BRENTFORD 1 BOLTON WANDERERS 0

 Bill Hagerty cheers Brentford’s first win in seven outings but worries that a poor Bolton side should have been despatched more clinically

 

The tension could almost be seen slipping from the shoulders of Thomas Frank. Following the final whistle he visited the Bees’ fans at the Ealing Roadend before accepting backslaps and handshakes from grateful punters in the Paddock. A win at long last and one could only assume from a finger repeatedly pointing down at the pitch that he was announcing, ‘I’m staying right here.’

 Well, maybe. Certainly Brentford deserved three points, and those as anxious as the head coach after a dismal run of results shared his delight. But let’s not kid ourselves: Wanderers, once a mighty presence among the front-runners in the top echelon of the game, are a dismal side, lacking ideas and technique as they flounder, just one place from the bottom of the Championship table.

 Way back when, Bolton were narrowly the losers to Blackpool in the 1953 pulsating FA Cup ‘Matthews final’, when even the dominating presence of their prolific striker, Nat Lofthouse – having scored in every round, he put Bolton ahead in just 75 seconds – could not prevent Stanley Matthews receiving a winners’ medal in that Coronation Year. [Younger readers to whom the names Matthews and Lofthouse mean nothing should Google them immediately.]

 But that was then and now is now. Here is a squad that despite including such potentially lethal strikers as Irish international Josh Magennis and Clayton Donaldson, once of this parish – each summoned from the bench on Saturday – has managed to score only 16 goals all season so far. When it came to finishing, aside from a couple of efforts that requiredDaniel Bentley to leap acrobatically to defuse the trouble, Bolton appeared incapable not only of hitting a barn door but more often than not the barn itself.

 The Bees buzzed threateningly from the off, ripping holes in a suspect defence. Skipper Romaine Sawyers’ passing was, mostly, immaculate andKamohelo Mokojo brought a new dimension in midfield. In defence, Julian Jeanvier has introduced some necessary stability in the centre, while Moses Odubajo’s role as a wing-back gains potency with every game.

 Okay, Brentford failed to score in a first half when they dominated for long periods. Nothing new there, then. And after the scrappy exchanges in the early stages of the second, Neal Maupay, as busy as a ferret and every bit as dangerous, uncharacteristically twice fired high over the Bolton bar.

 Could Maupay, we wondered, have lost the goal-scoring flair that flummoxed so many defences earlier in the season? Perhaps he picked up that vibefrom the crowd, for just after the hour he latched on to a neat cross-field delivery from Said Benrahma to unleash a thunderbolt of a shot that left goalkeeper Ben Ainwick flat-footed as it zipped past.

 Benrahma almost added a second before, with the grip on the points slackened by Bolton suddenly galvanised into frantic action, Bentley was required to keep out a goal-bound shot with a hearty clout. Then, with the visitors awarded a corner in the dying seconds of the game, Ainwick charged up to surprise a defence now becoming increasingly uneasyonly to glance a header across the face of the goal and out of play.

 Phew! I said to my mate Charlie; Maupay once againbecoming joint top-scorer in the division and three festive points may not have come easy, but suchearly Christmas presents are welcome after seven games of grief.

“Frank heavens,” said Charlie.

 

Brentford: Bentley, Odubajo, Konsa, Jeanvier, Mepham (sub Barbet), Henry, Watkins (Canos)MokotjoSawyers, Benrahma (Judge), Maupay.

Bolton Wanderers: Ainwick, Olkowski (sub Noone), Wheater, Hobbs, Taylor, O’Neil, Wilson, Lowe, Buckley (Magennis), Ameobi, Doidge (Donaldson).