Ollie Watkins scored the only goal as Brentford made it five wins in six by beating Reading 1-0 at Griffin Park. The striker headed home his 11th of the season just past the hour mark to settle an even contest, albeit one that Brentford deserved to win. The Bees had to wait for their opening and Reading had their chances but on the balance of the game, the home side deserved to add to a winning run that has seen them beat Wigan Athletic, Queens Park Rangers, Swansea City and Millwall while only losing to Huddersfield Town.
The Bees had to work hard for their win, defending resolutely at times, but they created the better chances and dominated possession and territory. Goalkeeper David Raya was forced in to one fine save but Rafael, at the other end, was by far the busier of the two custodians and The Bees pushed Reading back. They could have scored more the one they got but that was all they needed to take the points.
There was no real pattern to the game in the early stages, not helped by a lengthy stoppage after Rico Henry was fouled in the air by Andy Yiadom. A yellow card and plenty of treatment inside the first five minutes prevented either team finding early rhythm and with Henry off the pitch for at least two minutes after the game resumed, Brentford were content to play slowly. Reading started with a relatively deep back five and their lack of ambition when the hosts were a man short was a sign of their game plan.
The visitors tried to keep a tight, narrow formation. Their three central defenders were compact, as were their midfield players, but they also attempted to get their front five high up the pitch, stopping Brentford playing out but giving space between the lines if they could get through. Reading did look to counter-attack but were mostly slow to build from the back when they had the ball, failed to use their attacking possession effectively in the early stages and The Bees started to take control.
The hosts almost took the lead when a poor Michael Morrison pass allowed Watkins to challenge Rafael, the Brentford man made the tackle and the ball bounced narrowly wide. Saïd Benrahma then lashed across the face of goal when a cross was half cleared and the Algerian attacker put Watkins in space soon after, but the shot was delayed as Reading defenders recovered and the tackle was made. Bryan Mbeumo was also waiting for a pass, but Watkins had time to shoot inside the area and should have taken it.
The temperature on the pitch started to rise as the game reached the half hour mark. John Swift was cautioned for a foul on Watkins and Yiadom was perhaps fortunate to escape without a second yellow card for a foul on Henry moments after a trip on Benrahma. Referee David Coote allowed Henry to deliver a cross-cum-shot after the first foul that Rafael saved low and issued a final warning to Yiadom soon after when many officials would have dismissed the right back for scissoring around the legs of the Brentford man.
Moments later Yiadom played the pass that put George Puşcaş through with only Raya to beat. The Reading striker looked well offside but was allowed to go on. He was, however, unable to round Raya and the chance disappeared. Yiadom also lashed wide as half time approached after he intercepted a kick from Raya.
Although Reading – and Puşcaş – probably had the best chance of the first half, Brentford had more of them. A deflected shot from Mbeumo was pushed around the post by Rafael and there was a breakaway from a Reading corner late in the half that could have ended in a goal. Watkins released Benrahma and the ball was worked on to Mbeumo, but he shot from 22 yards rather than going on or making the final pass and fired wide.
A corner from the visitors in first half stoppage time hit Ovie Ejaria and bounced wide as the opening period ended goalless but not incident-free. The Bees would probably have been slightly the happier at half time but would have been looking to increase the tempo, particularly in the final third. They would also have been wary of the Reading threat on the break.
The second half was, indeed, played at higher speed than the first. Reading sensed there may be opportunities for them if they put together extended spells of attacking play, but they were mostly forced back by an improved Brentford. Josh Dasilva and Mathias Jensen were higher up the pitch and often slightly wider, which gave Benrahma, Mbeumo and Watkins different areas to play in. Rafael saved a Benrahma free kick and a free kick dropped loose in the box, but Ethan Pinnock was crowded out as he tried to pounce.
A shot from Yiadom deflected wide after a corner was half cleared and after the visitors pushed Brentford back, Ejaria almost opened the door. The midfield man weaved in from the left and beat three men before attacking the six-yard box but there was no way past Pontus Jansson and the ball was eventually scrambled away. But it was Brentford that had the momentum and they pressed forward, able to find more space as Reading’s intensity dropped and their midfield was unable to track back.
A Dasilva cross was scrambled away after he burst away on the right and when Henry delivered a fine ball from the right, Watkins sliced his shot. Benrahma had a shot blocked soon after and just past the hour mark, the pressure told. Brentford had been building momentum, pushing Reading back and probing for an opening. Space was eventual made for Jensen to deliver a cross, Watkins met it with a powerful header and nodded past Rafael and in to the bottom corner from eight yards.
Brentford had been threatening to break the deadlock for most of the second period and just kept moving the ball until the space opened up. Reading had replaced both strikers in the first 15 minutes of the second half and bolstered their midfield but were showing signs of tiredness and Brentford went in for the kill. Jensen was crowded out in the penalty area after a delightful Jansson pass and some tricky from Benrahma opened up the visitors. There was then a great save by Rafael, denying Watkins from point-blank range after Dasilva had once again isolated Omar Richards and left him in his wake.
Ejaria shot over for Reading when a corner was half cleared and dropped loose and Gareth McCleary then got on to a Yiadom lay off after great work by Swift, but he pulled a shot across the face of goal. Reading were trying to find a way back in to the game but by committing men forward, they left space for The Bees. Mbeumo and Dasilva on the right, in particular, were finding the room to run at Reading and Brentford should have got a second goal.
Kamohelo Mokotjo had a shot blocked after a long spell of pressure and some desperate Reading defending. Mbeumo then sliced a shot well wide after getting on to a quick throw from Henrik Dalsgaard and Watkins had an effort blocked. Mbeumo looked set to score when Watkins sent him away, but Richards got back to make a superb tackle and Jansson’s header from the resulting corner was saved.
Substitute Jan Žambůrek had a shot blocked after wriggling in to the penalty area but there were some late nerves for The Bees. A long throw caused some consternation in the home defence and it took some brave blocks and a fine clearance, eventually, from Dalsgaard to keep Reading out. And in the dying seconds, Raya came to gather when a free kick was headed on. But gather he did, and he clutched three points as well as the ball.
Brentford: Raya; Dalsgaard, Jansson, Pinnock, Henry; Jensen, Mokotjo, Dasilva (sub Oksanen 90 mins); Mbeumo, Watkins, Benrahma (sub Žambůrek 81 mins)
Subs (not used): Daniels, Thompson, Sørensen, Roerslev, Racic
Bookings: Jansson (9 mins) (second of season), Dasilva (78 mins), Jensen (82 mins) (second of season)
Reading: Rafael; Yiadom, Miazga, Morrison, Moore, Richards; Rinomhota (sub Boyé 71 mins), Swift; Ejaria; Baldock (sub Méïté 50 mins), Puşcaş (sub McCleary 59 mins)
Subs (not used): Walker, Gunter, Blackett, Pelé
Bookings: Yiadom (4 mins), Swift (29 mins),
Attendance: 11,892 (1,659 away fans)