ALL LEAD THE BEES TO WEM­B­LEY WAY

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE PLAY-OFF FINAL - By Ben Baker

THERE’S do­ing things the hard way and then there is the Brent­ford route.

But life­long fan turned cap­tain Kevin O’Con­nor in­sists he has never been more con­fi­dent that Cham­pi­onship football is on its way to Grif­fin Park.

Hav­ing been at the club since 1999 and go­ing on to rack up 487 ap­pear­ances for the Bees, O’Con­nor must have thought he had seen it all at Brent­ford.

But even he couldn’t have en­vis­aged their last three games go­ing the way they did.

In the 94th minute of the fi­nal game of the sea­son against pro­mo­tion ri­vals Don­caster, Brent­ford had the chance to go up au­to­mat­i­cally af­ter be­ing awarded a penalty.

De­spite reg­u­lar taker and skip­per O’Con­nor be­ing on the pitch, on-loan Ful­ham striker Mar­cello Trotta de­manded the kick, send­ing it thun­der­ing back off the cross­bar be­fore James Cop­pinger rolled the ball in at the other end to send Donny up as cham­pi­ons and con­demn Brent­ford to the play-offs.

Shootout

In the first leg against Swin­don the Bees were awarded an­other last-gasp penalty but this time there was no stop­ping O’Con­nor, the 31year-old coolly con­vert­ing to level the tie at 1-1 af­ter the first leg.

And this spot-kick proved cru­cial as, af­ter a mad sec­ond-leg at Grif­fin Park ended 3-3, Brent­ford’s fu­ture was once again set­tled from the 12 yards out – the hosts never miss­ing to go through 5-4 in the shootout to face Yeovil in the fi­nal.

Brent­ford aren’t ex­actly mak­ing things sim­ple for their fans, who have un­easy mem­o­ries of play-off cam­paigns hav­ing sat through six un­suc­cess­ful at­tempts so far.

But O’Con­nor, who is in his third play-off stint hav­ing lost a 2002 fi­nal to Stoke and be­ing pipped in the League One semi-fi­nal by Swansea seven years ago, is con­vinced it will all be worth it when the fi­nal whis­tle blows at Wem­b­ley a week to­day.

“The sec­ond leg against Swin­don was great,” said O’Con­nor, who is clos­ing in on Ken Coote’s record of 559 Brent­ford ap­pear­ances.

“It has been a funny few weeks for the club with ev­ery­thing that has gone on and that was prob­a­bly a fit­ting way to get to Wem­b­ley.

“To bounce back like we did from the dis­ap­point­ment of the Don­caster game was great and while we made it harder for our- selves, as it prob­a­bly shouldn’t have gone to penal­ties, we made the most of the sec­ond chance.

“The at­mos­phere at Grif­fin Park was in­cred­i­ble and hope­fully it will be the same at Wem­b­ley.

“We can go to Wem­b­ley now with the mo­men­tum and form we have built up and re­ally make the most of this sec­ond chance.

“Ev­ery­one al­ways says that if you could choose a way to go up then it would be at Wem­b­ley with a play-off fi­nal.

“We had the chance to go up in sec­ond place but now we have a chance to win a Wem­b­ley fi­nal.

“With the penalty against Don­caster Trotts wanted to take it and so did I, but he had the ball and I didn’t want to make a scene so I stepped aside and wished him all the best but un­for­tu­nately he missed.

“Be­fore the Swin­don game it was de­cided that I would take the penalty if we got one. We did and I felt con­fi­dent and stepped up and thank­fully scored be­cause it was a big goal in the grand scheme of things. Then to go through to the penalty shootout in the next game was mad.

“I have been in­volved in three play-off cam­paigns so far with the club and not won any of them but I can hon­estly say that this one feels dif­fer­ent and I feel more con­fi­dent.

“It is a dif­fer­ent set of play­ers, coaches and all that but also a dif­fer­ent style that we play. The gaffer likes to get the ball down on the floor and pass it around and play with pace and I think that if you look at the play­ers we have then pro­mo­tion is a real pos­si­bil­ity.

“Yes I am ner­vous about the fi­nal but that is nor­mal and I am more con­fi­dent than I have been be­fore that we are set up to do it.

In­flu­ence

“With­out a doubt the club is go­ing places with the new sta­dium and acad­emy. When you go to the train­ing ground there is a new build­ing spring­ing up all the time. This club is head­ing in the right di­rec­tion.”

Six days af­ter Brent­ford have graced Wem­b­ley, two Ger­man sides, Bay­ern Mu­nich and Borus­sia Dort­mund, will pitch up for the Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal.

But it is an­other Ger­man who calls Lon­don home, Uwe Rosler, left, in the Brent­ford hot seat, that O’Con­nor is keen to see get his hands on some sil­ver­ware, in­sist­ing it is the for­mer striker’s in­flu­ence that has trans­formed the club.

“Ob­vi­ously I can’t com­pare us to Borus­sia Dort­mund or Bay­ern Mu­nich but I think there is an el­e­ment in what Uwe is try­ing to do with us in how they play,” he added.

“He likes us to play with pace and pass the ball around and you have to say it is work­ing for us.

“Com­pared to where we are this sea­son in terms of last year it is just phe­nom­e­nal how far we have come and a lot of that is down to Uwe and the coaches as they have brought in some great play­ers.

“Uwe is very pas­sion­ate and en­cour­ag­ing and I have to say that his man man­age­ment is the best I have played un­der.

“He can be mean when he needs to be but he is also great fun and knows how to get the best out of his play­ers.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

ON THE SPOT: Brent­ford’s penalty hero Si­mon Moore. Inset: Cap­tain Kevin O’Con­nor, left, and Mar­cello Trotta

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