Brentford ended 2016 with a rather drab goalless draw against Norwich City at Griffin Park. It was a game of few chances and little real excitement as the teams cancelled each other out for long periods. Norwich had the better of the openings but Brentford could have won it at the death after Robbie Brady was dismissed for the visitors. But neither team could find a way through and the year ended with a 0-0 draw.
Both teams started with three central defenders and wing backs. This meant the middle of the pitch was incredibly congested with the centre circle often populated with six or more players. Norwich pressed slightly higher up the pitch than Brentford which meant The Bees were forced long more often than they would like in the early stages and the visitors dominated possession. They mainly had it, however, in their own defensive areas so there were few chances in the opening quarter of the match.
The best was probably the first when Cameron Jerome met a cross from Brady unmarked ten yards from goal but he could only head straight at Daniel Bentley and Brentford were able to breathe again. Brady was Norwich’s key player in the opening exchanges. He got forward from wing back more than the other three on show and looked to create chances for the visitors. That did, however, leave space in behind for Brentford to exploit and when John Egan lifted a ball over the top, Maxime Colin had yards to run in to. An unfortunate slip prevented him making the most of the opportunity and although he found Sullay Kaikai with a cut back, the low shot was saved easily by John Ruddy.
Kaikai almost created the opening goal soon after when, following a short corner, he burst in to the box but saw a shot deflect wide at the near post. Nelson Oliveira saw a shot blocked for the visitors before a Youssouf Mulumbu effort was similarly stopped by the Brentford defence. Brady looked to have opened Brentford up with a run down the left after exchanging passes with Alex Pritchard, he darted in to the box and cut a ball back looking for Jerome but Andreas Bjelland made a superb sliding tackle to stop the Norwich man opening the scoring.
Jerome had another sight of goal when a long ball got him in behind the defence but he slipped as he shot and Bentley saved easily. At the other end a nice move involving Bjelland and Josh McEachran enabled Nico Yennaris to slip a ball through to Scott Hogan but the striker could not get his feet in order and fired wide at the near post. That sent the teams in to half time at 0-0 with neither goalkeeper unduly tested. And the match continued in a similar pattern after the break.
The early stages of the second half were like the first. Most of the football was played in central areas and there were few chances. Oliveira had a shot blocked for Norwich but as the game moved towards the hour mark Brentford started to take the upper hand, albeit they were by no means dominant. Ryan Woods was excelling in the centre of midfield and with Norwich starting to look tired from pressing high up the pitch, there was space for Brentford to play in further forward.
Kaikai had a shot blocked after good work from Tom Field and Hogan before the same man then blasted across the face of goal after a clever short corner. Oliveira shot wide again for Norwich before a deep Kaikai free kick was headed back across goal by Egan and Field’s looping header landed on the roof of the net. Norwich, however, regrouped, and had chances of their own. Jerome dragged a shot wide after exchanging passes with Oliveira and then missed a great chance soon after. A clever Pritchard pass set Ivo Pinto in behind on the right, he picked out Jerome 12 yards from goal but the striker blasted over.
If that was the best chance of the evening, the second best also fell to the visitors a few moments later. Jerome laid the ball in to the path of substitute Jacob Murphy, who found himself with only Bentley to beat but the Brentford goalkeeper dashed out and blocked with his legs to keep the game level. Alex Tetty blasted wide and then had a shot blocked and as the game moved in to the final ten minutes it looked as if Norwich had the upper hand.
But the visitors were then handed a major handicap when Brady was sent off. The Republic of Ireland international slid in with Woods as the pair battled for a loose ball but got to it slightly after the Brentford man, Brady’s leg crashing in to the stomach of his opponent as it raised slightly off the ground. Referee Oliver Langford decided Brady had been reckless or violent and dismissed the Norwich man. The visitors were forced to bring on Martin Olsson and Brentford pushed forward.
Romaine Sawyers had a shot blocked and then another after a clever Yennaris lay off. The Bees looked as if they had opened the door when a Yennaris pass set Hogan in behind but Ryan Bennett made a miraculous recovery tackle to prevent the striker firing home. Pritchard hit a defensive wall with a free kick at the other end and Bentley saved from Olsson but it was Brentford doing most of the attacking.
A clever ball from Harlee Dean put Hogan in space in the inside right channel but his cut back was cleared and Kaikai had a shot blocked after cutting inside soon after. Colin also had a shot blocked as Brentford pressed for winner deep in to stoppage time. But they could not find one and had to settle for a point from their final game of 2016.
Brentford: Bentley; Egan (sub Hofmann 88 mins), Dean, Bjelland; Colin, Yennaris, Woods, McEachran (sub Sawyers 74 mins), Field (sub Barbet 75 mins); Kaikai; Hogan
Subs (not used): Bonham, Clarke, Kerschbaumer, Vibe
Bookings: McEachran (32 mins) (third of season), Dean (90 mins) (ninth of season)
Norwich City: Ruddy; Martin, Bennett, Klose; Pinto (sub Murphy 73 mins), Mulumbu, Tetty, Brady; Pritchard (sub Naismith 90 mins); Oliveira, Jerome (sub Olsson 85 mins)
Subs (not used): McGovern, Bassong, Hoolahan, Morris
Bookings: Tetty (90 mins)
Sent Off: Brady (80 mins)
Attendance: 9,377 (1,190 away fans)