Brentford were taught some harsh Championship lessons on Tuesday night in a match in which they excelled for long periods, especially during the first half.
Once again, the Bees were more than a match for one the best sides at this level and will be kicking themselves that a number of crucial chances in the first period weren’t converted. Clinical finishing was to prove the difference between the two sides ultimately.
Brentford had the home supporters buzzing during a rousing first half in which they played some of the best football I’ve ever seen by a Bees team… High tempo, slick passing and biting tackles combined to produce some marvellous chances – with Andre Gray and Alex Pritchard going agonisingly close – the 0-0 half-time score-line certainly flattered the flapping Canaries.
My only real criticism of the first 45 is the continued trend to over-elaborate with borderline suicidal faffing about at the back whenever David Button rolls the ball out short… the defence then pass it back and forth between themselves until they eventually get the ball into midfield and we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief. Button looks awkward and error prone during these passages of play… The over arm bowl-out to the full back… sure… The pinball routine… Grrrrrr.
Norwich’s experienced players would have gone in at the break relieved – but confident that they were armed with the ability to take their own chances if and when they arrived … Crucially they also changed their shape during the interval and looked far more potent.
Three goals in the final 22 minutes from Norwich was harsh on Brentford – the sloppy first strike was punishment for a misplaced pass, the second arrived whilst the Reds were still squabbling with the referee for not awarding a certain penalty… And the third was out of the top draw, plain and simple. A very reminiscent game to the Wolves defeat last season in fact… and we know what kind of reaction that reverse prompted. Mark Warbuton may have looked to have swapped things around slightly on the hour-mark when the frenetic pace had taken its toll on one or two – fresh legs at that stage rather than 10 minutes later – could have kept the Bees on the front foot.
The referee not giving the ‘penalty’ is what all home fans were complaining about after the game though, that proved the game-changing moment where a probable/possible draw slipped from our grasp… Alex Pritchard was clearly felled in the area, any fool could see that, but the ref refused to point to the spot. The ill-discipline and sloppy defending that followed then allowed Cameron Jerome to head home and there was to be no way back – but it was a pen all night long.
Despite the reverse, however, there are still big positives to be taken from the game – Bees fans went home angry at the ref rather than their own team – who had given their all on the night. The atmosphere at Griffin Park was superb as the fans got right behind an impressive team.
Fact is, Brentford made Norwich look average for over and hour – three clinical punches flattened the Bees – certainly not a vastly superior display.
We pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down, and head off to Middlesbrough set to go again.