club who had passed away in the previous twelve months is remembered. Taking place towards the end of the season at an away game the Preston fans dress up to reflect their reputation as football's gentry as judged by former manager Alan Ball. Typically the only concession to dressing up is to wear a bowler hat and there were plenty on display as of course this year Tom Finney's memory was being honoured. Over 1500 supporters travelled down from Lancashire to boost the crowd to a figure just shy of 11,000, with little space available anywhere around this tight little ground.
I've always liked travelling to Griffin Park where a good atmosphere is virtually guaranteed due to the proximity of spectators to the pitch. Hemmed in by houses and its famous pub on every corner, it will be a sad loss if Brentford move to a new ground at the nearby Lionel Road site. It also presented a rare opportunity to stand on a proper terrace at the now covered Ealing Road end, packed to boot due to the possibility of Brentford winning promotion.
View from Ealing Road before the game
The Bees would go up if Rotherham failed to win at champions elect Wolves (quite likely) and Orient lost at Crawley (quite unlikely as the Os had only lost twice on the road all season). Preston could still get promoted automatically if they won all their remaining games.
Thus there was plenty to play for although this seemed to have a suffocating effect on the game which was scrappy to say the least. Both teams revealed an unquenchable desire to win but when either created a promising attacking position neither was able to do much with it. 
The first half saw the only goal of the game but was fairly even. Preston tended to sit back with the midfield and defence seeming to merge into a line of eight players looking to launch quick counter attacks, whilst Brentford aimed to make inroads down either wing.
Preston's approach was the first to bear fruit when Craig Davies and Neil Kilkenny had shots blocked at the last ditch in quick succession. This was to be the closest that North End came to scoring though and Brentford scored the decisive goal on the half hour mark. 
In a penalty area scramble which reflected the match Preston missed several chances to clear their lines before George Saville was brought down and a penalty awarded, much to the anger of the North Enders. Alan Judge despatched the spot kick in rather fortunate circumstances, his weak shot hitting the middle of the net as Declan Rudd dived to his left.
Brentford held onto their lead until half time, Preston re-emerging for the second half some time after their opponents to little effect as the Bees totally dominated the rest of the game and should have won rather comfortably than the scoreline suggests.The most impressive aspect of the Bees performance was the will to win and tenacity of the whole team which was exemplified by James Tarkowski and Alan McCormack. They were first to every loose ball and regularly looked on the verge of a second goal but a lack of a decent striker meant the only time a goal came close in open play came soon after the break when a Clayton Donaldson shot hit the post and struck the back of Rudd's head only for the rebound to go harmlessly wide.
Late in the game Brentford should have made sure of the result when Jack King needlessly wrestled Donaldson to the ground for a second penalty. On this occasion Judge slipped in his run up and farcically ballooned the ball over the crossbar.
With other results now going Brentford's way, the Bees lay second in the table but the penalty miss set alight memories of the amazing turnaround against Doncaster at the end of last season, with three Preston substitutes boosting their hopes of an equaliser. Despite a few nervy moments though this did not come, the final whistle eventually sounding just before 5 pm to signal the pitch invasion to celebrate promotion.
Some people are on the pitch
Nobody would begrudge Brentford a return to Division Two after a 21 year absence and it will be good to see Griffin Park host the likes of QPR again although their squad will need an injection of quality if they are to emulate Bournemouth rather than Yeovil next season.

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