No goals at Bramall Lane
When Brentford drew 2-2 at Bramall Lane against Sheffield United last year, the 23,000 plus in attendance must have thought they had seen everything.
That match contained four penalties, three red cards, a late equaliser and more drama and controversy than the average month of league football.
But with Brentford back at Bramall Lane on another mild April evening, another game to live long in the memory took shape.
The game’s key incident came just past the half hour.
Marcello Trotta got away from the home defence in the inside right channel and burst in to the penalty area.
Kieron Freeman lunged in with a tackle as the striker prepared to pull the trigger and Trotta went down.
Referee Eddie Ilderton, who was well-placed to see if the defender had played Trotta before he got a clear foot on the ball, pointed for a penalty and sent Freeman off.
Then, on the prompting of the home players, he conversed with assistant referee Mark Dwyer and changed his mind.
He recalled Freeman, now in the mouth of the tunnel, and gave a drop ball.
With the game finishing 0-0 that became the major talking point but it should not detract from a Brentford performance that saw them do everything but score.
The Bees went to Bramall Lane and played United off the pitch for long periods.
They had the chances to win it but a combination of wayward finishing and excellent defending denied them the victory they deserved.
Brentford flew out of the blocks and had five really god chances within the first 12 minutes.
Goalkeeper Mark Howard saved a low Clayton Donaldson shot within the first 20 seconds and less than a minute later Alan McCormack intercepted on the right and over-hit his cross when a low delivery would have given Trotta a tap-in.
Trotta was crowded out in the penalty area after good work by Toumani Diagouraga and the striker had another opportunity soon after.
Picking up a poor Howard clearance he fired in a shot that took a deflection and was looping in before John Brayford cleared off the line – Donaldson was waiting in yards of space for a cut back if the pass had come.
Donaldson headed a Jake Bidwell cross inches wide after the resulting corner had been played short and the striker then blasted wide when Adam Forshaw set him free in the inside left channel.
Donaldson then forced Howard in to a low save after cutting in off the left.
Sheffield United were on the ropes in the early stages but slowly got a foothold in the game.
Brentford were dominating posession and territory but the home side were able to resist and started to pose problems on the break.
Bidwell blocked a Ryan Flynn shot after Jamie Murphy had got away on the left and, from the resulting corner, Brayford headed wide at the far post.
Diagouraga came within a whisker of putting The Bees in front with a left foot volley from a half-cleared corner that fizzed inches wide.
But the home side went closer still just after – Conor Coady raced down the right on to a Flynn pass with Brentford appealing for offside but McCormack playing them on, his cross looked to be inch perfect for Murphy to score but James Tarkowski made a brilliant recovery tackle.
Flynn had a shot blocked and Coady fired over as United had a good spell but the game’s controversial incident came soon after.
Billy Paynter turned a Flynn cross wide at the near post just after United’s escape while Judge missed the target at the other end.
Brentford went in at half time knowing they had taken complete control of the game and that they should have been ahead, with or without Mr Ilderton’s indecision.
They maintained that control after the break, pushing for the vital goal.
Trotta had a shot deflect over after good work by McCormack and the striker then had a shot blocked before Diagouraga miss-hit a long range volley.
Diagouraga had another effort blocked when he latched on to a Trotta pass before Howard just about held on to a long-range shot from Jonathan Douglas.
Sheffield United had very few second half chances.
Four came in a seven minute spell just after the hour mark – Flynn shot over and then set up Ben Davies for a shot that was blocked and a Coady effort was blocked soon after.
At the other end a Forshaw shot deflected in to the arms of Howard before Trotta had a shot blocked.
Douglas and Donaldson then had shots blocked before David Button tipped a looping Chris Porter header over the bar.
As the game entered the final stages, Brentford pressed hard for the winner and chances continued to come.
Stuart Dallas delivered an inch perfect cross that Trotta headed wide when unmarked ten yards out after Brentford had broken quickly.
Dallas then pulled a shot across the face of goal after being set up by George Saville and Trotta while at the other end Flynn cut inside and saw a shot deflect just wide.
The final chance of the evening fell to Trotta, he wriggled his way clear of two or three defenders but his low shot was too close to Howard and the goalkeeper kept it out.
The Bees continued to push men forward but couldn’t find the crucial goal and had to settle for a share of the spoils.
Sheffield United: Howard; Davies, Collins, Brayford, Freeman; Flynn (sub Kennedy 90 mins), Coady, Doyle, McGinn (sub Baxter 84 mins), Murphy; Paynter (sub Porter 59 mins)
Subs (not used): Long, Scougall, Khan, Dimaio
Bookings: Davies (90 mins)
Brentford: Button; McCormack, Tarkowski, Craig, Bidwell; Diagouraga (sub Saville 71 mins), Douglas, Forshaw; Judge (sub Dallas 79 mins), Trotta, Donaldson
Subs (not used): Lee, Yennaris, Dean, Reeves, Grigg
Bookings: McCormack (40 mins) (eighth of season), Diagouraga (59 mins) (sixth of season), Donaldson (81 mins) (fifth of season), Craig (90 mins) (sixth of season)
Attendance: 15,730 (663 Bees fans)
By Chris Wickham