BRENTFORD 5 BLACKBURN ROVERS 2

Bill Hagerty sees the Bees avert disaster and swamp a startled Blackburn on a memorable afternoon at Griffin Park

 

It was an honour to attend Sergi Canos's birthday party, even though the celebrant himself didn’t turn up until late in the proceedings. The Spaniard’s contribution was joyous after the most extraordinary chain of events saw in-form – so the statistics suggested – Blackburn go from heroes to zeros as the Bees came back from being sucker-punched twice in the first seven minutes. 

Potentially lethal strikes by Bradley Dack and Danny Graham, whose well-directed header after he had out-jumped the defence with apparent ease saw Daniel Bentley vocally expressing both displeasure and frustration, threatened humiliation. Both Bentley’s emotions were shared by a stunned home crowd and were alleviated only partially when Said Benrahma – as beautiful and bright as the boy on the burning deck – joined with Kamohelo Mokotjo to punch a hole in the Blackburn defence and shoot sweetly past keeper David Raya.

Trailing 1-2 at the interval, Brentford returned with composure restored and ambition rekindled further when, after less than ten minutes, visiting head coach Tony Mowbray inexplicably substituted both his sparky first-half scorers. As way of thanks, Ollie Watkins latched on to a Benrahma free kick and, with the aid of a whisper of a deflection, tucked the ball into the far corner.

The Bees were back in business and some of the finest football seen at Griffin Park all season subjected the visitors to intense pressure that seemed certain to gain reward. And so it did, with Reya charging out to miss a high ball and Watkins keeping his head, literally on this occasion, to guide it into a gaping net.

Few glimpses of Brentford’s familiar jitters were evident, although mild panic allowed Blackburn a glimmer of hope after that third goal. But the visitors’ response fizzled out with a series of players tumbling, challenged or not, to the turf – one such earlier incident, by midfielder Harrison Reed, having all the qualities necessary for an audition at RADA. One might have assumed the team was indulging in the usual time-wasting of a team narrowly in front, only they weren’t, and a slim deficit turned into a lost cause when Benrahma – man of the match, surely? – fed Neal Maupay for the hot-shot to employ his left foot in plundering his seventeenth league goal of the season.

And then along came Sergi, accompanied by a cry of ‘Vamonos, Canos’* from a linguistic wag in the crowd, to put the icing on his own twenty-second birthday cake by exchanging passes with Watkins before rifling a fifth past Raya.

If not quite the greatest comeback since Lazarus’s, it must be considered to have come close as the Bees extended their unbeaten run to seven and makes their lowly league position look like a mathematical error. And Blackburn – club motto ‘Arte et Labore’ (By skill and hard work) – must have left the carnival atmosphere of West London wondering what force of nature had caused them to tumble from Championship play-offs contention to eleventh in the table. 

‘The game ran away from us in the end and we got really stretched’, Mowbray had said wearily after his dispirited team trudged from the pitch.

‘Bye, bye Blackburn,’ said my mate Charlie.

 

Brentford: Bentley, Konsa, Jeanvier, Barbet, Dalsgaard, Mokotjo (sub McEachran), Sawyers, Henry (Odubajo), Watkins, Maupay, Benrahma (Canos).

Blackburn Rovers: Raya, Bennett, Lenihan, Rothwell, Bell, Travis, Evans (sub Brereton), Armstrong, Dack, (Conway), Reed, Graham (Nutgall).

*Let’s go, Canos.