Brentford 3, Southampton 0

Images above: Aaron Hickey joins the starting 11, Captain Christian Nørgaard takes early control

Second Season: Saints all at sea

Funny game, football, in many ways. We have earlier discussed how teams riding the crest of a wave can suddenly plunge into the doldrums. Or vice versa. But how about the strange case of Southampton, a side that looked doomed as it lost one Premier League game after another but found form to do well in both of the major cup competitions.

Having beaten Manchester City on their way to the quarter-finals of the EFL trophy, the Saints fell at that hurdle when Newcastle dismissed them home and away. As for the still-prized FA Cup, they look likely to progress beyond the fifth round no matter whether Luton Town or Grimsby emerge victors in their imminent fourth-round replay.

At the Gtech Stadium last Saturday, however, Southampton were metaphorically wearing their PL kit (their actual two-tone blue strip was quite fetching, but that has nothing to do with it). They looked dispirited before a ball was struck, a jaded bunch who possibly thought their position glued to the foot of the table could a bit too grand for them.

Enough of the Saints. Let’s look at Brentford, unbeaten in eight matches prior to this one and here bristling with confidence once they realised there were three points just waiting to be plundered.

Wissa showed how easy it might be after just a few minutes, or would have had the ball not hit a post instead of finding a net empty for anyone except visiting goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu, who was already looking as if he would prefer to be somewhere else.

Images above: All eyes on Saints’ James Bree fighting Kevin Schade for the ball, Start them young…

Brentford were not perfect. Irritatingly they frequently gave the ball away to opponents who, luckily for the home team, appeared unsure as to what they should do with it. Christian Nørgaard’s play was patchy, although he dealt with his duties as captain well enough, and as the game wore on Ivan Toney appeared more disenchanted than usual of a visiting defence determined that he should spend much of the game on the ground.

Bryan Mbeumo, conversely, was enjoying the purple patch that has been seeing him inventive, industrious and in the thick of the action as the home crowd began to itch for a goal to emphasise their superiority.

And you know how it is: when you are anxious for an overdue bus to come along, two will turn up at once? And it almost happened here.

After 41 minutes, Mbeumo shook off the attentions of the defence to craft a splendid cross that the ever-competitive Ben Mee gained considerable height to guide his header out of Bazunu’s reach. It was only the airborne collision of Mee and his attentive defender Mohammed Salisu, taking two or three minutes to see them back on their feet, that delayed the arrival of the second bus.

A peach of a crossfield ball from Josh Dasilva enabled Wissa to make ground and deliver a pass that Mbeumo side-footed home from close range. One could almost hear the exhalation of breath signalling more woe from the Southampton side.

Image above: Soon-to-be-rewarded Ben Mee takes a flyer at goal.

They perked up a little after the interval when manager Nathan Jones – subject of some caustic complaints from the travelling fans – sent on two new signings, Kamaldeen Sulemana and Paul Onuachu. The latter a striker of some 6ft 7ins, was possibly going to pose a problem for the relatively diminutive – 6ft-nothing – David Raya, but there was another bus just around the corner, Mathias Jensen, who should thank the dispirited Southampton for leaving him alone in the penalty area as he headed home Rico Henry’s perfect cross.

It was, said my mate Charlie, an especially pleasing afternoon following Fulham’s draw with Chelsea the previous evening. A point each for the two west London rivals meant that Brentford leapfrogged Fulham into seventh place in the PL table, a point ahead of Fulham and three in front of Chelsea.

What’s more, I mentioned to Charlie, we have played a one game fewer than Fulham.

‘Tee-hee,’ said Charlie.

Brentford: Raya; Hickey (substitute Roerslev 61 minutes), Pinnock; Mee, Henry, Dasilva (Janelt 61). Nørgaard, Jensen (Damsgaard 82); Mbeumo (M Jorgensen 89), Toney, Wissa (Schade 74). 71).

Southampton: Bazunu; Bree, Bednarek, Salisu, Perraud; Diallo (Sulemana 65), Lavia (Alcaraz 65); Edozie (Walcott 65), Ward-Prowse, Elyounoussi (Onuachu 45); Adams (A Armstrong 81).

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

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