Brentford promoted as Preston North End beaten at Griffin Park
An Alan Judge penalty gave Brentford the win they needed against Preston North End to clinch promotion to The Championship.
The attacking midfield player fired home on the half hour for what proved to be the only goal of the game.
With challengers Rotherham United and Leyton Orient losing, Brentford were promoted at full time at a sun-drenched Griffin Park.
And there was no doubt they deserved the win.
Both teams played with three men in the centre of midfield and while Brentford had a more attacking outlook, with Judge in their trio, the sides were well matched.
Brentford started on the front foot, with Preston happy to sit in, press at times and allow The Bees most of the play.
The home side had early chances – Judge shot wide at the near post and then forced Declan Rudd to tip a swerving shot over the bar from 25yards before a George Saville shot deflected wide after good play by Alan McCormack, Jonathan Douglas and Clayton Donaldson.
Preston’s first chance came on the break; Tony Craig deflecting a shot from Craig Davies wide and, from the resulting corner, a Neil Kilkenny shot was blocked.
Brentford’s bright start soon turned in to dominance of the match.
The home side’s midfield started to take control, pressing forward with the ball in the Preston half, and chances started to come.
Donaldson pulled a shot wide and then put in a cross that Saville almost got on the end of.
The Bees went close again when Donaldson flicked on a long David Button kick and then met the return cross from Marcello Trotta at the near post but Tom Clarke made the block and diverted the ball wide.
The breakthrough came on the half hour from the penalty spot.
Stuart Dallas ran down the right and delivered a cross that Donaldson met on the volley, the shot was blocked but as Trotta and Saville tried to get on to the loose ball, the latter was brought down by Bailey Wright.
After a long delay, with Preston’s ‘Gentry’ throwing items on to the pitch, Judge stepped up and smashed the penalty down the middle as Rudd dived to his left.
The Bees continued to press for the rest of the first half, looking for the goal that would give them breathing space.
Donaldson had a header blocked before James Tarkowski missed the target with a header from the resulting corner.
A Donaldson cross just eluded Saville and Jake Bidwell had a shot blocked as Preston held on to just be a goal behind at the break.
It was nearly two just after half time, Donaldson got on to a McCormack cross and lashed in a shot that hit the post and then cannoned off Rudd to safety.
Saville shot just over for The Bees before a Donaldson cross just eluded Dallas.
At the other end, Button easily gathered a Tom Clarke header and a Kevin Keane shot was blocked but Brentford were still in control.
Judge shot just over when a free kick was half cleared and then a shot from further out blocked while Trotta pulled an effort wide after a nice turn.
Preston nearly snatched a goal against the run of play when Stuart Beavon got on to a heavy touch from Bidwell and set up Chris Humphrey, but the wide man missed the target with his shot.
Alan Browne went closer soon after when he got on to a long kick from Rudd but could only direct his header just wide.
Brentford were still looking for the second goal to give them a little cushion.
Donaldson shot wide from the edge of the penalty area after getting on to a loose ball and Judge had a shot blocked.
The second almost came when Trotta controlled a Judge corner, turned a shot low, it was blocked and somehow scrambled away with Douglas trying to force it in.
Preston had more chances as the minutes ticked down – Keane fired over when a cross was half cleared and Scott Laird lifted a shot on to the roof of the net when a corner dropped loose.
At the other end, Bidwell and Saville set up Judge, who shot over the bar.
Brentford had a great chance to make the game safe when Jack King inexplicably rugby tackled Donaldson when the pair chased a long ball and referee Keith Hill pointed to the penalty spot again.
Judge once again took the responsibility but this time slipped as he went to strike the ball and blasted it over the bar.
Wright had a shot blocked as Preston chased an equaliser but Brentford weren’t to be denied and turned Good Friday in to Great Friday.
The Championship awaits.
Brentford: Button; McCormack, Tarkowski, Craig, Bidwell; Judge, Douglas, Saville (sub Diagouraga 86 mins); Dallas (sub Grigg 84 mins), Trotta (sub Reeves 76 mins), Donaldson
Subs (not used): Lee, O’Connor, Yennaris, Adams
Bookings: Judge (35 mins) (fifth of season), Dallas (45 mins) (second of season)
Preston North End: Rudd; Humphrey (sub K. Davies 71 mins), Clarke, King, Wright, Laird; Browne, Keane, Kilkenny (sub Gallagher 54 mins); C. Davies (sub Holmes 54 mins), Beavon
Subs (not used): Stuckmann, Huntington, Buchanan, Brownhill
Bookings: Kilkenny (22 mins), C. Davies (37 mins), Browne (64 mins)
Attendance: 10,774 (1,657 away fans)
By Chris Wickham