Two goals from Sheffield Wednesday striker Steven Fletcher condemned Brentford to defeat at Hillsborough. The home side struck late in the first half and early in the second and that was enough to give them the points against a lacklustre Brentford. The Bees had been second best in the first half but had stuck in the game until Fletcher got in behind to score just before the break. When he found the net again just after the interval, the game was just about up.
There were signs of a response for Brentford and they did create chances – as well as having the best of the early stages – but Wednesday’s defence was resolute. Their game plan limited The Bees and the visitors were unable to deal with the pressure they were put under. Too many passes went astray and there were too many times when Brentford handed possession to their hosts, giving up any chance to build momentum and, ultimately, take any points.
Brentford’s plans for the game were affected when Kamohelo Mokotjo was withdrawn from the starting line-up at a very late stage. Mokotjo was due to start but Josh McEachran was drafted in and that late change may have played a part in why the hosts had the better of the opening exchanges. They took control of the central midfield area and looked to use the full width of the pitch to attack. Brentford were unable to get a foothold in the game early on, unable to build a rhythm and put together long spells of possession, except in deep defensive areas, due to Wednesday’s pressure on the ball.
There were not many good chances for the home side in the opening exchanges and Daniel Bentley was not unduly tested. There was an important tackle from Ezri Konsa inside the first minute to stop Rolando Aarons continuing a run on goal and Fernando Forestieri lashed over at the near post before Fletcher turned a Barry Bannan free kick wide on the stretch. Aarons fired a cross-cum-shot wide at the near post and Fletcher looped a header off target but the best Wednesday chance of the first quarter came when Tom Lees powerfully met an Achraf Lazaar corner but headed just over.
Arguably, the best opening of the first 25 minutes went the way of Brentford. Henrik Dalsgaard nodded a ball in to the path of Sergi Canós and after two more passes the latter was in on goal. Canós drew Kieran Westwood and tried to slide the ball in at the near post but was denied by the Wednesday goalkeeper. It was the only save of note in the first quarter.
Bentley was called in to action just before the half hour mark when an attempted pass from Forestieri fell fortunately for Fletcher on the edge of the penalty area and he let fly with a low shot that the Brentford goalkeeper saved low to his left. With half time approaching, neither goalkeeper had been overly busy. The home side would have been comfortable with their position, in control of the game, but they would have wanted a goal to show for their efforts. It duly arrived late in the first half.
It came when Brentford thought they might be able spring an attack. An acrobatic effort from Fletcher – after good work on the right by substitute Dominic Iorfa – had been saved and The Bees were trying to break. But Neal Maupay failed to find Romaine Sawyers with a pass and a ball from Bannan opened Brentford up, Fletcher got in behind and beat Bentley with a fierce shot as Yoann Barbet tried to get back. Barbet may have got a touch to deflect it past Bentley, but Fletcher’s finish was firm and, after a clever run had kept him onside, Wednesday had the lead.
That lead could have been doubled before the interval when Wednesday overloaded on the right. Adam Reach worked his way to the by-line and delivered a cross that was met by Fletcher but he couldn’t turn it towards goal. That ensured The Bees were still in the game at the break, but they would have known they needed to produce a better show in the second period. Unfortunately, it was the home side who started brightly and earned themselves a two-goal cushion.
There had been two narrow escapes before Fletcher scored four minutes after the interval. After Fletcher had nodded down, Aarons fed Reach and he placed a shot inches past the right-hand post from 20 yards. Then a shot from Bannan was blocked. But once again, Brentford played a part in their downfall. Sam Hutchinson won a midfield challenge that he probably shouldn’t, and Reach was released on the right, he got in a cross and Fletcher peeled off at the far post to head powerfully in to the bottom corner. Bentley had no chance to save and Wednesday had a match-winning lead.
Brentford tried to respond and Saïd Benrahma had Westwood worried with a shot from 30 yards that faded just wide of the far post. A volley from Moses Odubajo was then saved before Canós got on to a low corner from Benrahma but lashed it high over the bar. Canós then headed over as Brentford started to create chances for the first time.
But with Brentford putting together some attacking possession and getting bodies forward, the game opened up and Wednesday were able to create chances as well. With a two-goal lead they dropped off a fraction but still worked ferociously to stop The Bees building any sort of rhythm, preventing them playing in and out of midfield and getting extra men in to support all over the pitch. The introduction of Josh Dasilva and Ollie Watkins, as well as Wednesday withdrawing Hutchinson, meant The Bees had spells of possession but the home side had the game under control.
And they could have been further ahead when Aarons got the better of Julian Jeanvier and on to a Forestieri pass but Bentley made himself big and kept the shot out. Forestieri missed the target with a volley from distance and Iorfa headed a cross over but the game was drifting towards a close. Watkins could have livened it up when he found space in the box and got on to a Benrahma pass but his low shot lacked real power and Westwood saved. Benrahma then fired over after some nice interplay with Maupay.
Bentley made a save from a Reach shot as the minutes ticked down and there was still a thought that if Brentford could get one, there may be an opportunity for more. Maupay forced Westwood in to a fine save to his left after a nice turn and the resulting corner was played short between Benrahma and Dasilva and the former tested the Wednesday goalkeeper again high to his left. But Brentford could not find a breakthrough. Wednesday’s resolute back line held firm and Westwood repelled anything that got through to ensure his team took the points.
Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood; Palmer, Hector, Lees, Lazaar (sub Iorfa 36 mins); Reach, Hutchinson (sub Pelupessy 69 mins), Bannan, Aarons; Forestieri (sub Boyd 83 mins), Fletcher
Subs (not used): Dawson, Nuhiu, Matias, Pudil
Bookings: Hutchinson (15 mins)
Brentford: Bentley; Konsa, Jeanvier, Barbet; Dalsgaard, McEachran (sub Dasilva 65 mins), Sawyers, Odubajo; Canós (sub Watkins 65 mins), Maupay, Benrahma
Subs (not used): Balcombe, Sørensen, Kirk, Ogbene