Brentford really missed Chris Mepham, serving a one match suspension after his two yellow cards on Saturday. Head Coach Thomas Frank hoped Julian Jeanvier would recover from an injury in time for the trip north but again Jeanvier didn’t make the squad. The return of Barbet to his old role at centre-back and Odubjao to his familiar left back slot should have been enough to form a solid defence but the back four never looked comfortable with each other and there were some revealing exasperated gestures.
Preston’s first goal started with the outstanding player of the game, Callum Robinson. His shot was deflected, fell in front of Browne who got to it quicker than Bentley and Preston were ahead in five minutes. Robinson himself scored the second when he controlled a cross with one touch and scored in the bottom corner with the next. No blame on Bentley this time. But the next came after a brain fade by the keeper, described as ‘my number one’ by Thomas Frank earlier this week. When Barbet passed back to him Bentley inexplicably picked the ball up, conceding an indirect free kick right in front of the goal. Captain for the day Henrik Dalsgaard could be heard screaming at his colleagues to line up a wall. Instead of shooting at the wall Preston pushed the ball to the side and Barkhuizen’s shot cannoned off the wall into the corner of the net. Twenty three minutes gone, Brentford three down.
The Brentford player showing most energy and commitment was Sergi Canos, described in the Preston programme as a ‘legend in waiiting’. In truth he has not been having a great season but on the half hour mark he made one of those Sergi runs in from the wing and let loose into the far corner of the net. The ‘ooh Sergi Canos, how d’you score that goal’ song rang out in the away end. One word began to be muttered; ‘Burton’ – a flashback to the day in March 2017 when Brentford came back from 3-1 down to win 5-3 and two goal Canos was mobbed by Bees fans at Burton station. Was Burton 2 about to be played out, this time at Deepdale? Maybe it was always going to be wishful thinking.
There were more goals from Brentford. Watkins, who up to the 56th minute had done nothing, pulled off his old trick of remembering that when everybody is expecting a cross there’s a small space by the near post which the keeper has forgotten about. But when Callum Robinson got his second and Preston’s fourth any chance of a Brentford point seemed to fade again. Credit to Maupay who never gave up chasing, he got Bees’s third when a corner was flicked on and for once he managed not to get booked. But Sawyers, booked in the first half, got what looked like a lengthy final warning from the referee and was subbed for Macleod before he could get into any more trouble.
Benrahma, on for Watkins, had some shots on goal and MacLeod nearly put one rebound away. But it never felt that for all Brentford’s attempts they were going to get a point. As if to confirm this BBC Sport put the result out as Preston 4 Brentford 3 before the game had ended.
When it finally did end a few moments later, the Deepdale announcer offered ‘special thanks’ to the 268 Brentford supporters who’d travelled up for the match, the snack bar staff sold us leftover cold meat pies at a pound each and Thomas Frank came over to wave before many of those 268 began a long and late journey home on the supporter’s coach.
Frank said afterwards his team ‘need to be a little more clever, control emotions better, don’t make stupid fouls and in general defend better. When we learn to do that, we will progress’. That’s quite a lot to learn before Norwich away on Saturday.They go into that game without a win in eight games and Frank without a point won in his new role but at least with Mepham back in defence. There’s no obvious immediate remedy In midfield : Mokotjo and Yennaris – the heroes at Elland Road- were as poor as Sawyers at Preston. The match programme photo spread reminded us that Alan McCormack had played (with hair) for Preston and (without hair) for Brentford. How we could use a midfielder with the grit of our 2013-4 Supporters’ Player of the Year.
Meanwhile, back at Griffin Park midfielder Josh Dasilva scored the winner in the B team game against Southampton U-23. Could the former Arsenal academy player, signed in the summer but with fitness problems delaying his progress, begin to offer Thomas Frank a new option? And Rico Henry was back after a long layoff with injury, hopefully soon challenging for a place in that defence.
Preston North End: Maxwell, Fisher,Pearson, Davies, Robinson, Browne, Johnson (sub Gallagher), Hughes, Huntington, Barkhuizen (Maguire),Nmecha (Moult)
Brentford:Bentley, Dalsgaard, Konsa, Barbet, Odubajo, Mokotjo, Yennaris, Canos (Judge), Sawyers (Macleod), Watkins (Benrahma) Maupay.