An Alan Judge goal was not enough to prevent Brentford falling to defeat against Rotherham United. The Irish midfield man scored his 14th of the season just before half time to level for The Bees after they fell behind just before the half hour. But they could not build on that and Rotherham won the game with a goal 20 minutes from the end.
And it was a win the hosts probably deserved overall. Brentford’s goal came from a penalty that was controversial to say the least and the visitors were below their best. They played their attractive, attacking football at stages on a chilly Yorkshire afternoon but probably not often enough to warrant taking anything from the game. Rotherham, fighting relegation, scrapped for every ball and made life difficult for Brentford, doing what they needed to do to win the match.
The game settled in to a pattern fairly early. Brentford were more comfortable on the ball, looking to pass through midfield and work openings. Rotherham had picked a physical team in a fairly rigid 4-4-2 system. They looked to get the ball from back to front quickly, win the second balls and play in Brentford territory. They tried to stop Brentford playing out from the back and did so effectively in the opening exchanges. The Bees had a lot of the ball in the early stages but there were few chances.
John Swift had a shot blocked for The Bees before Lee Camp made a superb save high to his right to keep out a Judge free kick from 19 yards that was arrowing in to the top corner. Rotherham looked to make the most of their physical advantage. They put men forward for set pieces, including long throws, and had good delivery to go with the aerial threat. David Button saved a deflected Lee Frecklington enough and Matt Derbyshire saw a shot deflect wide before Greg Halford missed the target from ten yards when a corner dropped loose.
The Halford chance was the clearest of the first quarter of the match and when Rotherham took the lead just before the half hour, they probably just about deserved it. The goal was one for Brentford to forget. Frecklington capitalised on defensive uncertainty to get away on the right and picked out Derbyshire at the second attempt, the striker stroked it home from 12 yards to give his team the lead. It could have been two soon after when Halford won a long ball forward and Leon Best got in but his shot was well saved by Button and Brentford scrambled it clear.
Rotherham started to sit a little deeper after taking the lead, showing signs the exertions of pressing all over the pitch were too much for them. Brentford upped the tempo a little, moving the ball quicker and more incisively and looking to play in Rotherham’s half. However, when they equalised just before half time it was still something of a surprise. And it was a goal that angered the home fans. After a move down the right a Swift cross was half cleared, Sergi Canós looked set to shoot when Frecklington made a challenge, the Rotherham man appeared to get a lot of the ball but referee Mark Brown, to the surprise of most, decided a foul had been committed. After the complaints were waved away, Judge took the spot kick and reacted quickest to equalise after his initial effort had been saved by Camp.
Rotherham could still have gone back in front before the break when Swift was robbed in his own penalty area, Jack O’Connell made a fine tackle to prevent Frecklington shooting and Halford’s effort flew wide. It was a half that ended in acrimony with Mr Brown hounded by home players and fans as he left the field. Brentford would have known they were below their best in the first 45 but they were still in the game. Their cause had not been helped by the stop-start nature of the contest and Judge picking up a couple of knocks that affected his movement at times, albeit not his participation.
The second half started as the first had. Rotherham were all-energy, harrying all over the pitch, looking to win the second balls and forcing Brentford in to mistakes. The Bees could not play out and most of the action was in their defensive areas. The Brentford defence had to work overtime to keep the hosts out. Halford headed a Jerome Thomas corner narrowly over at the near post before Joe Mattock curled a free kick inches wide. In the space of 20 seconds there was a brace of shots from Frecklington and one from Halford that were magnificently blocked by the Brentford backline.
Button also saved a looping Richard Wood header from one of Rotherham’s many set pieces while at the other end Harlee Dean headed a Josh McEachran free kick over the bar. Brentford were showing signs they may have weathered the storm and Judge had a sight of goal from 25 yards but blazed high over the bar. As in the first half, the hosts were unable to keep their pressing effort up and Brentford were able to get a better tempo in to their play. However, Rotherham’s ability from set pieces got them a second goal with 20 minutes remaining. Button made a superb stop from a Danny Ward effort when a long throw was half cleared, tipping a shot on to the bar and over, but when the corner came in and was again not cleared, the same Rotherham man fired low to restore his team’s advantage.
That advantage should not have lasted long. Brentford went straight on the attack and Ryan Woods delivered a cross from the right that reached Swift at the far post, he weaved back inside and fired low but Frazer Richardson cleared off the line and when Swift returned the loose ball to Hofmann, the Rotherham defender was again there to clear off the line. Ward had another shot saved for the hosts and Button held a Wood header as Rotherham looked to make the game safe.
The hosts were slowing the game down and making it difficult for Brentford to build momentum. The game seemed to stop every few seconds with Mr Brown taking centre stage and although Brentford threw Hofmann and Lasse Vibe on, they could not create openings. Until stoppage time. Vibe headed a Konstantin Kerschbaumer cross over and then had a great chance to level at the death, he was put away by Dean, joining the attack and went through but under pressure from Wood his low shot was saved by Camp. And that was enough to give Rotherham the points.
Rotherham United: Camp; Richardson, Broadfoot, Wood, Mattock; Halford, Smallwood, Frecklington (sub Green 81 mins), Thomas (sub G. Ward 76 mins); Derbyshire, Best (sub D. Ward 64 mins)
Subs (not used): Kenny, Kelly, Clarke-Harris, Newell
Bookings: Derbyshire (29 mins)
Brentford: Button; Yennaris, Dean, O’Connell, Bidwell; Woods, McEachran (sub Kerschbaumer 78 mins); Canós (sub Vibe 83 mins), Judge, Swift; Djuricin (sub Hofmann 64 mins)
Subs (not used): Bonham, Clarke, Barbet, Saunders
Bookings: McEachran (56 mins) (second of season), Bidwell (88 mins) (sixth of season)
Attendance: 8,534 (556 Bees fans)