Scott Hogan came off the substitute’s bench to score his first Brentford goal and earn The Bees a point against Bristol City. The striker – who spent around 18 months out of the game after twice rupturing his cruciate knee ligament – had seen a penalty superbly saved but headed home in stoppage time to win his team a point. Brentford had fallen behind at the end of the first half after failing to make the most of a series of early chances and it looked as if they would be beaten. But Hogan headed in at the death to make it 1-1 and give The Bees a draw.
A point was the least Brentford deserved from an entertaining contest. City goalkeeper Richard O’Donnell was certainly the Man of the Match, making a series of fine saves that culminated in a penalty stop. Lee Tomlin punished Brentford for failing to take those chances with a well taken goal and it looked as if that would be the winner. But Brentford kept pressing and eventually got their leveller.
The game started at a frantic pace. The visitors tried to attack immediately from kick-off, running the ball in to Brentford territory, and that established an early pattern. Both teams looked to get as many players forward in to advanced areas as they could and when they lost the ball there were counter-attacking opportunities for their opponents. Brentford started brightly, moving the ball quickly and finding pockets of space to exploit.
With Alan Judge ruled out for the season, Sam Saunders was given the central attacking midfield role and he was at the heart of much of Brentford’s early attacking play. Nico Yennaris was restored to the midfield after illness which pushed Ryan Woods in to a more advanced role. Woods, Saunders and Sergi Canós combined to good effect early on and their movement and quick interchanges worried the visitors. It also forced mistakes and when Yennaris intercepted a loose pass, he found Lasse Vibe in the penalty area, the Danish striker turned well but his low shot was saved by O’Donnell.
Canós fired over soon after when a corner was half cleared and then almost profited when Saunders got on to a short back pass but he could not set up the Spanish attacker. At the other end Jonathan Kodjia shot wide from 25 yards but Brentford were doing most of the attacking in the opening exchanges. Yennaris shot over from 20 yards and moments later Vibe, who had created that chance, received a Yoann Barbet pass and cut inside Nathan Baker, his low shot was superbly saved by O’Donnell and Canós’ fierce effort on the rebound was bravely blocked by the towering Aden Flint.
Canós had a shot blocked for Brentford and a Tomlin effort was also blocked at the other end but the game started to settle down as the midway point of the first half approached. City’s central midfield players were closing down the space and making it harder for Brentford to play through but The Bees thought they should have had a penalty when a Saunders free kick was met by Jake Bidwell eight yards out, it cannoned in to the arm of Kodjia but referee Darren Handley only signalled for a corner. There were also appeals at the other end later in the half when Kodjia got away from Barbet and looked to turn inside the French defender before going down but again Mr Handley decided there was no offence.
City should have gone ahead when Joe Bryan got in behind when Barbet failed to cut out a lofted Luke Freeman pass but he decided to try to score with his head rather than bringing the ball down and David Button gathered easily. Moments later Kodjia got in behind – not flagged when looking suspiciously like he was offside – and Barbet had to make a recovery tackle after being unable to halt the striker initially. At the other end Yennaris blasted over when a cross was half cleared and City made Brentford pay for failing to take their chances.
The first half was just about over when Tomlin received the ball 25 yards from goal, he advanced in to some space and then curled a shot out of the reach of Button and in to the far corner. City had shown their attacking quality in the later stages of the half but Brentford would have been disappointed to go in behind at half time. They had created enough chances in the early stages to have the game won but had not taken them and now had to chase the game.
The Bees came out after the break and won a corner inside 15 seconds when a Yennaris cross was turned over his own crossbar by Marlon Pack. And that again set the tone for the early stages of the second half. Brentford attacked with pace and in numbers and created plenty of chances, but again they could not take them. Saunders was crowded out when Vibe tried to feed him 15 yards out and Yennaris headed wide before a Bidwell shot was blocked.
Canós then had a shot blocked for The Bees before O’Donnell made a magnificent save low to his right to prevent Alan McCormack’s header finding the net. Vibe almost made the most of a poor Pack pass but got his shot all wrong when he only had O’Donnell to beat. City went straight down the other end and a Button miss kick presented the ball to Bobby Reid, as Harlee Dean protected the line, Barbet raced back and made a recovery tackle, albeit there may have been a pull on the attacker as well.
Flint almost got a second for the visitors but was just unable to stretch to head in a Freeman cross and Button touched a Pack shot around the post but most of the action was at the other end. Saunders curled a shot just over after being set up by Canós while there were long range efforts from Barbet, blocked, and McCormack, wide. O’Donnell then produced another superb stop, pushing a Vibe header away when it looked to be nestling in the top corner.
Brentford introduced Hogan and Konstantin Kerschbaumer but as the minutes ticked down City looked to have a measure of control. Canós was starting to fade and with the visitors sitting deeper, space was limited. But Josh Clarke then came on to use his speed and Brentford got a lift. With City unsure how to deal with the speed Brentford now possessed in attack Kerschbaumer lifted a ball over the top and Hogan got in behind before being pulled down by Nathan Baker. This time Mr Handley decided it was a spot kick and Hogan took the responsibility but once again O’Donnell denied Brentford, saving superbly low to his right.
That may have been that but neither Hogan nor Brentford as a team gave in, even when City eventually cleared the series of corners that resulted from the penalty save. And when the final chance came, it was taken. Clarke found a yard on the right to deliver a cross, Bidwell got up to head it back and Hogan nodded in. After almost two full seasons as a Championship player where he had barely got on to pitch it was a cathartic moment for the striker, and earned The Bees a draw.
Brentford: Button; Colin, Dean, Barbet, Bidwell; McCormack, Yennaris; Woods (sub Kerschbaumer 72 mins), Saunders (sub Hogan 72 mins), Canós (sub Clarke 83 mins); Vibe
Subs (not used): Bonham, O’Connell, Gogia, Djuricin
Bookings: McCormack (90 mins) (tenth of season)
Bristol City: O’Donnell; Matthews (sub Ayling 81 mins), Flint, Baker, Golbourne (sub Reid 24 mins); Pack; Freeman, Smith, Bryan, Tomlin (sub Odemwingie 60 mins); Kodjia
Subs (not used): O’Leary, Agard, Wagstaff, Pearce
Bookings: Tomlin (18 mins), Pack (32 mins), Bryan (69 mins)
Attendance: 12,071 (1,659 away fans)