Millwall return to The Den this Good Friday as The Lions prepare to take on London rivals Brentford in the Sky Bet Championship (kick-off 1pm). As Neil Harris' side prepare to face Thomas Frank’s Bees, we take a look at our opponents’ results so far this campaign.
Brentford’s ninth-place finish in the Sky Bet Championship under Dean Smith in 2017/18 looked to provide a solid foundation to challenge for promotion this term, armed with an arguably underrated array of talented young players. Smith brought in a number of additional recruits such as Moses Odubajo, Said Benrahma and Ezri Konsa, whilst allowing players including Ryan Woods, John Egan and Florian Jozefzoon to depart for fellow Championship clubs. A mixed pre-season in terms of results presented challenges in Germany as well as back home, claiming wins over Boreham Wood, Wycombe Wanderers and Shrewsbury Town. The first game of the 2018/19 campaign would pair the West Londoners with promoted Rotherham United.
Beginning the new season against Rotherham, Smith’s men began in the best possible fashion and ended the opening weekend top of the pile following a 5-1 thrashing of The Millers. Following a solid draw at Stoke, a 4-2 win at Southend advanced Brentford into the Second Round of the Carabao Cup. Another home win, 2-0 over Sheffield Wednesday, was followed by a 2-2 draw at Aston Villa in which The Bees led until the 95th minute. The side then sealed a Third Round spot in the Cup with a 1-0 home victory against Cheltenham, before suffering their first Championship defeat, 1-0 at Blackburn. This positioned Brentford in eighth place following an encouraging month.
Brentford’s September saw them continue their strong form at Griffin Park, claiming successive home wins over Nottingham Forest and Wigan – with top scorer Neal Maupay on fire up top and his fellow talented young attacking players excelling. A frustrating draw at Ipswich was followed by defeat at Derby by three goals to one, before a glamour tie for the club in the Third Round of the Carabao Cup saw a visit to the Emirates to face Arsenal. Brentford were again beaten 3-1 despite a valiant second half, and finished the month with a 2-2 home draw against Reading following a 92nd-minute leveller. The Bees ended September in the top six and with high hopes amongst the West London faithful.
October was to be a month which rocked Brentford. Starting with 1-1 draws against Birmingham and Leeds – the latter especially considered an impressive result – the departure of Steve Bruce as Aston Villa manager was to be the catalyst for a big move for Bees boss Smith. The manager who had labelled Brentford with a terrific brand of football on a small budget was to move to Villa Park, with former Brondby manager Thomas Frank appointed as replacement head coach. Three consecutive single-goal defeats to Bristol City – a first home loss – Preston and Norwich started Frank’s tenure on a far from ideal note, as the club occupied 16th spot going into November.
Fans remained optimistic on the whole at Griffin Park, with Frank and his side getting to grips with one another. It was to be against Millwall in November’s reverse fixture that The Bees secured their first win under the Dane – a 2-0 scoreline with Sergi Canos and Ollie Watkins netting second-half strikes. A West London derby with QPR was next up at Loftus Road, but Brentford were defeated 3-2 in an entertaining spectacle. Two more solitary-goal defeats by Middlesbrough and Sheffield United at home frustrated Brentford’s form further, as they ended November in 17th. Tragic matters off the pitch during mid-November had rocked the club far harder than anything faced on the field, following the passing of 28-year-old technical director Robert Rowan – which poured in heartfelt tributes from around the globe.
Despite starting December in a slow vein of form, Brentford gradually began to find their feet under Frank. A lately-secured point at West Brom was followed by further defeats by Swansea and Hull, with first-half displays costing The Bees on both occasions. However, a 1-0 home victory over Bolton was to start a run in which the club would lose just two in 13 League matches. Very reasonable away draws at Bristol City and Birmingham ended 2018 with the side in 18th, but seemingly with a light at the end of the tunnel.
With just nine Championship points available to Brentford during January, The Bees enjoyed a much-improved few weeks which would see them pick up seven of the available points as well as reaching the Emirates FA Cup last 16. A 1-1 draw with promotion-chasers Norwich having led for the majority of the clash started 2019 on a high note, before a 1-0 Emirates FA Cup Third Round win over Oxford. The goals would begin to flow for the side who netted 18 in five games, starting with a 3-1 win over Stoke and a 4-2 success at Rotherham – whom they have solely scored nine goals against this season. Drawn against National League Barnet in the FA Cup Fourth Round – who had just eliminated Sheffield United at Bramall Lane – Brentford played out a thrilling 3-3 draw at the home of the non-League outfit, forcing a replay at Griffin Park. Further squad reshuffling took place in Frank’s first transfer window, raising funds through the sales of Chris Mepham, Nico Yennaris and Alan Judge.
A demanding February for a small squad at Griffin Park would present a huge challenge to Brentford, but a third straight win – 5-2 over Blackburn – showed no signs of fatigue. A 3-1 Cup replay win over Barnet presented the club with a Fifth Round visit to Swansea, but a blip at Nottingham Forest resulted in a 2-1 League loss. Either side of a disappointing 4-1 Cup exit to the South Wales outfit were what would be considered higher-priority results in The Championship, wins over Aston Villa and Hull – 5-1 in the latter. A 2-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday rounded off the demanding month.
March was to provide the marker of further mixed form for Brentford, summing up a safe and secure campaign in the face of intense adversity, which the club are looking to build on under Frank. A home win over QPR (3-0) and an impressive three points on the road at Middlesbrough (2-1) began the month healthily, although defeats to top-bracket Sheffield United and West Brom provided a brief setback. A goalless stalemate at Wigan following the season’s final international break concluded the month with the side in 13th.
With one eye potentially already on next campaign following all but confirmation of the club’s Championship safety, the team could have been forgiven for opening April with a 3-0 reverse at Swansea. The brand of attacking football carried on from the Smith era still looked to be freely exhibited in Frank’s Brentford side with a 3-3 thriller at home to Derby, before leaving Ipswich on the cusp of relegation with a 2-0 win at Griffin Park. A 2-1 defeat at survival-chasing Reading leaves Brentford in 14th going into their Den trip, a comfortable 14 points clear of the drop and with a mathematical possibility of topping their ninth-place finish of last season.