Two goals of rare quality ensured Brentford ended 2015 with an away win, beating Reading at The Madjeski Stadium. Ryan Woods smashed his first goal for the Club in from 25 yards in the first half to put The Bees in front but that was eclipsed after the break by Sergi Canós. The Liverpool loanee – hours after agreeing a deal to stay to end of the campaign – took a 60 yard pass from Woods down and beat two defenders before smashing home the winning goal in front of almost 3,000 travelling Brentford fans inside the final 20 minutes.
It was a goal that deserved to win any game and when a team scores two goals like Brentford did, they always have a chance of winning games. But Reading may feel a little unfortunate. It was a rare afternoon for The Bees as they did not dominate possession, particularly in the first half, and had to work hard defensively. When Reading equalised, with another good goal, just before the hour mark, they looked as if they would have the momentum to get the winner.
But Brentford protected David Button for most of the match and ended the game well. Head Coach Dean Smith was able to bring Canós, Philipp Hofmann and Sam Saunders on to ensure his team had control in the later stages. And once they got their second goal, they maintained control. The late sending off of Reading defender Michael Hector put referee Keith Stroud in the spotlight again but did not affect the result.
The home side started brightly. They flew out of the blocks, playing attacking football and looking to use the pace they had in forward areas. They were happy to go from back to front quickly when the chance allowed and pressed Brentford when the visitors had the ball. Their first chance came when they harried Button in to a poor kick but when the ball was worked to Ola John he was crowded out and could not get a shot away.
With John and Nick Blackman playing either side of Hal Robson-Kanu, the hosts had pace in abundance. Brentford were caught out in the early stages as Reading looked to turn their defenders and get them running back towards their own goal. James Tarkowski picked up an early booking from Mr Stroud – one of seven issued by the official over the course of a match with no major flashpoints – for a tug on Robson-Kanu and Blackman fired a free kick narrowly over when another decision when Reading’s way.
The hosts could have gone ahead 11 minutes in when Robson-Kanu got away from Tarkowski in the inside right channel, he cut inside and got a shot away that Button parried and Harlee Dean was on hand to clear. And moments after that chance went begging, Brentford went ahead. It was a spectacular goal and one that came out of nothing. After some interplay in midfield the ball was worked to Woods on the right side, he moved forward and as the defenders backed off he smashed an unstoppable shot in to the top corner from 25 yards. It was quite a way to open his Brentford account.
The goal had probably come against the run of early play. Reading’s all-energy, all-effort style was lifting the home crowd and making it difficult for Brentford to play through midfield at times but The Bees had shown that when the hosts eased off, they would be able to pass the ball forward and get on the front foot. John Swift had a shot saved after picking up a ball on the edge of the penalty area and Jonathan Bond saved a low Alan Judge shot after a nice shimmy from Josh McEachran.
Reading’s style did not change after Brentford’s goal, albeit the hosts could not maintain their intensity. Danny Williams fired just over the bar from 20 yards and Stephen Quinn, up from left back, pulled an effort across the face of goal. Tarkowski blocked a Williams effort after the Reading midfield man had turned well and when the two came together late in the half in the Brentford penalty area, Mr Stroud waved away appeals for a spot kick, clearly spotting the home player had gone down very easily.
Swift headed a Judge cross wide for The Bees and a Robson-Kanu shot was blocked at the other end. Button also saved from Oliver Norwood late in the half as Brentford went in to the break with the lead, albeit not a comfortable one. And they were fortunate to still hold it five minutes in to the second period. Reading should have levelled within 90 seconds when substitute Matej Vydra met a Quinn cross with a downward header but he could only bounce it on to the crossbar and Tarkowski cleared. Blackman then volleyed wide and saw a powerful shot hit his own man, Lucas Piazon, before Paul McShane’s header from a corner was blocked.
Reading had started the second half as quickly as they started the first. A double change at half time – introducing Vydra and Gareth McCleary – had given them fresh legs and they could once again play in the energetic manner they had for much of the first quarter of the match. And before the hour mark, they had got their equaliser. It was a well-worked goal when it came and was almost entirely down to the substitutes. After a patient build-up, the ball was worked to Vydra and after two exchanges of passes with McCleary, the latter slotted past Button to level it up.
Reading had the momentum and went searching for a second goal. Williams had a shot blocked and then another soon after when a corner was half cleared. Hector saw a header blocked and McCleary fired weakly at Button after weaving through. But Reading were starting to show signs that they could be caught out when they lost the ball. Two chances on the break went begging for The Bees in quick succession – first when Vibe couldn’t find Judge to put him through one-on-one and then when the striker was tackled as he led another three-on-one break. Judge also missed his kick from a Jake Bidwell cross soon after.
Brentford were starting to get the upper hand and four chances went begging in quick succession. Swift weaved his way through and saw a shot blocked, Hoffman then let fly but his effort hit a defender before Judge fired against the arm of Quinn and then smashed across the face of goal. But the goal they were threatening came two minutes later through Canós, a goal worthy of winning any match at any level.
Reading tried to find a way to level but their energy levels were lower and the lack of intensity gave Brentford breathing space. McCleary almost conjured something with a run to the by-line and a cross that Button couldn’t gather but Maxime Colin was able to smash clear. And their chances were severely hit with two minutes left when Hector tried to buy a penalty as he ran in to Woods and fell over only for Mr Stroud to issue a yellow card for simulation, the second of the afternoon for the central defender.
Brentford almost made the extra man count when Canós and Hofmann set up Judge but McShane got across to make a superb block and keep him team in it. The hosts could not, however, use the five additional minutes to find an equaliser meaning Brentford left with the points.
Reading: Bond; Gunther, McShane, Hector, Quinn; Norwood, Williams; Blackman, Piazon (sub Liburd 70 mins), John (sub McCleary h/t); Robson-Kanu (sub Vydra h/t)
Subs (not used): Al Habsi, Sa, Tshibola, Cooper
Bookings: Williams (75 mins)
Sent Off: Hector (88 mins) (second bookable offence)
Brentford: Button; Colin, Dean, Tarkowski, Bidwell; McEachran (sub Canós 59 mins), Diagouraga; Woods, Judge, Swift; Vibe (sub Hofmann 68 mins)
Subs (not used): Bonham, Yennaris, O’Connell, Saunders, Jota
Bookings: Tarkowski (5 mins) (fifth of season), Diagouraga (28 mins) (sixth of season), Button (80 mins) (third of season), Dean (87 mins) (third of season)
Attendance: 20,563 (2,803 Bees fans)