Brentford B and West Ham United Under-23 played out an entertaining draw under the Griffin Park floodlights. The Bees led twice on a cool summer evening but were pegged back late in each half. The 2-2 draw, also notable for the first action in red and white in 2019/20 for Kamohelo Mokotjo after an extended stay with South Africa at the Africa Cup of Nations, was probably a fair result but both teams will feel they could have won the contest.
The Bees went ahead early on when Jaden Brissett converted. They then took the lead again in the second period as Jan Žambůrek converted from inside the penalty area. But West Ham were full value for their draw, levelling late in the first half and then grabbing a second equaliser three minutes from time to ensure the clash between East London and West London ended all square.
The game was the second of the day for Brentford B. A team which included Saïd Benrahma took on Aldershot Town in a behind closed doors practice game earlier in the afternoon. The Bees won that game 4-2 with Reece Cole and Joe Hardy among the goal scorers, which meant they were unavailable for the game at Griffin Park.
The Bees could have taken the lead inside two minutes when Mokotjo saw a shot blocked but they did not have to wait long. One of umpteen free kicks awarded in the opening stages was fired in to a defensive wall by Žambůrek and bounced back to Mokotjo, he picked out Brissett with a pass and the forward turned smartly before firing a left foot shot in off the far post. Goalkeeper David Martin was beaten by the placement of the shot and Brentford had the lead.
It was a lead they deserved after a bright start. Apart from one half opening, when Oladapo Afolayan robbed Kane O’Connor and Patrik Gunnarsson had to rush out to save, West Ham had been pushed back. Brissett and Joel Valencia pushed up on the flanks and Žambůrek has space to play in the middle, given plenty of the ball by the returning Mokotjo.
But once West Ham found a rhythm, they started to show their attacking intent. They were particularly effective on the right-hand side and crosses from the flank could have produced goals. Mésaque Djú headed one ball from the right wide and moments later, Anthony Scully arrived late to do likewise. Afolayan fired powerfully in to the side netting after getting on a ball in the inside left channel and long-range efforts from Djú and Harrison Ashby failed to really trouble Gunnarsson.
West Ham could have levelled when they turned over a Brentford counter-attack and replied with a break of their own. Afolayan got clear on the right and cut the ball back for Scully, the shot looked destined for the corner but Gunnarsson went full stretch to his right to keep it out. That ensure The Bees held the lead with half time approaching but they could not get to the break in front. Jonny Mitchell was robbed in his own half and Afolayan set off towards goal, his powerful low shot was well saved by Gunnarsson but the ball broke free and Scully lifted the equaliser in from close range.
West Ham deserved to be level by that point. Gunnarsson had been overworked in the Brentford goal and the visitors were able to put together a series of attacks with Afolayan testing the home defence and wide men Djú and Dan Kemp forcing the Brentford full backs in to deep positions. Brentford attacks were rare in the second half of the first period and when Mokotjo did have a sight of goal he bounced an effort wide from 22 yards.
West Ham held the upper hand, if not the lead, at the break and wasted a chance for a second goal before the interval when Scully curled a free kick from the inside right channel over the crossbar. And they continued in the same fashion after half time. Bernardo Rosa got on to a chipped pass but sliced a shot wide from a tight angle before Afolayan let fly from the edge of the box but missed the target.
The early stages of the second half were more even with Brentford able to build attacks on the flanks, even though they were not able to find the final ball to turn that in to a clear-cut chance. But they were preventing West Ham from building. Scully fired over from distance and substitute Joe Powell did likewise while Afolayan had a shot deflect wide after Mokotjo was robed in his own half.
As both teams made substitutions, the flow of the game was affected. It was an even contest, but the stop-start nature of the game made it hard for the sides to establish patterns of play and chances were from moments of inspiration rather than well-worked moves. Valencia saw a shot blocked and then one saved by Martin while, at the other end, Nathan Holland got a lucky ricochet in the box and saw an effort blocked by O’Connor.
When Brentford’s second goal came, it was created by the hard-working Gustav Mogensen. He won possession in West Ham territory and released Žambůrek in the inside right channel. The Czech Republic youth international weaved in to the penalty area and fired low past Martin to give The Bees a lead they almost held to the end.
The Bees could have extended that lead when Nick Tsaroulla burst from deep and let fly with a fierce shot that was blocked. And they went closer still soon after when Joe Adams picked up a half-cleared cross and found Žambůrek, the shot beat Martin but clipped the outside of the post on its way wide. West Ham tried to respond, looking particularly to the speed Holland on the left side, but Brentford were full of running and well-organised in defence, which limited the visitors’ opportunities.
Holland, however, only needed one. He weaved his way down the left and cut inside before letting fly from the edge of the penalty area and finding the far corner. Gunnarsson went full stretch to his left but had no chance as the ball whipped past him and in to the far corner. That set up an end-to-end last few minutes as the teams chased the winner. There was a late chance for Valencia, who saw a shot blocked, but the final ball was lacking for both teams more often than not and the spoils were shared.
Brentford B: Gunnarsson; Titov, Mitchell O’Connor, Tsaroulla; Mokotjo (sub Oksanen 64 mins), Yearwood (sub Read 50 mins); Brissett (sub Adams h/t), Žambůrek, Valencia; Mogensen
West Ham Under Under-23: Martin; Ashby (sub Parkes 60 mins), Ngakia (sub Parker 45 mins), Alese, Hannam (sub Belić 83 mins); Forson (sub Powell h/t), Rosa (sub Corbett 84 mins); Kemp (sub Holland h/t), Scully (sub Baptiste 70 mins), Djú (sub Caigar 60 mins); Afolayan (sub Akande 60 mins)