Brentford won their third game in a row with a comprehensive 5-0 victory over Walsall at Griffin Park. Two early goals set up the victory, and three more after the break sealed the win, which was as comprehensive as the score line suggests, while Stuart Nelson was not called into action to make a save throughout the ninety minutes.
The Bees made three changes from the team which knocked Premiership Sunderland out of the FA Cup last week. Kevin O'Connor returned from suspension to replace John Mousinho while Dudley Campbell, who has been sold to Birmingham, and Andrew Frampton, who was injured, were also missing. Paul Brooker returned to the starting line-up on the right side of midfield with Darren Pratley, fit again after injury, also returning to the team. The changes meant Sam Tillen switched to left back, Isaiah Rankin moved forward to partner Lloyd Owusu while Jay Tabb moved to the left wing.
Brentford dominated the first half, passing the ball sweetly and cutting swathes through the Walsall defence. Andy Oakes, the visitors' goalkeeper, was called into action inside the first five minutes, saving a Lloyd Owusu header from a Tabb corner, moments later when Rankin knocked the ball across, Owusu diverted it towards the far post but Craig Pead cleared it off the line, he then produced a great tackle to deny Brooker.
Brentford didn't have to wait long for their goal, Pratley knocked the ball forward and Rankin out muscled Chris Westwood, he barged his way past Oakes and rolled the ball home. The Bees were two up in the 11th minute, Brooker, who was superb throughout, flew past Pead and got to the by-line, his cross was just too high for Rankin but he was able to pick it up and turn it back to Kevin O'Connor who rolled it sideways to Ricky Newman who curled a shot deliciously past Oakes and into the far corner from 25 yards.
The home side continued to press, leaving visiting defenders in their wake as the piled forward. A deep cross from Brooker to the far post picked out Tabb, who's vicious volley was blocked by Pead. O'Connor fired a volley over and Oakes produced a great save to deny Brooker after the tricky winger played a one-two with Owusu.
In the first thirty minutes Walsall had barely been out of their own half, Brentford held the ball well, their crisp one touch passing and movement too much for their struggling visitors. Newman arrowed a shot wide just past the half hour and moments later Tabb curled a free-kick against the post via the fingertips of Oakes. He curled a second one inches wide ten minutes before the break.
The second half saw more of the same as Brentford continued to batter their listless opponents. Owusu set up Brooker, who blasted over from 18 yards five minutes after the break and Rankin could have added a third five minutes later. Michael Turner stepped out of defence and picked out Rankin with a great pass, he tried to cut inside Anthony Gerrard, he was temporarily halted but managed to fire off a left footed shot, which was save by Luke Tilt, who replaced Oakes at the break.
Walsall finally had their first efforts just before the hour mark when Andrew Barrowman volleyed over from a corner and Kevin James nodded a Mark Wright cross wide, but that only provided a short respite for the visitors, Rankin fired wide after Owusu rolled it through to him and in the 66th minute Brentford got the third goal they deserved. Tillen lofted a ball over the statuesque defence and Brooker picked it up 12 yards out, he controlled it and rolled it past Tilt into the far corner.
Martin Allen then introduced new signing Calum Willock, who replaced Ricky Newman, while Eddie Hutchinson came on for Pratley. Grant Smith shot wide for the visitors and The Bees grabbed their fourth goal with 12 minutes remaining. A Brooker corner was flicked on by Owusu and Sam Sodje bundled it over the line. That was the Nigerian defender's last action as he left to a standing ovation two minutes later, to be replaced by John Mousinho.
Brentford went nap with five minutes remaining; another dangerous Brooker free-kick was cleared by Gerrard under pressure deep in his own box at the expense of a corner. Brooker curled the ball back in, Owusu flicked in on and Barrowman inexplicably handled it. O'Connor blasted the resulting penalty past Tilt to complete the rout.
Walsall tried to get a late consolation, Barrowman shot wide, Mousinho cleared a Gerrard header off the line and Smith shot over but the score line remained at 5-0 and the visitors headed back up the M40 soundly beaten.
Brentford: Nelson; O'Connor, Turner, Sodje (sub Mousinho 80 mins), Tillen; Brooker, Newman (sub Willock 69 mins), Pratley (sub Hutchinson 69 mins), Tabb; Owusu, Rankin
Subs (not used): Gayle, Bankole
Written by Chris Wickham