Victory in last night’s clash with Huddersfield Town was an imperative if Brentford’s promotion push was to get back on track after Saturday’s minor derailment at St Andrew’s, and the Bees stepped up to the plate and totally overwhelmed their opponents with a victory that was entirely as comfortable as the four-one scoreline suggests. Huddersfield had defeated Brentford in the reverse fixture in December so some element of revenge was also on the agenda and Brentford paid them back with interest, dominating the proceedings with sixty-eight percent possession and twenty-three shots at goal. More importantly, the win took Brentford back into the top six and leaves them in good heart for the dog-eat-dog promotion clash at Ipswich on Saturday.
Brentford needed to come out of the blocks quickly last night and they started well with Chris Long looking eager from the off and his first moment in the spotlight came as early as the fourth minute when he received the ball from Jonathan Douglas with his back to goal, turned quickly, left Wallace for dead, ran in on goal and his effort from just outside the area scorched past Smithies before the keeper could react. Not a bad way to celebrate your first start for the club. With any nerves settled Brentford tore gaping holes in the Huddersfield rearguard and Douglas missed a sitter and Smithies then saved sharply from Long when Diagouraga out him clear on goal, but the angle was tight, the keeper quick and brave and Brentford spurned their chances to increase their lead. The only danger to Brentford came from James Vaughan and Harry Bunn and, seemingly out of nothing, the two combined well for Bunn to turn outside the straining Odebayo, who was caught on his heels, and the finish was angled perfectly past Button into the bottom corner. A goal totally against the run of play that, yet again, highlighted what is always likely to happen in the Championship if you do not take your chances.
Bunn and Vaughan joined together in a preening and taunting celebration in front of a distinctly unimpressed horde behind the Ealing Road goal and were lucky to escape censure for their actions that reeked of arrogance and incitement. Bunn had once been a Brentford loan target but his behaviour last night demonstrated that despite his obvious talent, his maturity left a lot to be desired. As for Vaughan, he seemed to enjoy throwing his weight around and was totally indulged by a weak referee in Lee Collins who gave him at least three last warnings as his personal foul total totted up, yet incredibly the striker ended the game without receiving the yellow card that his antics sorely deserved.
Brentford should have been home and hosed by the interval but thankfully started the second half brightly and their efforts were rewarded early on when Jota tormented and bamboozled the hapless substitute Carroll and dribbled along the goal line before attempting to set up Long. The pass was half blocked but Jota was not to be denied, and showed great persistence in winning the ball back. The ball fell perfectly to the feet of Long who drilled the ball home from close range, with the Spaniard narrowly avoiding decapitation as the ball flew past his head en route to the back of the net. Huddersfield visibly wilted and funnelled back in damage limitation mode and, with the initiative given back to them, Brentford simply took over, played their football, and tore the visitors to shreds with Douglas and Diagouraga selflessly fetching and carrying which enabled Jota and Pritchard to indulge in their party pieces. Dallas too played an important but selfless role shuttling up and down the left flank and ensuring that he was always there to help Bidwell deal with Sean Scannell who had dominated proceedings in the first match between the two teams. His threat was totally snuffed out and he suffered the indignity of being substituted late on.
Brentford’s pressure paid off when Diagouraga found Pritchard in a pocket of space just outside the box, he turned perfectly and his right foot effort kissed a defender and was deflected perfectly into the top corner. Alex has now scored eight times this season and he is a potent goal threat as defenders have become increasingly wary of his ability to turn them inside out and drop off him, thus giving him the extra time and space he needs to shoot. Huddersfield gave up at this point and the game meandered to a close enlivened only by a thunderbolt into the bottom corner by substitute Jon Toral. Brentford were by now means flattered by their three goal margin of victory and had they taken their chances or really gone for the jugular then Huddersfield would have received a real thrashing. As it is, the four goals were all scored by young loanees. Were the signings of Long, Pritchard and Toral initiated by Benham’s stats or Warburton’s contact book? Who knows and it really does not matter. That is a discussion for another time ideally after the end of the season.
I would mention in passing two telling comments from a Huddersfield message board which highlight the chasm between the two teams last night: Brentford are everything we are not, slick, fit, comfortable on the ball and incisive. Their keeper passed the ball better than any Town player. We also out-passed them by a vast margin with a massive eighty-three percent of our six hundred and four passes being on the money. There were no real downsides to last night’s performance. Button was totally untroubled but swept up in his normal vigilant manner and the back four looked a cohesive and confident unit. Liam Moore is beginning to bed in and James Tarkowski was his usual peerless self. He is still a work in progress but that work is likely to turn into a masterpiece. Andre Gray was long overdue a rest and he looked sharp and eager when he came on near the end to spell Chris Long who had been our real match winner on the night. We have all bemoaned the lack of an experienced striker but on the evidence of last night Gray and Long are certainly lively and good enough to provide us with a potent goal threat in the last quarter of the season. I still feel a third striker is a necessary precaution should injury or illness lurk but that is a decision for Mark Warburton. Alan Judge is also nearing full fitness after a stop-start return to the side and his influence will surely be required at Ipswich.
Our place in the top six might well be short-lived given that Ipswich play tonight and will overtake us should they get anything at Leeds and we could also do with Wigan doing us an unlikely favour at Norwich but we must not get distracted by the results of others. Our sole objective is simply for us to take care of our own business. Should we continue to do so and play with the vigour, vim and sheer excellence that we exhibited last night then this season could still end up with our winning a prize beyond our wildest expectations.