Crazy nights ends with a point apiece
Brentford’s automatic promotion hopes are still in their own hands after a night four penalties, three red cards and high drama in South Yorkshire.
Bradley Wright-Phillips scored a late equaliser for Brentford to earn them a 2-2 draw against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane, but that tells a fraction of the story.
The Bees had two players sent off while the home side had one and both sides were awarded two penalties.
Both missed one each on a night when referee Keith Stroud was the centre of attention.
Ultimately, the late goal from Wright-Phillips, his fourth in three games, gave The Bees a share of the spoils and two wins, allowing for perhaps needing to beat Doncaster Rovers on the final day of the season by a sufficient margin, will take Brentford up.
After an even start, where the game was largely played over the heads of the midfield players, Brentford had the first sights of goal.
Lee Hodson was unable to turn in an Adam Forshaw cross at the far post and the same player had a shot cleared off the line by Kevin McDonald from a corner soon after following a Harlee Dean miss-kick.
Brentford appealed the United man had used his hand to stop the shot but Mr Stroud waved away the appeals.
There was nothing subtle about the home side’s play, they got the ball from back to front as quickly as possible and looked to pick up the second balls.
Toumani Diagouraga was one of Brentford’s key figures, sitting in front of the defence and trying to stop United setting up their play.
The home side looked most dangerous when they got the ball to their wide men, unfortunately for them, it did not happen often.
Their best spell of the first half came when Jamie Murphy got away from Shaleum Logan on the left, his cut back fell to McDonald but the shot was blocked and Brentford scrambled Dave Kitson’s follow-up away.
They did not, however, get it far and Ryan Flynn was able to find McDonald in space again but the shot flew over.
Simon Moore palmed away a Harry Maguire shot and then got down well to tip away a Michael Doyle volley before Kitson missed the target with a header.
The game continued at a ferocious pace.
Brentford were more direct than they have been at times this season, looking to release Clayton Donaldson in behind the right side of the home defence.
The striker blasted over after cutting inside while McDonald shot over at the other end and Flynn missed the target from inside the penalty area.
The key moment of the first half came midway through it.
Jake Reeves threaded a ball in to the channel Brentford had been trying to exploit and Donaldson raced away from the defence, he lifted the ball over goalkeeper George Long and was taken out by the flying custodian.
Mr Stroud waited to see if the ball rolled in and when it did not, he pointed to the spot, booking the goalkeeper.
Trotta stepped up and blasted the penalty down the middle to put The Bees in front.
There was little doubt about the penalty award but the sizeable home crowd started to get on the back of Mr Stroud.
The official tried to stand strong initially but every decision made in Brentford’s favour was roundly jeered and they became fewer.
United tried to step up the physical pressure and with Brentford’s misdemeanours incurring the wrath of Mr Stroud there were eight cautions by the end of the first period.
There were, however, no more goals.
Both teams had chances.
Tony Craig cleared after Maguire had headed down in to the danger zone and the same United player missed the target soon after.
Kitson headed wide and Doyle shot over for the hosts while Long saved a Reeves free kick.
Brentford had more penalty appeals waved away when United failed to deal with a Reeves corner, agricultural challenges on Dean and Trotta were allowed to go and when the latter got in a shot, Long saved.
The second half had started in an even manner – Murphy had lashed one shot wide – but the game swung dramatically in the home side’s favour six minutes after the break.
United had possession and were looking for a crossing opportunity when the assistant referee started flagging furiously.
He signalled for a penalty and Mr Stroud pointed the spot.
Craig was then sent off for his part in the incident, which was unseen by almost everybody.
McMahon smashed the penalty against the crossbar and Doyle missed the rebound but the die was cast.
Brentford could simply not cope with the loss of one of only two fit central defenders and their captain, although they fought bravely.
Moore saved at the feet of Kitson, who then saw a header deflect wide, while substitute Jonathan Forte missed the target from a tight angle.
Kitson then hooked over when a corner was nodded down before Moore saved a deflected McMahon shot, Donaldson blocked from Forte and a McDonald effort deflected wide.
The home side were awarded a second penalty when Brentford failed to clear a corner, McMahon tried to get past Hodson and the ball hit the defender’s raised hand.
This time Barry Robson took the ball and his spot kick went in off the post to level matters up.
Reeves almost restored Brentford’s lead with a curling free kick that Long tipped wide and the third goal of the night went in at the other end soon after.
Murphy tricked his way to the by-line and stood the ball up to the far post where Kitson rose highest to head in.
Brentford then had to find a response – Donaldson had a shot blocked before he won another penalty.
The striker got in behind Maguire and the defender was adjudged to have impeded him.
Mr Stroud pointed to the spot and gave Maguire a second yellow card.
It was ten-a-side but not 2-2 as Sam Saunders’ penalty was saved low to his left by Long and Trotta headed the loose ball over.
Donaldson was soon the second Brentford player taking an early walk down the tunnel.
He had been booked in the first half for simulation when he appeared to have been fouled by Maguire and when he stumbled in to McDonald on half way, Mr Stroud produced a second yellow card.
But Brentford refused to lie down.
Reeves burst through and saw a shot saved and then the follow-up blocked before Wright-Phillips had a shot tipped over.
Dean headed a Saunders corner wide before Wright-Phillips popped up with the crucial goal.
The striker beat Neill Collins to a long ball forward and then cut inside before firing low in to the bottom corner and sending the travelling Brentford supporters in to raptures.
The Bees then had to hold on and largely did so with comfort, keeping possession and letting the hosts chase shadows.
There was, however, one major let-off – McMahon fired in a shot that was blocked and then hit another that Moore somehow got down to and tipped on to a post.
Mr Stroud ended the 100 minutes of action soon after and Brentford had a share of the spoils.
Sheffield United: Long; McMahon, Maguire, Collins, Hill; Flynn (sub Forte h/t), Doyle (sub Robson 58 mins), McDonald, Murphy; Porter, Kitson (sub Higginbotham 75 mins)
Subs (not used): Coyne, Ironside, McFadzean, Whitehouse
Bookings: Long (23 mins), Kitson (28 mins), Doyle (38 mins), McMahon (45 mins)
Sent Off: Maguire (72 mins) (second bookable offence)
Brentford: Moore; Logan, Dean, Craig, Bidwell; Diagouraga; Hodson (sub O’Connor 65 mins), Reeves, Forshaw (sub Saunders 68 mins), Donaldson; Trotta (sub Wright-Phillips 74 mins)
Subs (not used): Gounet, Dallas, Forrester, El Alagui
Bookings: Moore (23 mins) (second of season), Diagouraga (28 mins) (sixth of season), Logan (81 mins) (ninth of season)
Sent Off: Craig (51 mins), Donaldson (77 mins) (second bookable offence)
Attendance: 23,431 (1,143 Bees fans)
By Chris Wickham