Brentford's season ended at Griffin Park as they lost 2-1 to Sheffield Wednesday on the night and 3-1 on aggregate in the Coca-Cola League One play-off semi-final. Despite a fantastic effort it was not to be and Brentford will start season 2005/06 in League One once again.
Brentford made two changes from the team which lost the first leg of this play-off semi-final at Hillsborough last Thursday. Kevin O'Connor and Marcus Gayle were omitted from the team and were replaced by Jay Tabb and Scott P. Fitzgerald. This meant a change in system for The Bees with Fitzgerald partnering Deon Burton in attack. It also meant a position change for Eddie Hutchinson who moved to right back.
With their one goal advantage from the first leg Sheffield Wednesday knew a goal would make it difficult for the home side, Hutchinson produced a good tackle to prevent Richard Wood striking for goal, and Lee Peacock then wasted a good chance after Stuart Nelson had sliced an attempted clearance.
Peacock had an even better chance in the sixth minute, a long clearance split the Brentford defence but Peacock's touch let him down and Nelson was able to smother. Glenn Whelan let fly from 25 yards two minutes later but Nelson was equal to it and saved well to his right. The Brentford goalkeeper was again at his best saving from Wood who had nipped in behind the Bees defence.
Despite the visitor's early pressure Brentford were still on terms and were starting to find a foothold in the game, Bruce made a great tackle to deny Tabb, who then had a shot deflected wide. From the resulting corner Sam Sodje had a header cleared off the line.
A minute later Darren Pratley swung in a cross to the feet of Burton, his lay off was blasted over the bar by Chris Hargreaves. Fitzgerald shot wide and then headed off target after David Lucas had come for a Stewart Talbot cross and got nowhere near it. Talbot was again at the centre of the action minutes later when he cross for Burton to fire in a volley which seemed destined for the bottom corner before Lucas dived full length to save.
Brentford appeared to have the upper hand but were hit by a sucker punch in the 27th minute. Paul Heckingbottom swung in a free kick and Peacock had the freedom of the Brentford penalty area and placed a header past Nelson and into the far corner.
Brentford knew they needed to respond quickly, Burton volley straight at Lucas, Tabb had a shot deflected wide and Burton headed wide from a Tabb cross. Sheffield Wednesday had a huge slice of luck just before half time when Alex Bruce swung a leg at a long ball from Michael Turner, the ball deflected past Lucas but evaded Fitzgerald and Wood cleared the danger.
Brentford knew they needed an early goal in the second period if they were to get back into the game, Talbot unleashed a volley that Lucas saved well but it was at the other end that the game took a crucial turn.
Sheffield Wednesday substitute Chris Brunt fired in a free kick that deflected through the defensive wall and past Nelson. James Quinn then latched onto the end of a through ball but with only Nelson to beat he shot straight at the Bees stopper. He then fired over the bar after Peacock headed the ball into his path.
Brentford continued to push forward knowing they needed three goals to keep the tie alive. Substitute Gayle almost created a goal for his fellow substitute Isaiah Rankin but Lucas got a finger tip to the cross and diverted it away from the onrushing striker. Another Gayle cross seemed certain to set up a goal for Tabb but again a Wednesday defender was there to block.
Sodje thought he had given Brentford a lifeline when he rose superbly to head a Tabb corner towards goal but Lucas was again there to deny The Bees with a brilliant save. Burton had another chance when Tabb swung in a cross but his header was blocked by Lee Bullen.
Brentford finally got themselves on the score sheet with three minutes remaining when Andrew Frampton volleyed in under the body of Lucas after Sheffield Wednesday failed to deal with a corner. Unfortunately that was all Brentford could muster and Sheffield Wednesday clinched the aggregate victory and now move forward to Cardiff for the final.
Brentford: Nelson; Hutchinson (sub Rankin h/t), Sodje (sub Salako 88 mins), Turner, Frampton; Pratley, Talbot, Hargreaves, Tabb; Burton, Fitzgerald (Scott P.) (sub Gayle 57 mins)
Subs (not used): Lawrence, Bankole
Written by Chris Wickham