Brentford bounced back to winning ways with a superb away win against Preston North End in a rough-and-tumble match at a wet and wild Deepdale. The Bees came in to the match on the back of four straight losses, albeit they had played well for long periods in those defeats, but put that to bed with a 3-1 win in Lancashire. They went ahead with a strike that will surely be credited to skipper Jake Bidwell and Alan Judge restored the lead before half time with a well taken goal. There were periods of pressure for Brentford to withstand after half time but they weathered it and John Swift made the game safe late on.
It was a win The Bees deserved overall. Preston had their chances, they hit the woodwork and had a goal rightly ruled out for offside, but Brentford were the better team. They dominated possession and stood up to the physical challenge posed by their hosts before breaking incisively and taking the chances when they came to ensure they got the win.
Brentford started positively. They looked to work the ball through midfield with Josh McEachran at the heart of things in the early stages. With Preston playing a narrow four-man midfield there was not a lot of space in the centre of the park so Maxime Colin and Bidwell had to get forward from full back to provide extra men in attack. They did this to good effect in the opening stages with Brentford dominating possession and playing mostly in Preston’s half.
The hosts were content to sit off Brentford for the first quarter. David Button was rarely pressed when he had possession and he could usually pick out McEachran or Ryan Woods in midfield to get The Bees moving forward. The hosts were, however, well-organised in defence. Ben Pearson sat in front of their back four and prevented Brentford playing through. Preston looked to get the ball from back to front quickly, pick up the second balls and play in Brentford territory and Person had a shot blocked early on from one such occasion.
But it was Brentford who had the early initiative and when they went ahead just before the midway point of the first half, they probably just about deserved it. It came from a free kick won when Greg Cunningham tripped Sam Saunders on the edge of the penalty area after Judge had moved a fantastic 65-yard pass from Yoann Barbet on. Bidwell curled the free kick towards the far post and watched it sail in to the corner after taking a flick off the head of Cunningham. The goal was awarded officially to the Preston defender but it should be credited to Bidwell as the effort was heading in anyway.
Unfortunately, Brentford’s lead lasted less than two minutes. The home side knocked the ball forward and Harlee Dean’s attempt to clear only presented it to Daniel Johnson. With Preston having bodies forward the ball was worked via Joe Garner to Adam Reach and the winger slotted home from 15 yards.
Two goals in less than 120 seconds meant the game was suddenly alive. Brentford had the upper hand but had not taken advantage of taking the lead and had to build again. They did, however, go straight back on the front foot and Preston goalkeeper Sam Johnstone saved a clever flicked header from Lasse Vibe when he got on to a Judge cross. The game was starting to open up with Preston committing more bodies forward when they had the ball and pressing more. Their style of play meant they showed signs of tiring and Brentford were able to find more space themselves so chances came at both ends.
Eoin Doyle met a Cunningham cross on the stretch but could only flick a header wide for the hosts before Paul Gallagher fired over from distance after Reach had laid the ball off. And with the game getting stretched, tackles were becoming more desperate and, at times, cynical. Paul Huntington went in to the book for the hosts while referee David Webb gave an early indication he was struggling to control the match by then booking Colin for a much softer offence that drew a loud howl from the crowd.
The game had started to go in to a lull when Brentford went ahead just before the break. Once again, Barbet was involved, playing a superb ball from the inside left channel to Judge who brought it down, slipped past Cunningham and Huntington before slotting home. It was a superb goal, both in design and execution and gave Brentford a lead their play had deserved, even if they were not quite dominant in terms of chances.
With half time approaching Brentford went looking for a third to give themselves breathing space. Woods almost got it with a spectacular volley from 25 yards that fizzed just wide. And soon after, following two weaving runs from the impressive Swift, Saunders set up Bidwell for a lofted effort that again just missed the target.
But at half time the main talking point was a fracas caused by Preston striker Garner. The forward had been lucky to escape with a caution, at least, earlier in the half when he appeared to elbow Dean and in stoppage time at the end of the first half, his luck increased many times over, He won a free kick for a foul by Saunders and the Preston striker then appeared to punch the Brentford man as he tried to wrestle the ball back. Mr Webb consulted with one of his assistants – Ravel Cheosiaua – and Fourth Official Carl Boyeson before deciding to only caution Garner, who had sprinted from the scene, and take no action against any other player involved in the resulting melee.
Bailey Wright followed Garner in to the book moments later for a horrible hack at Swift as Mr Webb struggled to keep a lid on things. The official was probably thankful he could blow for a break that may allow Preston tempers to settle down while the hosts could make use of having 11 men on the pitch and try to find a way back in to the game. And the Garner decision, or lack thereof, almost had an immediate impact at the start of the second half. The striker got on to a long ball as Dean missed his header and squared to Doyle but the chance went begging as the shot screwed wide from 15 yards.
Despite that early chance, it was Brentford that started the second half better. They rotated the ball in midfield with every man switching positon, moving forward comfortably and releasing at the right times. Chances came as well and Vibe could have put The Bees clear when Bidwell nodded a Woods cross inside but the striker headed over. Judge had a shot saved soon after but Preston were starting to grow in to the game and threw another powerful striker – Jordan Hugill – in to the mix.
Paul Gallagher headed in to the side netting and then shot wide before Button saved a long range effort from Johnson. The Brentford goalkeeper was soon in the thick of the action, proving his quality. He pushed a deflected effort from Calum Woods over before making a wonderful reaction save when Garner turned a Johnson effort towards the top corner. It was a save worthy of being a match winner and proved to be a key moment.
Huntington hit the crossbar with a header for the hosts and Garner had a goal ruled out for an offside earlier in the move. There was nothing subtle about Preston’s play but they were getting joy from long diagonal balls and Brentford introduced Konstantin Kerschbaumer and Sergi Canós to provide some fresh legs in midfield and help them pick up those second balls. And with Dean and Barbet winning much of what came their way and Woods always in the right position, they were able to do it. Callum Robinson had a shot blocked as time ticked by but Brentford were starting to weather the storm, if not the heavy rain falling from the dark Lancashire skies.
And when The Bees got a chance to break and make the game safe, they did so emphatically. Canós picked up a ball from Colin and then set the overlapping full back away and to the touch line, when the cross came in Swift got free and hiss shot took a deflection before looping over Johnstone and in to the net. Button saved a Hugill header but Deepdale was deflated by Swift’s goal and Preston’s game was up. The Bees controlled possession in the later stages and ensured they did enough to take the win and the three points back to London.
Preston North End: Johnstone; Woods (sub Vermijl 79 mins), Huntington, Wright, Cunningham; Pearson (sub Robinson 62 mins); Johnson, Gallagher, Reach; Doyle (sub Hugill 62 mins), Garner
Subs (not used): Kirkland, Kilkenny, Browne, Welsh
Bookings: Huntington (29 mins), Garner (45 mins), Gallagher (45 mins), Cunningham (75 mins)
Brentford: Button; Colin, Dean, Barbet, Bidwell; Woods, McEachran (sub Kerschbaumer 73 mins); Saunders (sub Canós 77 mins), Judge, Swift (sub Yennaris 89 mins); Vibe
Subs (not used): Bonham, O’Connell, Gogia, Hofmann
Bookings: Colin (30 mins) (third of season), Dean (69 mins) (fifth of season)