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Match Reports

Brentford 1 Sheffield United 1

Spoils shared in the rain at Griffin Park

30 March 2018

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Chris Mepham ended a memorable fortnight with his first goal in professional football as Brentford came from behind to draw with Sheffield United. The centre half made his Wales debut last week, during his first spell with the senior international side, and returned to West London days before the match. He scored midway through the second half to draw Brentford level and ensure they took a point in a 1-1 draw.

But the score line only tells a portion of the tale. The Griffin Park pitch had to withstand some of the heaviest matchday rain seen for years and the game as a spectacle was probably affected. Brentford had the better of the first half but United came closest to scoring and then took the lead early in the second period. Ryan Woods and visiting goalkeeper Jamal Blackman were sent off in the aftermath of Mepham’s equaliser and that gave both teams a chance to win it but neither could.

The rain fell steadily at Griffin Park in the hours before kick-off and when referee Jeremy Simpson got the game underway, conditions were far from ideal. Standing water in areas made slick, passing football difficult and the heavy rain meant the surface was changing through the match. Both teams set out to attack but with three central midfield players each, and the rain affecting the pitch, it was longer passes that created space.

Brentford looked to play in to the channels for Florian Jozefzoon and Sergi Canós to run on to with Neal Maupay linking the play while the visitors often looked for Leon Clarke and tried to play off him. United started on the front foot and had the first sight of goal when Clarke nodded towards goal but Daniel Bentley made a comfortable save. The Brentford goalkeeper came through a sterner test later in the first period when John Fleck cut through midfield and let fly from 25 yards but, despite the ball skipping off the slick surface, Bentley saved well.

Long-range shots were a temptation for both teams with goalkeepers likely to have difficulty with a wet ball. Henrik Dalsgaard let fly for Brentford and forced Blackman to save low and the United goalkeeper also kept out a curling effort from Mepham from distance. As the half developed, Brentford took the initiative, dominating possession and territory and dealing with the conditions slightly better. They also had the clearer chances.

Maupay saw a shot on the turn blocked before Nico Yennaris sliced wide with Blackman out of position following a corner. There was then a chance for Canós when a ball dropped loose but his shot was blocked and Maupay could not force it past Blackman, the goalkeeper sitting on the ball to stop its momentum. Maupay and Jozefzoon narrowly failed to turn in a dangerous Canós cross and Lewis Macleod fired over while, on a rare attack for The Blades, Chris Basham delivered a cross following a quick break that Billy Sharp could not convert at the far post.

That was arguably the best chance of the half although Sharp had another later on, as well as failing to convert when offside. The opening late in the half came when Fleck whipped a ball dangerously across the six-yard box but Sharp couldn’t score on the stretch and was penalised as he tried to poke home. Yennaris also had another sight of goal when Canós cleverly nodded a Dalsgaard ball in to his path but he failed to connect.

George Baldock could have put United ahead with the last kick of the half when Bentley failed to deal with a high ball and punched to the defender on the edge of the penalty area but he sliced wide with the goal unguarded, albeit with bodies in his way. And having ended the first period well, United also had the upper hand after the break. They took a high position at the start of the second half and made it difficult for Brentford to get any forward momentum. They took the territorial advantage and turned it in to a goal ten minutes after the break.

Brentford dealt with a corner but United picked up the loose ball and worked it to the edge of the box, Basham let fly from 20 yards and the ball ended up in the bottom corner. Bentley was rooted to the spot and there was an indication a deflection had wrong-footed the Brentford goalkeeper and given United the lead. But that was just the start of the action as the final 40 minutes producing goals, red cards and controversy.

Brentford made changes within minutes of going behind with Ollie Watkins and Kamohelo Mokotjo providing fresh impetus in midfield. Watkins drove at the heart of the United defence regularly, he won one free kick that Jozefzoon curled in to a defensive wall that appeared to be no more than eight yards away and another from Basham that, on another day, might have seen the visiting defender shown a second yellow card. It was that free kick, however, that led to the equaliser.

The ball was lifted in to the penalty area and Blackman failed to get a good connection with his punch, Mepham picked up the loose ball and drove it back past the goalkeeper and in to the net. As the Wales international celebrated his first professional goal, events in the goalmouth were taking the shine off a little. Woods tried to get the ball from Blackman to get the game back underway but the United goalkeeper refused to hand it over. There was a coming together and Blackman appeared to put his hands in to Woods’ face with the Brentford man trying to retrieve the ball. Mr Simpson decided both had committed offences worthy of dismissal and showed red cards.

While United introduced Simon Moore and reshuffled, Brentford set up without their midfield playmaker and it left 20 minutes for the teams to try and find a winner. And while there were chances at both ends, the visitors came closest. They maintained their strike pair and were happy to sacrifice some control in midfield as they looked to break quickly and find the crucial goal. And their continued high positions meant Brentford still had to play longer passes, unable to get things moving through Woods.

The Bees had not reached their high standards throughout and the closing stages were very bitty with passes going astray. The one move The Bees did put together saw Alan Judge and Yennaris set up Maupay but his low shot was saved by Moore. The better chances came at the other end. A clever pass from Fleck put Clayton Donaldson through in the inside left channel but current Brentford goalkeeper Bentley denied the former Bees striker.

Bentley then saved from Basham after the same man had a shot blocked and the Brentford goalkeeper then denied Clarke bravely after he had weaved his way through. Egan made a superb block from Fleck but United could still have won it in the dying seconds. Clarke put Donaldson away again and the striker looked as if he had slotted under Bentley but the Brentford goalkeeper earned his team a point with another super save.

Brentford: Bentley; Dalsgaard, Egan, Mepham, Clarke; Woods; Jozefzoon (sub Judge 78 mins), Yennaris, Macleod (sub Mokotjo 60 mins), Canós (sub Watkins 60 mins); Maupay

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

Sent Off: Woods (69 mins)

Sheffield United: Blackman; Baldock, Basham, Stearman, O’Connell, Stevens; Lundstram (sub Evans 52 mins), Leonard (sub Moore 71 mins), Fleck; Clarke, Sharp (sub Donaldson 63 mins)

Subs (not used): Wilson, Lafferty, Holmes, Brooks

Bookings: Basham (50 mins), Stevens (60 mins)

Sent Off: Blackman (69 mins)

Attendance: 11,174 (1,650 away fans)

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