BRENTFORD 2 SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY 0

Bill Hagerty admires Bees’ dismissal of Wednesday but regrets the goal chances that went begging

 

What a difference a year makes. Around this early stage of the season in 2017 Brentford were not quite halfway through what was to be a seven-match run without a win. And here we are jostling for position at the top of the table, playing slick football and looking as hungry for points as a dog with its nose pressed against a butcher’s shop window is for a string of sausages.   

Indeed, the Brentford pack in full cry is a sight for sore eyes. Unless you happen to be a member of the opposition, that is. The elder of the two Sheffield Championship clubs were competitive enough during much of the first half, but run so ragged after the interval that they must have wondered if they were Wednesday or Bank Holiday Monday. 

So a perfect afternoon at Griffin Park? Well, no: Dean Smith was once again right on the button when, post-match, he acknowledged his team’s domination in victory but added, ‘It should have been more emphatic, given the chances we had.’

Absolutely. Sergi Canos, as busy as any Bee should be, might have scored three times but was thwarted either by goalkeeper Cameron Dawson or an inadequate finish. Ollie Watkins, a danger to the Wednesday defence whenever and wherever – on either wing and sometimes bursting through the middle – could have had more than the one he collected, and other Brentford efforts were unsuccessful enough to earn groans from the home crowd.

But the result was never in doubt after Wednesday centre back Sam Hutchinson clattered Lewis Macleod inside the area so close to referee David Webb that the visitors couldn’t raise a protest between them. Now there’s a rarity.

Neil Maupay despatched the penalty with style and he was in the right place at the right time in the second half when a mesmerising run by Romaine Sawyers – twinkletoed once again, with flicks and back-heels constantly prising open the opposing defence – led to Bees’ second goal. Watkins fed Maupay who accelerated away and with the goalkeeper blocking his path played a short pass to Watkins, arriving like an express train to shoot into a gaping net.

The arrival of Said Benrahma, substituted for Canos, was a crowd-pleaser, especially when – begging Romaine Sawyers’ pardon – he produced the best individual manoeuvre  of the game with a wonderful dummy and turn to leave his marker floundering and then a shot that seriously tested the beleaguered Dawson.

Wednesday’s chances were few, even though their main striker, Atdhe Nuhiu,  tall and big with it, appeared to have more muscle than the rest of the team combined. Nuhiu cannot properly be described as a giant, but doubtless will be when fully grown.

With a clean sheet becoming more and more likely as the game progressed, captain-for-the-day Daniel Bentley was advancing sometimes almost as far as the halfway-line whenever Brentford attacked. Bentley was obviously taking his extra duty, plus his desire for his first shut-out of the season, seriously; so much so that a severe tongue-lashing might well have followed for anyone displaying sloppiness that led to a Wednesday goal.

With the Brentford crowd now having a wonderful time in the afternoon sunshine – ‘You’re going down with Rangers,’ was the chant to celebrate QPR’s walloping by West Brom the previous day – the Wednesday end became eerily quiet. How the supporters of The Owls – so named because its Hillsborough ground is in the Sheffield suburb of Owlerton; not many people know that – must have wished that Andrew McCulloch, one-time star striker for both Wednesday and the Bees who was introduced at the interval, had brought along a blue and white shirt and his shooting boots. 

Wednesday lost half-a-dozen of its playing staff during the close season and having suffered a transfer embargo for not following EFL financial fair play rules patently have a squad struggling to find a successful formula. Makes one almost sorry for them, I mused.

‘No,’ said my mate Charlie.

A man of few words, is Charlie.

Brentford: Bentley, Dalsgaard, Konsa, Mepham, Barbet, Macleod (sub Mokotjo), McEachran, Canos (Benrahma), Sawyers, Watkins (Judge), Neal Maupay.

 

Sheffield Wednesday: Dawson, Baker, Lees, Pudil (sub Penny), Thorniley, Hutchinson (Preston), Bannan, Pelupessy, Matias (Fletcher), Nuhiu, Forestieri