Programme contributor Mark Mitchener takes a historical look at Bournemouth’s previous visits to particular away venues. Have they been happy hunting grounds – or fortresses the Cherries have failed to conquer?
GRIFFIN PARK & BRENTFORD COMMUNITY STADIUM
CHERRIES RECORD AT GRIFFIN PARK (all competitions, excluding wartime games) – Played 54, Won 10, Drawn 20, Lost 24, Goals for 54, Goals against 77.
CHERRIES RECORD AT BRENTFORD COMMUNITY STADIUM – Played 1, Won 0, Drawn 0, Lost 1, Goals for 1, Goals against 2.
Brentford have always felt like one of Bournemouth’s most frequent opponents – and the statistics bear this out. The Bees have played Bournemouth in league football more than any other team – while from a Cherries perspective, Saturday’s 102nd league encounter between the sides is a figure only exceeded by Bournemouth’s meetings with Watford (110), Brighton (106) and Reading (106).
In addition, Brentford are the Cherries’ joint fourth most frequent opponent in major cup competitions (after Bristol Rovers, Torquay and Bristol City).
Geography has meant that the two sides have often visited each other over the festive season, or on the first or last day of the campaign – with Griffin Park proving a popular away venue for Cherries fans, not least because it had a pub on each corner of the ground.
Formed in 1889, Brentford played at a number of different grounds in the Ealing area before Griffin Park was built on the site of an orchard in 1904. They were elected to the Football League in 1920, and joined in the Third Division (South) three years later by Bournemouth and Boscombe Athletic.
Indeed, Brentford became the Cherries’ first Christmas opposition as a League club in 1923/24 and it was the Bees who prevailed in that first season, winning 4-2 at Dean Court on Christmas Day before a 2-0 success at Griffin Park on Boxing Day.
But the Cherries then won on their next three visits, although the sides did not meet between 1933 and 1954, with Brentford enjoying the best spell in their history, including five seasons in the top flight and three successive top-six finishes.
Back in the Third (South), Bournemouth enjoyed a 3-1 win there in October 1954 but despite regular visits, did not win at Griffin Park again until 1970. Draws became more frequent, with the points shared on seven out of nine trips to Brentford between 1977 and 1994, before the Cherries ended a run of 10 winless visits in a crucial game in 1995 (see “Classic Matches” below).
However, Griffin Park became a home fortress against the Cherries in its later years, with Bournemouth only winning twice in their last 17 competitive visits (including the 2-1 loss in 2004 when Neil Young was red-carded following the notorious “Stephen Hunt incident”), while the Bees enjoyed a staggering 6-0 win in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in 2011.
With a move to a new stadium on the horizon, Bournemouth’s last competitive visit to Griffin Park was a 3-1 defeat in the Championship in 2015, though the Cherries won a pre-season friendly there in 2019.
After years of anticipation, the new Brentford Community Stadium near Kew Bridge opened in 2020, with the Cherries losing their first visit there in late December.
Having had rugby league’s London Broncos as tenants for a spell in the 2000s, Brentford now host rugby union side London Irish’s home games, following a long stint at Reading.
A VISITING STAT
Once again, Bournemouth’s all-time leading goalscorer Ronnie Eyre is the top marksman at Griffin Park with five goals. Seven players share the runners-up place on two goals, most recently Claus Jorgensen, while no fewer than three Bees players have scored own goals for the Cherries at Griffin Park.
Brentford’s traditional red and white stripes mean Griffin Park has been an obvious venue for Bournemouth to wear their away strip – such as on the opening day of the 1990/91 season when the Inter Milan-style blue and black striped kit made its debut.
In 2005/06, with a new all-navy blue away kit introduced, Bournemouth paired their navy blue shirts at Brentford with the old sky blue shorts and socks worn between 2003 and 2005.
A mild curiosity came in the League Cup tie at Dean Court in 2002, when Brentford were allowed to wear their regular red and white striped shirts despite the clash with a predominantly red Cherries shirt.
FIRSTS AND LASTS
When Bournemouth went to Brentford on the opening day of the 1986/87 Third Division title-winning season, there were debuts for many key members of that promotion-winning team – Gerry Peyton, Tony Pulis, Mark Whitlock, Trevor Aylott, Carl Richards and David Puckett.
Also making their Cherries bows at Griffin Park were Peter Guthrie, Paul Mitchell and Efan Ekoku (all 1990), Danny Thomas (2002) and James Coutts (2004).
Meanwhile, the legendary Tommy Godwin kept goal for Bournemouth for the 387th and last time at Brentford in November 1961.
Also making their final Cherries appearance at Griffin Park were James Lamb and Bob McCulloch (both 1925), Reg Wright (1930), John Groves (1965), Billy Steele (1976), Nigel Spackman and John Impey (1983), Owen Coll (1996), John O’Shea (2000), Stevland Angus (2000, in a different game), Lewis Buxton (2004), Carl Preston (2008), Jaime Peters (2011), Charlie Sheringham and Mark Molesley (2011, in a different game) – while Steve Jones (1996) made his last permanent appearance there, although he would later return on loan.
A notable one-off appearance came during an injury crisis in March 1929 when, with Boscombe short on numbers, trainer Harry Kinghorn – who would manage the Cherries in two spells, before and after this occasion – was pressed into service for an emergency appearance in the number 11 shirt (despite having been a goalkeeper in his playing days), becoming the Cherries’ oldest League player at age 48.
Saturday 29 April 1995 – Division Two
Brentford 1-2 Bournemouth
Bournemouth and Brentford had contrasting fortunes in 1994/95. The Cherries began the season without a permanent manager, lost their first seven games and had only collected nine points by Christmas, making relegation look an absolute certainty as reorganisation of the Football League’s divisions meant that five teams would be relegated that season.
By contrast, Brentford – managed by ex-Cherries boss David Webb – won their first four league games and rode high for most of the season, battling with big-spending Birmingham City for the sole automatic promotion place.
The Bees had won 1-0 at Dean Court in October, when Webb had some stern words for his old side, who he believed were heading for the drop.
However, fortunes changed and Bournemouth, now managed by Mel Machin, had won nine of their 21 games in the calendar year 1995 by the time of their penultimate away game of the season at Brentford, who had just lost to Birmingham three days previously to hand the Blues the advantage in the promotion race.
With so much at stake for both teams, Griffin Park was packed out with around 2,000 Cherries fans squeezed into the away end. They were also trying to keep track of scores elsewhere because although Leyton Orient, Chester and Cardiff had already filled three of the five relegation spots, the final two were between Bournemouth, Plymouth and Cambridge.
Bournemouth, wearing their blue and black away shirts coupled with the “lucky” white alternative shorts and socks they had worn as often as possible in the preceding months as results improved, had few chances in the first half. But the defence, marshalled well by captain Mark Morris and goalkeeper Ian Andrews – the two most experienced players in an otherwise young side – held firm.
And the underdogs went ahead after the break when Brentford twice half-cleared the ball from their own penalty area, but a defender headed it straight into the path of midfielder Scott Mean who strode forward and stroked the ball home from 25 yards, before running most of the length of the pitch to celebrate.
Brentford turned up the pressure looking for an equaliser, and Bournemouth lost defender Neil Young to a head injury, sending on Michael McElhatton in his place. Young later commented: “I can’t say much about the Brentford game, as I don’t remember anything about it!”
The Bees’ pressure told and Paul Abrahams drew them level with a shot which took a wicked deflection off a defender in a crowded penalty area, giving Andrews no chance.
But this Bournemouth side never knew when they were beaten. Adrian Pennock launched the ball forward from defence, Steve Fletcher helped it on and Bees defender Barry Ashby fatally allowed the ball to bounce over him, letting in Steve Jones who raced forward, cut in from the right and fired past keeper Kevin Dearden from an acute angle, taking the shot split seconds before being wiped out by Ashby’s despairing challenge.
With promotion on the line, Brentford understandably threw the kitchen sink at Bournemouth in the final 15 minutes, laying siege to Andrews’ goal, behind which the Cherries fans anxiously waited for the final whistle. Incredibly, in the four minutes of stoppage time that were played, Brentford were awarded six corners. Every clearance was cheered to the rafters as Andrews and the massed ranks in defence somehow kept the ball out.
Finally, anxiety turned to ecstasy as the final whistle came – and with it, the news that Cambridge had only drawn with Huddersfield, and after 45 games, Bournemouth were finally out of the relegation zone. With one game left, their fate was now in their own hands.
Machin later recalled in the club-produced “The Great Escape” book, how much of a role was played by those away supporters – who refused to leave Griffin Park until he had come out after the game to take their applause.
“The supporters who travelled that day played a very big part in us getting the three points,” he said. “They got behind us and were so vocal, certainly better than Brentford who had 8,000 [in] the crowd. We needed them to lift us, and they gave us that lift.
“And they wouldn’t go away after the game! The chairman came into the changing room and said that the crowd had stayed. I just can’t describe my feelings, when I went out it was unbelievable.”
The “Great Escape” would be completed three days later when Bournemouth beat Shrewsbury 3-0 at Dean Court, consigning Plymouth and Cambridge to relegation. But that Saturday afternoon at Brentford will never be forgotten by those who were there.
Cherries: Andrews, Young (McElhatton), Beardsmore, Morris, Murray, Mean, Pennock, Robinson (Holland), Jones, Fletcher, Brissett. Sub not used: Moss.
Griffin Park remained a popular away trip for Cherries fans – so it would be harsh to label it as a “ground for complaint”, even if the statistics may point that way.