Brentford secured a top half finish for the fifth season in a row in the Sky Bet Championship as they ended their season with a win over Preston North End. Ezri Konsa opened the scoring at the end of a lengthy first half with his first goal for The Bees and Neal Maupay grabbed his 25th league goal of the season to make it two early in the second period. An early injury to Julian Jeanvier was the only blot on the day for Brentford, who took the points comfortably in the end with Marcus Forss adding a third late on.
It was a final day win that Brentford fully deserved. A long stoppage prevented them building early momentum but once they took control, there only looked like one winner. It took until the later stages of the first half for Konsa to break the deadlock but The Bees had the better of the first period and after Maupay scored his customary goal, Brentford had the game won. Forss added the icing to the cake in the final ten minutes with his first Championship goal.
The game was only seconds old when it was halted for more than ten minutes. Jeanvier went in to an aerial challenge with Jayden Stockley and went down holding his face. After lengthy treatment he was removed on a stretcher to be replaced by Moses Odubajo. Referee James Linington decided Stockley had not committed any offence worthy of further censure and play continued with Brentford reshuffling.
With neither team playing for anything other than league position, the delay did not help the rhythm of the game. Players on both teams took time to get a few touches of the ball and it was a little while before there was any pace in the game. Preston had more of the ball in the opening exchanges but mostly played in front of a newly reorganised Brentford defence and while Luke Daniels had to save from Callum Robinson when he got clear in the inside left channel, that came from a defensive lapse rather than anything inspired from the visitors.
Seán Maguire also blasted wide for Preston but by the time the game was 30 minutes in, Brentford had a measure of control. Central midfield duo Josh Dasilva and Emiliano Marcondes were finding more space than would be expected against three from Preston and they were able to bring wing backs Odubajo and Rico Henry in to the game. As such, Brentford were creating the better chances,
Connor Ripley saved a low effort from Sergi Canós after Dasilva had split the defence with a clever pass, but the goalkeeper was lucky when he dithered in control of a back pass and was almost robbed by Maupay only to fall on the loose ball after the tackle came in. Maupay’s tackle had given Ripley a chance to pick the ball up that hadn’t existed seconds earlier and he was lucky the Brentford striker had not got away from him. Luke Racic, on his full debut, could have scored soon after when he met an Ollie Watkins corner with a header, but it was blocked. The ball then dropped loose and the next effort from Racic, with his left foot, looked set for the net before being deflected wide.
Maupay had a shot deflected in to the arms of Ripley after a cross was half cleared from the next corner and Henry weaved in to the box before having a shot blocked soon after. It was Henry, up from left wing back, that had a great chance to open the scoring just past the half hour. Brentford swept from right back to left wing in a move involving Odubajo, Maupay and Canós before Watkins laid the ball in to the path of Henry in the inside left channel, but he pulled his shot across the face of goal. With only Ripley to beat and the far corner gaping, Henry should have put The Bees in front and Henrik Dalsgaard could have done so later in the half when he met a Watkins corner but bounced a header straight at the goalkeeper.
The game was stopped again just before the 45-minute mark when a fan had to be removed from the stand on a stretcher and while that was happening, Mr Linington signalled for 13 minutes of stoppage time. And four minutes in to that time, Brentford scored. The goal could have come seconds earlier when Watkins cut in off the left to fire in a shot that looked set for the top corner. Ripley saved and Darnell Fisher put the loose ball behind. The resulting corner was half cleared and the only partially dealt with again when Maupay had a shot, Marcondes opened the space with a great touch and pass for Canós, his ball across fell to Konsa and the centre half slotted home.
Konsa was left with the freedom of the penalty area to score his first Brentford goal as Preston failed to reorganise from the dead ball and The Bees were in front. That lead might not have lasted to half time had Robinson and Alan Browne done better from Stockley lay-offs, both shooting well off target from the edge of the penalty area. But Brentford did go in ahead at the interval and came out after it looking to make the game safe.
The visitors actually started the second period brightly. There was an extra energy to their work off the ball and they made some territorial gains in the early exchanges. But Brentford soon found their rhythm, started to move the ball around the pitch with an ease that gave them a control of the game, with Dasilva dominating the middle of the pitch, and were creating chances.
Dasilva saw a shot blocked when a corner was half cleared and when Brentford recycled possession, Canós found Watkins and the attacker created a yard of space in the inside right channel before firing in to the side netting. Marcondes shot wide from distance soon after and the ball rolled just away from Maupay, who might have got on to it. The pressure was, however, building and the goal was not long in coming.
When Brentford got their second goal, it was another one to savour. The Bees had been building up a head of steam and a series of intricate passes around the box came close to opening the door repeatedly. Eventually, Watkins picked a pass, Canós burst around the left side of the Preston defence and squared for Maupay to volley in from close range. The striker took his tally for the season to 28 in all competitions and Preston were beaten.
Maguire shot wide on the turn as they tried to respond, and substitute Louis Moult had his blushes spared by a flag from the assistant referee soon after. A cross had been fed in to the path of Moult by Maguire and he blasted wide from ten yards. He appeared to be offside but the flag went up very late to partially reduce his embarrassment. Paul Gallagher also shot over for Preston as they looked in vain for a way back in to the game.
But all the action was at the other end. Dasilva was running the game in the centre of midfield and The Bees were hunting goals. After one lung-busting run from Dasilva, Canós set up Maupay but the shot was saved by Ripley. Odubajo and Canós then created space for Maupay to play a ball around the corner for Dasilva, his cut back eluded most in the middle and when Henry got on to the pass, his shot was blocked.
Maupay then shot well over after another great dart from deep by Dasilva and Odubajo saw a shot deflect wide. The resulting corner was played deep by Maupay and his looping shot was well saved by Ripley. The next corner was played low to Jaakko Oksanen, the latest graduate of Brentford’s B Team on for a league debut, but his shot was not one to remember, flying very high over the bar. Dasilva then curled an effort over from 22 yards.
The final goal of Brentford’s season came with six minutes remaining as Forss came off the substitute’s bench to score. Marcondes fed the striker with a pass from midfield and Forss cut in off the left and fired low past Ripley from 25 yards. The Preston goalkeeper was left helpless by the placement of the shot, just inside the right-hand post.
Brentford continued to press but the game was won and the season was over. There was still time for Daniels to earn his clean sheet. When a cross was half cleared, Josh Ginnelly looked like he would finish from ten yards, but the Brentford goalkeeper dived bravely on the ball to make the save. It ensured Brentford had an almost perfect day.
Brentford: Daniels; Konsa, Jeanvier (sub Odubajo 12 mins), Racic; Dalsgaard, Dasilva, Marcondes, Henry; Watkins (sub Oksanen 79 mins), Maupay, Canós (sub Forss 79 mins)
Subs (not used): Gunnarsson, Ogbene, Archibald, Žambůrek
Preston North End: Ripley; Rafferty, Storey, Davies, Fisher; Gallagher, Johnson; Maguire (sub Ginnelly 75 mins), Browne, Robinson (sub Moult 61 mins); Stockley (sub Nmecha h/t)
Subs (not used): Rudd, Earl, O’Reilly, Huntington
Bookings: Johnson (28 mins), Fisher (65 mins)
Attendance: 11,289 (812 away fans)