Brentford and Wigan Athletic drew 0-0 at The DW Stadium in a game that will not live long in the memory. The Bees were probably slightly on top in terms of possession and territory, albeit Wigan had the better chances and came closest to scoring. But neither team was able to create enough clear-cut chances in a stop-start contest to make justifiable claims that they deserved the win.
The windy conditions at The DW Stadium did not help, nor did a plethora of free kicks given that halted momentum. But it was a lack of quality in the final third that was the main reason why the game ended scoreless. Brentford goalkeeper Luke Daniels made the better saves and Wigan had a goal disallowed but 0-0 was not a result that many would argue with.
It took less than 20 seconds for Wigan to make their mark on Neal Maupay. A horrible hack from behind by Danny Fox on the striker did not get the caution it deserved and when his centre back partner Chey Dunkley followed through in a similar manner moments later, referee Andy Woolmer again kept his cards in his pocket. It set the scene for the first 15 minutes with Brentford dominating on the ball but being held up by unfair challenges. The free kick count and the stop-start nature of the opening exchanges prevented a real pattern to the game.
The chances that did come in the early moments went to the home side. Antonee Robinson saw a shot blocked by Henrik Dalsgaard after Gavin Massey had weaved in to the penalty area and Michael Jacobs missed the target from 22 yards after good work by Nick Powell. Brentford will feel they had the better of the first ten minutes but had been unable to turn possession in to progress up the pitch.
When they did, a superb move that involved six or seven players, multiple dummies and saw The Bees turn defence in to attack, ended with Maupay pulling a shot wide from 20 yards. The interplay between Saïd Benrahma and Maupay late in the move – after it started in the right back area – had deserved more. Ollie Watkins had a shot deflected wide after Maupay had won possession and Josh Dasilva had picked the pass and Brentford started to move through the gears as the first half reached the midway point.
A clever Benrahma corner enabled Dasilva to shoot from the edge of the penalty area and a Wigan head diverted the ball away. The next corner also reached Dasilva on the edge of the box, albeit in a less planned fashion, and another shot was blocked. Moses Odubajo then shot over the bar after getting on to a Watkins pass before Maupay burst on to a Watkins flick and in to the penalty area but saw his effort blocked.
The game became more and more physical as it went on. With Mr Woolmer refusing to caution anyone in the first 40 minutes, players from both teams were trying, and getting away with, more than they would in many other games. Benrahma was the subject of a few heavy challenges and his reaction to them annoyed the home fans but he was at the centre of most of Brentford’s attacking play. Two superb slide-rule passes needed last ditch challenges to stop Maupay going through on goal and there were other opportunities that could have led to good chances but didn’t.
For all that both teams looked to attack, the only real save in the first half was made by Daniels. It came when a free kick had been half cleared and Reece James attempted a drilled shot from 35 yards that would have dipped under the crossbar but for the intervention of the Brentford goalkeeper. Jacobs had another shot blocked before limping off late in the first half and Maupay headed an Odubajo cross wide after a nice move on the left but there were no goals and no real saves of note in a first half that offered much but delivered little.
The half ended with Yoann Barbet hobbling and although he tried to continue, his second half lasted only two minutes before Mads Bech Sørensen was summoned to replace him. In that time, however, Wigan should have capitalised. Watkins was robbed on the edge of the Wigan box and the hosts broke quickly, Massey was able to run off Barbet and through with only Daniels to beat but the goalkeeper stood up to force the attacker to make a decision and then got down quickly to save and keep the game level.
After the change, however, Brentford looked to build and had their best chances of the afternoon. It took a good, if not aesthetically pleasing, save from Christian Walton to keep out a low shot from Benrahma and when Watkins put the ball back in to the middle, the contact from Maupay was not enough to turn it towards goal. A better chance came when Benrahma’s free kick was flicked on by Watkins but Ezri Konsa could not turn it home from close range. The Brentford man felt there had been involvement from a Wigan man, either fairly, to concede a corner, or unfairly but a goal kick was given.
Daniels saved well from Dunkley when the defender met a James corner, but Brentford were starting to take control. The hosts were sitting deeper and deeper, enabling Brentford to build from a higher starting position. They tried to counter-attack but were mostly forced to defend. The Bees wasted a good chance when a Henrik Dalsgaard cut back saw Maupay and Benrahma get in the way of each other on the edge of the penalty area. Kamohelo Mokotjo picked up the loose ball but fired it wide.
But Wigan’s set-up frustrated Brentford. The Bees played largely in front of their hosts and as the minutes ticked down, they seemed less and less likely to create an opening. And the home side sensed there might be more for them. Dunkley headed against the top of the crossbar after a free kick had been worked short to Robinson and Powell blasted wide when in space.
Wigan thought they had the crucial goal inside the final 15 minutes when Joe Garner headed a free kick across and Anthony Pilkington converted from close range. But celebrations were cut short by an offside flag as Garner had been beyond the last defender when the ball was delivered. And that was as close as either team came. Lewis Macleod saw a late shot blocked as Brentford probed and Wigan delivered some good late set pieces, but The Bees held firm and took their point.
Wigan Athletic: Walton; Byrne, Dunkley, Fox, Robinson; James, Morsy; Massey (sub McManaman 87 mins), Powell, Jacobs (sub Pilkington 43 mins); Garner (sub Clarke 77 mins)
Subs (not used): Jones, Gibson, Kipré, Evans
Bookings: Robinson (51 mins)
Brentford: Daniels; Konsa, Jeanvier, Barbet (sub Sørensen 48 mins); Dalsgaard, Mokotjo, Dasilva (sub Macleod 80 mins), Odubajo; Watkins (sub Canós 75 mins), Maupay, Benrahma
Subs (not used): Gunnarsson, McEachran, Marcondes, Forss
Bookings: Barbet (45 mins) (fifth of season), Sørensen (90 mins)
Attendance: 9,953 (542 Bees fans)