BRENTFORD 3 MILLWALL 2

Bill Hagerty sees the Bees come alive just in time to snatch victory in a bad-tempered brawl with London rivals

 

That was the best ten minutes we’ve played all season,’ said a Bees fan in front of me as we left Griffin ParkA pause followed, and then, ‘But don’t talk about the other eighty!’

 

Most perceptive and stylishly put. Yet there are times when games, especially games like this, need a little more explanation before they are filed under the ‘You couldn’t make it up’ category in the brain’s memory bank.

 

Let’s deal first with those largely unimpressive and increasingly disappointing eighty minutes.

 

Resplendent in the commemorative kit of blue shirtsand slightly baggy but fetching white shorts worn by the side in the club’s first season at Griffin Park, Brentford looked handsome indeed as they set out to deal with Millwall the same way they had in 1904 (winning 2-0 in a Southern League fixture on October 22, since you ask).

 

Said Benrahmasparky from the start, had a shot saved by Bartosz Bialkowski before Nikos Karelis – the Greek international getting his initial first-team start since joining the Bees – beat Bialkowski only to see the ball rebound from the far post. (This might have been considered a bad omen for the home supporters who feel he could be the answer to the team’s goal deprivation; they were right to consider it an omen as we were soon to realise.)

 

Brentford were on top in an unhurried bordering lackadaisical way, but the first sign that this was not a wholly coordinated unit was, when awarded a penaltyan unseemly squabble about who should take it between leading scorer Ollie Watkins and BenrahmaWatkins won and promptly had his shot blocked by Bialkowski.

 

Watkins then set-up Karelis, who inexplicably lobbed to ball into an empty space, rather than choosing to test the keeper on loan from Ipswich. And then the Greek international’s bad luck really did catch up with him as he was stretchered from the action following a calamitous fall.

 

Things couldn’t get worse, it seemed, but they could. Substitute Bryan Mbeumo barely had time to join the proceedings before the visitors were aheadDavid Raya only parrying a low shot from Jayson Molumby leaving Tom Bradshaw to take care of the rebound.

 

And when, five minutes into the second half, what appeared to be a Watkins’ equaliser was denied for offside, and then the Brentford striker was yellow-carded for a foul in his own area  Jed Wallace gobbled up the penalty opportunity  it seemed that the game was up.

 

‘How sh*t must you be if we’re winning away?’ sang the gleeful Millwall followers, eliciting no reply from a Brentford crowd stunned into almost sullen silence.

 

Whether it was astute management skills or sheer despair that prompted Thomas Frank to make two significant substitutions  Josh Dasilva for Christian Norgaard and Joel Valencia for Matthias Jensen we’ll never know, but retrospectively they look like strokes of genius. Valencia quickly took a grip in midfield, leaving Dasilva free to roam forward. Suddenly the rare chants of ‘Come on Brentford’ sounded more like encouragement than a plea.

 

So into the final ten minutes, with Benrahma tormenting a defence suddenly confronted with a side that at last knew what is was doing and remembering how to do it. Dasilva provided a glimmer of hope with a perfectly-placed drive to beat Bialkowski and then, with the late afternoon sun properly illuminating Brentford’s renaissance, Mbeumo unleashed a cracker of a shot that nudged the woodwork before deceiving the keeperUnerring accuracy or a welcome fluke?

Who knows? Who cared?

 

Into the four precious minutes of time added and a mounting atmosphere that must have warned the visitors that this wasn’t going to end well for them. Benrahma – rightly elected man of the match – worked his magic once more and there was Watkins to snap up his eighth goal of the season from close in.

 

A collective gasp of disbelief laced with abject gratitude swept the Ealing Road end; the grim display prior to Dasilva’s goal was, it seemed, forgotten by the time the sound of the final whistle arrived, possibly from heaven. It might have been winning the FA Cup that the team was celebrating as Millwall – their supporters vocal supremacy now totally muted – trudged off towards the dressing rooms.

 

A little unfair, I observed to my mate Charlie, as they probably deserved to take something from the game– it’s hard to imagine, overall, when the Bees last played so badly.

 

‘Nineteen-o-four?’ suggested Charlie.

 

Brentford: Raya, Dalsgaard, Jansson, Jeanvier, HenryJensen (sub Valencia Castillo) Norgaard,Mokotjo (Dasilva), Watkins, Karelis (Mbeumo),Benrahma.

Millwall: Bialkowski, Romeo, Hutchinson, Cooper, Wallace, Wallace, Molumby (Bodvarsson), Williams, Ferguson, Thompson, Bradshaw.