ROTHERHAM UNITED 2 BRENTFORD 4

Stewart Purvis was one of the 606 Bees fans who had an unusually good day out in Rotherham.

 

Passengers on the last London train out of Rotherham on Saturday night looked somewhat startled as ‘We Won Away’ echoed through the carriages. It was explained to them that this was indeed an unusual event, in fact the very first time this season that Brentford supporters had cause for a celebration after an away day -283 days since the last one- a whole three points not to mention four goals scored away.

If anybody had dared point out that it was only against Rotherham- beaten five-one at Brentford in their first game up from League One- they would have been reminded that before this game the Millers’ record of just two home league defeats was the joint lowest in the Championship. 

Brentford’s squad of 18 were unchanged after their demolition of Stoke, apart from Chris Mepham, presumably bound for Bournemouth, who wasn’t even on the bench this time. ‘Too many rumours, too many things to think about’ said Thomas Frank later. Mads Bach Sorensen took Mepham’s place, he and fellow Dane B team colleague Luka Racic look the likely challengers to the existing back three.

Brentford supporters were in good spirits because of that Stoke match. They sang about Brentford's 'Red and White Army' as their team tried to win for the first time in brown and orange. One fan had even made a banner in preparation for another victory:‘Thomas Frank can I have your shirt?’.

The supporters only had to wait two minutes for something new to celebrate. Said Benrahma got free on the left, thought about crossing, thought better of it, turned his full back and then set it up for Kamohelo Mokotjo on the edge of the box who - just as he had at Sunderland last season - drove it straight and true into the back of the net. It gave the Bees a further boost of confidence, playing in a system they now understand and mostly feel comfortable with. 

The Rotherham manager, Paul Warne, has admitted his own squad is short of quality but says his players are ‘good human beings, proper people’. (By coincidence a passenger on the train that had taken the Brentford team north tweeted what a ‘humble friendly bunch’ they were). Warne doesn’t bother much with the midfield - he virtually surrendered it to Sawyers and Mokotjo- relying on a defensive wall around the box and breaks upfield to Michael Smith, a lookalike for his near namesake Matt Smith of QPR. To make full use of Smith’s height midfielder Will Vaulks makes long throws forward at every opportunity and Rotherham use an ingenious corner routine in which five players run in a line into the box at the last minute.

With these tactics they managed not just to limit Brentford to one goal in the first half but also to get an equaliser, there could have been another goal and later there was. The Brentford three at the back were never fully at ease in the aerial battle. A corner from the right was not cleared and Taylor fired through a pack of players giving Daniel Bentley no chance. Then a long throw caused more trouble, Bentley made a great reflex save and it fell to central defender Ajayi who missed a chance that could have turned the match against Brentford.

As it turned out the Bees went into half time at 1-1 and came out again with a flourish. Playing towards the away fans, Neal Maupay almost scored immediately when put through by Barbet. Then after eight minutes it was deja vu time again. Just as he had against Stoke, Sawyers squared from the right to Benrahma who swept it fast and low to the left hand corner of the net. Last week he made a long run to thank somebody in the crowd, this time it was to somebody in the Bees dugout. The fans sang the ‘Said Benrahma’ song to the tune of ‘La Bamba’, composed at Southend when he first excited supporters in a League Cup tie. 

But, of course, being Brentford it would have been far too boring to play out an uneventful remaining 40 minutes. Rotherham equalised again after a long throw followed by a cross fell to Robertson and his shot was deflected by Ezri Konsa into the net. Two-two did not last long because Mokotjo only went and scored again. This time it was Watkins and Henry in the build up as 'The General' finished in what is becoming his hallmark style.

Maupay was determined not to be left off the scoresheet. He missed one chance but then gave the match the climax it so richly deserved, maximising the value of a pass steered by Canos through the legs of a defender. Maupay ran to the 606 in the South Stand and mass joy duly broke out. ‘We’re going to win away’ was sung with enthusiasm and certainty. At the end of the game the whole team came to celebrate with the fans and a beaming Thomas Frank joined them. The fan with the ‘Can I have your shirt’ banner ran to the front, got eye contact and voiced his request. Good naturedly Frank gave him a thumbs up but not a shirt. It was a bit cold for that. The Head Coach would be entitled to reflect ‘a few weeks ago some of them wanted my scalp not my shirt’. 

But all such negative stuff is long gone, unbeaten in six in league and cup has changed the mood, energised all concerned and yet another top ten finish for the Bees now looks achievable. It was a very happy train journey home.

 

Rotherham United: Rodák; Vyner (sub Yates 78 mins), Ajayi, Robertson, Mattock; Vaulks, Towell; Forde (Vassell 86), Wiles (Crooks 59), Taylor; Smith

Brentford: Bentley; Konsa, Jeanvier, Barbet; Dalsgaard, Mokotjo (Dasilva), Sawyers, Henry; Watkins ( Ogbene 88), Maupay, Benrahma (Canós)