Brentford 1, Wolverhampton Wanderers 1

The always agile Lewis Potter

Third Season: The Cup underfloweth

Question: which is the most painful – losing 1-4, or hanging on for a 1-1 draw? Clue: the draw was achieved, if that’s the word, after the opposition had a player sent off after just nine minutes.

Answer: Don’t ask! Or simply seek the opinion of any of the Brentford faithful who turned out in the hope that their team would take revenge on a Wolves side that delivered a drubbing at the Gtech Stadium in the last home game of the season. Surely early-season promise could not evaporate at the determined hands of the Molineux men?  Or the Crystal Palace squad, which won 3-1 the week after? Is this the second of the rapid hat-trick against Brentford by Wolves (put February 10 in your diary if a glutton for punishment)?

We know the reason or reasons for the slump, of course. Such was the length of Thomas Franks’ injury list, he could have laid those on it head-to-toe to receive medical attention the length of the pitch. And it seemed that whenever one of the stricken began to reach match fitness, one or two new ones would join the queue at the far end.

So the message has had to be that the survival of the fittest determines the starting line-ups. At least, it would have been solely so had not the Africa Cup of Nations hove into view, demanding the presence of all those qualifying from one of the 54 countries from that continent alone.

Wolves’ Matt Doherty changes the direction of play

And so to the FA Cup third round game itself, which more or less began with a punt of a clearance into the east stand by Zanka, which suggested that (a) the Bees’ defence was functioning okay, or (b) Wolves were able to penetrate deep into the home side’s territory without too much trouble.

There was not much time to ponder this before Wolves’ midfielder João Gomes made a tackle from the rear on Christian Nørgaard that had the touchline medics out of their traps almost before the Bees’ skipper had hit the ground. Gomes looked rueful, acknowledging his error, but rueful doesn’t wash in such circumstances and referee Tony Harrington had no hesitation in producing a red card.

Nørgaard having hopped from the field supported by two human crutches, and replaced by Vitaly Janelt, Brentford set about exploiting the advantages of an extra player. Nathan Collins thumped a shot only inches over the crossbar and Josh Dasilva – welcome back, Josh – manoeuvred himself into a shooting position but lacked the power to beat excellent keeper José Sá at full stretch.

Then a cross from Matthias Jensen penetrated the goal area to the extent that the ball pinged and ponged its way for a moment before Neal Maupay carefully chose a vacant route for it to take without bothering Sá’s undoubted skills.

Damsgaard drives through the pack

But post-break the game changed. Brentford seemed to allow the visitors to take charge and the home defence was required to work overtime. All five subs were deployed, and tempers became frayed as Wolves launched waves of attacks like an advancing tide. Maupay was shoved by Sá in one of his rare appearances in the penalty area and it looked as if only an equaliser would do for the visitors’ marauding front-runners.

Never think such thoughts! On 64 minutes Tommy Doyle found himself in a vacant space way out of reach of the defence and his thunderbolt of a shot was in the net before Thomas Strakosha could even think of responding.

Jensen departed from the fray after stopping a ball with his kisser and then there was no more, other than for Wolves’ head coach Gary O’Neil to complain that, what with Gomes having been punished for a bad foul, Mikkel Damsgaard should have been dismissed for stamping on Doyle in a tussle for the ball.

‘Could have been worse’, I told my mate Charlie. ‘We could have lost.’

‘There’s always the replay,’ said Charlie

Brentford; Strakosha; Zanka (substitute Yarmoliuk 73m), Pinnock, Collins; Roerslev (sub Peart-Harris 45), Damsgaard, Nørgaard , Jensen (sub Baptiste 73), Lewis-Potter; Dasilva (sub Olakigbe 63), Maupay.

Wolves: Sá; Kilman, Bueno, Gomes; Nélson Semedo. João Gomes, Doyle, Doherty; Sarabia sub Neto 55), Matthias Cunha; Bellegarde (sub Chirewa 90+1).

All in all, a draw was better than a kick in the backside

Bill Hagerty is a consulting editorr for the Bees United website. Photographs by Liz Vercoe.

Bill, who lives in Chiswick and is a former Fleet Street editor, has been named Journalist Laureate 2023 the London Press Club awards:

READ ALSO: Former Fleet Street editor, Chiswick resident Bill Hagerty, is named Journalist Laureate 2023

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