Brentford 1, Everton 0

Image above: Ivan Toney slips the ball past Jordan Pickford; photograph by Will Hagerty

Whenever the lyrics of Hey Jude are sung lustily by the Brentford crowd along with the Beatles’ recording, Paul McCartney would be forgiven for taking delight in this West London devotion to one of his most famous songs. But not, perhaps, on Sunday last. After all, McCartney is an Everton supporter.

As for the match, the players on both sides had little to sing about. Currently managed by the eminent Rafael Benitez, Everton arrived with a recent record of six consecutive losses. Brentford’s draw with Newcastle came after four straight defeats. The euphoria of early-season successes had evaporated for both teams.

So desperation became the order of the day.

Brentfordians would not have known so. As ever, they were in fine voice and in a burst of autumn sunshine the ground looked as pretty as spring, although visiting goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, England’s number one choice, might not have appreciated the rays likely to interfere with his vision in the first half.

The Bees set off at a canter and appeared to have the measure of a team noticeably lacking in attacking flair. Twenty-four minutes in they were given the opportunity to capitalise, when a clumsy attempted clearance from his goalmouth by Andros Townsend saw his boot deliver a chorus-girl high kick to the face of Frank Onyeka.

Turmoil followed as referee Darren England called the cops – first the VAR for its verdict and then a trot to the touchline to watch a rerun of the incident. Onyeka remained prone until required to vacate the area and allow Ivan Toney to prepare for the spot-kick.

What a remarkable player he is. A mere twitch by Pickford as he started to dive to his left saw the be-gloved Toney stroke the ball towards the opposite post and into the net for his eleventh successful penalty kick.

Images above: Three steps to a perfect penalty: Ivan Toney slips the ball past Jordan Pickford; photographs by Will Hagerty

A highlight of the game, for sure. In fact, the only highlight in what became a nip and tuck contest between two sides with what seemed to be limitless energy but little creative thinking when within striking distance.

Toney, constantly bamboozling the Toffees – since you ask, a nickname derived from the two sweetshops close to the club’s first ground – with a flick here and a penetrating pass there, sent Bryan Mbeumo through, only for his shot to provide a brief moment of exercise for Pickford. This Brentford partnership may well develop into a matchwinner, especially if Mbeumo can improve on a strike record that tends to concentrate on the woodwork and the hands of various agile keepers, rather than the gap between the two.

Everton emerged after the interval with fire in their bellies, presumably stoked by a good talking to from Benitez. They fizzed and whizzed and dominated in terms of possession – 60 per cent to Brentford’s 40 overall – but on the few occasions they threatened the goal were thwarted by poor marksmanship or the capable keeping of Alvaro Fernández.

The more frustrated Everton became, the more resolute in defence became Brentford. Toney, continuing his all-purpose involvement here, there and everywhere else, was noticeable when intervening in Everton attack plans and getting the ball clear.

A bizarre incident, when Rico Henry was felled midway inside the Everton half and was left on the ground by referee England for several minutes, waving on play despite entreatments from other players and loud booing from the stands, eventually stopped the game. Pickford, a gentleman as well as a England star, ran from his goal to check Henry was still in one piece before the full-back received treatment from the bench.

And so to an added anxious five minutes when substitute Demarai Gray further worried the Brentford defence and Thomas Franks sent on Yoane Wissa to deliver his familiar late, late show with a goal, only for Pickford to prevent his hat-trick of successes with an easy save.

‘I feel a bit sorry for Everton’, I said to my mate Charlie. ‘They’ve had several injuries and no luck at all.’

‘I couldn’t give a toffee,’ said hard man Charlie.

Brentford: Fernández; Goode, Jansson, Pinnock; Canós (substitute Wissa), Onyeka, Nørgaard (sub Baptiste), Janelt, Henry (sub Roerslev); Mbeumo, Toney.
Everton: Pickford; Coleman, Godfrey, Keane, Digne; Townsend (sub Gray), Doucouré, Allan, Gordon; Iwobi; Rondon.
Bill Hagerty is a contributing editor of the Bees United supporters’ group.

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