Tale of two Shrimpers for the Bulls and the Bees

FFT.com's Gregg Davies on contrasting campaigns for Brentford and Hereford...

What a difference a year makes.

Saturday April 26 2008 will live long in the memory for Hereford United. And it can now also be recalled as a significant date for newly-crowned League Two champions Brentford.

Griffin Park was the setting for the Bulls’ 3-0 success on the penultimate weekend of last season, sealing an automatic passage to League One and a second promotion in three years.

But while the 1,500-strong travelling support danced around the west London playing surface, the home side’s boss Andy Scott was busy delivering a message of intent to his beaten Bees.

“I left the door open in our changing room so they could hear Hereford celebrating,” Scott said 12 months ago.

“I hate people celebrating on my patch. It is not good. I don’t want it to happen again. But I think we can reflect on their celebrations at some stage next season and it will trigger things in the mind that we want it to be us. We will use it to our advantage."

Use it to their advantage they did. And how.

Poetically, exactly one year on – last Saturday – it was Brentford’s turn to celebrate promotion, as 1,500 Bees fans went to Darlington to witness their side seal top spot in League Two.

Sharpshooter: Charlie MacDonald 

Not the worst of starts to a managerial career for 36-year-old Scott, who only took over on a permanent basis in January 2008 after Terry Butcher left the club just four points above the relegation zone.

And having inspired the team to a mid-table finish with eight wins and three draws in his first 12 games in charge, the former Bees striker signed a five-year contract last summer and set about steering his side steadily up the fourth-tier standings.

The Londoners will now swap places with Hereford, following the Bulls’ immediate demotion back from whence they came.

And for both clubs, 2008/09 has proved a tale of two Southend strikers.

Brentford bagged their Shrimper, former Crawley and Gravesend talisman Charlie MacDonald hitting 16 league goals before succumbing to a shoulder injury.

However, Hereford missed out on their Southend target, Gary Hooper. Having guided the Bulls to promotion last year with 11 strikes in 19 outings on loan from Roots Hall, the former Grays marksman was pinched by Scunthorpe for £175,000.

The Bulls had no ‘Plan B’. And as they have struggled to find the back of the net in a new division – with just 42 goals scored in 45 games one of the key factors behind their demise – Hooper has helped himself to 30 in his first season with the Iron.

Brentford themselves have been the beneficiaries of loanees’ goals this campaign as their promotion push gathered pace.

With MacDonald out and fellow front-man Nathan Elder also sidelined, Ipswich starlet Billy Clarke arrived on cue to net five goals in seven appearances, including a brace in the title-winning triumph at Darlington.

And another Tractor Boy, Jordan Rhodes, ensured Scott’s side maintained their mid-season surge, arriving in January and adding another seven to the cause before he also pulled up lame, suffering metatarsal misery.

With a wealth of striking talent at his disposal in 2008/09, Scott will do well to hang on to as many of them as possible as he prepares the Bees for a return to League One.

Maybe then they will ensure they do not suffer the same fate as Hooper-less Hereford.

The one that got away: Gary Hooper 

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