It started well for the visitors – nicknamed variously the Whites and the Peacocks but for this crucial encounter clad in yellow; how confusing is that? – when inside two minutes striker Patrick Bamford hooked a shot wide after penetrating a shaky home defence. But then the defence stopped shaking, constructing a firm line of five when necessary, which became less and less so as the game progressed.
Sergi Canos signalled the shape of things to come when cutting inside to unleash a shot that had goal written all over it as it sped towards the corner of Kiko Casilla’s net, only for the keeper to erase it with a remarkable flying save. And soon it emerged that there was only one side on this day demonstrating the sort of flair and true grit required to earn a tilt at the Premiership – and it wasn’t Leeds.
Sure enough, with less than a minute left of the first forty-five, Canos found Neal Maupay in space. Space is something defences should not allow Maupay and he demonstrated just why with a run that left Leeds floundering and a shot that waved goodbye to the advancing Casilla as it sped past on its way into the net.
If Leeds received a pep talk from manager Marcelo Bielsa during the break, there was little evidence of it working. The denial by referee Keith Stroud of what looked, at the time and doubtless even more so in the Sky TV coverage, like a penalty, Julian Jeanvier having comprehensively clattered Bamford, must be attributed to Brentford’s good fortune, rather than a sudden revival in Leeds’ proficiency.
Even the midfield artistry of Adam Forshaw, fondly remembered from his days at Griffin Park, was muted, while another ex-Brentford returnee, Stuart Dallas, could not galvanise a side that increasingly looked as if losing to ten-man Wigan two days previously had put its confidence through the mincer.
Home crowd chants of ‘You’re not going up’, even if somewhat premature, did nothing to help and neither did Brentford’s coup de grace when delivered on the hour. Ollie Watkins bustled, Maupay provided the short killer pass and Canos made ground through a despairing defence to beat Casilla from close in.
It was Sergi who was elected Man of the Match, generously pointing at Maupay as if to say, ‘He deserves it’. Certainly it has been a wonderful season for the Frenchman: 24 League goals and counting. Two more games are unlikely to propel the Bees above mid-table, but victories such as this augur well for the future if the key elements of the side can be kept together.
With the catchable teams above them having disobligingly declined to lose earlier in the day, Brentford remain fifteenth in the division. But the elation of the team and head coach Thomas Frank was plain to see as the Leeds side departed looking as glum as, so folklore has it, a Yorkshireman having to stand a round of drinks.
“Eee bah glum?” suggested my mate Charlie.
Brentford: Daniels, Konsa, Jeanvier, Sὃrensen, Odubajo, Mokotjo, Sawyers, Henry, Watkins (sub Dasilva), Maupay, Canos (Marcondes).
Leeds United: Casilla, Ayling, Jansson (Clarke), Cooper, Alioski (Dallas), Forshaw, Hernάndez, Klich, Roberts (Roofe), Harrison, Bamford.