Sunday, 29 July 2018 | In Focus

Bill Hagerty sees the Bees gift Watford two goals to give Premier League visitors a fortunate victory. The last pre-season friendly before the start of the new season was anything but, or so it seemed after half-an-hour when Romaine Sawyers and Watford’s Argentinian midfielder Roberto Pereyra engaged in a personal pushing and shoving contest – a decidedly unfriendly incident. Only to be expected when the Bees meet the Hornets, said my mate Charlie, and one that earned a stinging rebuke from referee Gavin Ward. But this turned out to be the only unpleasantness in a lively, competitive game that Brentford – the better side for most of the 90 minutes – should have won. Sadly, a cluster of wasted chances and two embarrassing defensive errors saw the home side slide to a disappointing defeat. Now where have we heard that before?  
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Yet the Bees had begun so brightly, with after only four minutes Emiliano Marcondes (a.k.a.Camargo Hansen, or ‘Two names’ as Charlie calls him) striking a free kick from 30 yards that Watford’s ex-England goalkeeper Ben Foster did well to parry. Ollie Watkins reacted like a greyhound out of its trap to leave the visiting defence flat-footed and convert the rebound.

Within the quarter-hour Neal Maupay took a tumble that resulted in him being replaced by Marcus Forss, but the change didn’t slow the Bees’ momentum. Romaine Sawyers was controlling midfield and releasing a series of precision passes that frequently bamboozled the Watford back four, while Watkins, fired up perhaps by his goal, remained a constant threat and new signing Said Benrahma promised much.

And then, calamity. Henrik Dalsgaard, whose return from Russia after much-praised World Cup performances for Denmark was acknowledged by warm applause from the crowd, came back down to earth with a bump. Bentley palmed a Watford strike in Dalsgaard’s direction and then watched, helpless, as an awful, sliced attempted clearance zipped into the net.

In the match programme, head coach Dean Smith observed, ‘I speak on behalf of everyone at the Club when I say that we are proud of Henrik’s achievements’. Probably not this one, though.

But, hey, nobody’s perfect and Brentford continued to look by far the most dangerous side. Until, after 37 minutes, another calamity, with Daniel Bentley, having just magnificently finger-tipped away a Jose Holebas corner that was about to curl in under the crossbar, joining Henrik on the naughty step.

A short clearance from a keeper whose distribution is generally as reliable as his hands was inexplicably directed straight to where Andre Gray lurked. Those who remember Gray’s productive days at Griffin Park know that such errors are meat and potatoes to the striker and he promptly helped himself to lunch.

Watford, buoyed by two slices of outrageous fortune, improved from average to capable, scoring twice from offside positions, until Dean Smith introduced a whole raft of second-half subs. When once they had worked out who was who, and who was playing where, Brentford regained control of the game, largely due to yet another exhibition of midfield mastery from Ryan Woods – how fortunate for loyal fans that the Bees’ have two hugely talented playmakers in him and Sawyers on the books.

Man of the match. ‘I couldn’t choose between those two,’ said my mate Charlie, ‘but I really enjoy coming to these pre-season friendlies.’ Why especially? ‘Well,’ he said, ‘it’s so much easier to get a drink in the Griffin.’

Brentford: Daniel Bentley, Henrik Dalsgaard, Ezri Konsa, Chris Mepham, Josh McEachran, Romaine Sawyers, Nico Yennaris, Said Benrahma, Emiliano Marcondes, Ollie Watkins, Neal Maupay.
Subs used: Luke Daniels, Marcus Forss, Yoann Barbet, Josh Clarke, Alan Judge, Lewis Macleod, Kamohelo Mokotjo, Ryan Woods, Sergi Canos.


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