Sam Wood is loving every minute of his debut season as a professional footballer - and believes League One football is within touching distance.

The 21-year-old midfielder was one of two non-league players identified by manager Andy Scott to help the Bees push for promotion - Moses Ademola being the other - and there is little doubt who is having the greater impact.

Initially deployed at left-back following his summer move from Bromley of the Blue Square South League, Wood has converted into a marauding winger and has excited fans with his excellent crossing and high work rate.

He has been consistent enough to keep last season's top scorer, Glenn Poole, out of the side and he produced a magnificent man-of-the-match display in Saturday's 2-0 win over Port Vale.

"It's brilliant being involved in a promotion chasing side," Wood told the Gazette.

"I was in the play-offs with my former club Bromley, but now at Brentford we're looking for automatic promotion.

"I'm absolutely delighted," he said. "I've only been a professional for seven months, so it's unbelievable.

"I'm excited, and just want to work hard for the team, and hopefully it will pay-off.

"I speak to a couple of the lads back at Bromley every now and then, but mostly Gareth McLeary who's now at Nottingham Forest.

"We both talk a bit about how great it is being a professional."

Wood added: "The spirit among the squad is great - we're buzzing. Everyone's connecting well [on the pitch].

"We're on a high, and we're top of the league by three points [ahead of Wycombe who have two games in hand].

"It's so tight, so anything can happen and we've still got to play the big teams, but with the atmosphere in the dressing room, we just think that we can beat anyone. So we're going to stroll on and hopefully get promoted."

Brentford were again on top form against Port Vale, who failed to draw inspiration from the presence of their most famous fan in the stands, pop star Robbie Williams.

The Bees were dominant throughout and cut through the Valiants with ease.

They earned themselves a penalty on five minutes when Marvin Williams was tripped in the box by Gareth Owen.

Charlie MacDonald missed the resulting penalty, but Brentford were relentless, surging forward at every opportunity.

Finally, on the stroke of halftime, Karleigh Osborne met Kevin O'Connor's corner to power home a header and Mac-Donald made the points safe on 86 minutes with his 14th goal of the season, leaving fans in disbelief at the modesty of the scoreline.

Once again, Wood's performance was complimented by a seemingly telepathic connection with left-back Ryan Dickson - and both men have impressed fans with their intuitive and dynamic left-sided partnership this season.

Wood believes his off-field friendship with Dickson is paying dividends for the team, but cites manager Andy Scott as the real driving force behind his fearless displays.

"Me and Ryan [Dickson] get on great, but we don't really practice anything specific in training together," he said.

"We're good friends, and we have some good banter on the training ground, and I think that shows in the way we play.

"We just seem to have a connection. I'm not sure what it is, but it's working, and with any luck we'll just keep on getting better.

"But it's the gaffer who gives me confidence and I work closely with him on the training pitch.

"Sometimes my head gets down, but he believes in me and tells me to believe in myself.

"He's brought me in from non-league and he thought I could do a job, and at the moment, I think I'm proving myself. That's all I could ask for in a manager."

Saturday's Details BEES (1) 2 PORTVALE (0) 0 Line-up: Hamer; Osborne, Bennett, Halls, Dickson; Williams (Newton 88), O'Connor, Bean (Hunt 83), Wood; Rhodes (Elder 90), MacDonald. Subs not used: Poole. Johnson. Attendance: 4,702 GOALS: Osborne (45), MacDonald (86). MoM: Sam Wood 


Spotland Saturday 3pm League Two Manager: Keith Hill Position last season: 5th - play-off finalists. Beaten 3-2 by Stockport. Form Guide: The Dale are contenders for automatic promotion and looking good at home, where they have won eight and lost only two- to Wycombe (0-1) and Dagenham (0-2). In fact they have gone 10 games without a home defeat in the league although Tuesday night's 1-1 draw against Morecambe - after conceding a 90th minute equaliser - was a setback. Their home run includes a 6-1 thumping of Chester City. A 1-0 win at Macclesfield on Saturday was their sixth on the road.

Players to look out for: Adam Le Fondre has 14 goals this season - including an FA Cup hat-trick against Barnet in November.

Most recent meetings: Brentford 1-2 Rochdale (1 Nov 2008); Brentford 0-2 Port Vale (29 Mar 2008); Rochdale 1-1 Brentford (20 Oct 2007) - League Two. Head-to-head record: RFC Wins: 3 BFC Wins: 17 Draws: 6

Match Facts: The Bees had never lost to Rochdale (a run of 21 games) until they suffered a 2-0 defeat at Spotland in January 1999. But they have failed to beat them in the three meetings since then and lost twice at home to the Dale in 2008 - including earlier this season when a Dean Bowditch goal was not enough to cancel goals from Rory McArdle and William Buckley.

Forecast: The Bees would love to gain revenge for their only home defeat so far, but a draw would be a decent result - especially considering the north west has been such an unproductive location for Scott's men this season. [25a0] Gazette forecast success rate: 23 out of 36 (64 per cent)