BRENTFORD 0 WBA 1

Bill Hagerty reflects on a game of might-have-beens where three points were gone with the wind

 

If just one, but preferably two, of a cluster of first-half chances had been accepted… If West Brom hadn’t chosen this football tutorial to demonstrate their first class honours degree in time-wasting… If the fourth official had concentrated more on his stopwatch than the hot tea and buns, or whatever was distracting him, and awarded ten instead of a paltry four minutes’ extra time…well, it might all have been different.

As it was, West Brom – a very good side for much of the game – snaffled the spoils by better understanding the vagaries of a gusting wind blowing towards the Ealing Road end and then slowing their game to a funereal pace. Sometimes when required to take a throw-in, they almost broke into a walk; here was momentum more like that of a Brexit negotiation than a contest between two lively, evenly-matched teams.

With a defence as disciplined as Coldstream Guards on parade, the visitors were difficult to penetrate. But after five shaky minutes at the start, penetrate Brentford did, with Sergi Canos and Said Benrahma both going close.

Canos, in particular, was on fire, exhibiting his scissors-shuffle more than once as talent laced with raw enthusiasm had the Baggies back four, or five, or eight, floundering. And Yoann Barbet almost unlocked the West Brom door with a wind-assisted long-range effort that had goalkeeper Sam Johnstone fully stretched.

At the other end, Luke Daniels dealt competently, and sometimes acrobatically, with each threat. Brentford edged the half, but soon after the break one became uncomfortably aware that rather than whistling down the wind the visitors could harness it to put pressure on the home defence.

They did, too, but when a goal came it was due to one of those defensive panic moments to which the Bees have seemed all too susceptible this season. Striker Kyle Edwards skipped his way into and across the penalty area while an increasing number of Bees’ players unsuccessfully attempted to dispossess him, of the ball or, iabsolutely necessary, his legsDaniels had no chance as the ball was poked home from close in.

Full marks to Edwards for outthinking practically the entire opposition, but it was a savage blow, made even worse by Albion’s prompt change of tactics. The blatant wasting of time soon infuriated the home crowd and referee Andrew Madley came in for some stick, although nowhere near as much as fourth official Lee Venamore when the unrealistic time added was announced, giving a tacit nod of approval to those in the Albion side seemingly determined to establish time wasting as an art form.

Two consecutive defeats leaves Brentford still in fourteenth place in the division and the play-offs eight points away, looking like a bridge too far to cross. The fact is that they may well play only half as well as they did in this defeat and walk away with the points, a realisation which does nothing to satisfy the majority of Saturday’s 11,400 audience.

‘The wind played a big part,’ said Thomas Frank afterwards, which rather suggests this was an ill windblowing only Brentford no good. Not so: it’s hard to deny that, wind or no wind, time wasting or not, the Baggies deserved to send their fans home happy. And it is small consolation that the Bees don’t have such a soppy nickname.  

All those chances, all that joined up football, and nothing to show for it,’ I grumbled to my mate Charlie.’ A funny game, football.’ 

Didn’t make me laugh,’ said Charlie.

 

Brentford: DanielsKonsa, Jeanvier, Barbet, Dalsgaard, Sawyers, Mokotjo (sub Dasilva), Odubajo (Marcondes), Canos (Watkins), Maupay, Benrahma.

West Bromwich Albion: Johnstone, Holgate, Dawson, Hegazi, Townsend, Morrison (Livermore), Brunt, Johansen, Edwards (Robson-Kanu), Rodriguez, Gayle,