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  • Writer's pictureBy Dan Evans

Brentford’s season of struggle ends in familiar fashion at the hands of Newcastle United

Brentford (0) 2 Janelt 48’, Wissa 70’

Newcastle United (3) 4 Barnes 21’, J Murphy 36’, Isak 38’, Guimaraes 77’

Promising in patches but unusually porous throughout: Brentford’s season ended in a style befitting their third year of Premier League football.


Thomas Frank’s side started both halves well against a Newcastle team intent on securing European football for next season, but a series of defensive calamities meant ending the campaign with just a sixth home win was out of the question by the interval.


Even for a coach as dedicated to his craft as Frank, it must be a relief that this campaign has now come to an end. “For a club of our stature and budget, every year we are in the Premier League is a success,” he said afterwards. “We are creating small miracles and we do it because over a long period of time we have a top strategy and structure, togetherness and culture.”


Never has the Brentford strategy been tested quite like this. Their highest post-war league finish last term was evidence of a club too convinced of a well-thought out plan to allow second season syndrome to grip them, but they have earned 20 less points and finished nine league positions lower this term.


Several clubs have been decimated by injuries this season and Brentford have been one of the main victims. Frank has done well to find short-term solutions to issues that threatened to have long-term repercussions, yet he will know that change is required come the summer even though he suggested a quiet summer would suffice post-match.


Brentford have also conceded 19 more goals this season, and in the first half against Newcastle it was easy to see why. Harvey Barnes opened the scoring with a free header from inside the six-yard box before Ethan Pinnock was unable to do enough to stop Alexander Isak crossing for Jacob Murphy to double the lead. Sergio Reguilon presented Newcastle the ball in his own half to gift the superb Isak a richly-deserved third.


This seems set to be Ivan Toney’s final game for the club and it bookmarked an ill-fitting end to one of the great modern Brentford careers. An early goal ruled out for offside was followed by a presentable chance hit straight at Nick Pope, and then near-enough 80 minutes of anonymity - only broken by a yellow card for a frustrated late challenge on Bruno Guimaraes.


The England hopeful was one of seven starters who featured for Brentford in the Championship, and whilst plenty have successfully made the step up, it now seems another sign that regeneration is needed.


The club’s recruitment, previously held up as a sign of their superiority over second-tier sides haunted by Premier League dreams and the debt it so often riddles you with,  is yet to prove as successful in the big time. Of players still at the club, only Yoanne Wissa – who set up a potential comeback with an assist for Vitaly Janelt and a well-taken strike of his own - and perhaps Kristoffer Ajer, can be held up as genuine successes.


With loanees Neal Maupay and Reguilon set to return to their parent clubs in the coming weeks and three out of contract players given a warm farewell on Sunday, a summer of change is surely on the cards to some extent.


So many aspects of the club have scaled up to meet the standards required by the Premier League that it maybe seemed the signings would naturally follow suit. Keane Lewis-Potter and Mikkel Damsgaard starting on the bench perhaps speaks to the issue in question. Injury means it is too soon to be in any way definitive about Kevin Schade, but replacing Toney may be more complicated than a return of no goals in 12 to end the season suggests.


Mark Flekken has been an unconvincing follow-up to David Raya. The second half of his season has been far stronger than the first, but he pushed a tame Isak free-kick into the path of Guimaraes to end hopes of a turnaround here, and a peculiar kicking technique regularly either found touch or put a team-mate under pressure.


The Bees look far less confident defending their own box since the departure of the front-foot Spanish stopper who has excelled at Arsenal. Barnes’ opener was yet another goal conceded from a cross and took the air out of a promising start to the game.


And Raya’s departure speaks to another harsh reality of the environment Brentford can now rightly call home. Tactical statistician Bernardo Cueva is set for a summer move for Chelsea in the latest sign that it is not only those on the pitch that have impressed since promotion to the top flight.


Success sees you picked off by the division’s elite and standing still makes the prospect of Premier League riches slipping through the fingers all too real. “I want more, we want more. We always want to improve and develop as a team. I’m a very optimistic guy, I have so much belief in these players, the club and everything,” said a determined Frank, who was mobbed by his players during the late win at Bournemouth last week after the passing of his father.


“Right now I’m very tired. For various reasons these have been some tough weeks. I’m looking forward to some down time but then we will be ready to push again.”


Frank thanked owner Matthew Benham after the game, appreciating Brentford would not be playing in this league and at this stadium without him. With reports throughout the season suggesting the boyhood fan is now searching for outside investment, it may be that the Brentford boss is hoping to make sure there is plenty of support for some summer restructuring.


Brentford: (4-3-3) Flekken – Roerslev (Ghoddos 63), Zanka, Pinnock, Reguilon (Maupay 74) – Jensen (Damsgaard 63), Norgaard, Janelt (Schade 74) – Mbeumo, Toney, Wissa (Yarmoliuk x). Subs not used: Valdimarsson, Lewis-Potter, Trevitt, Konak


Newcastle: (4-3-3) Pope – Krafth, Schar (Dummett (90+2’), Burn, Hall – Longstaff, Guimaraes, Joelinton (Trippier 81’) – J Murphy (Almiron 68), Isak (Wilson 81), Barnes (Anderson 68’). Subs not used: Dubravka, Ritchie, White, A Murphy


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