Brentford 1, Crystal Palace 1

 Image above: Josh Dasilva in defence

Second Season: Hard Cheese

By Bill Hagerty

After dealing satisfactorily with the League’s big cheeses, Brentford set out to dispense with one of the mature, but not fearfully so, cheddars. Manager Patrick Viera’s south Londoners have had a cracker-barrel of a season so far, but twelfth spot in the table and thirteen wins or draws against nine defeats suggested overall tasteful performances, rather than ones with a ferocious bite.

How wrong can one be? Constantly looking over their shoulder at the relegation zone, Palace are a sleeves-rolled-up outfit deficient in the goalscoring department but with a defence tough enough to survive a battering from even the likes of Ivan Toney.

So snatching a point in the last gasp of the game could be considered a reasonable afternoon’s work for Brentford. Sort of.

As a spectacle, it was patchy: end-to-end stuff played at a pace that determined serious concentration by each side if they were to remember clearly which end was the one they were attacking.

Early on Bryan Mbeumo sent a shot not embarrassingly wide and the visitors retaliated with one from Michael Olise that David Raya did well to finger-tip over the bar. But such incidents were rare: generally the smart run of play never managed to penetrate the opposing penalty area.

Image above: Wissa and Henry harry the opposition

Fair enough. One cannot expect the Bees to maintain the standard set in a comprehensive victory over Liverpool and a memorable draw with top-of-the-table Arsenal, even if that was aided by a VAR error detected only post-game. And what with this point being plundered from Palace so late in added time that Paul Tierney’s whistle may well have been on its way to his mouth, the home supporters in a crowd of 17,122 greeted it as if a cup had been won.

It had looked like being Brentford’s game for the taking throughout a ding-dong first half. The action was more ding than dong as the interval approached, however, and for all but the most ardent fans occasionally lapsed into patches of boredom, something of which the Bees only rarely can be accused.

Image: Relief at a dull but safe first half

Even head coach Thomas Frank seemed to be seized by ennui, his semaphore to the players getting more frequent, his pacing up and down more impatient. And his dissatisfaction was doubtless heightened when, after sixty-nine minutes, it was Palace that managed to get the best of a goalmouth scramble. It was unscrambled by Jordan Ayew feeding Cheick Doucouré for a first-time pass that flummoxed the defence, allowing Olise further to confuse them with an accurate cross. The head of substitute Eberechi Eze did the rest.

Palace immediately subtly reformed their defence, strengthening it with the entire team when necessary and relying on opportune breakaways to chase a second goal. Brentford coped with this and committed more and more of the side to pursuing at least an equaliser, resulting in Raya actually taking a throw-in and racing up to bolster the attack.

Boring this wasn’t. Adventurous, yes. Creative when necessary, forceful when not. And with referee Tierney allotting six extra minutes to be added to full-time, the pace became frantic in and around the Eagles’ goal area.

There is no better player on the club’s books to be engaged in do-or-die combat than Vitaly Janelt, who had been tossed into the fray by Frank sixteen minutes from normal time. So when Mbeumo delivered yet another of his immaculate crosses, there he was on the end of it, delivering the sweetest of powerful headers to save the day, if not delivering all the goods. Less than a minute remained.

Image above: Vitaly Janelt scored the vital goal (but lost his shirt)

When the hubbub subsided, I ruminated to my mate Charlie that Brentford could really need another forward capable of scoring in such circumstances, especially now that Liverpool’s resurgence and Fulham’s continuing surge saw the Bees drop to ninth in the table.

‘How about the ex-Bee who scored a winner late in the game to break Cardiff’s dismal long drought the previous evening’, he said. Who’s that? I asked.

‘Romaine Sawyers’ said Charlie.*

Brentford: Raya; Hickey (substitute Lewis-Potter 76 mins), Pinnock; Mee, Henry (Janelt 76); Dasilva (Damsgaard 63), Nørgaard (Baptiste 84), Jensen; Mbeumo, Toney, Wissa (Schade 63).

Bill Hagerty is a contributing editor of the Bees United supporters’ group.

Photographs by Liz Vercoe.

*Cardiff’s elegant midfielder Romaine Sawyers, not known for his striking ability, played for Brentford 1996-99.

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