Brentford failed to make it past the First Round of the EFL Cup, losing to Exeter City. The only goal of the evening came in extra time in Devon, Ryan Harley scoring to put the Sky Bet League Two side through. Brentford were made to pay for failing to turn a clear advantage in terms of possession and territory during the first 90 minutes in to a goal. They could not get the lead much of their play deserved and were hit by an extra time winner.
Brentford started the game in a rather unfamiliar 4-4-2 system. Philipp Hofmann was partnered by new non-contract signing Emmanuel Ledesma in attack with Sam Saunders on the left of midfield. It was Saunders that created the first chance of the evening with a fine run from deep but Hofmann fired wide on the turn. The headlines for the home team were being made by 15-year-old Ethan Ampadu, playing in the centre of defence. He settled immediately and looked comfortable in his surroundings despite his limited experience. His performance over the course of the 120 minutes earned him a deserved Man of the Match prize.
Exeter as a whole settled the quicker. They looked to get the ball in behind Brentford’s full backs – debutante Jan Holldack and Tom Field, playing only his second match – and pull central defenders Harlee Dean and John Egan out of position. They also looked to win and use set pieces to unsettle The Bees. Jack Bonham easily saved a Jordan Moore-Taylor header from one corner and when another was recycled, Harley shot wide.
Robbie Simpson also shot wide for the hosts later in the half but it was Brentford who took control as the match moved on. The Bees were forced in to a change as Alan McCormack limped off but Ryan Woods was introduced and started to link well with Nico Yennaris. Brentford were using Josh Clarke as their main outlet and he tormented Moore-Taylor, winning corners and delivering crosses. Hofmann failed to direct his header from one delivery and the German striker then headed a Ledesma corner wide after another good run from Clarke.
Brentford should have scored when a short corner was worked to Yennaris, he fed Woods but the ball across the box could not be turned home by Holldack. When the ball came back in to the box, Dean shot wide after a nice turn. Clarke had a shot saved after another nice run that left Taylor-Moore floundering and Ledesma then shot wide as Brentford went in to break level but with the initiative.
And The Bees continued to hold the upper hand after the break. They dominated territory and forced the hosts back. Exeter were defending with more and more men in their own half as Brentford pushed forward, particularly using Clarke’s pace on the right. Clarke set up Ledesma for a shot that was blocked before Woods fired just wide from 25 yards. Lloyd James blasted well over for the hosts and David Wheeler missed the target with a volley but Exeter were mainly defending after half time.
Brentford were unable, however, to turn their possession and territory in to too many chances. Exeter were defending superbly with Ampadu giving no indication he had not yet taken his GSCEs. They were also able to break and Woods, Saunders and Tom Field all went in to book when slowing down breaks unfairly. From one Exeter attack, Ollie Watkins cut inside and fired low but Jack Bonham saved well.
Brentford piled on the pressure in the last ten minutes of the first 90 and Bobby Olejnik got down well to save a Ledesma free kick. Dean then turned a Ledesma corner wide before Saunders had a volley blocked from a Holldack cross. Saunders came closest to winning it for Brentford with a near post shot that whistled in to the side netting while Moore-Taylor headed wide at the other end and Bonham saved from Wheeler in stoppage time.
With neither team able to find a goal, the game went in to extra time and although Brentford tried to maintain their upper hand, it was Exeter that struck. The extra time was ten minutes old when Watkins got on to a long ball in the inside left channel, he fed Harley and the midfield man stepped in to the area before firing a shot across Bonham and in to the corner. It was a well-worked goal and it gave Exeter sight of the Second Round. They almost made it two soon after when a quick throw released Watkins but Egan arrived late to make a vital block and keep Brentford in it.
B Team striker Justin Shaibu was introduced just before the goal and he partnered fellow substitute Scott Hogan in the later stages as Brentford chased a leveller. But Exeter’s organisation was making it tough for The Bees and neither had much sight of goal as the game entered the final ten minutes. Clarke had a sight of goal after a run from deep but his shot was blocked while Wheeler shot wide at the other end. And with Brentford unable to fashion any more chances, their EFL Cup run came to an end.
Exeter City: Olejnik; McCready, Sweeney, Ampadu, Moore-Taylor; Taylor, James, Harley, Riley-Lowe (sub McAlinden 70 mins); Simpson (sub Wheeler 70 mins), Watkins
Subs (not used): Pym, Woodman, Tillson, Oakley, Jay
Bookings: Harley (77 mins)
Brentford: Bonham; Holldack, Dean, Egan, Field; Clarke, McCormack (sub Woods 12 mins), Yennaris, Saunders; Ledesma (sub Shaibu 100 mins), Hofmann (sub Hogan 76 mins)
Subs (not used): Bentley, Elder, Kerschbaumer, Cole
Bookings: Woods (54 mins), Saunders (56 mins), Field (74 mins)
Attendance: 2,633 (372 Bees fans)