Ten-man Brentford battled to a Good Friday draw with Millwall on a scorching South London afternoon. The Bees fell behind at The Den inside the first 15 minutes but recovered to level thanks to a first goal in professional football from Josh Dasilva. When Henrik Dalsgaard was sent off just past the half hour, Millwall seemed to have the initiative but it was Brentford that dominated and probably should have won the game.
With temperatures rising in London, the game was everything that would have been expected from an end-of-season derby where at least one of the teams needed the points as there was no quarter given or asked for. Millwall are still battling relegation and their penultimate home game would have been one they identified as an opportunity to climb away from danger. But Brentford stood firm, defended superbly after conceding and earned their share of the spoils.
There had been almost no action of note before Millwall took the lead 15 minutes in. A very long-range shot from Ryan Leonard had been blocked by Kamohelo Mokotjo, the Brentford midfield man taking the shot between his legs and requiring some treatment. But that aside, the game had started quietly.
The pattern of play was quickly established with Millwall looking to play long to Lee Gregory and then trying to be incisive in the final third while Brentford were more patient. The Bees were, perhaps, too patient in the early exchanges. They were passing the ball in areas that did not hurt their hosts, playing in front of the Millwall defence and allowing them to hold a firm line. And then, they fell behind.
It was another goal to forget from a Brentford point of view. A corner was delivered low from the left and players tumbled as they jostled. While some looked to referee Jeremy Simpson, Ryan Tunnicliffe got a touch on and Gregory swivelled eight yards out to score. The Bees did not deal with the cross and then reacted slowly to allow Millwall to edge ahead.
They did, however, react well to going behind. There seemed to be a change in tempo from the visitors, with crisper passing and more decisive decision making. Moses Odubajo and Sergi Canós got forward on the flanks and Millwall were pushed back. That gave Dasilva the space to score. He picked up a Canós pass 25 yards out and, as Millwall were slow to react, he took aim and curled a shot past David Martin and in to the net. The goalkeeper was off his line and Dasilva’s shot beat him all ends up to level the contest.
That further galvanised The Bees and the nerves of the hosts began to show. Brentford pushed on, looking to make the most of the momentum they were building. A fine run down the right from Canós led to him shooting in to the arms of Martin at the near post. And when he got away again, he found Neal Maupay with a cross, the striker turned and shot but fired well over.
Brentford appeared to have control of the contest as it moved past the half hour. They were dominating possession, probing on the flanks and the home crowd were growing restless even if The Bees were unable to create much with the home defence well-organised and packed in. But a simple ball over the top changed the contest. It allowed Ben Thompson to win a race with Dalsgaard and then go down as the defender tried to recover. Mr Simpson decided a foul had been committed and reached for his red card.
Once the foul had been awarded, and there was contact both ways, there was no doubt that Dalsgaard would be dismissed. He was the last defender and Thompson would have been in with only Luke Daniels to beat had he not been halted. The Millwall man was substituted soon after, seemingly hurt in the challenge, and both teams changed shape after the dismissal, but Brentford would have been disappointed that one long ball turned a good position both in one attack and the game in to one that did not look promising.
Daniels got down well to save the resulting free kick, from 20 yards, from Jed Wallace and Ezri Konsa reacted quickest to stop Gregory getting on to the loose ball. The corner was then half cleared to Tunnicliffe on the edge of the penalty area but he lashed over. Substitute Tom Elliott wasted a good position later in the half by firing over the bar from distance rather than passing but it was Brentford that ended the half with the initiative.
They almost scored when Mads Bech Sørensen, who was standing up well to both Gregory in defensive situations and the jeers of the home fans, met a deep Ollie Watkins free kick and Mahlon Romeo sliced the ball past Martin but in to the path of his fellow defenders inside the six-yard box and they cleared. Canós went even closer soon after when he was allowed to run inside off the right and curl a shot from 22 yards that beat Martin but cannoned away off the crossbar. The woodwork ensured the game was level at the break and both teams made further alterations at the interval. Millwall strengthened their attacking options by sacrificing left back James Meredith for winger Ben Marshall while The Bees moved to a narrower 4-3-2 system with Watkins and Maupay closer together.
The pair linked up well at the start of the half and Maupay shot narrowly wide from 22 yards, albeit Martin always seemed to have it covered. He dealt slightly more uncomfortably with a long-range effort from Canós soon after, palming it away to his left, as Brentford continued to pose an attacking threat after the break. The Bees, indeed, looked the more likely team to score as the game approached the hour mark.
Millwall had started the second half on the front foot and a good turn by Gregory had allowed Romeo a sight of goal, which he sliced wide under pressure. But they had been unable to really make the most of their man advantage. The full backs had tried to push on, but the hosts were not moving the ball quickly enough to get them in to good crossing positions and make it count.
Martin had to get down again to save to his left after Canós had run from deep and exchanged passes with Watkins and Emiliano Marcondes then fired wide from 25 yards after getting on to a Maupay pass. Marcondes was getting more involved in the game playing in a deeper role in the second half. He was helping Mokotjo and Dasilva take control of the centre of the pitch and was also getting involved in tussles with home players. His tendency to go to ground quite easily when involved in contact did not endear him to the home fans and he got little from Mr Simpson either.
Watkins wasted an opportunity when he burst forward on to a Maupay flick and then failed to test Martin with a weak shot. A pass back to his fellow forward was also an option. After another break, when Millwall closed down a few shooting opportunities, Dasilva drilled a ball across the six-yard box that was begging to be tapped in, but no-one was there. Mokotjo did have the ball in the net later in the half, finishing off a Maupay pass, but he was, correctly, adjudged to be offside.
That chance came soon after Millwall had almost scored. Wallace created a fraction of space in the penalty area and lifted in a cross that lobbed over Daniels but bounced to safety off the top of the crossbar. That goal would have been against the run of play and unjust on The Bees and another chance came and went for the hosts when Elliott met a Romeo cross but could not divert it towards goal under pressure from the superb Konsa and debutant Luka Racic, the latest man to come through Brentford’s B Team and make a professional debut.
Maupay shot narrowly over after turning superbly when getting on to a Dasilva pass and it was The Bees who missed the golden chance to win the contest. After a spell of attacking play, Dasilva turned free and cut the ball back to Chiedozie Ogbene but he lifted a shot over from eight yards. Ogbene had only been on the pitch for a couple of minutes and took up a brilliant position but failed to fire in to an unguarded net when it gaped for him.
Millwall tried to find a late winner and put more and more balls in to the box in the later stages. Marshall appeared in a good place to head one in but nodded back across and no-one was there. And that was as close as Millwall came. The young back-line, marshalled superbly by Konsa, ensured a relatively quiet afternoon for Daniels and Brentford had a point.
Millwall: Martin; Romeo, Cooper, Pearce, Meredith (sub Marshall h/t); Tunnicliffe, Leonard; Wallace, Thompson (sub Elliott 40 mins), Ferguson; Gregory
Subs (not used): Amos, McLaughlin, Williams, Morison, O’Brien
Bookings: Elliott (67 mins)
Brentford: Daniels; Dalsgaard, Konsa, Sørensen; Canós (sub Racic 62 mins), Mokotjo, Dasilva, Odubajo; Marcondes (sub Sawyers 77 mins), Maupay, Watkins (sub Ogbene 84 mins)
Subs (not used): Balcombe, Field, Oksanen, Forss
Bookings: Canós (27 mins) (third of season), Marcondes (67 mins), Sawyers (82 mins) (ninth of season)
Sent Off: Dalsgaard (35 mins)
Attendance: 14,530 (1,148 Bees fans)