When sprint sensation Noah Lyles was first emerging on the track scene, it was often debated just how good he might be if only he could sort out his ponderous starts.
Five games into the new season, and Thomas Frank must be asking similar questions of his Brentford side as they roared back late once again to draw at Crystal Palace, after substitute Yoane Wissa cancelled out Wilfried Zaha’s sensational strike.
Three times in their five matches, Brentford have come from behind to level and earn a point, while in a fourth, against Fulham, they almost did likewise, turning 2-0 into 2-2 before Aleksandar Mitrovic’s last-minute winner. On the one occasion when things clicked from the outset, Manchester United were blown away by four first-half goals.
“The good thing is we have a few proofs that we go right to the end and we can come back,” Frank said last night. “From a health perspective, the United game was a bit more healthy.”
Sluggish starts have not hindered American Lyles, any more than they did his predecessor, Usain Bolt, another famously average starter. But Frank knows his Brentford side cannot keep crawling out of the blocks, for all he continues to laud their character.
“I said we need to win tonight,” Frank said. “We need to take out not the early goal, but the set-piece against Leicester, where we went 1-0 down, the mistake against Fulham to go 1-0 down.
“We actually took out all of that, but then it’s difficult to also say, ‘Can we please take a world-class moment from Zaha out of the game?’.”
Wissa’s 88th-minute header left Patrick Vieira furious, his Palace side making as much of a habit of surrendering leads as Brentford are of chasing them down, but in the end the Eagles were fortunate to hold on for a point, as first Rico Henry and then Ben Mee missed glorious chances to win it late on.
“I love the mentality we have,” Frank added. “We don’t have to settle for the draw, we go for the win.”
This level of resilience has been a feature of Frank’s team stretching back to their time in the Championship. A 3-2 win over Millwall in 2019, when the Bees had trailed 2-0 with six minutes to play, became a hallmark result a year into the Dane’s tenure, while Frank’s men also came from behind over two legs to reach each of their successive play-off finals.
Still, one cannot help feeling that life would be easier if they could stop giving head-starts.