Wolves arrived with fangs bared
Third Season: The Wolves at the door
It never rains but it pours – and it certainly did when a reinvigorated Wolves side dropped by to contest the Bee’s final home game of the year.
Struggling to find eleven players with plenty of first-team experience, Thomas Frank did the best he could, avoiding selecting any passer-by who looked injury-free and up for a kick-about. But even his spirit must have been dampened. Residual damage to nine or ten regulars may have made his job nightmarishly difficult, but then nobody said it would be easy.
Even the much-improved Wolves’ squad could not have dreamed that Brentford would help them out when the going got really rough. Nathan Collins, for example. One of the few first-team regulars restored after his own injury, the roving centre-back with a hunger for goals spoiled his usual immaculate game by sending an inadequate back-pass towards keeper Mark Flekken, leaving Hee-chan Hwang to sprint faster to the ball and despatch it with ease.
Already a goal down – scored by Mario Lemina only seconds before this calamity – Brentford then had time to plunder one of their own, Yoane Wissa seizing on a Neal Maupay chip to diminish the deficit. But hope proved less than eternal with South Korean Hee-chan scoring his second before the break and a further opposition goal coming after it.
Displaying their familiar do-or-die grit, Brentford moved up a gear or two after the break. This was partly due to Mikkel Damsgaard being substituted for Yehor Yarmoliuk and, later, the creative Mathias Jensen replacing Mads Roerslev, which totally transformed the midfield.
At just one goal behind, team captain Norgaard lead the rallying cry
Damsgaard, in particular, darted here, there and everywhere else, providing a non-stop service for the front runners, Maupay and Wissa. Sadly, the finishing was not as good as the preparation – oh, how Bryan Mbeumo is missed – but the fact that Wolves’ first real chance of scoring since half time was restricted to striking an upright some time after Jensen had made his 67-minute welcome reappearance was testimony to the change in fortunes.
Before being substituted by Jean-Ricter Bellegarde, the twice scoring Hee-chan offered a lesson in front-running that Maupay – as busy as any Bee, but often lacking the sting – and Wissa, a fizzer when on form but blowing hot and cold here, could not match. The talented Keane Lewis-Potter worked hard but failed to convert a golden goalmouth chance and began to look jaded before the end.
In defence, Ethan Pinnock worked tirelessly – what a splendid season he is having – but as often happens when backs are to walls, Bellegarde was able to take advantage of Collins’ second blunder to add a fourth goal in the seventy-ninth minute.
‘We made two big mistakes, which doesn’t help us,’ lamented Frank at the final whistle. Guess whose were those particular errors?
Collins normally never puts a foot wrong but…
So the Premier League looked grim come the finish. With Wolves elevated to eleventh – it seems only a blink away that the Bees were up there in the top ten, reaching for the stars – Brentford find themselves in fourteenth and only four points above the relegation zone.
Whisper who dares, Ivan Toney is on the brink of being available following his long suspension. And the Bees’ next opponents, Crystal Palace, are actually a place (and four points) below them in the table.
Watch this space and, as I told my mate Charlie, reflect on this being the first time we’ve conceded four goals since returning to the top flight. What’s more, revenge can be sweet and Wolves will be back to play at the Gtech in a FA Cup-tie almost before we know it.
‘Hardly worth them going home, is it?’ said Charlie.
Brentford: Flekken; Roerslev (substitute Jensen 67’), Collins, Pinnock, Ghoddos; Yarmoliuk (sub Damsgaard 45) Nørgaard, Janelt; Wissa (sub Olakigbe 86), Maupay; Lewis-Potter (sub Peart-Harris 86).
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Sá; Kilman, Bueno, Gomes; Nélson Semedo (sub Doherty 64), João Gomes, Lemina; Ait-Nouri (sub Bueno 80); Sarabia, (sub Doyle 65), Matheus Cunha; Hwang Hee-chan (sub Bellegarde 45+7).
Facing the Wolves pack: Jensen probed unsuccesfully for an opening
Bill Hagerty is a contributing editor to 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:
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