BRENTFORD 1 CHELTENHAM TOWN 0

Bill Hagerty sees encouraging one-way traffic at Griffin Park, but once again bemoans the lack of goals

 

The statistics tell the story: 27 shots, 13 on target; 15 corners; 58 per cent possession, although it seemed a lot more than that. And, oh yes, one goal.

“It should have been a more emphatic scoreline, given the chances we had,” wrote Dean Smith in the match programme, referring to the Bees’ lack of killer finishing against Sheffield Wednesday. You can say that again, Dean, and he more or less did following the slender margin by which Brentford dismissed League Two strugglers Cheltenham from the Carabao Cup.

 

Except it was not quite the same old story. Smith’s starting line-up quite rightly consisted mainly of players on the fringe of the first-team squad, all of whom could be expected to play their socks off in contending for promotion to the elite while overwhelming a team separated by only four others from the foot of the Football League and the bottomless void that potentially lies beneath it.

And then there was Scott Flinders, who if only his name was spelt and pronounced with a y would enable us to describe him as Flinders Keeper, which has a lovely ring to it. Like the majority of his teammates, Flinders raised his game a notch or several and was largely responsible for those 13 on-target efforts not registering on the score sheet.

Manager-less since the sacking of Gary Johnson four games into the new season – Lee Carsley, once of this footballing parish is the bookmakers’ favourite for the job – Cheltenham managed only three goal-worthy attempts in the entire 90-plus minutes, although I must confess that one of them escaped me. Luke Daniels was so under-employed that it was surprising he didn’t nip down the Hive for a livener during periods when the visitors’ goalmouth was under siege.

It was in one-such first-half phase that, capitalising on yet another of those numerous corners, Brentford scored that precious goal. In what one might describe as a goalmouth melee – especially apt considering the scorer was a Frenchman – unmarked centre back Julian Jeanvier thumped the ball home.

If the Bees were in control throughout the half, they dominated even more after the break, even though noticeably missing Chris Mepham – fully developed into a defender of guts and nerve – when he took a knock to the face and was  replaced by Yoann Barbet. But the Cheltenham defence, taking its cue from the heroic Flinders and successfully snuffing out attack after attack, responded so well that it was difficult to believe that 64 League places separated the sides.

There were still many plusses for Bees’ fans, although perhaps not he who yelled a plaintive ‘Wakey-wakey’ from the Braemar Road stand. Said Benrahma was a constant threat, hitting the side netting a couple of times and demanding top-quality acrobatics from Flinders; no wonder Said ended with his head in his hands in a gesture of frustration. Cheidozie Ogbene, replacing Marcus Forss around 15 minutes from time, was sparky and quick, while Lewis Macleod, Josh McEachran and a revitalised Alan Judge in midfield and Jeanvier and skipper-for-the-day Josh Clarke here, there and everywhere, all delivered the goods.

Some of the Cheltenham side looked exhausted as the five minutes of added time extended the game. As well they might. The Robins – Canaries for an evening when their red-breast strip was replaced by bright yellow – had done good.

Shame about Brentford’s missed chances, especially that sliced shot – no name, to spare embarrassment – that headed off towards Ealing, I observed to my mate Charlie. But all-in-all a fair result.

‘You’re damning with faint praise,’ he said. A bit of a philosopher, is Charlie.

Brentford: Daniels, Clarke, Jeanvier, Mepham (sub Barbet), Field, Yennaris, Macleod, McEachran, Judge, Forss (Ogbene), Benrahma.

 

Cheltenham: Flinders, Baldwin (sub McAlinden), Mullins, Boyle, Debayo, Broom,Tozer, Dawson (Jones), Thomas, Lloyd, Duku (Addai).