Bees beaten at Bolton
Brentford slipped to their first defeat in four games, losing 3-1 away to Bolton Wanderers.
The Bees were well in the game, albeit perhaps slightly second best, when Neil Danns smashed in a long range goal to put the home side in front around the hour mark.
Mark Davies then came off the substitute’s bench to make it two and give Brentford a mountain to climb.
They looked as if they might climb it when Jon Toral smashed in a goal and The Bees pressed for a leveller.
But Craig Davies became the third substitute to score on the afternoon, making the score 3-1 in the seventh minute of stoppage time.
It was a game that always looked like it would produce goals.
Both goalkeepers were called in to action within the first 90 seconds.
Firstly, straight from kick-off, Bolton worked the ball down the left and Jermaine Beckford cut inside before firing in a shot that David Button had to get down well to his left to save, Tony Craig and Jake Bidwell then combined to prevent Lee Chung-Yong forcing the loose ball home.
Brentford went straight down the other end and, after picking up an Alex Pritchard pass, Jota shot from the left side of the penalty area and Bolton goalkeeper Andrew Lonergan went full stretch to his left to save.
The home side lined up with a diamond midfield against Brentford’s usual three central players, which meant there was room for The Bees to exploit on the flanks.
Bolton wanted to attack, pressing forward whenever they could and getting men up from defensive areas to join in.
This left space for The Bees to break and the game was an open, entertaining spectacle, albeit one based more on attrition that inspiration for long periods.
Andre Gray missed the target with a header from a Pritchard cross before a Jota volley was blocked.
A spectacular Alan Judge volley, when Pritchard cut a corner back to him on the edge of the penalty area, deflected wide while, at the other end, Darren Pratley cut inside and fired well over.
A Joe Mason shot hit Beckford when it may have been troubling Button and Pratley’s acrobatic overhead flew wide before Danns fired wide.
Danns then had a low shot saved and Button saved from Beckford while at the other end Pritchard fired straight at Lonergan from 18 yards after being set up by Jota.
Bolton were starting to get on top as the game reached the half hour, with Brentford not quite able to move the ball incisively, particularly in opposition territory.
Dean had to make an important block from a Mason shot and, when The Bees were unable to clear a free kick, a Dorian Dervite shot deflected wide.
The home side were forcing corners and free kicks and spent a lot of time in Brentford territory.
The Bees were solid defensively and were putting their bodies on the line – Dean made one superb recovery tackle at full stretch before Pritchard and Judge threw themselves in the way as Chung-Yong, Danns and Jay Spearing fired in shots.
Chung-Yong was pulling the strings for the home side at the point of their diamond while behind him his team mates harried and forced mistakes from The Bees.
When Chung-Yong got away on the left just before half time it took a good tackle from Jonathan Douglas to slow him down before Dean prevented Beckford shooting and Danns lashed over.
But there were signs before the break that Bolton could not keep up their high intensity game.
Judge pulled a shot wide after Moses Odubajo escaped on the right and it just eluded Gray and Jota at the far post.
Another Pritchard corner was pulled back to Judge in first half stoppage time and the shot deflected inches wide before Jake Bidwell nodded the next set piece over the bar in the final action of the opening 45.
Brentford started the second half well, it took a vital interception from Dervite to prevent Gray finishing off a smartly worked free kick and Lonergan tipped a cross-cum-shot from Dean over the bar.
But Bolton were soon back to their first half intensity, snapping in to challenges and forcing Brentford to play backwards to keep the ball.
The home side also had chances – Matt Mills headed a Spearing corner just wide before Beckford escaped on the left and cut the ball back to the arriving Danns, Button got down well to turn away the low shot.
Bidwell made a vital clearance inside his six-yard-box from another Pratley cross as the home side continued to press and eventually, it told.
The ball was played from the left side infield to Danns and he found space to unleash a left foot shot from 25 yards that flew past Button and nestled in the bottom corner.
Bolton could have had a second soon after when they broke quickly following a Brentford free kick but wasted the three-on-one attack as Alan McCormack slowed them down, Douglas helped out and Dean got back to win the ball.
McCormack’s afternoon did not last much longer as, after being chopped down when bursting forward; he was removed on a stretcher and replaced by Tommy Smith.
Odubajo moved to right back and Toumani Diagouraga was also introduced as Brentford looked to build a solid midfield base and allow their attacking players to flourish.
It almost paid immediate dividends when Pritchard chipped a ball forward but Gray couldn’t get it under control and Lonergan saved at his feet.
Spearing shot wide after bursting in to the box on to a Pratley pass but Bolton didn’t have to wait long for their second goal.
Mark Davies had been on the pitch a matter of seconds when he picked the ball up on the left and went on a weaving run infield before slotting the ball past Button and in to the far corner.
That looked as if it may be game over but Brentford found a response.
They almost pulled one back with a fierce header from Douglas but Lonergan tipped it over and The Bees did get one soon after.
Gray had a shot blocked after good work by Bidwell and when Smith put the ball back in Toral, who had only been on the pitch for 90 seconds, smashed in.
Bolton could have restored their two-goal lead immediately when Mason got in behind after Craig failed to control a long ball but he couldn’t beat Button in a one-on-one situation.
The goal, and the miss that followed, gave Brentford real impetus.
With Smith and Toral pulling the strings Bolton were suddenly rocking and Brentford were pressing for the equaliser.
Douglas was just unable to head in a Bidwell cross and when Odubajo put the ball back in, Gray couldn’t force it home.
Diagouraga saw an effort deflected over after he got on to a Gray nod down and a Douglas header was saved.
Bolton sealed the game in the dying seconds.
Button was pushed forward for a corner as The Bees chased the game and when Lonergan cleared, Craig Davies had acres of space on the right, with the Brentford goalkeeper chasing back the Bolton striker slotted home from 40 yards.
Dean had a late shot blocked but Brentford had no more time and Bolton had the points.
Bolton Wanderers: Lonergan; McNaughton, Mills, Dervite, Ream; Danns. Spearing, Pratley (sub M. Davies 74 mins); Chung-Yong; Beckford (sub Vela 90 mins), Mason (sub C. Davies 87 mins)
Subs (not used): Kenny, Moxey, Hall, Clayton
Bookings: Dervite (45 mins), Danns (48 mins), Chung-Yong (66 mins), Spearing (90 mins), C. Davies (90 mins)
Brentford: Button; McCormack (sub Smith 70 mins), Dean, Craig, Bidwell; Douglas; Odubajo, Pritchard (sub Toral 81 mins), Judge, Jota (sub Diagouraga 64 mins); Gray
Subs (not used): Bonham, Yennaris, Tarkowski, Proschwitz
Attendance: 14,811 (844 Bees fans)
By Chris Wickham