BLACKBURN ROVERS 1 BRENTFORD 0

Stewart Purvis sees 'a lack of spark' bring Brentford's unbeaten run  to an end.

 

Even ‘Visit Lancashire’ would admit that an August Bank Holiday weekend in Blackburn isn't a great attraction, especially when the road and rail networks are disrupted. For Brentford it was a disappointing day out as Ewood Park was the end of the road for their season-opening unbeaten run. 

 

The Bees were frustrated and frustrating which is exactly what Rovers had planned. They’d even left the grass long on the pitch, presumably to disrupt Brentford’s passing game. According to Dean Smith after the game ‘they’ll probably send the horses on there to graze’. Time and again passes in midfield went astray. But 'we should have been better’ admitted Smith. 

The Bees had arrived in East Lancashire without Ryan Woods, just half an hour before kickoff came the formal confirmation that he was now a Stoke player. In his farewell tweet ‘Woodsy’ wrote warmly about the support he and his family had received ‘during the difficult time we endured’. They would be ‘forever grateful’. There were lots of supportive tweets back from Bees fans. 

'This team can still be stronger without Ryan Woods' said Smith and Kamo Mokotjo, captain for the day, took over the defensive midfield position Woods played last season. But playing out from the back nobody performed the fetch and carry role that was a Woods speciality. The selection of Mokotjo and Yennaris over McEachran and Macleod was explained as the result of a 'three-game week' which required freshening up the team. It didn’t work out as well as Smith would have wanted and his post-Woods midfield reconstruction seems to be work still in progress.

The stats tell a story of Brentford having more possession, shots and shots on goal. But much of the match just felt flat, Smith called it 'a lack of spark' and it wasn’t as simple as saying that Brentford missed the suspended Maupay. At one point in the first half even some of the loyal Bees supporters, depleted to 454 by the travel challenge, sang ‘What are we doing here?’. When one minute of added time was announced, ‘too much’ came one cry.

In the second half Championship debutante Said Benrahma, who’d earlier gone closest with a header against the crossbar, began to make progress down the flanks. Marcus Forss, making his first Championship start as the replacement for Maupay, was often quick to the ball upfront but in midfield he was caught in possession (he was fouled said Smith later). The ball went to Bennett who got round Barbet and Bentley could only palm the cross away. It fell into the path of Kasey Palmer, a Chelsea loanee for whom Blackburn is the latest stop on his tour of Northern clubs. It was Rovers' only shot on target in the whole match. It would turn out to be enough.

That’s partly because of Blackburn’s goalkeeper, David Raya, who was a contemporary of Sergi Canos in the Spanish youth system. He made two particularly good saves in the second half, one pushed a Yennaris shot against the crossbar, another stopped Benrahma scoring when he seemed to have caught the keeper out with a dipping shot.   

The conventional wisdom at the start of the week had been that Brentford needed to come back from their two away games with at least four points. On what must have been a very long journey back from Blackburn they only brought home one and had slipped to eighth place in the Championship.

 

Blackburn Rovers; Raya, Nyambe, Lenihan, Mulgrew, Bell, Smallwood, Evans (sub Travis), Palmer (Conway) Bennett, Rothwell, Nuttall (Graham)

Brentford; Bentley, Dalsgaard, Konsa, Mepham, Barbet, Mokotjo, Benrahma (Canos), Yennaris, Sawyers (Macleod), Watkins, Forss (Judge)