Brentford 1, Everton 3

Off to a bad start with Schade injured in the warm up

Third Season … Second Defeat

The first omen of the day arrived in the match programme, where Alex Lawes warned that beating struggling Everton might not be as straightforward as form and the League table suggest. Then, in the warm-up, Kevin Schade took a tumble and received treatment on the pitch before disappearing at a limp towards the dressing room. Uh, oh!

If one was to count the devastating injury suffered by Rico Henry at Newcastle, this made a hat-trick of bad luck (a quartet if including the renewed injury problem of Ben Mee), which as anyone’s superstitious mum would tell them, signalled potential disaster. Never doubt the foresight of those superstitious mothers.

When the football got underway, it was as bad as it has been in the Bees’ two-and-a-bit years in the top flight, even if the sound of the kick-off whistle had barely faded before a splendid run down the left by Aaron Hickey ended only when ex-England international Ashley Young dumped him effectively, but illegally, on to the turf. Most encouraging for the home crowd, but it was a long haul to the next occasion when Hickey or any other Brentford player caused the Everton defence any disquiet.

Storm clouds gather over the Gtech

Everton, on the other hand, seemed to be punching holes in the home defence at will and six minutes from the start went into the lead. Abdoulaye Doucouré, hard to pronounce but a classy performer, had already burst through a defence as if it was made of paper and, blow me, he did it again, this time beating Mark Flekken with a radar-accurate shot inside the far post.

Doucouré almost repeated the exercise, rattling the crossbar, before Brentford bounced back. Well, not exactly bounced, but produced a flash of class that saw Vitaly Janelt’s accurate pass find Matthias Jensen in position to clip the ball into goal with the help of a post. A long examination of VAR ended with confirmation of the goal’s validity.

What a different a goal makes, we thought, as Brentford eased their way back into the game, but after the break Everton resumed their dominance. With the Bees having to overcome bouts of collywobbles every time the visitors broke out of their own half, it became more likely that of the two sides it was Everton that were the best bet to score again.

Keeping spirits up

Sure enough, on 66 minutes they did so, rubbing in the indignity of a probable home defeat by having captain James Tarkowski – his determined campaign to win departure from this parish to join Burnley all those years ago still rankles with Bees’ fans with long memories – to win the ball unchallenged and head it powerfully and accurately wide of Flekken,

By now the Everton supporters were whipping themselves into a frenzy of singing and chanting, Brentford, on the other hand, restricted themselves to  cries of frustration and increasing shuffling of the feet that was to signal the departure of many before the end – a rarity seldom scene witnessed at the Gtech Community Stadium in its young life.

The shuffling of substitutes, frequently a ploy that produces recovery for the master of the craft, Thomas Frank, made little difference to the balance of play. Indeed, Everton, without a victory to their name prior to this visit, notched up a third goal, poached by Dominic Calvert-Lewis, himself a sub and a classy one at that.

Of the Bees, only Saman Ghoddos, tossed into the fray a couple of minutes after Everton’s third, tested the visitors as they coasted to a three-point victory. Ivan Toney, halfway through his suspension, was at the match with rumours of impending departure in the New Year swirling around him.

Arsenal visit the Gtech this week for an EFL Cup-tie; then Brentford play away at Nottingham Forest – one point and one place above them in the League table. Suddenly, the horizon looks bleak.

Collins attempts to intercept Beto’s header

‘We played badly,’ said Frank, an honest man, after the defeat.

‘We struggled to do get to grips with the basics,’ said captain Christian Nørgaard.

‘Don’t ask!’ said my mate Charlie.

Brentford: Flekken; Roerslev (substitute Ajer 61), Collins, Pinnock, Hickey (sub Ghoddos 72); Jensen, Nørgaard, Janelt (sub Onyeka 73); Mbeumo, Wissa, Lewis-Potter (sub Olakigbe 89).

Everton: Pickford; Young, Tarkowski, Branthwaite, Mykolenko; Garner, Onana (sub Danjuma 77), Gueye, McNeil; Doucouré, Gomes (sub Calvert-Lewin 63).

Bill Hagerty is a contributing editor for the Bees United website. Photographs by Liz Vercoe.

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