Brentford climbed to the top of Coca-Cola League One for the first time since September with a 2-1 victory over previous leaders Swansea City in front of almost 10,000 at Griffin Park. Two first half Brentford goals was the difference between the sides and a last minute goal for the visitors was no more than consolation.
Brentford were forced into two changes from the team which won so handsomely at Tranmere before Christmas with Ricky Newman and Jay Tabb both missing through suspension. Junior Lewis stepped into Newman's place in the centre of midfield with Dudley Campbell returning up front, meaning a move for Marcus Gayle to the left side of midfield.
The home side started well and seemed more comfortable in the big game atmosphere than their table topping visitors; Eddie Hutchinson had an early half chance when he headed a Paul Brooker corner over the bar. Campbell's pace was also causing problems in the opening moments; he could have given Brentford the lead when he latched onto a long ball from Lewis, but having won the race for the ball he shot wide under pressure.
Swansea had their first shooting opportunity in the 11th minute when top-scorer Lee Trundle let fly from 25 yards but his shot was deflected over the bar, but it was Brentford who were on top and only a fantastic last ditch flicked header from Garry Monk prevented Hutchinson meeting a Brooker cross five yards out and heading the Bees in front. In the 22nd minute Campbell again caused the Swans defence anxious moments with his pace, he reached the by-line and crossed for Lloyd Owusu who brought a fine low save out of Willy Gueret with a stinging volley.
It was clear that the pace in Brentford's attack was proving too hot for Swansea to handle. Alan Tate was booked in the 16th minute for a cynical block on Sam Tillen and when he hauled Lloyd Owusu down eight minutes later referee Parkes had no option but to show him a second yellow and the Swansea defender took an early bath. From the resulting free-kick Kevin O'Connor curled the ball around the wall and past Gueret into the far corner to give Brentford a deserved lead.
The goal was the least the home side deserved for a fine opening half hour and they made the extra man count by passing the ball around and making Swansea chase shadows. They added a second goal in the 35th minute when Tillen won a free kick deep in opposition territory, Brooker curled it to the far post where Hutchinson met it and powered a header past Gueret and into the corner.
Tillen had a shot after long run which dribbled wide while at the other end a fizzing shot from Samuel Ricketts flew narrowly over the crossbar. In the last minute of the first half Stuart Nelson was called into action for the first time, fielding a weak shot from Adebayo Akinfenwa.
The second half started in the same frantic pace as the first period, with Brentford not letting the visitors get a foothold in the game. Tillen almost created a third Bees goal minutes after the break when his run and cross found Brooker, but the ball flew wide. At the other end Andy Robinson curled a free kick over the bar and Nelson saved a weak shot from Trundle as Swansea started to cause problems of their own.
The visitors were much improved after the interval and had a lot of the ball without creating many clear cut chances, good work from Robinson on the left led to a cross which found Akinfenwa on his own yards from goal but he couldn't get the right contact on it. Ricketts also shot wide after a good run but Brentford were generally solid in defence with Sam Sodje and Michael Turner dealing well with the powerful Akinfenwa and tricky Trundle.
Lewis, who had been excellent providing a defensive shield in midfield, shot wide as he tried to extend Brentford's lead while Nelson saved a weak, bobbling shot from Robinson as the game entered the final ten minutes. Although Swansea continued to press and pass the ball well Brentford were able to repel most of their attacks and they failed to create any clear cut openings. The visitors pulled one back in stoppage time when Marc Goodfellow lofted a corner to the edge of the box where Robinson was waiting, his powerful volley gave Nelson no chance, but it was too little too late for the Swans.
Brentford: Nelson; O'Connor, Turner, Sodje, Tillen; Brooker (sub Mousinho 82 mins), Lewis, Hutchinson, Gayle; Owusu, Campbell (sub Rankin 65 mins)
Subs (not used): Peters, Charles, Bankole
Written by Chris Wickham