Bill Hagerty witnesses the Bees rescue a point in a game that was more football farce than high drama


Acrimony on both sides dominated much of this game, sometimes spilling over so ludicrously that the phrase Fred Karno’s Army sprang to mind. Never heard of it? Oh well, suffice to say that early in the 20th century music hall impresario Karno recruited a bunch of  knock-about comics whose frantic act turned slapstick into an art form. Soon Fred Karno’s Army became synonymous with a group or organisation where chaos reigned.


At Griffin Park on Saturday referee Geoff Eltringham was the Karno figure, blundering his way through skirmishes that lacked only a custard-pie-in-the-face routine to be featured on Britain’s Got Talent.

The prize example came early in the second half when Brentford were awarded a free kick a few years outside the Reading penalty area. While several Brentford players conferred, scuffles broke out in and around the defensive wall Reading were attempting to build. A lone visiting player hung close to the Brentford tactical chat, presumably trying to eavesdrop. Mr Eltringham busied himself with the wall construction while a melee broke out among a bunch of angry participants from both sides that he appeared not to see. He was in some danger of totallylosing control of a bruising game. Karno’s Army all right, except it wasn’t funny.

What of the match as a whole, those bursts of creative play uninterrupted by metaphoric custard pies or Mr Eltringham’s often bizarre decision making?

It was top class to begin with when after just eleven minutes some fine work out on the right by Said Benrahma ended with Neal Maupay – who else? – beating goalkeeper Sam Walker from close range.

And the Bees remained comfortably in control, until Daniel Bentley apparently decided it was time to audition for the Karno circus. A fumbled shot from John Swift - a Brentford loanee from Chelsea before moving west – saw Jón Dadi Bödvarsson bundle the ball over the line. This Icelandic international was a member of the Iceland side that famously dumped England out of Euro 16; a player not to be gifted balls that slip from a goalkeeper’s gloves.

It then all went a bit downhill from Brentford’s point of view. Benrahma switched to the left flank, Noah Barnet had a shot saved. But Reading were gaining in confidence and muscle by the minute. And with Dean Smith visibly displaying his irritation on the touchline, pandemonium again intruded as Bentley’ butterfingers saw a Swift free-kick palmed upwards, but not far enough to prevent it crossing the line.

And then Benrahma, already the recipient of a yellow card, again incurred the displeasure of Mr Karno, this time with a tackle that may have been unwise but did not look worthy of summary dismissal. It also emphasised the vagaries of the referee’s decisions. Five yellow and one red cards for Brentford; a sole yellow for Reading? Oh well, anything for a laugh.

The longest period of added time in recent memory followed almost immediately, as did Barbet’s headed equaliser, part-credit for which must go to Maupay, a persistent irritant to even the most resolute defences.

I guess Brentford were happy to settle for a point after losing Benrahma, although I wouldn’t bet on it if the look on Dean Smith’s face was any indication. Still, that’s what I concluded as Mr Eltringham blew his whistle, presumably having forgotten to bring his clown’s cardboard trumpet.

‘To be honest,’ said my mate Charlie. ‘I thought the Bees played better with ten men.’ I’m not sure he was joking.

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

Reading: Walker, Gunter, Ilori, Moore, Yiadom, Bacuna, Ezatolahi, Melte (sub Aluko), Swift (Kelly), Barrow (Sims), Bodvarsson.