Brentford end pre-season fixtures with draw in Tony Craig Testimonial
Brentford brought their 2016 pre-season programme to a close with a draw against Millwall. The Bees took the lead against the Sky Bet League One side through a Yoann Barbet free kick but were pegged back before the half hour. In a match played to honour Millwall captain Tony Craig, the hosts had the better of things. Brentford’s Daniel Bentley was the busier goalkeeper and much of the action was in the visitors’ penalty area.
There were positives for The Bees with new loan signing Callum Elder completing 80 minutes and Scott Hogan playing a full game for the first time in a Brentford shirt. The striker could have had a couple of goals but was denied by a superb tackle by Craig in the second half and pulled another good chance wide. In the end the Tony Craig testimonial finished all square and gave both teams a good work out with a week to go before the start of the EFL season.
Millwall should probably have been ahead inside 20 seconds when a poor Josh Clarke pass was seized upon by Lee Gregory, he battled his way past Harlee Dean and squared for Steve Morison but the shot lack power and Bentley saved. After that early chance for the hosts Brentford took control. They seemed to be quicker to the loose balls in midfield and played forward with purpose. There was a great early chance for Hogan when a Josh McEachran pass split the Millwall defence and put him away but the striker dragged his effort just past the far post.
Brentford’s goal was not, however, long in coming. When Sam Saunders was impeded 25 yards out referee Andy Woolmer awarded a free kick. Barbet took responsibility and curled a shot past an unsighted Jordan Archer and in to the bottom corner. The free kick was expertly placed by the Brentford centre half but the goalkeeper may have expected to have kept it out given the height it entered the net. Archer did redeem himself soon after when he saved a low Saunders shot, after the Brentford man had won the ball in midfield, and then bounced up quickly to save from Hogan, who had shot low and hard when a square ball to Romaine Sawyers may have produced better results.
Brentford had dominated the first 15 minutes but Millwall started to come back in to the game, helped, unintentionally, by an injury that forced them to replace centre half Shaun Hutchinson with attacker Aiden O’Brien. The hosts had a more positive outlook a little more energy in midfield. They stopped Brentford playing through the centre and utilised the strike pair of Gregory and Morison. Hutchinson had gone close with a header before he limped off while a Morison effort deflected wide.
Worrall picked up a loose McEachran pass and blasted wide for the hosts before going through one-on-one when he got on to a Shane Ferguson ball but the Millwall winger shot wide with only Bentley to beat. Worrall and Gregory then combined to set up Shaun Williams for a shot that Bentley saved before, as the half hour approached, the hosts levelled. Brentford failed to properly clear a cross and Williams lifted a ball back in for Morison to head home from eight yards. It was a goal Millwall probably deserved given the run of play but Brentford responded well.
When The Bees were able to get McEachran, in particular, and Ryan Woods on the ball in midfield, they had control of the game. One spell of possession set up a shooting chance for new loan signing Callum Elder but his effort flew over. Sawyers headed a McEachran corner over before Hogan missed the target after a sharp turn.
Much of the first half had been entertaining with both teams more confident attacking than defending but there was less incisive football as the break loomed. Long range efforts from Ben Thompson and Morison failed to worry Brentford while Bentley held on to a low Mahlon Romeo ball as Gregory lurked. Millwall probably ended the first half slightly the stronger and continued to hold the upper hand after half time. They should have scored within seconds of the restart but Worrall blazed wide and an O’Brien header was saved.
Brentford could have scored as they broke from that O’Brien chance as Sawyers set up Hogan but Craig made a superb recovery tackle to prevent the Brentford man scoring. Saunders also curled a free kick in to a defensive wall but most of the chances were at the other end, many of them caused by Brentford not quite defending as well as they could. Bentley saved from Morison and when the striker then took a quick throw-in the Brentford goalkeeper and Barbet had to join forces to prevent Williams scoring.
When Gregory got away from McEachran and set up O’Brien, Barbet made an important clearance to prevent Morison profiting. From the resulting corner O’Brien looped a header on to the roof of the net before a short Harlee Dean back pass forced Bentley to tackle Morison inside his six-yard box. O’Brien then curled a shot over before a weaving run from Ferguson gave Worrall a shooting chance but he attempted to cross and Dean cleared. Bentley saved a diving Byron Webster header and Gregory looped an effort over as Millwall continued to push forward.
Brentford changed their shape late in the match, bringing Philipp Hofmann on to partner Hogan for the final 20 minutes. And they almost got an undeserved goal when Craig’s clearance, as a corner dropped loose, went just past the post. The Bees ended the match on the front foot and looked the team most likely to get a late winner. Emmanuel Ledesma saw a shot blocked and the trialist then fizzed an effort inches past the far post.
There was a standing ovation for Craig as he was withdrawn with two minutes to go. The travelling Brentford fans thanked the man that played a key role in helping The Bees secure their status in the Sky Bet Championship while Millwall recognised ten years of service. It seemed apt the game ended level.
Millwall: Archer; Romeo, Hutchinson (sub O’Brien 17 mins), Webster, Craig (sub Brown 88 mins); Worrall (sub Wylde 77 mins), Thompson (sub Abdou 48 mins), Williams, Ferguson (sub Nelson 77 mins); Gregory (sub Onyedinma 81 mins), Morison (sub Pavey 81 mins)
Brentford: Bentley; Clarke (sub Holldack h/t), Dean, Barbet (sub Egan 81 mins), Elder (sub Field 81 mins); Woods, McEachran (sub Cole 70 mins); Saunders (sub Hofmann 70 mins), Sawyers (sub Kerschbaumer 81 mins), Macleod (sub Ledesma 70 mins); Hogan
Attendance: 1,951 (310 Bees fans)