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Match Reports

Brentford 1 Middlesbrough 1

Bees come from behind to earn draw at Griffin Park

17 March 2018

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A first goal in a Brentford shirt for Lewis Macleod earned The Bees a point against promotion-chasing Middlesbrough. The Bees had fallen behind against the run of play but hit back and levelled before the interval as Macleod fired home. The Bees dominated for long stages and had the better chances but could not get the crucial second goal and had to settle for a share of the spoils against the team that sit sixth in the Sky Bet Championship.

The point was the least The Bees deserved. Despite ending with ten men after Romaine Sawyers was rather harshly sent off, they were the team that spent most of the afternoon looking for the victory. But they came up against a well-drilled defence and were unable to find the winner. Which meant Macleod, recently back from a serious knee problem after previously suffering with other injuries since his arrival on the last day of 2014, was the man who took the plaudits for earning Brentford a point.

The teams appeared to be evenly matched in the opening exchanges. Both lined up with three in the centre of midfield and they cancelled each other out for much of the early stages. Middlesbrough looked to play slightly longer than The Bees but had their attacking midfield players higher up the pitch, trying to prevent Brentford passing their way out from the back. The hosts had the better chances in the first 20 minutes but didn’t test goalkeeper Darren Randolph.

It took a fine defensive header from Ben Gibson to prevent Neal Maupay heading in a superb cross from Macleod and there was a better chance moments later. A free kick was played quickly and Ryan Woods played a long pass to Henrik Dalsgaard, the shot came in from Chris Mepham and fell to Maupay eight yards out but he lashed it over the bar when he should have hit the target. Middlesbrough’s first sight of goal came when Mepham failed to deal with a cross and the ball dropped to Jonny Howson but Daniel Bentley was alert and got down to save. So, when the visitors went ahead midway through the half it was against the run of play.

The goal came out of nothing but was expertly taken by Adama Traoré. The speedy wide man had hardly been in the game when stationed on the right wing but popped up on the left and came up with a goal. Brentford had tried to break from a Middlesbrough corner but found themselves on the defensive again as the attack broke down. The move looked as if it had been halted but Traoré weaved in from the left and fired in a shot from 20 yards that whistled past Bentley and in to the net. The run should probably have been halted but once the ball left the foot of Traoré, Bentley could do nothing.

Traoré went close again soon after with a low shot that Bentley saved at his near post and the wide man, Middlesbrough’s most effective attacking outlet, also forced a block from John Egan after a fine run in first half stoppage time. But, by that point, Brentford were level. The Bees had responded well to going behind, they switched their wide players at times and with Macleod knitting the game together in midfield, Brentford were dominating possession and territory.

Mepham headed a Macleod corner wide soon after Middlesbrough’s goal as Brentford went back on the attack. It then took a fine save from Randolph to push away a rising drive from Macleod after good work by Maupay. And 12 minutes after going behind, The Bees were level. They had pushed Middlesbrough back and recycled play on multiple occasions before Florian Jozefzoon fed Macleod, his first shot was blocked but he fired the second, left footed with unerring accuracy, past Randolph and in to the bottom corner.

Macleod celebrated his first Brentford goal with great joy with all his team mates, marking his first start for around 18 months and capping a fine opening to his game. It could have got better for The Bees before the break as an Ollie Watkins header from a Dalsgaard cross flicked wide. Maupay then shot straight at Randolph after exchanging passes with both Kamohelo Mokotjo and Watkins.

The 1-1 half time score was the least Brentford deserved and they had control of the match in terms of both possession and territory, which would have given the home fans confidence there was more to come after the break. But it was Middlesbrough that started the second period the better. They appeared to have gone up a gear at the interval and pushed The Bees back in the early stages of the second half.

Dalsgaard was forced to make an important tackle when it looked as if Howson might get on to a mishit Adam Clayton shot. Patrick Bamford was then left unmarked at the far post from a Stewart Downing free kick but was unable to make a good connection and the chance was gone. The visitors should probably have created more from their possession at the start of the second period but The Bees soon regained the initiative and were pushing forward.

Macleod saw a shot deflect wide and then had one blocked before a fine run in to the box from Jozefzoon set up a shooting chance for Maupay that flew over the bar. Jozefzoon curled a free kick in to a defensive wall and then combined with Mokotjo to set up Macleod but his low shot was comfortably saved by Randolph. Traoré had a sight of goal at the other end when Bamford knocked down but the ball bounced awkwardly and he fired over.

Substitute Sergi Canós shot wide after cutting inside and then saw an effort saved by Randolph before the excellent Woods fired over the bar after a marauding run from midfield. Dalsgaard saw a shot blocked before Jozefzoon set up Sawyers for an effort that looked as if it was heading for the bottom corner before Randolph got down to make an excellent stop to his right. The corner was played short, Sawyers crossed and a Jozefzoon header was blocked and Randolph gathered.

A Traoré shot deflected wide at the other end but Middlesbrough were holding on. Brentford produced wave after wave of attack but found the white wall unbroachable. Maupay saw a shot blocked before a pair of efforts from Josh Clarke also failed to beat defenders and Alan Judge fired wide when well-placed.

The game was niggly at times with both teams prepared to put a foot in when required. Referee Simon Hooper never quite seemed to have control of the game and while a large incident never looked likely, there was a lack of consistency to cautionable offences which meant players regularly transgressed and waited to see what would happen next. Unfortunately for Brentford, Sawyers was the man picked out for special treatment. He was deservedly cautioned for tripping Traoré but moments later he was unable to get out of the way when the Middlesbrough man sped towards him. Mr Hooper decided that was also a bookable offence and Sawyers was dismissed.

That gave Middlesbrough a boost and they almost won it at the death. Bentley made an important save, tipping a Grant Leadbitter chip over the bar. And when the resulting corner dropped loose, Woods bravely got in to the way of Bamford’s effort. However, Brentford also could have won it with their ten men. One four-on-three break went to waste as Judge’s pass was ahead of Maupay and the French striker was cynically blocked off in chase without punishment. A Canós shot was also deflected wide at the death as The Bees had to settle for a point.

Brentford: Bentley; Dalsgaard, Egan, Mepham, Clarke; Woods; Jozefzoon, Mokotjo (sub Judge 83 mins), Macleod (sub Sawyers 75 mins), Watkins (sub Canós 67 mins); Maupay

Subs (not used): Daniels, Barbet, Yennaris, Emiliano

Bookings: Woods (14 mins) (eighth of season), Dalsgaard (53 mins) (fourth of season), Mepham (90 mins) (third of season)

Sent Off: Sawyers (90 mins) (second bookable offence)

Middlesbrough: Randolph; Shotton, Ayala (sub Fry 60 mins), Gibson, Friend; Howson (sub Leadbitter 65 mins), Clayton, Bešić (sub Assombalonga 75 mins); Traoré, Bamford, Downing

Subs (not used): Konstantopoulos, Cranie, Harrison, Baker

Bookings: Clayton (29 mins), Gibson (51 mins), Bešić (62 mins), Friend (90 mins)

Attendance: 11,134 (1,650 away fans)

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