WIGAN ATHLETIC 0 BRENTFORD 0

Stewart Purvis reports on how Brentford came away with a point and were still disappointed.

A smell of manure wafted across the DW Stadium and got increasingly worse as the game went on. Nobody was sure if a spectator had walked through an extremely large cowpat on his way to the game or whether there was a more distant agricultural explanation caught on a high wind towards the ground. Either way the smell will probably last longer in the memory of the 542 Bees fans than the game itself. 

Thomas Frank told Thursday’s press conference that his international players had returned safely from their travels but when the squad was announced an hour before the game there was no sign of Romaine Sawyers who was said to have ‘dropped out’. It was later explained that he’d picked up a slight injury while away with St Kitts and Nevis and hadn’t travelled north with the Brentford squad.

In his place Josh Dasilva started alongside Kamo Mokotjo in midfield. He had a good enough game in his first League start but throughout the match the thought was never far away: ‘What if Romaine was playing’. Nobody else had anything like his accuracy and weight of pass. Said Benrahma tried to do a Sawyers by threading the ball through the eye of the Wigan defence but Brentford were so narrow that there was precious little space around Neal Maupay. ‘Too much down the middle and not enough round the sides’ said Thomas Frank afterwards.

After Wigan’s defeat at Griffin Park earlier in the season their manager Paul Cook was asked if there was anything good he would take away from the game. ‘We won’t have to play them here again this season’ he joked. But today it was clear they’d learned that you have to man mark, in every sense of the word, Neal Maupay.The game was only 20 seconds old when Wigan defender Danny Fox crudely hacked him down and extraordinarily he escaped without a yellow card. Which only encouraged his defensive partner Chey Dunkley to have a hack too two minutes later. Again no yellow card. So Wigan stuck to the task focusing on Maupay and Said Benrahma. In their account of the game Brentford were all divers conning the ref. But those close to the action reported that the reason Said Benrahma went down in the 27th minute was an elbow straight to the face. The Algerian, just back from his first international, pointed out the impact on his face to referee Andy Woolmer who was unmoved. Benrahma had been involved in the best move of the first half with Maupay when a clever dummy put Maupay away but he shot wide. There were chances too for Odubajo and Dasilva. It wasn’t all one way traffic and  Chelsea loanee Reece James, who has been getting rave reviews at Wigan, nearly pulled off a 35 yard stunner to the top corner but Luke Daniels tipped it over the bar. The second half was only a minute old when Daniels saved the day again smothering a chance from Wigan’s Gavin Massey. 

Before the game Thomas Frank resisted the chance to rest Yoann Barbet, soon to be out of contract, and play Mads Sorensen instead but an injury to the French defender meant the young Dane got his chance anyway. He struggled a little in the air against the wind and the height of Dunkley who headed against the bar with Daniels beaten. Wigan also got the ball in the net but the header that set the move up was judged offside. 

In the final quarter either side could have nicked it and Benrahma looked the most likely lad to do it but too many misplaced midfield passes meant that Brentford hadn’t really earned their third away win of the season. Macleod came on, back from injury as the clock runs down on his contract, and immediately passed straight to the opposition. Canos came on for the underwhelming Watkins but couldn’t do any better.

At the end of the game Thomas Frank threw down a drinks bottle in exasperation. Yes the defence had a good day, Brentford had a clean sheet and a point and there haven’t been many of those away from home this season. And yes Wigan have a good home record despite their lowly league position. But it was the third Bees game in succession without a goal. They now go back to Swansea in three days time to try to expunge the memory of that Cup defeat. Sawyers should be back. Fingers crossed.

Wigan Athletic: Walton; Byrne, Dunkley, Fox, Robinson; James, Morsy; Massey (sub McManaman), Powell, Jacobs (Pilkington); Garner.

Brentford: Daniels; Konsa, Jeanvier, Barbet (Sørensen); Dalsgaard, Mokotjo, Dasilva (Macleod) Odubajo; Watkins (Canós), Maupay, Benrahma.