Friday, 20 July 2018 | In Focus

Bill Hagerty watches the Bees work hard but get scant reward against League One returnees Wycombe. With memories of a spectacular World Cup still fresh, a spectator’s return to domestic football promised to be no more exciting than the usual pre-season friendly. But, hey, this was a pre-season friendly that occasionally sparked into pre-season hostility. The home side, patently still celebrating their promotion, crackled with energy. Brentford, realising this was no stroll in Adams Park, responded in kind. Dean Smith’s eleven for the first half looked promising, with Luke Daniels – the lone survivor for 90 minutes – grabbing his chance to challenge Daniel Bentley between the posts, and new signing Ezri Konsa, an authoritative six-footer bringing welcome height to the defence. The bench was uncommonly crowded, this being a substitute-friendly fixture, so much so that the sight of players jogging the touchline to the corner and back signified nothing except a probable shortage of seats. Ryan Woods, not listed on the team-sheet for unexplained reasons, remained an enthusiastic dugout spectator throughout.  
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A first half in which the Bees’ short passing improved by the minute and Neal Maupay proved a constant irritation to Wycombe’s defence had the visitors ahead on points, if not goals. Too often shots attempted inside the penalty area were foiled by a forest of legs as impenetrable as Uganda’s Bwindi.

Alan Judge bursting into the area couldn’t quite capitalise on opportunity and Romaine Sawyers, a master of passes that appeared to have been successfully calculated with a slide-rule, turned striker to miss the best Brentford chance of the half.

At the other end, an early goal was declared offside so quickly that it restricted the home side’s celebration to only a few seconds. But Adebayo Akinfenwa – nicknamed The Beast and at 36 a veteran of 15 clubs – was causing no end of trouble. Built, well, shall we say solidly, he rarely seemed to move faster than a lope, but was here, there and almost everywhere else when Wanderers attacked on the break.

Wanderers’ nickname is the Chairboys, commemorating Wycombe’s one-time reputation as a centre for the manufacturer of fine furniture. No more, a steward told me – ‘It’s all flat-pack stuff now’. A shame for the town, we agreed, especially as the Flatpackboys would sound even soppier than their traditional handle.

Manager Gareth Ainsworth introduced nine changes to his side at the interval, but Dean Smith made no move until 20 minutes from time. Prior to substitutes replacing the first-half batch, Maupay saw a well-timed chip finger-tipped away by goalkeeper Ryan Allsop and Sam Saunders, late of the Brentford parish, smacked a penetrating free-kick some 40 yards to test the Bees’ back four.

With those of Ollie Watkins, Nico Yennaris and Moses Odubajo, now training at his old club, among the fresh legs introduced by Dean Smith, Brentford still looked the likeliest to score, with Odubajo’s fizzing speed reminding us of how effective he could be when a Bees’ regular.

And it was Moses who after five minutes on the field led the charge that culminated in him being upended in the area and Marcus Forss, only 19 and a striker of great promise, stepping up to slot home the penalty.

All very promising, even if not quite World Cup standard, I observed to my mate Charlie.

‘World Cup?’ said Charlie. ‘What World Cup.’

Brentford: Luke Daniels, Josh Clarke, Tom Field, Lewis MacLeod, Yoann Barbet, Ezra Konsa, Sergi Canos, Romaine Sawyers, Neal Maupay, Josh McEachran, Alan Judge.
Changes after 70 minutes: Kamo Mokotjo, Mads Sorensen, Nico Yennaris, Emiliano Marcondes, Reece Cole, Ollie Watkins, Chiedozie Ogbene, Marcus Forss, Luka Racic, Moses Odubajo.


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