Brentford continued their promotion push with a magnificent 4-1 victory at Prenton Park against Tranmere. Brentford ended an entertaining first half with a 3-1 lead and added a fourth in a second half where they dominated possession to record their first win on the Wirral since 1978/79.
The Bees made two changes from the team which won in the FA Cup against Oldham on Tuesday with Darren Pratley missing through injury and Dudley Campbell rested. Eddie Hutchinson, who had recovered from a virus, took Pratley's place while Marcus Gayle stepped into Campbell's shoes to partner Lloyd Owusu up front. Campbell joined Ryan Peters, Junior Lewis, Ademola Bankole and John Mousinho on the bench.
The home side started brightly and created early problems for the Brentford defence. They could have been ahead from Danny Harrison's fourth minute corner when Ian Sharps nodded it towards goal but Kevin O'Connor and Stuart Nelson managed to get it away and Calvin Zola lashed the loose ball over. Zola forced Nelson into another save in the ninth minute after a lay off from Steve Jennings and the Brentford stopper preserved the equilibrium again in the 11th minute when he saved from Delroy Facey.
Brentford then took the initiative with two goals in quick succession. Gayle forced a good save from Steve Wilson in the home goal with a vicious shot from the left edge of the box in the 12th minute and the loose ball was worked back to Sam Tillen. He lofted a cross onto the head of Owusu, who nodded it down to the onrushing Ricky Newman. The Bees' captain took a touch before rolling it past Wilson and into the corner of the net.
It took only another two minutes for Brentford to extend their advantage. Jay Tabb was brought crashing down on the edge of the box by Simon Francis but the Eire under-21 international picked himself up to beautifully curl the ball around the defensive wall and into the top corner.
Tranmere refused to lie down and continued to push forward, looking for a way back into the game and should have got it in the 17th minute. Gareth Roberts free kick was met at the far post by Mike Jackson but he headed against the outside of the post. Roberts then forced Nelson into an excellent save when he lashed in a shot from 20 yards after Zola's lay off. At the other end Gayle fired over the bar after Owusu had unsettled the home defence.
Tranmere got the goal their play deserved in the 23rd minute when Brentford failed to deal with a Roberts corner, the ball dropped to Zola and he made no mistake, firing past the Brentford defenders on the goal line. Ian Goodison came close to bringing Rovers level in the 27th minute when he picked up a lay off from Zola and fired in a shot from 20 yards but Nelson was able to palm it away and four minutes later the visitors were further ahead.
It was Tillen who again the instigator as Owusu latched on to his long ball, the Bees striker skipped past Wilson who clattered into him and referee Oliver awarded the penalty. O'Connor stepped up and lashed it past Wilson to put Brentford 3-1 up.
Despite the two goal deficit Tranmere refused to be bowed and could have got back into it within three minutes. Facey latched onto a ball forward from Francis and lashed a shot which flew past Nelson but cannoned to safety off the crossbar. They created another opening four minutes later when Sharps nodded a Roberts corner into the path of Zola but his shot was blocked by Newman.
Brentford could have extended their lead just before the break when after Tabb crashed a shot against the bar from 30 yards but within seven minutes of the re-start they did grab their fourth, and it was a fantastic goal.
Newman slipped a ball through to Hutchinson who played it on again to Paul Brooker. He skipped past Jackson and rolled the ball across to Owusu who placed it past Wilson and into the roof of the net.
The goal just after the break seemed to kill the game off, and Brentford defended solidly, repelling the threat of the home side. As a result there were fewer clear cut chances in the second period, Tillen shot over for Brentford and substitute Mousinho produced a good block late on to deny Facey a shooting chance.
Brentford kept the ball well late on and Peters could have added a fifth when he raced into a long ball through, he knocked it past Wilson but Goodison beat the young striker to the loose ball and cleared the danger.
Brentford: Nelson; O'Connor, Turner, Sodje (sub Mousinho 76 mins), Tillen; Brooker, Newman, Hutchinson, Tabb (sub Lewis 75 mins); Owusu (sub Peters 79 mins), Gayle
Subs (not used): Campbell, Bankole
Written by Chris Wickham