A hat-trick of headers from Ollie Watkins gave Brentford a second away win of the season. The Bees found themselves a goal down seconds in to the contest and looked all at sea on a stormy Yorkshire afternoon. But they regrouped, levelled before the break and won the game in the second half to take three points to add to the victory at Middlesbrough last month.
The final 3-1 score line was a fair reflection of the game. Brentford had to battle to stay in it in the first half hour but had the better of the contest overall and, in Watkins, an ace marksman. He dived to head home a Mathias Jensen cross before the break and nodded in from an inch out seconds after the interval. The third was powered home inside the final quarter of the match to confirm the points for The Bees.
The game was a minute old when Barnsley took the lead. The ball dropped loose in midfield after neither team could get it under control and Cauley Woodrow picked it up, he curled a shot that whipped past David Raya and in to the net from 25 yards. There may have been a slight deflection that took the ball over Raya and in to the net but it was Woodrow’s goal and Barnsley had the lead.
And it didn’t get much better for Brentford for most of the first half hour. Barnsley snapped in to challenges to prevent The Bees building any momentum but Brentford were also often sloppy in possession and unable to put together spells of attacking play. The home side had control of the centre of the pitch and the movement of their front players enabled them to get a territorial foothold.
Brentford started the game with a back four for the first time in a competitive fixture for almost a year and it seemed to take a while to get to grips with the change. Barnsley were able to find space between the centre halves and full backs and also in central areas as Brentford’s new midfield trio of Mathias Jensen, Christian Nørgaard and Kamohelo Mokotjo adjusted to their role. The home side could have put the game to bed in the opening 30 minutes.
Conor Chaplin picked up a long pass and turned well only to see a shot blocked by Pontus Jansson before, from the resulting throw, Woodrow again lined up a shot, but Julian Jeanvier deflected it away for a corner. Woodrow did have the ball in the net soon after but converted from an offside position and Raya saved from Chaplin after he wriggled free when possession was lost in midfield. There was a great chance when Luke Thomas got on to a long ball and managed to work his way around Raya on the left side, he found Chaplin with the pass but the imposing Jansson blocked the shot at source with the net unguarded and Brentford escaped.
And that proved to be a crucial moment as The Bees equalised before half time. There had been little in the way of attacking play from Brentford before Watkins levelled ten minutes before the break. Henrik Dalsgaard had offered a threat on the right, overlapping Sergi Canós, but there had not been many real sights of goal.
The best one before Watkins’ strike had fallen to Saïd Benrahma. Watkins broke away on the left – with the home players, staff and fans having seemingly legitimate claims that he was offside – and drew the defence before squaring to Benrahma, the shot was a curling one from the edge of the penalty area but Brad Collins dived away to his left to save. It was a decent stop by the goalkeeper but Benrahma would have expected to score.
That was all Brentford offered in the first half hour so when they equalised it came out of nothing. The Bees broke from a corner and Benrahma found the space to free Jensen on the right, he delivered an inch perfect cross and Watkins headed home. Collins had no chance and Brentford had ruthlessly exploited half an opening. They were not, however, as ruthless moments later.
A pass from Dalsgaard from the back put Watkins away between the home central defenders, he raced clear despite being pulled back and shot past Collins but unluckily saw the effort hit the post. As the recovering defenders slipped in the atrocious conditions, Watkins was able to get a foot on the ball flying back towards him and lift it over Collins, only to see it hit the underside of the crossbar this time. It fell to Benrahma but with the goal gaping he smashed a shot wide.
That meant the half ended level when both teams would have felt they could have been in front. But The Bees had the momentum going in at the break and had the lead within a minute of the restart. Jensen was involved again, this time putting Canós away on the right, he lifted in a superb cross to the far post and Watkins was there to nod in. The Brentford striker took his tally to two for the day and six for the season, heading in from inches out as the cross looped over Collins in a perfect parabola.
The game became really stretched after the goal as Barnsley tried to play high up the pitch and Brentford looked to use the space in behind. Canós became a real nuisance on the right, exploiting the acres behind Jordan Williams and tormenting the left back one-on-one. Unfortunately, chances came and went as Barnsley’s offside trap proved effective, even if not all calls seemed accurate to the naked eye. But Brentford also wasted openings with bad runs and poorly timed passes as well as players sometimes not leaving it to a team mate in an onside position.
When Canós did beat the offside trap, after superb work by Benrahma, he was faced with only Collins to beat as he attacked from the right side of the penalty area but fired in to the side netting. Jensen saw a shot deflect just over when a cross was half cleared, and the resulting corner was nodded wide by Jeanvier. Woodrow headed wide at the other end and a long-range effort from Alex Mowatt failed to trouble Raya, but all the action was at the other end and the killer goal eventually came.
And the way it arrived was no surprise. Benrahma wriggled free in midfield and fed Canós, once again in yards of space on the right. The cross came in and Watkins headed home from ten yards. Collins got a hand to it but not enough to keep it out and Brentford had breathing space.
That set up a final 25 minutes where Barnsley had to attack to try and salvage something from the contest while Brentford broke incisively, seeking more goals. Mallik Wilks had a header deflect wide for the hosts and Patrick Schmidt then turned a cross off target, but Barnsley never really looked like getting something from the game. They had a chance late on when Woodrow lashed well over, but Brentford could have added to their tally by then.
Benrahma wriggled in to the penalty area and then played a long one-two with Watkins before firing a shot inches wide. Collins saved a free kick from the inspired Benrahma and the Brentford attacker, by now leading Barnsley a merry dance, then lashed over. There should have been a fourth goal at the death when Benrahma put Nikos Karelis away after beating two in midfield, his cross looked to be sitting up for Rico Henry to smash home, but Mads Andersen slid in to clear. That prevented a fourth but could not stop The Bees taking a deserved win.
Barnsley: Collins; Cavaré (sub Thiam 74 mins); Halme, Andersen, Williams; Sibbick; Brown, Mowatt, Chaplin (sub Schmidt 63 mins), Thomas (Wilks 63 mins); Woodrow
Subs (not used): Walton, Green, Styles, Pinillos
Brentford: Raya; Dalsgaard, Jansson, Jeanvier, Henry; Jensen (sub Dasilva 85 mins), Nørgaard, Mokotjo; Canós (sub Pinnock 79 mins), Watkins (sub Karelis 88 mins), Benrahma
Subs (not used): Daniels, Clarke, Žambůrek, Mbeumo
Attendance: 12,188 (366 Bees fans)