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The Oppo: Brentford

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Handbags once again gives you all you need to know about the history between Reading and Brentford.

FA Cup: Brentford v Sunderland Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Thick and fast they come, as the Royals make the short trip east to Brentford in pursuit of another impressive three point haul hot on the heels of victories over Barnsley and Huddersfield, not forgetting the highly creditable EFL Cup win at the Amex.

Head-To-Head

On 80 occasions have the Royals and Bees met in league football and, Reading holding the superior record largely thanks to Elm Park being an imperious venue when Brentford visited, west definitely not being best for the Londoners who won on just five occasions in west Reading.

The record at Griffin Park is very much as one might suspect between two sides that have fought each other so often on equal terms, with the Royals victorious on 10 occasions, Brentford triumphant on 18, so victories are fairly regular. However, what the statistics below don’t show is the propensity for Reading to concede at Griffin Park – Reading have conceded on 38 of their 40 matches there. Having said that, Reading have also scored on 32 of their 40 matches at Griffin Park. One to consider for the “Both Teams To Score” accumulator indeed!!

Memorable Match

A 1-1 scoreline between the sides is certainly memorable at both ends of the emotional spectrum for supporters of both the Bees and Royals, but I choose not to cover the imperious Cureton effort that cancelled out Martin Rowlands' opener, instead I drop further back in time to two and a half years previous, and my first visit to the atmospheric Griffin Park.

Alan Pardew and John Gorman had not long taken over permanently at the Madejski Stadium and the visit to Griffin Park came on the back of three successive victories, the high intensity direct game starting to bear some fruit, and so it was with a growing air of confidence that the Royals approached the evening of Tuesday 2 November 1999. Brentford, meanwhile, went into the game in indifferent form having won, drawn and lost two of their previous six matches, and that indifference showed itself very much throughout as Reading seized the initiative from the off and bossed the first half. Indeed, Sean Evers had his best game in a Reading shirt and should have opened the scoring when put through wonderfully by Darren Caskey, only a fine reaction save from Andy Woodman kept the score goalless, saving low to his left to fingertip the ball agonisingly wide of the post.

But it wouldn’t be long before the Royals entered into the ascendancy, and a rare but excellent goal from Andy Gurney gave them a deserved lead. A quick breakaway saw the ball worked to Martin Williams who controlled and slipped a ball wide into the onrushing Gurney, took immediate control and looked to attack the Bees left back, Rob Quinn. Quinn, backtracking, was unable to prevent Gurney finding the yard of space required 20 yards out, and from an angle the Royals right back smashed an arrow of a shot right into Woodman’s bottom left corner.

From there on Reading looked to take complete control, but for all of their possession and dominance they struggled to break down a solid Bees defence of Scott Marshall and Darren Powell, and the half drew to a close with no exceedingly good chances for either side, and true to form Brentford came out fighting second half after goalscorer Andy Gurney was withdrawn at half time for Jim McIntyre. Sean Evers reverted to right back, and the balance of the side was upset somewhat. Despite that though, both sides struggled to create that telling chance, particularly Brentford despite their pressure who failed to really test Phil Whitehead and it seemed that only an error was going to prove the deciding factor. The luck for Reading at that time was certainly in the negative and it was an unfortunate error from Phil Whitehead, recently signed from West Bromwich Albion, that allowed Brentford to equalise. Tony Folan received the ball on the left touchline and moved infield before firing towards goal from 25 yards. The shot appeared to be a routine stop for Whitehead but the big Yorkshireman only succeeded in allowing the ball to squirm under his hand and into the corner for 1-1.

From that moment both teams went at it hammer and tongs without creating anything until right at the death when both Neil Smith and Martin Williams got in each other’s way when six yards out and the goal gaping. A catastrophic error from both players, missing a perfect chance to go into the upcoming televised derby with Oxford on a high, and little did Reading fans know that this match would be the first of a 13 match run without a win in the league, a full three months without a win the next win being a 2-0 home success over Colchester. From that point onwards though, the only way was up for Pardew’s side as, aided by Martin Allen after Gorman left to rejoin Glenn Hoddle at Southampton, Reading finished the season 10th with 61 points, a remarkable achievement given they were 23rd going into that Colchester match. Brentford, meanwhile, took to life reasonably well at Division 2 level having been promoted just the season before and never really troubled the promotion or relegation spots, finishing 17th.

They Played For Both Teams

One could spend literally days writing about players who played for both Reading and Brentford, particularly over recent seasons as Steve Coppell regularly resorted to signing players who had performed well under him at previous clubs, and one of the first to be re-signed by the Scouser at Reading was Slough-born Lloyd Owusu.

A popular player at both clubs, Owusu kicked off his career at non-league level with hometown club Slough Town where he was given the chance by none other than Brian McDermott, before being picked up by Brentford manager Ron Noades in 1998 for a nominal fee whereupon he embarked on a run of four impressive seasons, scoring 25 goals in his first season as the Bees won Division 3. Goals were harder to come by at the higher level but Owusu still notched a creditable 26 times between 1999 and 2001. 2001/02 was different, however, and perhaps Owusu’s most memorable season. Under the tutelage of Steve Coppell for the first time, Owusu scored 22 times as the Bees pushed for promotion to Division 1, eventually losing out in the playoff final to Stoke City after being nudged out of automatic on the final day. I need not say by who.

At the end of that season, however, after 73 goals in 195 appearances, Owusu was out of contract and courted by clubs at a higher level. The striker chose to head north to Sheffield Wednesday and try his hand at Division 1 football and the Ghana international stayed in Yorkshire for two years, scoring 10 in 59 games, 29 of which were substitute appearances, before a December 2003 loan move to the Madejski brought a reunion with Steve Coppell. Four goals in 12, including a memorable brace at Selhurst Park, was enough for Owusu to earn a two year deal however his 2004/05 season would be one where he was in and out of the side thanks mainly to the form of Nicky Forster and Dave Kitson. A contractual dispute with Forster would see Owusu given an extended run in the side in the first two months of 2005 but he was sacrificed as the side that had climbed to 4th around Christmas (by which point Owusu had scored five times) slumped to an 11 match run without a win, and Forster was handed an opportunity which he took. Owusu made just three appearances in March, April and May, and was told he could leave on a free transfer come season’s end despite still having a year left on his contract. Owusu scored 10 goals in 46 appearances for Reading.

The news that he was free to leave Reading saw Brentford come knocking once again and Owusu chose to head back to Griffin Park and play for Martin Allen, where he would stay for two seasons. He scored a further 14 goals in 55 games but 2006/07 was tough for Owusu as in the summer of 2006 he ripped his groin muscle in a Ghana warm up match at VFB Stuttgart and missed the opportunity to partake in Ghana’s first ever World Cup. Owusu would be out for 11 months, before a free transfer to Yeovil in 2007 saw relative success in Somerset and 12 goals in 53 appearances. Cheltenham next, and eight goals in 26 before a short three month loan move at Brighton and seven goals in 14, before a nomadic end to his career saw spells at Adelaide City, Luton Town, Paphos, Barnet, Slough Town for a second spell, White City Hakoah Sydney City East and Rydalmere FC (and a loan at Hayes & Yeading). These spells yielded sparing appearances and the player eventually retired in 2015 after 480 first team appearances which yielded 150 “Reach Up” celebrations, a ratio of little less than one-in-three.

Grudge Moment

Brentford fans seemed rather upset that Reading had the temerity to snatch promotion from their grasp in their own back yard. Reading fans on the other hand didn’t give a damn and proverbially stuck two fingers up on their way to Division 1. Nothing proverbial about Joe Allon though, who scored in a close match at Griffin Park in August 1993 in front of the Wendy House that was packed to the rafters with Royals fans. Those fans who were there won’t forget Allon’s celebration – a two-fingered salute to the travelling hoards. This was also the match that Paul Black allegedly didn’t make it into, bringing his consecutive run of matches into question.

Fact, Interesting or Otherwise

One of the last bastions of traditional terracing, Griffin Park is a must-visit ground for supporters in the top two divisions as the new Brentford stadium at Kew Bridge is well on the way to having its first shovel of soil turned over. Only Burton Albion also have terracing in the Championship, and if they manage to reside at Championship level for three seasons then they’ll be forced to convert their terraced areas to seating, unless safe standing is legalised.

One place (or four rather) guaranteed to be standing room only on matchdays are the four pubs, one on each corner of the ground. The Griffin, the New Inn and the Princess Royal will undoubtedly look forward to matchdays when they undoubtedly take plenty of money across the bar. Sadly for the Royal Oak, however, no money will be taken as the pub is boarded up, closed in 2015 after a rent increase.