Harlee Dean felt Brentford deserved tonight’s 3-2 win over Milton Keynes Dons at stadium:MK as Dean Smith’s side remain unbeaten in the build-up to the new Sky Bet Championship season. Goals on their full debuts for Neal Maupay and Ollie Watkins, either side of a Ryan Seager double for the hosts, had The Bees level before Florian Jozefzoon struck the winner in the final 20 minutes. Harlee felt The Bees controlled large parts of the game and believes the team are getting to grips with their new tactical system.
“We controlled the game and it felt really easy,” Harlee told iFollow after the game. “I felt we showed how good we are compared to them but we still gave them chances and gave them goals which is frustrating. We had some good spells and some good passages of play and got the win which is all that matters. We are trying a new system which we only did for the first time three weeks ago so we are going to be open. We are trying something new and hopefully when it does work, it works well.”
As one of The Bees longest serving players, Harlee admits this has been the toughest pre-season campaign that he can remember at the club. However, the defender, who turns 26 tomorrow, believes the tough sessions have helped to bring the group together and integrate the summer signings.
“It has probably been the toughest pre-season since I came here to be honest,” said Dean. “We’ve had a lot of sessions with not a lot of days off. The trip was hard as this new counter-pressing system means that we have to be as fit as possible. The new lads haven’t really had a chance to get away from us because we have been in every day so you are going to get to know each other when you are with them 24/7. Everyone seems like the same sort of character and personality and everyone seems driven to achieve the same thing.”
Harlee’s sending-off on the final day of last season against Blackburn Rovers means he will serve a one-game suspension against Sheffield United on the opening day of this campaign. Knowing he will miss the opening game of the season, Harlee also knows that he will need to fight to get his place back in the starting XI, especially if the team does well at Bramall Lane.
“It has been tough knowing that I am suspended for the first game,” admitted Harlee. “Pre-season is usually about proving to the manager that you should be in the team for the first game. It has been different for me because there is no way that is possible for me. I have sort of gone at my own pace and focussed on areas that I need to improve on fitness wise, technically, and mentally. I am hoping that I can get back in the team as soon as possible. Don’t get me wrong, I want the team to go and win at Sheffield United. If they win then I don’t get back in as it is their shirt to lose. I might have to wait a little while but you never know. I just have to make sure that I am ready. I feel that I am important to the team. I want to get back in and play football: I don’t want to sit on the bench.”