A stoppage time goal denied Brentford a third home win of the 2016/17 Sky Bet Championship season. The Bees led with less than three minutes of five added by referee Peter Bankes remaining but were hit when Sam Hutchinson headed in to earn Sheffield Wednesday a draw. Lasse Vibe’s goal had looked set to give The Bees all three points, especially when Wednesday were reduced to ten men. But Vibe followed Wednesday’s David Jones in departing early and the visitors struck late to earn a draw.
It was a draw they deserved. The visitors were excellent before the break, making the most of a below-par performance from Brentford. The Bees had to be dogged in defence and relied on the excellence of goalkeeper Daniel Bentley to keep them level at half time. When Vibe struck just after the interval to put Brentford in front it looked as if that defensive resilience might get the ultimate reward. But it wasn’t to be and The Bees had to settle for a draw.
The opening exchanges were cagey. The visitors started with a four across their midfield and although their wide players were on the front foot, they did not get too many bodies forward to join front pair Steven Fletcher and Lucas João. Ryan Woods and Nico Yennaris were also occupying deeper positions than usual in Brentford’s central midfield while Vibe and Lewis Macleod on the flanks did not see enough of the ball to play much of a role. Wednesday had more of the ball in the first 20 minutes and would probably have been happier with their start but neither goalkeeper was unduly worried early on.
The best chance of the first quarter fell to Wednesday left back Daniel Pudil. He got around the back of the Brentford defence and on to a Barry Bannan cross but his first time effort flew wide of goal. João also missed the target with a header for the visitors while Yennaris had a shot blocked for The Bees and a lofted effort from Vibe, redirecting a Woods pass, was easily held by Kieren Westwood. And as the half wore on the visitors started to take control. Their system had a fluidity that Brentford were struggling to deal with. Their strikers were dropping off in to midfield space and their full backs pushed on to join in the attack with Brentford fighting to stem the tide.
The Bees would have been grateful to get to the half hour mark all square, and were probably fortunate to do so. Wednesday almost scored when a deep Jones free kick found Tom Lees at the far post but his header was nodded off the line by the well-positioned Yennaris. Minutes later there was a candidate for the miss of the season, or indeed perhaps the worst miss ever seen at Griffin Park. Following a quick, incisive counter-attack – one of many the visitors produced in the first half – a clever reverse pass from Bannan found Fernando Forestieri, his cross reached João but the striker miss-controlled when three yards out and no-one between him and then net and then proceeded to lift his shot over when he eventually found the ball. The reaction was a mixture of horror, from the visitors, and disbelief, from everyone else, but somehow Brentford survived.
A Macleod shot hit Vibe but most of the action was at the other end. When Harlee Dean’s header presented the ball to Fletcher he set up Forestieri but the Wednesday man was superbly denied by Bentley. The Brentford goalkeeper was in the action again soon after when he went full stretch to prevent Yennaris heading a João cross in to his own net and Dean then cleared an effort from Fletcher off the line after he had wriggled free in the penalty area.
John Egan offered a threat for Brentford at set pieces and he almost grabbed a goal against the run of play with a header that was blocked. The ball was the scrambled away as Egan tried to pounce and the central defender forced Westwood to save a curling shot later in the half. But those were half chances compared to the ones Wednesday were creating. A scintillating move involving Bannan, João and Kieran Lee led to Forestieri firing wide at the near post and the same man had a shot blocked soon after. Bentley then saved superbly from a João header before Fletcher nodded over at the end of the half.
Brentford were rocking as they went in at half time. The pace, touch and movement of Wednesday in the first half had cut The Bees open at times and the hosts were indebted to Bentley for keeping them level. But The Bees were level and on a hot afternoon, Wednesday had used up a lot of energy chasing, harrying and forcing the pace. In the early stages of the second half it looked as if they would be able to keep it up as they continued to play on the front foot and press when they did not have the ball. But aside from one long range shot from Lee, saved by Bentley, they did not create chances.
And when they made a mistake at the other end, they found themselves behind. Brentford pressed high as Wednesday played around in defence and as Westwood went to clear the ball cannoned in to Vibe and rolled over the line. Brentford could not claim to have deserved the lead over the course of the 55 minutes played to that point but had been more energetic and competitive after half time and the goal was not a complete surprise.
Bentley saved a long range shot from João soon after the goal while Westwood denied Woods at the other end. There was another chance for The Bees when a deep free kick found Dean at the far post, his lofted ball flew just past the far post and just out of the reach of Scott Hogan. Hogan’s next involvement saw him go very close to doubling Brentford’s lead. Woods, who was outstanding in the second half – popping up everywhere, wriggled free in midfield and released Hogan in behind, he got away from Lees and, using Vibe as a decoy, fired in a low shot that Westwood saved with his legs before his defenders scrambled the ball away.
Brentford grew in confidence after the goal, playing better football as the second half wore on. And as Wednesday pressed, the game became more stretched with chances at either end. João looped a header wide for Wednesday before a flowing move saw Romaine Sawyers set up Vibe for a low cross and Hutchinson made a fine tackle to prevent Hogan converting at the near post. Vibe put Hogan in behind soon after but the striker lifted his effort wide of the far post from a tight angle.
Woods made a superb block to keep out a Bannan shot that looked destined for the corner and Forestieri and Atdhe Nuhiu had efforts blocked soon after. The game appeared to have swung Brentford’s way when Jones was shown a second yellow card for dissent and had to leave the match early. With Bentley also keeping out a Forestieri free kick, Brentford appeared to have the initiative. They had chances to get a second goal as well but Yennaris shot wide and Vibe blasted over.
Wednesday regrouped, sacrificed a defender and came again, looking for a levelled. Bentley saved superbly from Almen Abdi before an even better stop from a Lees header, when the Wednesday defender then got a shot away, Egan blocked it on the line. But Brentford suffered a blow when Vibe was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Forestieri, leaving it ten-versus-ten for the final seven minutes. And it proved to be a vital shift in the dynamic. Wednesday won a free kick on the right, Bannan delivered it and Hutchinson steered a header powerfully in to the top corner to earn his team a draw.
Brentford: Bentley; Colin, Dean, Egan, Elder; Yennaris, Woods; Vibe, Sawyers (sub Bjelland 83 mins), Macleod (sub Saunders 77 mins), Hogan
Subs (not used): Kurasik, Kerschbaumer, Clarke, Ledesma, McEachran
Bookings: Sawyers (53 mins), Dean (90 mins)
Sent Off: Vibe (88 mins) (second bookable offence)
Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood; Palmer (sub Abdi 76 mins), Lees, Hutchinson, Pudil; Bannan, Lee, Jones, Forestieri; João (sub Nuhiu 69 mins), Fletcher (sub Hooper 66 mins)
Subs (not used): Wildsmith, Hunt, Buckley, Sasso
Sent Off: Jones (73 mins) (second bookable offence)
Attendance: 9,677 (1,650 away fans)