Brentford’s pre-season friendly programme continued with a 4-3 victory in an entertaining clash with Oxford United. The Bees led 2-0 just past the half hour thanks to goals from Florian Jozefzoon and Lasse Vibe and seemed to be in complete control of the contest. But Oxford pulled one back from the penalty spot before half time and then completed the comeback with two more in seven second half minutes. That looked as if it might give the hosts the win but late goals from Reece Cole and Sergi Canós ensured it was The Bees that took the spoils.
Brentford were able to use the match to give many of their experienced players some more game time. The starting XI completed 65 minutes before seven of them were replaced while Luke Daniels, and Ryan Woods completed the full 90 minutes and Romaine Sawyers and Josh McEachran played 87 and 75 respectively. The goal scorers all notched for the second game in pre-season and there were plenty of other positives for The Bees, including the final result.
Oxford could have been ahead inside the first minute when a burst from Joe Rothwell allowed Wes Thomas to fire across the face of goal but Andreas Bjelland made an important clearance. That may have signalled that the home side would take the upper hand but Brentford dominated the early exchanges and fully deserved the lead they had at the quarter hour mark. The Bees controlled the midfield, their three central players having far too much for Oxford’s two, and although the home side had extra men in wide areas, they did not have enough of the ball to make it count.
Henrik Dalsgaard could have opened the scoring when he burst from deep and exchanged passes with Vibe but brave goalkeeping from Simon Eastwood denied him. That was, however, to be Eastwood’s last involvement. The collision with Dalsgaard left him unable to continue and after lengthy treatment, and then an unfathomable delay while substitute stopper Scott Shearer was getting ready, Eastwood was replaced.
Shearer’s first touch was to pick the ball out of his net. The Bees went through three phases while Oxford were unable to clear the corner that Eastwood’s save had forced and the ball eventually dropped to Jota on the right, his cross was inch perfect for Jozefzoon to rise and head powerfully in to the net. Oxford were clearly rocked by the change and spent much of the next ten minutes in their own half as Brentford – playing football that was pleasing on the eye, effective and incisive – went looking for goals.
Dalsgaard volleyed a deep Rico Henry cross over the bar and a clever Sawyers pass put Vibe in behind in the inside right channel but his low cross eluded the arriving Jota and Jozefzoon. Daniels was in the action at the other end but Oxford were mainly playing on the break. The Brentford goalkeeper kept out a long range shot from Rob Hall and then denied the same man soon after with a smart save low to his right after the Oxford winger had exchanged passes with Marvin Johnson.
Johnson and Hall on the left were Oxford’s main threat and a quick free kick on that flank almost enabled the former to find Thomas with a low cross but it was just ahead of him. But when Brentford went two up moments later, it came as no surprise. Woods cut open the home defence with a ball that released Dalsgaard in to the inside right channel, his cut back was perfect for Vibe to fire low past Shearer and in to the net. It could have been three soon after when Jozefzoon back-heeled a Sawyers pass in to the path of Vibe but his shot was blocked.
Brentford seemed to be in complete control until Oxford were awarded a penalty in the later stages of the first half. Thomas got in front of Daniels and on to a Johnson pass and then went down as the Brentford goalkeeper approached. Contact appeared minimal, albeit Daniels also did not seem to get the ball, and referee John Busby pointed to the spot. Johnson took the kick and sent Daniels the wrong way to halve the deficit.
It did not look as if that would affect The Bees as they took control again at the start of the second half. A Jozefzoon free kick from distance was saved and when a corner dropped loose soon after an effort that Jota lifted over his head bounced off the post, Vibe’s follow-up was then blocked on the line by Johnson. Vibe went close again soon after when he turned a Dalsgaard cross wide at the near post.
Oxford could have levelled when a long ball caught the Brentford defence out and Kane Hemmings found himself with only Daniels to beat, but the visiting goalkeeper stood up and pushed the shot out before Hall’s follow-up was blocked. That only, however, delayed the equaliser. Hall twisted and turned and worked his way to the by-line on the left before cutting the ball back for Hemmings to poke in. Jozefzoon could have restored the lead immediately when he got in behind but his lofted effort was off target.
Jozefzoon shot wide again for The Bees soon after but just past the hour mark Oxford had turned a two-goal deficit in to a 3-2 lead. Sawyers lost possession in midfield and Hall delivered a cross from the left that flicked off a couple of heads and reached James Henry at the far post for a simple tap-in. Vibe shot in the side netting and Jota blasted wide before Brentford rung the changes.
Oxford also made a series of substitutions and it was Brentford’s strength in depth that made the difference. Canós shot wide and then had a shot blocked before Justin Shaibu was just unable to poke in a Maxime Colin cross. Cole came off the bench with 14 minutes to go and two minutes later smashed a free kick past Shearer from nearly 30 yards to level it up again.
That may have been the end of the scoring but Colin played a ball forward, Josh Clarke kept it in – according to assistant referee Ben James – and cut it back for Canós to score. There was still time for Canós to have a shot blocked and Shearer to save at the feet of Cole while Sam Shaban headed over at the other end from close range before Mr Busby brought proceedings to a close.
Oxford United: Eastwood (sub Shearer 8 mins); Ribeiro (sub Carroll 71 mins), Nelson, Martin (sub Raglan 78 mins), Johnson; Henry (sub Napa 78 mins), Ledson. Rothwell (sub Ruffels 76 mins), Hall (sub Hanley 67 mins); Hemmings (sub Shaban 63 mins), Thomas
Subs (not used): Baptiste, Kelleher, Roberts, Smile
Brentford: Daniels; Dalsgaard (sub Colin 66 mins), Dean (sub Egan 66 mins), Bjelland (sub Barbet 66 mins), Henry (sub Field 66 mins); Woods, Sawyers, McEachran (sub Cole 76 mins); Jota (sub Clarke 66 mins), Vibe (sub Shaibu 66 mins), Jozefzoon (sub Canós 66 mins)
Sub (not used): Bentley
Attendance: 2,216 (376 Bees fans)