BARNET 3 BRENTFORD 3

Bill Hagerty sees a firecracker of a Cup-tie in which Brentford’s battle with the other Bees ends in stalemate and a return engagement at Griffin Park

 

It ain’t over till it’s over, said baseball legend Yogi Berra, for it to be echoed worldwide ever since. And this action-packed, error-strewn Cup-tie certainly ain’t. Those other Bees, comfortable in their own, National League skins, made the 71-place, three-division gap between the sides look a nonsense as they earned the right to start all over again next week at Griffin Park. 

Perfect, it wasn’t. Brentford, often caught leaden-footed in front of a vociferous home crowd, started out at The Hive as if Barnet’s half of the field was a minefield to be entered only at considerable risk.  

Barnet, meanwhile, presumably not having been made aware of another sporting adage, that a good big ‘un will always beat a good little ‘un, enjoyed the visitors’ lethargy (possibly caused by the rarity of occasions when they can be described as big ‘uns).

Easing themselves into the game, Brentford’s Bees saw a Yoann Barbet header rebound from keeper Will Huffer’s right-hand post and then a raking shot from Moses Odubajo also rattle the upright. But it took a spectacular dive by Luke Daniels to turn away a header from Don Sweeney and Brentford’s stuttering midfield performance began to suggest that Thomas Frank’s adjusted starting line-up was very much missing Romaine Sawyers. Or Kamohelo Mokotjo. Or both.

So when Ollie Watkins gratefully accepted a feed from Rico Henry and planted the ball in the corner of the net from 20 yards or more, an almost audible collective sigh of relief came from the 1,800 visiting supporters. It seemed things were at last looking up and indeed they were, until Barnet returned after the interval as if having been fed a high-powered dose of energy supplement along with a half-time talking-to. 

Shaq Coulthirst, a product of Spurs’ academy and danger from the start, twice beat Daniels in a three-minute Brentford nightmare. ‘There’s only one Bees in London’, chanted lustily by Brentford fans after Watkins’ goal, now boomed from the Barnet faithful and was to bounce back and forth several times more as the game developed into a classic cup encounter.

Classics demand controversy of course, and it duly arrived when Watkins, bursting in at the edge of the box, went down as if clattered by centre back David Tutonda. Referee Andy Madley had no hesitation in awarding a penalty – despatched with customary confidence by Neal Maupay – but television evidence later suggested otherwise. 

Barnet were despondent and doubly so when Sergi Canos latched on to substitute Henrik Dalsgaard’s pass to weave his way through the defence and thump the ball past Huffer. (Canos’s very Spanish celebration – facing the crowd, hands on hips, chest thrust out like a cockerel – is something to behold)

Sawyers having replaced Josh Dasilva to energise midfield and then Said Benrahma’s flair added to the attack, the West London Bees were swarming all over the opposition, peppering a total of 27 shots at Huffer and creating enough chances to have won handsomely. But all credit to the home club where, lest we forget him, the great Jimmy Greaves ended his playing career, weren’t about to concede.

With a free kick awarded from distance, up stepped substitute Dan Sparkes to curl a shot reminiscent of recently departed Brentford favourite Alan Judge over the motionless defensive wall and past a despairing Daniels. It remained only for a melee in the Barnet goalmouth that resulted in Mr Madley delivering a stern ticking-off to Maupay and defender Jack Taylor to end a match that for excitement and effort epitomised the spirit of cup football.

‘Big credit to Barnet, but we gave too many soft goals away, said Thomas Frank later.

‘Roll on the replay,’ said my mate Charlie.

 

Barnet: Huffer, Alexander, Sweeney, Johnson, Tutonda, Taylor, Robson, Fonguck (sub Sparkes), Mason-Clark, Coulthirst, Elito ( Boucaud).

 

Brentford: DanielKonsa, Jeanvier, Barbet, Odubajo, Dasilva (sub Sawyers), McEachran, Henry (Dalsgaard), Watkins (Benrahma), Maupay, Canos.