Points shared at Craven Cottage
The spoils were shared as Fulham and Brentford played out a 2-2 West London derby draw on a windy winter’s afternoon. Brentford took the lead through an Alan Judge penalty but Fulham responded and edged in front, albeit when The Bees were on top, in the second period. But Jack O’Connell scored his first Brentford goal in front of nearly 5,000 travelling fans to ensure it ended all square.
And the result was probably a fair one. Brentford started well but Fulham hit back after going behind and then took their chance in the second half after keeping The Bees out. But Brentford deserved to level it up and neither team could find the winning goal, albeit substitute Jota had a late header ruled out for offside.
The wind seemed to affect the players for the opening five to ten minutes. It seemed to be swirling around Craven Cottage and any ball played off the floor was at the mercy of the conditions. But it was Brentford that settled quicker, moving the ball through the midfield and making their extra men in that area of the pitch count. Soon Toumani Diagouraga and Ryan Woods were finding pockets of space and started to get The Bees moving forward.
Brentford were also quickly in to their pressing game with their attacking midfield trio intent on stopping Fulham playing out from the back. The first chance of the game came when Sergi Canós won the ball deep in enemy territory but his touch when he got a return pass from Lasse Vibe was heavy and Andrew Lonergan was able to gather. It took some desperate defending to keep Brentford out as they pressed the home side back as the game approached the quarter hour, Jake Bidwell had a shot blocked and Nico Yennaris blasted wide after exchanging passes with Vibe.
The goal Brentford were threatening came just before the 20 minute mark and, for the first time in 2015/16, came from the penalty spot. David Button played his part with a quick, accurate clearance after gathering a corner, the ball was worked via Vibe, Canós and Konstantin Kerschbaumer to Bidwell who was felled by Ashley Richards on the very edge of the penalty area. Referee David Coote decided the defender had not got any of the ball and correctly identified the offence was inside the box. Judge took the responsibility and blasted the spot kick down the middle to put Brentford in front.
Falling behind seemed to give the hosts a lift and they responded well. Button saved a Tim Ream header and then got down well to hold on to a Tom Cairney cross after the wide man had exchanged passes with Luke Garbutt. Button also had his palms stung by Ryan Fredericks and Ross McCormack flicked a Jamie O’Hara cross wide of the far post.
With Fulham committing a few more men forward, Brentford were given the chance to counter attack and could have given themselves breathing space before the half hour. After a fine move down the left, Kerschbaumer met a Bidwell cross with a shot that was blocked and Canós’ follow-up also hit a defender. When Kerschbaumer picked up a loose ball soon after he created a shooting chance for Vibe but Lonergan saved at full stretch and Judge cut inside and fired over soon after.
But Fulham were taking the territorial advantage and came close to an equaliser when a low McCormack corner bounced through a crowd of bodies and safely in to the arms of Button. The warning was not, however, heeded and from their next corner, the hosts levelled. The first delivery was cleared but McCormack had time to measure a second delivery that whipped dangerously towards the Brentford goal and James Tarkowski could only divert it past Button and in to his net. The goal was officially credited to the Brentford defender but McCormack may end up claiming it.
That left the game level at half time, albeit Fulham probably had the initiative. It did become apparent, however, that they also had the better of conditions in the first half. The wind was blowing in Brentford’s direction and Fulham’s slightly more direct style did not help their cause at the start of the second period. Brentford took the game to their hosts after the break and had chances to get themselves back in front.
Kerschbaumer had the first sight of goal after good play by Canós but his low shot was saved by Lonergan. Judge then hooked a volley from a deep Yennaris corner wide before Vibe nodded in to the path of Woods 18 yards out but his shot was held low down by Lonergan. The Fulham goalkeeper was keeping his side in it and he made a superb save low to his left to keep out Vibe after great work by Woods and Kerschbaumer on the counter attack. Lonergan then pushed a fierce Judge shot over the crossbar.
And those saves took on even more importance when Fulham took the lead against the run of play. McCormack got on to a long ball forward and found space, he slipped it through to Moussa Dembélé and the striker held off Tarkowski before slipping the ball past Button and in to the corner.
Jota and John Swift were soon introduced for The Bees and they almost created an opening within minutes but Jota couldn’t bring the ball under his spell in the box. Brentford, however, did get an equaliser eight minutes after falling behind. Bidwell delivered a corner from the right, Tarkowski flicked it on and O’Connell volleyed it in from inside the six yard box.
Brentford appeared to have the momentum and O’Connell met another Bidwell corner soon after, heading it powerfully wide. The Bees also had the ball in the net when Jota flicked a header from a Swift cross in off the far post but the flag was up for offside and the goal was ruled out. Closer inspection showed that Fulham left back Garbutt was probably playing Jota onside and he certainly looked relieved to see the assistant referee’s flag in the air.
The game was very stretched in the later stages with Fulham making attacking substitutions to press Brentford back. But The Bees were looking to counter attack and it was an end-to-end conclusion. Fulham probably had the better late chances – Button palmed away a McCormack free kick and then saved a second shot from the dangerous striker. Bidwell made a fine tackle to prevent Alexander Kačaniklič getting on to a McCormack lay off and then a superb block when Dembélé turned and from ten yards.
A Kačaniklič shot deflected just wide and Matt Smith missed the target with a heeder as Fulham pressed. But Brentford’s defence held firm and kept the hosts out. They did enough to earn a point and extend Brentford’s unbeaten run to five.
Fulham: Lonergan; Richards, Stearman, Ream, Garbutt; Fredericks (sub Woodrow 79 mins), Parker (sub Kačaniklič 79 mins), O’Hara, Cairney (sub Smith 87 mins); McCormack, Dembélé
Subs (not used): Lewis, Hutchinson, Hyndman, Burn
Bookings: Fredericks (27 mins), Stearman (57 mins)
Brentford: Button; Yennaris, Tarkowski, O’Connell, Bidwell; Woods, Diagouraga; Canós (sub Jota 66 mins), Judge, Kerschbaumer (sub Swift 66 mins); Vibe (sub Hofmann 87 mins)
Subs (not used): Bonham, Barbet, McEachran, Saunders
Bookings: Canós (36 mins) (second of season), O’Connell (57 mins)
Attendance: 19,411 (4,927 Bees fans)