Bees win at Deepdale
Brentford extended their unbeaten Sky Bet League One run to ten matches with a comprehensive demolition of promotion rivals Preston North End.
Brentford’s 3-0 win was their ninth in those ten games and put them within a point of the League One leaders going in to Christmas.
The Bees started the day in third with Preston fourth and for long stages there was little to choose between the team.
But Brentford were incisive in attacking areas and that made the difference.
Adam Forshaw scored the first from a penalty ridiculously given away by Preston goalkeeper Declan Rudd and then set up a second for Marcello Trotta.
David Button saved a spot kick early in the second half before Sam Saunders came off the bench to seal the win.
The home side probably had the better of the first 15 minutes.
They matched Brentford with three men in the centre of midfield and moved the ball better than The Bees early on.
In Chris Humphreys they had an outlet on the right and they were able to stretch Brentford at times.
Defensively, however, the signs were there that Brentford could get at their hosts.
Inside the first five minutes, but not for the last time, Clayton Donaldson raced clear in the inside right channel, on to an Alan McCormack pass, his low ball was just ahead of Trotta and Preston escaped.
The home side had chances to get the first goal – a Humphrey shot was blocked, Josh Brownhill fired over and then blasted a free kick in to a defensive wall.
After a slow start, Brentford began to get a grip on the game.
Jonathan Douglas started to pick up more of the loose balls in midfield and Donaldson and Kadeem Harris began to get a run on the Preston back line.
There were also signs that, after an all-action start, Preston could not quite maintain their pressing in Brentford’s defensive areas.
That allowed The Bees to build and create chances.
Donaldson missed a good one when he headed a Bidwell cross wide, after Trotta had flicked on.
Harris then fired over after exchanging passes with Trotta and midway through the first half, Brentford were in front.
The home side, once again, failed to deal with Donaldson in the inside right channel, he got on to a George Saville pass just before goalkeeper Rudd and was taken out by the stopper.
It was a needless foul as Donaldson was inches from the dead ball line but the goalkeeper definitely clattered him and referee Darren Deadman pointed to the penalty spot.
Forshaw stepped up and calmly slotted the penalty to Rudd’s left as the goalkeeper dived right.
Button saved a deflected Joe Garner effort soon after the first goal but it took Brentford less than three minutes to double their lead.
Once again it came in the inside right channel, Donaldson feeding a ball for Forshaw to run on to, his fierce shot was palmed out by Rudd but the midfield man fed it back across for Trotta to convert.
Preston upped the ante after Brentford’s second.
They flew in to tackles and started to press Brentford back.
Kevin Davies was lucky to only see a yellow card for a horrific late and high tackle on Donaldson and a challenge that was cynical bordering on deliberately endangering caused Harris to be taken off on a stretcher.
The home side pressed for a goal before the break, a John Welsh free kick deflected wide and he then forced Button to palm out a corner underneath his cross bar.
But Brentford went in at half time with a two-goal lead.
Preston made changes to their shape and personnel at half time, albeit they had little alternative.
They switched to 4-4-2 and brought on winger Lee Holmes to try and deal with Brentford’s threat in wide areas.
The home side started the second half very brightly, knowing they needed to find a way back in to the game.
Forshaw blocked a Humphrey shot and Button saved a deflected Scott Laird effort early on.
The home side were handed a great chance to pull one back when Mr Deadman again pointed to the spot, adjudging there had been pushing as Preston attacked a Laird cross, possibly by Jake Bidwell on Huntington.
Garner stepped up to take the penalty but it was all power and no placement and Button pushed it away.
Davies then missed a golden chance when a half cleared corner was played back to him to head from seven yards, with the whole goal to aim at, the former England international nodded wide.
Button saved a Welsh shot and then denied Garner as the home side pressed.
But there were signs Brentford had weathered the storm.
Substitute Saunders had a shot blocked, as did Douglas before Rudd palmed away a swerving Forshaw shot.
Garner missed the target when a corner was half cleared and with 17 minutes to go, Brentford made it safe.
The Bees had a spell of attacking possession and Forshaw intercepted as Preston tried to break, he fed Saville, who turned and crossed, Saunders brought it down on his chest, swivelled and volleyed powerfully home to seal the win.
Button saved from Tom Clarke and Neil Kilkenny had a shot blocked as the home side tried to find a consolation.
They almost had one when Iain Hume set Garner away, his low shot was saved by Button and just eluded Hume arriving to put in the loose ball.
Jake Reeves could have made it four when he exchanged passes with Will Grigg and shot just wide on the stretch.
And Grigg himself went close with a curling shot that took a deflection and flew wide.
Harlee Dean headed wide and Forshaw volleyed over as Brentford threatened to run riot at the end.
But 3-0 was how it finished and with Wolverhampton wanderers and Leyton Orient both failing to win, The Bees go in to Christmas a point behind the top two and with the win in their sails.
Preston North End: Rudd; Humphrey (sub Hume 69 mins), Clarke, Huntington, Wright, Laird; Welsh, Keane (sub Holmes h/t) Brownhill (sub Kilkenny h/t); Garner, Davies
Subs (not used): Stuckmann, Beavon, Buchanan, King
Bookings: Rudd (22 mins), Davies (31 mins), Huntington (35 mins), Garner (80 mins)
Brentford: Button; McCormack, Dean, Craig, Bidwell; Forshaw, Douglas, Saville (sub Reeves 80 mins); Donaldson, Trotta (sub Grigg 65 mins), Harris (sub Saunders 38 mins)
Subs (not used): Lee, Logan, O’Connor, El Alagui
Bookings: Trotta (59 mins) (second of season), Saunders (87 mins) (second of season)
Attendance: 10,332 (437 Bees fans)
By Chris Wickham