It’s the fourth round of the FA Cup this weekend and the ‘lost magic’ brigade have come out of the woodwork to spoil the party. Try telling Barnet fans that, though.
After a weekend of upsets — including last-placed League One club AFC Wimbledon’s hammering of West Ham and Millwall’s last-gasp victory over Everton — non-league Barnet host Championship side Brentford at The Hive on Monday evening.
Barnet, the lowest ranked team left in the competition, already shocked Championship Sheffield United in the last round with a shock 1-0 victory, which may give them confidence ahead of 18th-placed Brentford’s visit.
The sides — both nicknamed ‘the Bees’ — last met in the EFL Trophy in 2011, a game that Barnet won 5-3 on penalties.
“They [Barnet] combine well in the final third. If we underestimate them the same thing that happened to Sheffield United could happen to us,” Brentford head coach Thomas Frank said in his press conference leading up to the game.
He continued: “Yes, we are clear favourites. It will be a massive disappointment if we don’t go through, but we must respect Barnet and we must respect the history of the cup.”
After a torrid start as Brentford boss, Thomas Frank takes his team into the game unbeaten in seven, though he insists Brentford will need to be at their best to progress.
“It will not be a second ball game. It will be a game I expect us to dominate and control, but one where we need to defend well.
“We need to get the game up in tempo with a high intensity. I want us to do that no matter who we play against.
“We’ve seen top teams playing in the cup who just lower their focus. They play with less intensity and end up with problems,” Frank explained.
The upturn in Brentford’s form seems to have stemmed from a change in formation. Since their 1-0 win over Bolton, Frank has set his team up in a 3-4-3 formation. It seems that, so far, it has paid dividends.
Frank said: “I’ve been studying the system for a while and always knew that I wanted it as a second system.
“The build-up play in this formation is very similar to a 4-3-3 so it was easy for the players to adapt to.”
The front three are still pressing in the same way and the philosophy of pressing forward and dominating possession has, of course, been maintained.Embed from Getty Images
However, change is a big part of football in January, the loss of defender Chris Mepham to Bournemouth in a £12 million deal being the most obvious example.
“All the staff who worked with him should be proud. It’s a big part of our strategy to develop young players,” Frank said.
“Of course he is a good player. But we have just gone the last seven games on an unbeaten run without him.”
Frank accepts the squad will need to eventually find a replacement for Mepham, but, or now, he is satisfied with what he has.
“The back three of Yoann Barbet, Julian Jeanvier and Ezri Konsa have done a fantastic job. We also have youngsters — Mads Bech Sorenson and Luka Racic — trying to push through.”
One of that back three, Barbet, believes the FA Cup is a good opportunity for any club to win silverware.
“We only have to win four games to reach the final. That’s why, for us, it’s a big chance to progress on Monday night,” Barbet said.
“If we can get another good team at home it will be a great opportunity for us to try and reach a semi-final or perhaps even the final.
“I’ve been with the club for four years now and we’ve not been on a cup run. Everyone wants to win titles and maybe this is the easiest way for a club to win something.”Embed from Getty Images
To do so the Bees of Brentford must first beat the Bees of Barnet and the National League side will be unlikely to make the Hive feel like home for their visitors.
Barnet vs Brentford in the FA Cup fourth round kicks off Monday at 19:45 live on BT Sport 2.
Featured photograph/Connor Woolley