The Bees came home with a thoroughly deserved point from a 1-1 draw away to Wigan Athletic on Saturday. Wigan listed as one of the favourites to push for a promotion spot were up against 50/1 outsiders Brentford. But it was the Bees who looked the more likely contenders for honours, particularly so for the first half. In all departments they were getting the better of their more costly opponents save for their finishing. It is there where the Bees need to improve their performance and thus make more of their superior quality elsewhere.
Quality however was most lacking in the refereeing where the referee today was glaringly inconsistent with his decisions and rash in his bookings, particularly so in the case of Paul Gibbs and Paul Evans. Gibbs was booked after just 17 minutes for pulling a player back, albeit with no risk whatsoever of injuring the player concerned, yet had to endure tackles from behind which went unpunished. Skipper Evo meanwhile was booked later for rightly querying a free kick which the referee had allowed to be taken yards from the place where the infringement had been committed although the Bees themselves had been refused such lenience earlier. Wigan themselves collected four bookings
However back to the game. The Bees paraded newcomer Jason Price right midfield, with Gavin Mahon alongside Evo in a more central position, albeit not the defensive role he performed so well last term. The left back position was filled by Ijah Anderson who made a very welcome return back to the senior team for the first time since being injured almost exactly a year ago. Up front youngster Kevin O`Connor partnered Lloyd Owusu, and put in a hard running display, which did him no discredit.
Without actually forcing the home keeper into to many telling saves, he certainly saw plenty of the ball throughout the first half as time and time again his beleaguered defensive partners found solace in pushing the ball back to him. The Bees saw plenty of the ball and were being inspired by a fine inspirational performance by Paul Evans.
At the other end Oli Gott had little to do early on with the defence in front of him more than capably marshalled by Darren Powell. However what he did have to do he did with assurance. Particularly so in the 40th minute when Liddell laid the ball off for Bukram who looked set to break the deadlock. But Oli`s outstretched leg was enough to keep the scores at nil nil.
But then with over three minutes gone of the 3 minutes added on at the end of the first half, Paul Evans whipped in a free kick, which Ivar connected with. And as others looked to try and get a touch, either to clear or help on it's way goalwards, the ball ended up bouncing high into the net.
On a very slippery surface made worse by the incessant light rain, the second half opened with a chance for the hosts. Ingimarsson slipped as he looked to clear which allowed Liddell the chance to run clear at goal. But Ivar`s fellow Icelandic buddy was there to make a fine point blank save with Ijah doing well to recover lost ground.
The Bees forced their first corner in the 50th minute and Owusu saw his effort hoicked away by De Vos.
Wigan were having a bit more play although they looked unlikely to break down the Bees rearguard with Michael Dobson outstanding.
But midway through the half Lee McCulloch was brought on to replace Ashcroft and he immediately saw the action when he was there to connect with the ball and guide it home albeit with a number of Bees players complaining vehemently to the referee.
Although as a Bees fans watching the game you suddenly feel under pressure in a game which you were previously dominating, Wigan failed to capitalise on the confidence such an equaliser can bring.
In fact it was the Bees who went closest to snatching the full three points, five minutes before the final whistle. Evo again whipped in a free kick, which Dobbo gave the slightest flick to with his head. But somehow the keeper almost instinctively put his hands up and the ball flew inches over the bar. Partridge came on to replace O`Connor for the final few minutes as the Bees looked to secure maximum points. But it wasn't to be and they had to be content with just the one.
All in all, in retrospect, an excellent result, and one given the odd improvement here and there, could be the catalyst for good times ahead.
Bees: Gottskalksson, Dobson, Powell, Ingimarsson, Anderson, Price, Evans, Mahon, Gibbs, Owusu, O`Connor (Partridge 89). subs unused: P Smith, Williams, Hunt, Theobald.