A very Good Friday for Brentford
Brentford are starting to like games on Good Friday. Three years ago, Brentford started their Easter weekend with a win over Preston North End that sealed promotion to the Sky Bet Championship. They followed that up a year later with a 4-1 win at Fulham to complete a league double over their West London rivals. In some ways, nothing short of promotion back to the top flight will top those days but on the first Good Friday match since the Fulham win, The Bees produced one of their best second tier performances as big-spending Derby County were thrashed 4-0 at Griffin Park.
Lasse Vibe and Jota scored two each as The Bees put Derby to the sword and if the game had been much longer it could have been much worse for the visitors. Vibe put Brentford ahead in a first half that they completely dominated and scored a fine third to make the game truly safe inside the last ten minutes. Jota scored the second and the fourth and led Derby a merry dance for much of the afternoon and although Brentford had to weather a storm just after half time as the visitors tried to respond, the three points were very much deserved.
The game opened up very early on. Derby came to Griffin Park needing to win to keep any hopes of reaching the Play-Offs alive and selected an attacking team. They started with two wingers and a forward-thinking midfield while Brentford’s natural attacking instincts were on display. Both teams attacked in the early stages but Brentford had a more coherent method of play and seemed to have a better idea of what they wanted to do so they held sway.
The Bees looked to use the flanks as much as they could in the opening exchanges. Sergi Canós was regularly running at Derby right back Chris Baird and although he did not always find his man with a cross or final pass, he showed signs he could create chances for The Bees. On the other side Jota was ably supported by Josh Clarke, who spent more time attacking than defending in the first quarter of the match, and on a couple of occasions was unable to turn a great position in to a shot.
Canós had the first sight of goal for The Bees when he turned Baird and got on to a Rico Henry throw but he blasted well over. A superb move on the right then saw Clarke and Romaine Sawyers open Derby up but Canós wasted the opening by firing over the bar from 12 yards. The Bees were within a whisker of going ahead when Ryan Woods, who was controlling the midfield and picking up almost every loose ball, fed Jota on the right, he cut inside and let fly, Scott Carson got a hand to it but the ball appeared to be rolling in before Baird appeared to clear, beating Nico Yennaris and Canós to it.
Jota then cut inside again and let fly with a shot that flew past the far post, but not far past, before persistence from Clarke on the right set up a chance for Vibe to shoot from 15 yards and he narrowly missed the target. Derby’s early attacking outlook had been nullified by their inability to deal with Brentford’s superb football. Wingers Tom Ince and Johnny Russell were providing almost no defensive support and could not get the ball to use the space at the other end. An early shot from Bradley Johnson aside, that flew well over, they offered nothing until they almost stole the lead midway through the half. Craig Bryson profited from a lucky ricochet and played a clever pass to put David Nugent through with only Daniel Bentley to beat but the Brentford goalkeeper saved superbly and Russell’s attempt to find Ince at the far post when the ball dropped loose was too heavy.
That was a rare attack from the visitors and Brentford quickly got back on the front foot. Harlee Dean danced out of defence and played a clever pass to Vibe but his back across the box was scrambled away. Baird then horribly sliced a Clarke cross and Carson had to claw it out before it rolled in to the corner for a ludicrous own goal and Dean, on another maraud forward, then exchanged passes with Sawyers before seeing a shot blocked.
The goal Brentford had been threatening eventually came just past the half hour. And it summed up the home side’s display to that point. After a spell of possession, Clarke fed a ball inside to Jota, he was allowed to dart in to the box and let fly with a shot, that effort was blocked but Vibe reacted quickest to poke home and put The Bees in front, which was the least they deserved. Derby tried to respond with Nugent pulling a shot wide but Brentford were moving through the gears and the visitors were defending doggedly to keep the deficit to one.
There were no more chances for The Bees before the interval but they were in at the break with the lead and the initiative. Derby tried to wrestle it back with a double substitution, introducing Darren Bent and Will Hughes, which pushed Johnson further forward. Johnson and Woods had a coming together in the opening minutes of the second period and both were booked. Johnson for an elbow and Woods for his reaction to then massive cut on his forehead that the Derby man caused.
Whether it was the substitutions, the interval, the altercation or the delay that followed, Derby gained the upper hand for the first time in the game as it approached the hour mark. Johnson pressed higher up the pitch that any of his midfield colleagues and Woods’ influence was lessened slightly for a period. Derby had the momentum and started to create chances. Bentley denied Russell before, after Brentford had scrambled the ball clear, a Jacob Butterfield lofted just over the bar. Butterfield then had a shot blocked when a cross was half cleared and Johnson could only weakly head goalward when Alex Pearce nodded a corner down.
But for all Derby’s pressure Bentley only had to make the one save from Russell and Brentford were soon on the front foot. They almost grabbed a second when Yennaris got away from Richard Keogh and then was only denied from getting on to the cross from Canós, after Vibe had played it wide, by a superb tackle from Marcus Olsson. Johnson had a shot blocked before The Bees gave themselves breathing space with 20 minutes to go. The hosts broke quickly and Sawyers put Clarke away on the right, he cut the ball back and Jota fired a low shot inside Carson’s near post from 18 yards. The Derby goalkeeper was expecting a shot across him and was left motionless but the Spaniard’s ninth goal of the campaign.
The Bees immediately introduced Alan McCormack and Florian Jozefzoon and that enabled them to build on their second goal. Vibe could have grabbed his second when Yennaris flicked a Clarke pass in to his path, he got away from Pearce but could not force the ball past Carson. He did not, however, have to wait much longer. Jota, Yennaris and Sawyers combined to create the space and Vibe passed the ball in to the net from 20 yards. Carson was again rooted to the spot as Brentford moved clear.
Will Hughes blasted well wide for the visitors but their race was run and their heads had dropped. Brentford continued to press, looking to give a large home crowd something to remember. There were flicks and tricks as The Bees attacked and on a few occasions the final ball just would not find its target. Jota, however, took that out of the equation with a memorable fourth. Konstantin Kerschbaumer played the ball forward and Jota set off, he flicked the ball away from Keogh, making an international defender look silly and then took his time before slotting the ball home to seal the win.
Brentford: Bentley; Clarke, Dean, Barbet, Henry; Woods (sub McCormack 71 mins); Jota, Yennaris, Sawyers (sub Kerschbaumer 84 mins), Canós (sub Jozefzoon 71 mins); Vibe
Subs (not used): Bonham, Egan, Field, Hofmann
Bookings: Woods (51 mins) (eighth of season), Barbet (60 mins)
Derby County: Carson; Baird, Keogh, Pearce, Olsson; Butterfield, Johnson (sub Vydra 76 mins); Ince, Bryson (sub Hughes h/t), Russell; Nugent (sub Bent h/t)
Subs (not used): Mitchell, Christie, Anya, Camara
Bookings: Baird (31 mins), Johnson (50 mins), Olsson (72 mins)
Attendance: 11,133 (1,615 away fans)