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Last season’s trip to Bramall Lane was the first visit there since 1989, whilst the last victory at the home of Sheffield United came exactly 30 years ago when Bob Booker and Francis Joseph scored the goals in a 2-0 win. However, three years before that South Yorkshire hosted a memorable evening, which once again saw Brentford come away with the points.

Sheffield United 0, Brentford 2 – Tuesday 6th November 1979

The return fixture against The Blades took place just 15 days after the Griffin Park ‘top-of-the-table’ clash which had seen two players – Doug Allder and Sheffield’s Mickey Speight – sent off for a touchline brawl and controversial referee Alf Grey order a spot-kick to be re-taken after Len Bond had saved the initial attempt. The game had ended 2-1 in the visitor’s favour and the early opportunity to put right those wrongs was seized with both hands by Bill Dodgin’s men.

The events of the earlier clash were still raw and fresh in the memory and seemingly the same applied to the United folk as their manager Harry Haslam devoted much of his programme notes to condemning the actions of some after reports of violence between rival fans after the match.

“Phillips Boosts the Super Bees” was the press headline after the magnificent 2-0 win as Sheffield United – experiencing life in the lower leagues for the first time in 27 years – succumbed to two late goals and two moments of brilliance from the diminutive striker.

The home side had gradually worked themselves into a strong position, finding the form that had taken them to the top of the table a few weeks earlier, and Len Bond needed to produce a string of fine saves to keep the game scoreless. Some desperate defending before the interval was followed by much of the same after the break and after Pat Kruse had produced an immaculate block to prevent a near-certain goal, fortunes suddenly swung in Brentford’s favour.

Despite all of their pressure, the home fans began to get frustrated and the Bees hit them hard and unexpectedly in stunning fashion. With 75 minutes gone, Steve Phillips beat the offside trap on the left-hand side and flashed in a low cross. Substitute Billy Holmes and ‘keeper Steve Conroy both failed to make contact and in-rushing defender Les Tibbott could only turn the ball into his own net.

There was to be no late revival for United and three minutes from time Brentford struck the killer second goal. Again, it was Phillips the creator as he darted down the right to send in another dangerous cross. Although John Fraser mis-hit his shot, the ball broke for Dean Smith to volley sweetly into the roof of the net from 10 yards to complete a great night.

After the game, manager Bill Dodgin could not contain his delight.

“That evens matters up after they beat us at our place last month. I felt we deserved a point then and they should have got one tonight, so it’s all worked out in the end. It was a good all round performance by us. The defence had to soak up a lot of pressure but we created enough chances at the other end. Let’s face it – the scoreline might easily have been 4-4.”

Those supporters who had travelled by coach (at a cost of £4 per person) undoubtedly enjoyed the journey back home whilst those who opted for the night train arrived back at St Pancras in time to see the first editions of the newspapers and the Division Three table made pleasant reading. Brentford sat in fourth position with 22 points, just behind Colchester on 23 points, vanquished Sheffield United (also 23 points) and top-of-the-table Millwall just one point ahead.

If only that season had ended at Christmas!

Mark Croxford

Mark is one of the co-authors of the Big Brentford Book series. The third instalment, The Big Brentford Book of the Nineties, is available for advanced purchase by clicking this link.