Brentford must quickly put the heartbreak of last weekend’s regular League One season finale to one side as they head to Swindon Town on Saturday for a play-off semi-final first leg.
The Bees, who have not graced the second tier of English football since 1993, agonisingly missed out on automatic promotion on the final day as they lost a winner-takes-all match with Doncaster Rovers in incredible circumstances.
Brentford, needing a goal to snatch second place from their opponents’ grasp, were awarded a penalty deep into injury-time at Griffin Park.
After ignoring the instructions of boss Uwe Rosler, striker Marcelo Trotta grabbed the ball from skipper Kevin O’Connor, the usual penalty taker, and placed it confidently on the spot.
However, the Fulham loanee then contrived to smash his effort against the crossbar and as the ball broke loose, Donny suddenly sprung a swift counter and within seconds James Coppinger had slotted home to hand Brian Flynn’s men a dramatic 1-0 win which also saw them pip Bournemouth to the title.
After coming so close once, Rosler will face a tough task to raise his players for the rigours of two gruelling games against the Robins and will hope after failing in their five previous play-off campaigns they can make it sixth time lucky.
Swindon, for their part, will certainly need to be at their best if they are to prove a genuine match for a side who did the double over them in the regular season.
The Robins, despite sitting second with seven games to play, were eventually forced to grab the last of the play-off spots after a drop in form at the start of April threatened to end their promotion hopes entirely.
Three straight defeats after Easter left them in a perilous position, but home wins over Crewe and Stevenage meant that defeat on the last day to Scunthorpe United didn’t prove fatal.
Of course, Paolo Di Canio’s former employers are playing for back-to-back promotions, but the aim in this first leg has to be building a lead to take to Griffin Park on Bank Holiday Monday as their recent form on the road has been particularly poor.
Four consecutive away defeats, with just one goal to their credit, can’t fill Di Canio’s replacement, Kevin MacDonald, with a great deal of confidence regarding the return leg so he will be desperate for his players to secure a win in front of their own fans.
The Robins are favourites at 11/10 in bwin’s 3-way betting market to get that important first-leg lead – as they should be, having only lost once at home since November – but as things stand, they are slight outsiders to win the tie at 9/10.
Brentford, on the other hand, are 4/5 to reach the Wembley final and 11/5 to secure an advantage in Wiltshire, with the draw also priced at 11/5.
Key to the Bees’ hopes could be breaking down Swindon’s defence, which is the meanest in League One having conceded just 39 goals all season.
The Robins are one of only four sides who, on average, shipped less than one goal per game, but Brentford have averaged 1.1 goals every away game and won 1-0 on their previous trip to the County Ground – so both teams to score looks well worth a go at 17/20.
For all their resilience in the early part of the season, Swindon have not exactly been miserly at home in recent weeks, keeping clean sheets in just two of their last eight league games on their own patch.
But with seven goals in those wins over Crewe and Stevenage and a need to go on the front foot with their dismal away record in mind, it is also inconceivable that MacDonald’s charges will fail to score.
And considering Brentford have scored in each of their last four games on the road, 17/20 on both teams to hit the back of the net is good enough for this punter in game where a specific result is too tough to predict with any real confidence.
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