It all started so well, despite the wintery sunshine disappearing so that penetrating rain could begin to fall, exactly as BBC Weather had forecast, on the dot of three o’clock. Continuing to play as well as they had in disposing of Millwall the previous week, the starting line-up looked a class better than the home side, with Sergi Canos going close and then a set-piece feint when awarded a free kick – more of which later – failing to lead to a goal but causing consternation in the QPR defence.
Okay, DanielBentley did deliver one of his ill-directed short clearances that sped towards Eberechi Eze, a feisty striker presumably so surprised by the gift that he made little of it, but that’s Bentley for you. Do stop it, Daniel.
And then the ever-busy Said Benrahma burst down the right to rifle in a cross that home goalkeeper Joe Lumley did well to fingertip away, only for Neal Maupay – who else! – to motor through the middle and head cleanly into the net.
Inconsistencies still marred a largely fluid performance – Henrik Dalgaard suddenly seemed to decide he must have left his passing boots somewhere and spent much of the remainder looking for them – but Brentford were in control, even if control sometimes meant last-ditch interceptions to thwart an opposition slowly growing in confidence.
And then fate took a hand. With a minute of added time ticking towards the end of the half, Maupay, alone in midfield, went down as if sandbagged. He was holding his head and disconcertingly required oxygen before being stretchered away to receive treatment for concussion. Delayed reaction to an earlier collision, it seemed.
Further calamity of a similar nature was to come, with Benrahma – the architect of that opening goal, was floored by a Toni Leistner challenge and the stretcher once more employed. But by then Brentford’s game plan had been destroyed by three QPR goals in 12 harrowing minutes during which a prolonged attack of jitters saw the defence fall to pieces.
For the record, Massimo Luongo and Joe Lynch were allowed to score from close range after ping-ponging balls in the goal area had caused chaos and then Ezri Konsa’s failure – a rarity in itself – to dispossess on-loan Nahki Wells allowed the Bermudan international to race away and beat Bentley handsomely.
The Bees stood themselves down from panic stations to regain composure and batter the home defence for much of the time remaining. And the sweetest of passes from Romaine Sawyers saw the foraging Dalsgaard make some amends for earlier misdemeanours, setting up a thrilling, frantic finish, but it was too little too late. The fourth defeat in Thomas Frank’s five-match tenure looked like another example of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
‘We need to regroup,’ said a glum Franks later and few fans would disagree. Poor performances away from home have seen Brentford slip into the unfamiliar territory of the division’s undistinguished end. And it may well require something more than inventive, and so far unsuccessful, dead-ball trickery, with one player pausing in his run-up to reposition the ball and then a second swiftly taking the kick.
Not much to take home from today, I said to my mate Charlie.
‘Well,’ he offered, ‘Maupay’s still joint leading scorer in all divisions,’ No wet- blanket nonsense from Charlie.
QPR: Lumley, Rangel, Leistner, Lynch, Bidwell, Wszolek, Luongo, Cameron, Freeman, Eze, Wells (sub Cousins)
Brentford: Bentley, Dalsgaard, Mepham, Odubajo, Konsa, McEachran (Dasilva), Yennaris, Canos, Sawyers, Benrahma (Clarke), Maupay (Judge).