SHEFFIELD UNITED 2 BRENTFORD 0

Stewart Purvis was back in Sheffield for another Tuesday evening that fell flat.

On a windy wasteful night in South Yorkshire Brentford missed an opportunity to win away for the second time in four days and close the gap on the Championship play-off zone. After a frustrating game against one of the front runners for promotion, the only good news was that the gap remained at six points for at least 24 hours.

The 324 Brentford fans might have started off feeling at home at Bramall Lane.There were three former Bees - John Egan,Jack O’Connell and Scott Hogan- in the United line-up and as a tribute to Peter Gilham’s 50 years as Brentford’s stadium announcer he was invited to read out our starting eleven. Ollie Watkins was back for Sergi Canos and Luke Daniels replaced the injured Daniel Bentley who’s expected to miss the WBA game too.

Hogan missed an early chance as United had the best of the first quarter hour then the advantage swung to Brentford as Maupay got on the end of a cross from Barbet but Dean Henderson in the United goal stuck out a leg and cleared it. Then Said Benrahma twice went close.

On twenty-six minutes United were awarded a free kick in midfield. Thomas Frank rushed to the edge of his box waving furiously at his players to get back and captain Romaine Sawyers could be heard shouting ‘watch the quick one’. United were away down the right and Yoann Barbet, struggling to clear a cross, gave it away to George Baldock. Barbet followed up with a challenge which referee Tony Harrington initially ruled to be fair but then accepted his assistant’s advice and pointed to the penalty spot. Oliver Norwood despatched it with ease and power.

Referee Harrington was then at the centre of a more disputed decision. Gary Madine, who’d just fouled Ezri Konsa without getting a card, tried his luck again with a more violent hack at the back of Konsa’s leg. Out came a red card and Madine, a man with several convictions for criminal assault to his name including a stint in jail, reluctantly headed off. 

Brentford now had 55 minutes against ten men in which to equalise and grab a winner. And quite simply they blew it. They had so many shots at goal that the stats counters couldn’t agree, all put it at over 20 but few shots were on target. Benrahma was particularly profligate. Bees had 70% possession overall and 12 corners to United’s three. Too many were either too short or blown away on the wind. Maupay fell over at a key moment, Odubajo hit the side netting ,Mokotjo struck the post. There was no way through. In one weird moment United keeper Henderson, on loan from Manchester United and an England under 20 World Cup winning squad mate of Ezri Konsa, somehow sent a back pass spinning high into the air. It swirled around in the wind and threatened to drift over his line for an own goal but he just managed to palm it away. In front of him Egan and O’Connell, both sold to United when not able to command starting slots at Brentford, threw their bodies at everything that came their way, O’Connell noticeably more barrel- chested than in his Griffin Park days. 

Tactical substitutions became the order of the day on both sides- Billy Sharp for United and Canos and Emiliano Marcondes for the Bees- the Brentford chess pieces became so complicated that a board was brought out to explain it to the players. 

Then United, who’d accepted their ten man mission was to hold onto that one goal lead at all costs, broke away and got a corner. David McGoldrick- who’d replaced Hogan at half time- picked up O’Connell’s header and made it 2-0. 

In a melee of attacking tactical changes Brentford ended up with only two recognised defenders on the pitch and Sawyers-a stalwart throughout- having to help out at the back. It didn’t work. 

On Saturday Brentford faced eleven Middlesbrough men defending a one goal lead and out-thought and out-fought them scoring twice.Three days later they faced ten men and couldn’t score. Thomas Frank wondered if they might have had a better chance if it had been an open game. At least that six point gap was no wider. 

Sheffield United: Henderson; Basham, Egan, O’Connell; Baldock (sub Sharp) Fleck, Norwood, Stevens; Dowell (Cranie); Hogan (McGoldrick),Madine

Brentford: Daniels; Konsa (Canós) Jeanvier, Barbet; Dalsgaard (Forss 90) Sawyers, Mokotjo, Odubajo (Marcondes); Watkins, Maupay, Benrahma