Brentford 2, Sheffield United 0

Image above: Ever-involved Maupay takes a tumble

Third Season: Win at last

At last! Having put together a small but respectable list of drawn games, Brentford managed to collect three points from a desperate Sheffield United, who finished the afternoon at the GTECH Stadium even more firmly cemented to the foot of the Premier League.

Bad luck, United. But the Bees’ success catapulted them into fourteenth in the table. Okay, they had slipped to fifteenth by the end of the weekend, but this was a cataclysmic event for an injury-shredded squad whose recent poor form had begun to convince all but the most diehard fans that relegation was either just around the corner or, maybe the corner after that.

It is by no means a given that Brentford can avoid the drop, but one could almost see the tension evaporate as two second-half goals put them five and six points clear of Everton and Nottingham Forest, two strugglers handicapped by FA fines for misdemeanours.

Against United, despite the home ground choir in fine voice, Brentford failed to dominate play in the first period. Yoane Wissa, running like a racehorse, was a danger to United’s disciplined defence, Bryan Mbeumo caused occasional havoc on the right, and Neal Maupay was… well, Neal Maupay, missing chances, including one when clear with only the keeper to beat he clipped the ball wide.

With time not exactly standing still, one fully expected Ivan Toney to be propelled from the substitutes’ bench to the pitch after the break, which proves that fully expectations are not what they were. Toney remained on the bench, probably still troubled with a rogue muscle. Then things looked up when Zanka had the ball into the net; then things looked down again, correctly, when his effort was nullified for offside.

Images above: Zanka steadies the ball for his 101st Premier League appearance, The Blades’ defence effectively pinned down Mbeumo

The rotten luck continued when a Mbeumo free kick was converted by Damsgaard but, after a longish delay, ruled out because Nathan Collins was judged to have committed a foul.

But, hey, things looked up again itself just after the hour when Damsgaard, gaining in authority every minute, let loose a shot that goalkeeper Ivo Grbić seemed to have covered, but was sharply diverted by Oliver Arblaster to rack up an own goal.

Now the Bees were so near to those illusive three points that the fans as well as the eleven men on the field were tense. The opposition players probably weren’t at their calmest, either.

Keane Lewis-Potter arrived from the bench and promptly turned the United defence inside-out to send a shot towards a tantalising gap patently beyond Grbić’s reach. No, it wasn’t – Grbić’s save palmed it away for a corner.

Referee Sam Barrott allocated seven minutes extra for sundry stoppages. What a quandary for the players: could they score again or concede in trying? Mark Flekken galloped into the Sheffield half and thumped a long ball that wasn’t going anywhere with Bees written on it.

Images above: Defender Collins’ in position for an attempt on goal, Three vital points! It’s been a long time coming…

And then with four minutes, give or take a heartbeat, back-from-injury Kevin Schade – remember him? – bustled into the penalty area to send a pin-point cross to the feet of Frank Onyeka. Having been off the bench for all of a minute, Onyeka shot low and accurately. Such drama is what football dreams are made of.

It is a Brentford tradition that good fortune is greeted with celebration. Thomas Frank and his squad embarked on a triumphal tour of the pitch. The fans in the stand were dancing; so were some of the team. Back at the dugouts, owner Matthew Benham appeared on the touchline to hug Frank. ‘This has definitely been the most challenging season’, he was to tell the BBC.

Five games to go, I reminded my mate Charlie. Not sure I can stand it!

‘Cissie,’ said Charlie.

Brentford: Flekken; Roerslev, Zanka, Collins, Reguilón; Damsgaard (substitute Yarlmoliuk 88), Janelt, Jensen (sub Onyeka 90+1); Mbeumo (sub Schade 90), (Maupay (sub Lewis-Potter 79), Wissa (sub Pinnock 90).

Sheffield United: Grbić; Holgate (sub Ben Slimane 90+1), Ahmedhodzic, Trusty; Bogle (sub Archer 76), Hamer, Arblaster, Osborn, Larouci (sub McAtee 57); Brereton, McBurnie.

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, was named Journalist Laureate 2023 the London Press Club awards:

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