Neal Maupay scored the only goal as Brentford’s final game at Griffin Park in 2018 ended in a vital home win. The striker smashed in just past the hour mark to settle the game in Brentford’s favour and enable them to beat Bolton Wanderers at an unseasonably mild Griffin Park. Maupay took his tally for the season to 14 with the goal, which gave Brentford their first win since mid-October.
The Bees had to work hard for their three points but were the team that tried throughout to win the game. They pushed Bolton back for long periods and while they never reached top gear, they did enough to get over the line. The visitors had less possession and fewer chances and while they could have earned a point, a new-look Brentford defence did enough to keep them at bay.
Brentford started brightly. With three central defenders starting the match, wing backs Rico Henry and Moses Odubajo could get up the pitch and join in the attack. That also allowed Saïd Benrahma and Ollie Watkins to start the game in more attacking positions and The Bees went on the attack from the first whistle.
There was an early chance when Henry headed a Julian Jeanvier pass in to the path of Benrahma and the cross found Maupay, but he flicked it wide at the near post. A clever free kick from Romaine Sawyers then released Watkins inside the box but he volleyed over before Benrahma tricked his way in to space and let fly with a fierce cross-cum-shot that Ben Alnwick punched away and was fortunate to see it land away from a Brentford player ten yards out.
An Ezri Konsa pass almost opened Bolton up as it landed between the central defenders and allowed Watkins to get on to the ball and round Alnwick, but the touch was heavy and the ball rolled out of play. Watkins had another shot deflect in to the arms of Alnwick soon after before a deep free kick allowed Jeanvier to lash a volley in to the penalty area that had to be scrambled away. An incisive run from Benrahma then enabled Maupay to set up a shooting chance for Kamohelo Mokotjo but his effort deflected just wide.
Brentford had complete control of the first quarter of the contest. While they did not always maintain the speed of play they would have been looking for, they dominated possession and territory and were on the front foot. Bolton tried to have a high starting position and stop The Bees moving the ball out of defence but generally had to play on the counter-attack. They barely had an attacking move in the first half hour and their only shot – from Marc Wilson – went a long way wide but they were level as half time approached.
Alnwick helped keep it that way as he rushed out to beat Odubajo to a Mokotjo through ball before Henry saw a shot blocked after a good move involving Maupay and Watkins. Alnwick then saved low from Maupay after he exchanged passes with Watkins but in between, Bolton could have gone ahead. Will Buckley saw a volley blocked by Odubajo when one cross was half cleared and the next fell to Gary O’Neil on the edge of the penalty area but Jeanvier bravely deflected it away. The corner was half cleared and Sammy Ameobi weaved in to the penalty area before letting fly with a shot that was saved by Daniel Bentley.
Alnwick saved a low shot from Benrahma, who was Brentford’s main attacking threat in the first half. The Brentford attacker then wriggled free to set up space for Sawyers to let fly from 20 yards, but the effort whistled wide. Ameobi lashed a free kick well over at the other end before a nice move on the left enabled Buckley to lift in a deep cross that reached Pawel Olkowski at the far post, but his effort was also high and wide.
That meant the game was goalless at the break and while Brentford had the upper hand, Bolton had been comfortable in the later stages and posed an attacking threat. The Bees would have been looking to regain the initiative early in the second half and, while they still were not always as quick as they could be with the ball, they did have early chances to take the lead.
A short corner between Benrahma and Maupay ended with the latter shooting over from ten yards. Alnwick then saved a low Benrahma free kick before Watkins was unable to get enough power on a header to trouble the Bolton goalkeeper. Maupay then had a shot from 25 yards that flew high and wide.
Brentford had been pressing at the start of the second half, but Bolton’s defensive line had held firm. However, just past the hour mark they gave Maupay the merest sight of goal and he won Brentford the game. A cross was cleared and Benrahma nodded it in to the path of the Brentford striker, he took a touch, swivelled and lashed a shot in to the top corner from 12 yards to put The Bees in front. Maupay celebrated his 14th goal of the season as Bolton appealed in vain for offside.
And it could have been two a few minutes later when Brentford broke quickly after Henry had made a vital clearance deep inside his penalty area. Benrahma set up Watkins for a shot that deflected just past the post. The corner was played low to Sawyers on the edge of the penalty area and his effort appeared to be whistling towards the net before David Wheater made a vital block. Benrahma then saw a free kick deflect inches over the crossbar.
The Bees had been forced in to a defensive change with Chris Mepham going off and Yoann Barbet, making his 100th Brentford appearance, on in his place. With Bolton throwing men forward as they chased the game, The Bees were forced back and there was some vital defending in the later stages. Henry threw his body in the way of everything and there were superb pieces of defending from Sawyers, as Ameobi looked to break, and Mokotjo, deep inside his penalty area as the minutes ticked down.
Craig Noone almost conjured an equaliser for Bolton when he picked up the ball on the right and weaved in to the box, he fired a cross-cum-shot that bent just past the far post, eluding his team mates. Maupay made a vital block in the dying seconds, stopping a shot inside his penalty area and when Noone lifted the ball back in, Alnwick – up for the corner – found himself unmarked, but his header drifted wide of the far post. That ensured that Brentford took a vital win and ended 2018 at home on a high.
Brentford: Bentley; Konsa, Jeanvier, Mepham (sub Barbet 68 mins); Odubajo, Sawyers, Mokotjo, Henry; Watkins (sub Canós 88 mins), Maupay, Benrahma (sub Judge 79 mins)
Subs (not used): Daniels, Dalsgaard, Dasilva, McEachran
Bookings: Mepham (40 mins) (fourth of season)
Bolton Wanderers: Alnwick; Olkowski (sub Noone 68 mins), Hobbs, Wheater, Taylor; O’Neil, Lowe, Wilson, Buckley (sub Magennis 76 mins); Doidge (sub Donaldson 82 mins), Ameobi
Subs (not used): Matthews, Beevers, Vela, Grounds
Bookings: Lowe (14 mins), Wheater (72 mins), O’Neil (90 mins)
Attendance: 10,512 (961 away fans)