• By Yann Tear

The long goodbye starts tamely for Thomas Frank's Brentford


Thomas Frank says he wants to make Brentford's last season at Griffin Park 'magical' but the first of the final 23 Championship matches at their rickety old ground was not quite that.

A 1-0 home defeat to Birmingham City is not the sort of special memory the Bees boss had in mind when he talked of creating some thrilling moments for fans to take with them to their new home, and he will hope the luck that was conspicuous by its absence will put in an appearance soon.

Last year, his team had the third best home record in the division behind promoted sides Norwich City and Sheffield United and were only slightly adrift of the play-off spots.

He has challenged his players to make Griffin Park a fortress once more so that the last of the club's 116 years at the venue provides the perfect springboard for life at the new stadium in nearby Lionel Road.

Frank recently paid a visit to the rapidly-evolving stands in Kew and is thrilled by the prospect of leading his charges there next season.

But he will want to start life there from a position of strength and could do without too many days like the one on Saturday between now and May, when Brentford bring down the curtain with a home fixture against Barnsley.

In theory, the Bees did not do much wrong against a very defensive Birmingham and the finally tally of 15 attempts at goal to one for the visitors told its own story. Three times shots cannoned back off the woodwork during a particularly one-sided first half, but it was perhaps telling that that the player capable of supplying the extra devil in front of goal was not present. Neal Maupay, top scorer last season, hardly played pre-season with an anticipated move to Brighton - and the Premier League - on the horizon.

It left the Bees without a recognised centre forward and although Ollie Watkins took on the role gamely, he is more comfortable attacking from the left flank.

It will be a relief to Bees fans that - in spite of Frank saying just last week that he did not expect any new players coming in before this week's transfer deadline - they have acquired the services of 19-year-old winger Bryan Mbueno from french club Troyes.

The Bees have agreed to pay an initial £6m, but the fee could rise. The French U20 international has signed a five-year contract.

They may yet lose another of their best players, should Said Benrahma be plucked away, and their best player at the weekend, Sergi Canos, is also not certain to stay. But at least they have a strong leader in new skipper Pontus Jansson, who should improve a defence which was found wanting last season.

"I think we put in one of the best performances for a long time." said Frank, putting a brave face on his obvious frustration after Birmingham's smash-and-grab win, courtesy of a first half header from Kristian Pedersen.

"Overall, if you [always] have 15 shots and they have one shot in the game, then I think we will be unbeaten in the rest of the home games."

Fans will be hoping he is right and that the long goodbye will soon feature better days than this.

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