Bees edge eight-goal JPT thriller
Luke Norris scored on his first start for Brentford as the Sky Bet League One side progressed at the expense of League Two AFC Wimbledon in an entertaining Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Southern Section First Round tie.
The striker, on a Development Squad contract at Griffin Park, scored the second goal in a 5-3 win in the first ever competitive meeting between the teams.
The teams cancelled each other out for long periods of the first half.
With both employing two wingers, the game was less congested in midfield than many seen at Griffin Park recently but the full backs were earning their money and preventing much real penetration.
There were few chances in the first 30 minutes as a result.
But when the game opened up, particularly in the second half, it was an incredibly entertaining contest and Brentford had the better of it.
The Bees created more chances and finished more off, producing goals of real quality to entertain the Griffin Park crowd.
Farid El Alagui scored twice to take his tally for the season to five while Ben Nugent and Javi Venta were also on the score sheet.
Wimbledon played their part and none of the 4,189 inside Griffin Park could claim they had not had their money’s worth.
The visitors had the first real sight of goal when Kevin O’Connor made a vital early block from a Michael Smith shot and Nugent deflected a shot from the Wimbledon striker wide soon after.
El Alagui had a curling shot saved in opening stages while a George Saville shot was blocked for The Bees.
The League Two side came to play football and tried to create.
Jack Midson had their best chance of the first half when a half cleared corner was played back in by Sammy Moore; the striker had yards of space eight yards out but volleyed harmlessly wide.
Smith pulled a shot off target when well-placed for the visitors and Midson had a weak header saves.
It took Brentford a while to get on top of the game but when they did the chances started to come and it turned in to a decent spectacle towards the end of the first period.
El Alagui had a great chance when he met a Scott Barron free kick ten yards out but he headed straight at Ross Worner in the Wimbledon goal.
Nugent headed wide for Brentford before a long David Button kick almost released Norris, making his first start for The Bees, in behind but Worner saved at his feet.
Brentford went ahead three minutes before half time with a fine goal.
Shaleum Logan started it with a first time header infield from a long clearance and Toumani Diagouraga played it on before El Alagui worked the ball out the Norris, when the cross came back the striker he fired low in the corner with the aid of a small deflection.
He almost made it two soon after when he controlled a Sam Saunders free kick, turned free and fired in a low shot but Worner saved with his legs.
El Alagui missed the target with a header and Nugent nodded over from close range as Brentford threatened to put the game out of sight before half time.
But the precarious nature of their lead was shown at the end of the first half – Button sliced a clearance and presented the ball to Midson, the striker was crowded out before he could shoot and when the cross came in George Porter fired well over.
Brentford made a change in the first half – Jake Reeves replacing Saville after the midfielder went down following a challenge – and then two more at the break, Javi Venta and Aaron Pierre replacing Logan and Scott Barron.
And within seconds of them coming on Brentford’s new defence had been opened up in the simplest way possible.
A long ball was flicked on by Smith and Porter raced in behind with only Button to beat, the goalkeeper made himself big and saved the first shot before clearing the ball and the winger out as the ball dropped loose.
Wimbledon’s appeals that a foul had been committed were waved away.
Pierre made a vital blocked from a Midson shot after the striker got on to another Smith flick and turned well and Nugent blocked a Smith header when the ball came back in.
Wimbledon had started the second half well but it was Brentford who got the crucial second goal of the evening.
El Alagui nodded a Venta ball in to the path of Reeves and his pass set Norris in behind, the striker raced away a coolly slotted the first goal of his professional career away.
It was three two minutes later when Norris fed Saunders and he chipped a ball in behind the defence, El Alagui rounded Worner but was forced wide, he cut back and fired low in to the bottom corner.
The Dons could have thrown in the towel but instead came right back in to it.
A free kick was half cleared and Jim Fenton created space before firing a shot from 35 yards that took a deflection, wrong-footed Button and ended in the bottom corner.
Porter fired wide for Wimbledon as they tried to respond but Brentford were by now fluent in attack and created chance after chance.
Stuart Dallas shot over before crossing for El Alagui at the far post; his header was well saved by Worner.
Brentford’s fourth came when a free kick was half cleared, Saunders delivered to the far post and Nugent nodded home.
And their fifth arrived six minutes later.
Norris set up a shooting chance for Dallas and when it was blocked the striker fired in a low effort that was superbly saved by Worner, Venta arrived from right back to shoot unerringly back across the goalkeeper and in to the far corner from an acute angle.
Button made a fine save from a fierce Smith shot and Pierre blocked the follow-up before Callum Kennedy lashed a free kick well over.
Worner kept out a low Norris shot after the striker had turned free and the goalkeeper, Wimbledon’s star man on the night, denied El Alagui.
The keeper then saved a low Dallas shot before Wimbledon reduced the arrears.
Midson set it up with a delightful back heel and George Francomb raced away before tucking the ball under Button.
Reeves hit the crossbar with a cross-cum-shot and a Saunders free kick curled just past the far post while Harry Pell lifted an effort well over at the other end.
Wimbledon reduced the deficit further with seconds remaining of the 90 minutes.
Smith was unable to turn in a Francomb cross and when Porter cut it back Peter Sweeney fired home from 15 yards.
Smith headed over from close range in stoppage time, missing the chance to set up a grandstand finish, and Saunders missed the target at the other end.
Referee Lee Collins brought the contest to an end after four minutes of stoppage time and Brentford progressed after one of the most entertaining evenings at Griffin Park for many years.
Brentford: Button; Logan (sub Venta h/t), O’Connor, Nugent, Barron (sub Pierre h/t); Dallas, Diagouraga, Saville (sub Reeves 23 mins), Saunders; Norris, El Alagui
Subs (not used): O’Brien, Clarke
AFC Wimbledon: Worner; Francomb, Weston (sub Fuller h/t), Fenlon, Kennedy; Sainte-Luce (sub Porter 29 mins), Moore, Sweeney, Arthur (sub Pell 63 mins); Smith, Midson
Subs (not used): Brown, Strutton
Attendance: 4,189 (1,226 away fans)
By Chris Wickham