MIDDLESBROUGH 1 BRENTFORD 2

Stewart Purvis was one of the lucky Bees fans to witness a historic win.

This was something very special. Brentford earned their second away victory of this season and their first at Middlesbrough since 1938 by keeping their heads after an early setback and playing better football than a ‘big club’. They even survived more than seven minutes of added time with a fourth choice goal keeper. Now in the top half of the table, six points off the top six, it seems a play-off place is not as impossible as we thought.

It had not started well. Julian Jeanvier got a knock in the warm-up and Mads Bech Sorensen was called from the bench to make his Championship debut in the middle of the back three. Then Neal Maupay missed an open goal in the fourth minute, Daniel Bentley -yes Bentley again- spilled a save into the path of Ashley Fletcher to give Boro the lead and Sorensen was struggling for a time against Brett Assombalonga.
But it soon became clear that the Bees were going to put up a fight. Sergi Canos had a shot deflected just wide after good work by Romaine Sawyers. The ball was even in the back of the Boro net but Maupay’s header from a Benrahma cross was judged offside - it was close. 
The bigger picture was that Brentford were trying to play the beautiful game while Boro manager Tony Pulis’s team were more focused on the black arts. Mokotjo was on the receiving end of Assombalonga’s studs then a kick from John Obi Mikel. Two yellow cards inside six minutes, three more would follow. Bees coach Kevin O’Connor was busy in his role as complainer-in-chief to the fourth official about the Boro tactics.
Brentford’s creative ringmaster, as so often, was Sawyers and upfront Canos was showing that Thomas Frank was right to include him ahead of Ollie Watkins. He got the ball in the net again but Maupay was judged to have fouled George Saville (remember him), then he shot from 25 yards and it crashed against the crossbar.
The second half started with a Bees purple patch. After a 7 player, 15 player move Canos crashed another shot against the crossbar and Said Benrahma had a shot blocked. Then on sixty minutes came a turning point.  Tony Pulis took off Assomobalonga and put on defender George Friend. It summed up his ‘we don’t score a lot but then we don’t concede a lot’ philosophy. Pulis was going to try to hang on at one-nil with half an hour to go. Their fans were not impressed by the striker's departure, Sorensen must have thought it really was his lucky day. 
But Brentford had a problem. Bentley had picked up a shoulder injury and with only B team keeper Patrik Gunnarsson on the bench he decided to carry on. Then inside five minutes the tables were well and truly turned on Boro. Crosses from Henrik Dalsgaard at right wing back created two goals. The first ricocheted off defender Ryan Shotton into his own net. The second followed an exquisite through ball from Sawyers. Dalsgaard delayed his cross until exactly the moment that Benrahma arrived to sweep it past Randolph. Benrahma hadn't done much except score the winner.
The 298 Bees fans in the Teesside winter sunshine exploded into life, singing ‘You’re not going up’ at the 20,000 Boro fans. They seemed to agree, unleashing a chorus of boos at their manager and his downhearted players. 
At the other end Bentley conferred with the physios and coaches and it was decided he should come off. On came Gunnarsson, 18 years old, signed from the lower reaches of the Icelandic league to our B team, ‘truly the most Brentford signing we have ever made’ wrote a GPGer at the time. Now he was only the second Brentford first team player born in the 21st century, embraced by team mates as he came on.
Pulis had reinstated a striker and a siege of Gunnarsson’s goal seemed likely. As it turned out he had to tap one shot over the bar and bundle his way through a crowded box for a couple of corners and long throws. In one crucial decision during more than seven minutes of added time referee Jeremy Simpson decided that Jonny Howson had not been fouled in our box and booked him instead.
On the final whistle the Brentford bench was a sea of happy hugging. Even kit man Bob Oteng got a special cuddle from Thomas Frank. Gunnarsson embraced goalkeeping coach Inaki Cana Pavon. Patrik said he’d felt a little nervous to start with but then ‘it was just like a normal game’. Some normal game. 
Players and coaches alike went over to salute the travelling fans. One- Ali Mullaley- tweeted that it was ‘so worth the 5 hour drive. Bloody brilliant’. Thomas Frank said he had a ‘fantastic feeling’ and was proud of the players. B Team coach Lars Friis remembered Rob Rowan and how proud he would have been that four players with B team history were in the winning squad. It was that kind of day.
Tony Pulis had paid the price for his negative, cynical tactics. He had shut up shop far too early, underestimating the power of Brentford’s positive football. Now the 12th placed Bees see if they can go even higher in the Championship when they visit Sheffield United on Tuesday.

Middlesbrough: Randolph: Shotton, Ayala, Fry; Howson, Mikel, Bešić (sub Hugill), Saville (Tavernier ); Wing; Assombalonga (Friend), Fletcher

Brentford: Bentley (Gunnarsson ); Konsa, Sørensen, Barbet; Dalsgaard, Sawyers, Mokotjo, Odubajo; Canós ( Marcondes ), Maupay, Benrahma (Watkins )