A busy Christmas fixture list — with four games in eleven days — starts with Brentford taking on fellow strugglers Bolton at Griffin Park on Saturday.
Brentford are now walking a tightrope above the relegation zone. The defeat against Hull last week has left the Bees balanced precariously over the drop.
Hull was Thomas Frank’s eighth defeat in ten games in charge. With this Saturday marking the half-way point of the season, things have become a little tense among the fans. However Frank remains optimistic.
“I think when you haven’t won enough games the next one is always an opportunity,” Frank said. “At home — against Bolton on Saturday — to get three points and get back on the winning track going into a busy period is a great opportunity.”
If Brentford do clinch a much needed win against Bolton it may just be Frank’s salvation. A win would also provide an essential confidence boost for the players heading into this pivotal point in the campaign.
The Christmas period will be a challenge for the squad as some players looked particularly tired against Hull. Fortunately for Frank though, the injury list has shrunk in recent weeks and the squad has more depth.
He said: “It’s a long season and I think we are going to need everybody, especially over the next period of games, we need to use the full squad.
“The Championship season is relentless. It’s so tough and you need to have extra energy. Very few players can go 46 games without a break. Having no holiday or break that just adds up.”
Mental tiredness is also a factor to consider at this point in the season, particularly in terms of Brentford’s vulnerability straight after conceding, which appears to be increasingly problematic.
In recent games where Brentford have conceded more than once, they have done so within very short periods of time.
Last week at Hull, for example, they conceded two in nine minutes. Against Swansea it was three within half an hour. Sheffield United were two up inside the opening fifteen minutes, while Middlesbrough scored twice in five second half minutes and QPR got three within ten minutes.
“It’s definitely something we’ve been highlighting and speaking about. After conceding we need to stay in the game. The next five minutes are extremely important. We need to stay switched on,” Frank explained.
“All the small mistakes are currently being turned into big mistakes and we get punished.”
Although the spotlight has been on defensive errors so far this season, the Bees have had some of the highest average possession, passing accuracy and shots.
Extending back to their last victory against Millwall at the beginning of November — perhaps aside from defeats to West Brom and QPR — Brentford have been the dominant side in games. Statistically speaking, at least.
This puts the pressure on Brentford’s forwards and the chances they’ve missed, evident at the KCOM Stadium last weekend. It highlights that the whole team must accept collective responsibility, and no single factor can be blamed.
“I think we have conceded too many goals and not taken enough clear cut chances,” Frank said.
“It’s easy to look towards the defence and say that they need to step up, but for me it’s about the eleven players as a team and it’s as a team that we need to do better.
“It’s a marginal game. Over this spell there has been a lack of quality in certain situations, but also a lack of confidence. We have also had too many injured players, which hasn’t helped.”
Perhaps a relegation six-pointer against Bolton this weekend is the perfect remedy for Frank’s side to regain their confidence and find some form ahead of a busy Christmas schedule. Or they’re left teetering on the brink of the bottom three.
Featured photograph/Connor Woolley