Ask any Brentford fan where they were on Good Friday 2014 and they will be able to tell you. For the 9,000 Bees fans at Griffin Park that April afternoon, they had a front row seat to welcome back Sky Bet Championship football after a 21-year wait.
Mark Warburton’s side went into the game against tomorrow’s opponents Preston North End seven points clear of third-placed Leyton Orient with four games of the season to go. A 1-0 win in the East End a month earlier, one of 22 victories racked up in The Bees previous 31 League One outings, had put Brentford firmly in the promotion driving seat and they knew that two wins from the remaining four games would seal a return to the second tier for the first-time since 1993. Preston still had mathematical hope of automatic promotion, lying in fifth, but at the least had guaranteed themselves a Play-Off place with four games to play.
Needing to win themselves, for Leyton Orient to lose at mid-table Crawley Town, and Rotherham United not to beat Wolverhampton Wanderers, promotion for Warburton’s side looked a long-shot at the start of the afternoon. However, things quickly started turning in The Bees favour. Firstly, Crawley took the lead at home to Orient and then Wolves fought back from a one-goal deficit to lead 3-1 at the interval at Molineux.
In the meantime, at Griffin Park, Alan Judge had slotted home from the penalty spot after a foul on George Saville to ensure that The Bees also led at the interval. Brentford were now 45 minutes from promotion, but what a long 45 minutes it proved to be. Judge missed a second penalty, this time for a foul on Clayton Donaldson, as The Bees’ lead remained a slender one. Crawley did their part by winning 2-1 but Rotherham and Wolves, playing out one of the games of any season, were drawing 4-4 after 90 minutes.
Full-time at Griffin Park brought mass celebrations but a goal for Rotherham United could still ruin the party atmosphere. As it was, Sam Ricketts smashed home to make it 5-4 to Wolves and then, with the entire Brentford squad and coaching staff crowded around the TV in the home dressing room, Kevin MacDonald netted a sixth to rubber stamp The Bees return to the second tier and kick-off the celebrations in full.