Brentford and Barnet will need to do battle again for a place in the Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round after a thrilling contest in North London. Brentford led 1-0 and 3-2 at The Hive against the National League side but also trailed 2-1 early in the second half and had to fight back to avoid a Fourth Round exit. Ollie Watkins put them in front and goals from Neal Maupay and Sergi Canós looked as if it would send the West London side through, but Barnet grabbed a leveller and there will be a second Battle of The Bees for a place in the last 16.
On a cold night under the floodlights and in front of the TV cameras, the teams put on a match to remember. Brentford dominated early but the game was even when Watkins opened the scoring. Two from Shaquile Coulthirst put Barnet in front before a Maupay penalty and a goal from Canós restored the lead for the visitors. But substitute Dan Sparkes curled home a free kick to ensure a second game.
It should probably not have come to that for Brentford. They had the chances to put the game to bed in the first half hour and hit the woodwork three times on the night. Although Barnet responded, they looked out of it when Brentford went 3-2 up and their only real shot after Couthirst’s second goal was their equaliser. But the home defence held firm and earned them another crack at the last 16.
Although Barnet had some early possession, looking to get right winger Ephron Mason-Clark in to the game, it wasn’t long before Brentford took control. The visitors dominated possession and territory, stopping Barnet from getting any sort of rhythm. The National League side were forced to hit the ball long, consistently giving it back to Brentford and it was the visitors that put together all the attacking play.
The visitors attacked mainly on the flanks and predominately on the left, where Rico Henry and Canós linked well. Brentford were not always in complete control in the centre of the field, particularly in Barnet territory, but had enough of the ball to find space and create chances. Yoann Barbet had the first three attempts at goal for Brentford – hitting a free kick in to a defensive wall, seeing a follow-up effort deflect wide and then heading the resulting corner from Canós against a post.
For most of the opening 20 minutes it seemed a matter of time until Brentford would score. They were mainly prevented from doing so by the inspired Dan Sweeney, who marshalled his defence, intercepted through balls and got his body in the way when needed. He stopped Maupay getting a shot away after good work by Watkins when he picked up a Barbet pass. And when Maupay got on to a Josh Dasilva pass soon after, it was Sweeney that prevented a clean shot and Will Huffer saved.
Huffer also saved a long-range Dasilva shot but was left helpless when Moses Odubajo cut inside and lashed a left footed shot past him, the goalkeeper was, however, saved as the ball hit the far post and rolled back across the goal. Canós and Henry saw shots blocked but as the half wore on, Barnet began to find their attacking momentum. And they could have gone ahead when Sweeney met a corner with a powerful header but Luke Daniels went away to his left to save.
Daniels made a more comfortable save a few moments later when Mason-Clark burst on to a loose ball in the penalty area. The winger found space when none seemed to exist, but his shot didn’t trouble Daniels. It was, however, a sign that the game was more even. Barnet’s midfield three were stopping Brentford getting the ball in to attacking areas as much as they did in the early exchanges and the home side were showing signs they could make something of their possession.
But when the game was at its most even, Brentford took the lead. The goal could have come when Maupay robbed Sweeney and appeared to be heading for a space to shoot but the central defender recovered and when the effort eventually came in from Watkins, it was blocked by Cheye Alexander. Moments later, Watkins made no mistake. He picked up the ball in the centre of the field and raced on before shooting past Huffer from 25 yards. The shot was low and true and the Brentford had the lead.
Odubajo lashed over later in the half but Barnet reacted superbly to conceding and had chances to level before the interval. Craig Robson fired over when a throw-in dropped to him on the edge of the box before Coulthirst got on to a long ball and away from the defence, Barbet made a recovery tackle and Julian Jeanvier made another when Mason-Clark tried to profit before Wesley Fonguck smashed the loose ball over. There was still time for Mason-Clarke to get away from Barbet and put the ball across the area, evading all his team mates, and for Medy Elito to shoot wide before the interval.
Brentford went in with the lead but the home side had shown, particularly late in the half, they posed an attacking threat. And five minutes in to the second half, they were level. A ball out to the right isolated Mason-Clark against Barbet and he picked out Coulthirst with a pass, the striker took one touch and then poked past Daniels to equalise.
Brentford had started the second half well, playing on the front foot and a low Josh McEachran free kick had been saved by Huffer. But the hosts struck on the counter-attack and the tie was alive. The home fans pushed their side on and within four minutes, the game had been turned on its head. Brentford failed to deal with a ball in to the box from the right and although the shot from Fonguck was blocked, Coulthirst was there to smash home.
From being a goal up and on the front foot, Brentford were, all-of-a-sudden, behind and facing a cup upset. They responded in the best possible way, getting the ball on the floor, moving it forward with pace and looking for an immediate leveller. It did not take them long to find one.
There was a chance when a ball ricochet around the box, Maupay got off a shot that was blocked and Sweeney made a vital intervention to stop Canós getting on to the loose ball. But Brentford regrouped and McEachran found Watkins on the right, he tricked his way past David Tutonda and went down. Referee Andrew Madley pointed to the spot and Maupay rolled the free kick to the right of Huffer as the goalkeeper dived left. The third goal in ten minutes had levelled it again.
Brentford introduced Romaine Sawyers immediately after the goal as they looked to take control of the midfield and Henrik Dalsgaard followed soon after with the visitors pressing. Coulthirst could have grabbed his hat-trick when Alexander got on to the overlap and delivered a cross, but his far post header lacked power and Daniels saved. Watkins then saw a shot blocked at the other end.
The visitors got their third with 18 minutes remaining and it was one to savour. Jeanvier robbed Coulthirst and found Maupay, he fed Dalsgaard on the right and the first-time pass put Canós through, he held off Elliott Johnson and put the ball through the legs of Huffer to give Brentford the lead and complete the second turnaround of the evening. But that lead lasted only three minutes. Mr Madley adjudged that Coulthirst had been fouled on the edge of the penalty area and Sparkes curled a free kick over the wall and in off the underside of the crossbar.
Daniels was left helpless by the placement of the effort and Brentford’s passage to the last 16 was, once again, blocked. With Sawyers and McEachran now controlling midfield and Saïd Benrahma adding an extra attacking option off the bench, Brentford pushed on. The later stages were a tale of chances coming and going. The first came straight from kick-off as Odubajo lifted a ball in and Dalsgaard nodded just past the far post.
Huffer saved from Maupay after a good run from Canós, cross from Dalsgaard and a Benrahma lay off and a short corner moments later should have seen Brentford score. It was played short and Sawyers delivered, the ball dropped loose and a vicious shot from Canós looked set for the net before it smashed in to Barbet and ricochet around before Ezri Konsa hit his shot over from eight yards. Benrahma curled an effort inches wide and then saw another effort saved.
Even in the dying seconds, Brentford pressed. Odubajo wriggled free in the penalty area and beat Huffer with a shot but saw it cannon away off the near post. It was recycled and worked to Canós, who saw hit shot saved. Jeanvier turned a low Benrahma coroner towards goal but Johnson cleared off the line and Barbet flicked another effort wide with Brentford’s last attack. And with that chance gone, the replay was secured.
Barnet: Huffer; Alexander, Sweeney, Johnson, Tutonda; Taylor, Robson, Elito (sub Boucaud 90 mins); Mason-Clark, Coulthirst, Fonguck (sub Sparkes 70 mins)
Subs (not used): Matrevics, Harrison, Payne, Smith, Bettamer
Brentford: Daniels; Konsa, Jeanvier, Barbet; Odubajo, Dasilva (sub Sawyers 61 mins), McEachran, Henry (sub Dalsgaard 70 mins); Canós, Maupay, Watkins (sub Benrahma 79 mins)
Subs (not used): Bentley, Sørensen, Ogbene, Forss
Bookings: Odubajo (38 mins)
Attendance: 6,215 (1,822 Brentford fans)