BRENTFORD 1 NORWICH CITY 1

 

Bill Hagerty sees the Bees maintain a proud Bank Holiday record while putting the frighteners on Championship high flyers Norwich 

 

What a difference a New Year’s Day makes. Having never been beaten in a League match at Griffin Park when played on this date, Brentford produced a first-half performance as good as any seen this season. Norwich, perched in second place in the league table, were bamboozled. Any unbiased stranger would have been convinced that the home side, rather than the visitors, might be bound for the Premiership.

Okay, home fans were denied a late Christmas present when a reshaped and vigorously-competitive Norwich took the second half on points and scored an equaliser shaped by desperation seven minutes from the end of normal time. But disappointment was muted by admiration for attitude, application and sheer skill that augurs a bright 2019 for Thomas Frank’s until now inconsistent squad.

Norwich’s auld acquaintance with Brentford at holiday time has not been a happy one. Two years ago on Boxing Day – Daniel Bentley was the only current Brentford player in the starting side that day – the visitors had a man sent off and struggled to achieve a goalless draw. 

And there was no cup of kindness yet on offer from the start on Tuesday, when first

Sergi Canos broke away to test Netherlands international goalkeeper Tim Krul and then a neat three-man passing move saw Neal Maupay’s raking shot slide past the far upright.

On the break, the visitors looked potentially lethal, but Teemu Pukki – level with Maupay in second place in the division’s leading scorers list – lacked the tenacity of the Brentford striker. In defence, the visitors were far from solid despite the massive presence of Christoph Zimmerman, who at almost two metres looks elevated enough to have changed the bulbs in the failed floodlight pylon without the use of a stepladder during Norwich’s 3-4 defeat by Derby on Saturday.

The Bees were so dominant throughout the first 45 minutes that at one point we witnessed a bizarre tableau of three of the visitors spread-eagled on their backs as a slick Brentford move swept past them. Surely a goal had to come? And it did, with Julian Jeanvier – compensating handsomely for an earlier dreadful pass that almost gifted Norwich the lead – heading powerfully home when a Said Benrahma corner found the centre back lurking at the far post.

With Yoann Barbet, Sergi Canos, and skipper Romaine Sawyers – how good to see him firmly dispensing instructions to his teammates – all on song, there was barely a constructive tweet from the Canaries. And although head coach Daniel Farke’s team perked up no end after the interval, Brentford continued to create chances that caused the Norwich back four all sorts of problems.

It was only the stunning agility of the Flying Dutchman in the opposing goal that prevented the home side recording a major upset. Maupay, hands on hips, looked on with disbelief when not one, but both of his two goal-bound efforts were saved spectacularly by Krul. And slowly, as Norwich’s energy and determination created a cluster of chances, an equaliser seemed possible… no, perhaps inevitable. And it was, with Timm Klose’s  near-post header taking the slightest of deflections to sneak past Daniel Bentley.

It seemed strange to celebrate a low-scoring draw, but the team deserved it and the crowd responded. Happy New Year to them and to all who read these notes on an exciting work in progress.

What a game! I exclaimed to my mate Charlie. How must those visiting fans feel, having arrived with such high expectations from Norfolk?

‘Very flat,’ said Charlie*.

 

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

 

Norwich City: Krut. Aarons, Zimmermann, Klose, Godfrey, Tettey (sub Rhodes), Vrancic, Cantwell (Srbenny), Stiepermann (Trybull), Hernández, Pukki.

 

*Charlie’s a theatre buff.