Spread the love

Brentford were made to work hard by a battling Preston side, but an early goal from Ollie Watkins was enough to secure the three points. Beesotted contributor Paul Harrison looks back at the Bees’ 8th win in a row.


It’s been a strange week to be a Brentford fan. On Tuesday night many of us had to reluctantly support local rivals Fulham, with the Cottagers travelling to 2nd placed West Brom. A win for in-form Fulham would open up the path for Brentford to sneak into the top two.

Sadly it wasn’t to be. West Brom hung on for a 0-0 draw – although it is more points dropped for Albion, two wins from their final two (against relegation-threatened Huddersfield and “on-the-beach” QPR) will guarantee automatic promotion. The Bees would be condemned to the play-off lottery.

Now of course there is a chance that Albion will drop more points. Brentford’s top two race is far from over. But in any scenario the Bees have to keep up their phenomenal winning streak.

Every match is a must-win for Brentford.

Wednesday night provided the opportunity to extend this streak to eight wins (seven of those since the restart). Preston North End were the visitors – like Derby before them they too were clinging to faint play-off hopes.

Preston were 6th pre-lockdown, but patchy form since saw them in 9th place before the 5pm kick-off in West London. They were staring at a five point gap to Cardiff in 6th – similar to Brentford, this represented a must-win for Preston.

Ollie Watkins of Brentford scores the opening goal. Brentford v Preston North End, Griffin Park. Picture by Mark D Fuller/Focus Images Ltd 15/07/2020

So visiting manager Alex Neil had every reason to let out a big sigh not long after kick-off. Perhaps Preston should have been expecting it. When Brentford are in the mood, they are a force.

Just like on Saturday afternoon against Derby, the Bees took the lead within the first few minutes.

Emiliano Marcondes collected a pass in the attacking third then checked his run to leave Preston’s Daniel Johnson on the floor. The Dane then flicked an expertly-weighted pass past three more defenders to meet the run of Ollie Watkins – he lashed a first-time strike that nearly took Declan Rudd’s head off in the Preston goal. But it went in and Brentford had another early lead.

Ollie’s 25th of the season – one ahead of Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic in the race for the golden boot. Would it lead to another comfortable Bees win?

The visitors weren’t going away without a fight. Preston had come to Griffin Park and set up in similar fashion to Charlton a week previous; a sort-of 3-5-2 formation. They battled like Charlton had too, challenging Brentford to a more physical encounter.

The annual trip to Brentford serves as Preston’s “gentry day”, to remember and honour North End fans who have passed away – John Lee spoke nostalgically about this on the pre-match podcast.

This match certainly wasn’t gentle though. 26 total fouls over the 90 minutes – as a statistic this fails to do the scrappy nature of this game justice.

It was from one of those fouls that Preston went closest. Darnell Fisher dipped a free-kick goalbound from 25 yards out that required an impressive reflex save from David Raya.

Said Benrahma forced a similarly impressive reaction save from Rudd down the other end after playing an inadvertent one-two with a Preston defender.

But the two defences held firm. The first half ended with both sides limited to snapshots after Watkins’ early strike.

Mathias Jensen sporting a new haircut. Brentford v Preston North End, Griffin Park.
Picture by Mark D Fuller/Focus Images Ltd 15/07/2020

Alex Neil fired his players up for the second half – Preston were straight on top after the break. Ollie Watkins had to perform his defensive duties with a vital clearance from a dangerous Preston set-piece routine.

But Brentford grew back into it, Watkins going close down the other end – his right-footed drive flying just over the bar.

Said Benrahma. Brentford v Preston North End, Griffin Park.
Picture by Mark D Fuller/Focus Images Ltd 15/07/2020

Benrahma then went close – drifting from the left all the way along the edge of the penalty box past five Preston defenders. But his shot was narrowly wide.

A side note to any opposition fans: Benrahma was rightly booked for a blatant dive in the second half. No Brentford fans are jumping to his defence.

This was a game of few genuine chances, and towards the end Preston pushed in search of an equaliser. It was a tense finale for Bees fans, many watching on with shredded nerves.

But if there’s one thing that we can call on Brentford to do post-lockdown, it’s seeing out victories. The defence remained organised. Preston were nullified.

Henrik Dalsgaard and Ethan Pinnock celebrate on the final whistle. Brentford v Preston North End, Griffin Park. Picture by Mark D Fuller/Focus Images Ltd 15/07/2020

The final whistle confirmed yet another Brentford win – eight in a row. The clean sheet also returned after a two-game absence. All this on a day when Brentford were well-matched by the opposition.

This perhaps wasn’t vintage Brentford. Is it the new Brentford way?

The Bees have set remarkably high standards to live up to in the last few weeks, so this 1-0 win may have looked like a team not playing to their full potential.

But a team who wins when they’re not at their best? Well that’s the sign of a top, top team.

The gap to West Brom is now just one point. Brentford are on their heels. Albion simply cannot slip up.

Because in this kind of form the Bees will take advantage.


Brentford head coach Thomas Frank said:

“It’s quite funny because when I planned for this restart I circled two games in red – the Charlton game and the Preston game.”

“I just felt the way they play and set up in a different style that it could be difficult. Preston changed their shape before they played us which shows that they are thinking about how to close us down.”

“Second half, especially the last twenty minutes, they did what we knew they would do – play the ball behind us, aerial duels, second balls, crosses. But we handled it well so I must praise the whole team’s defence.”

“We actually love to defend and we’re proud of it.”

Preston manager Alex Neil said:

“I don’t think we played poorly. We’re playing against a team which is fighting for promotion.”

“The way we went about it I thought was very good. I’ve seen Brentford a lot and they rip teams apart.”


Match stats (Brentford on the left, Preston on the right). Provided by whoscored.com

Player ratings, provided by whoscored.com

Although Preston definitely turned the match into a physical battle, there was also an element of some Brentford players looking a tad jaded after four games in ten days.

This was perhaps reflected in the pass completion stat of 79%. Although not much lower than 85% vs Derby and 84% vs Charlton, it highlights how Preston turned the screw as the game wore on.

Whilst Christian Norgaard won the Man of the Match award on Sky, Emiliano Marcondes picked up the highest rating on whoscored.com. He created the moment of magic that Brentford needed to open the scoring in the 4th minute, and from then on his passing and movement kept the Bees ticking.

Special mentions to Ollie Watkins and Ethan Pinnock too. Watkins took his goal brilliantly and pressed tirelessly, whilst Pinnock put in another rock-steady performance at the back and snuffed out any goal threat from Preston’s front two.

Although realistically each member of the team, yet again, deserves a special mention.

xG Map, provided by infogol. Bigger bubbles represent better chances.

The expected goals for both teams was very tight: Brentford with 0.62, Preston with 0.60. However it wasn’t really a reliable parameter of the scoreline in this game.

The Bees had few clear-cut chances, with Watkins taking his goal well. The recorded xG of Watkins’ goal (0.08) show how he converted what was a difficult shot – only 8% of similar chances recorded hitting the back of the net.

Benrahma’s shot on 72 minutes constituted what was probably Brentford’s best chance with a 10% probability of it hitting the back of the net.

Preston’s best chance came in the dying embers with substitute Josh Harrop shooting in the box in the 90th minute – 27% of all similar shots recorded in similar positions have hit the back of the net (0.27 xG).  But it says a lot that Harrop’s chance had dissipated from the memory bank by the final whistle.

Championship Prediction Table

Nate Silver’s Five Thirty Eight Predictions. Thur 16th July 2020

Nate Silver’s Five Thirty Eight updated it’s Championship Predictions after Wednesday night’s match.

Brentford are now up to 45% chance of making automatic promotion. Before lockdown it was less than 20%.

West Brom and Brentford are both rated at 72% chance of gaining promotion (via automatics or the playoffs).

West Brom are still predicted to pip Brentford for 2nd place – with a predicted 86 point total to Brentford’s 85. Both teams are predicted to gain one win and one draw from their last two matches.

Whilst they also have West Brom and Brentford’s opponents at the weekend – Huddersfield and Stoke City – to get 2 more points each. Will they upset the applecart? That is the question.