Brentford ended a fantastic week with a third home win in four Sky Bet Championship games at Griffin Park to extend their unbeaten run to four overall. The Bees followed up an away win over Brighton and Hove Albion and a draw at Aston Villa with a 5-0 home victory over Preston North End that was probably not quite as comfortable as the score line suggested. Scott Hogan opened the scoring in the first half, perhaps against the run of the game to that point, but the result was in the balance until Harlee Dean added a second inside the final 20 minutes.
That was, however, the catalyst for Brentford to move through the gears. Hogan grabbed two more to complete his first Brentford hat-trick, and make it five goals in the seven-point week, and an own goal from substitute Chris Humphrey ensure Brentford recorded their biggest home win since Crewe Alexandra were dispatched 5-0 in November 2013. The result was probably a little harsh on Preston, who ended the game with ten men due to injury, but Brentford’s clinical end to the game ensured the big win.
Preston were happy to sit deep in the early exchanges. They did not press Brentford until The Bees entered their half and condensed their midfield and defence so there was no space to pick passes between the lines. It also made it hard for Brentford to knock the ball in behind and utilise the pace of Hogan. There were times in the first quarter when the Brentford striker stretched the Preston back line but the hosts were not able to profit from it.
The visitors started with Eoin Doyle playing just behind striker Jordan Hugill and two tight banks of four behind them. Doyle was able to find pockets of space in the first half hour, particularly when Preston played on the counter attack, and the visitors came closest to scoring in the opening 30 minutes. A Callum Robinson shot from a short corner was deflected over and Daniel Bentley saved a long range effort from Paul Gallagher. The Brentford goalkeeper made a better stop when, following a break, Hugill met a deep Robinson cross at the far post but Bentley saved at point-blank range.
A Lewis Macleod free kick almost created a goal for Brentford at the other end but it just eluded Hogan and Preston goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard gathered unconvincingly. Macleod also saw a shot blocked but when Brentford took the lead 34 minutes in, Preston could feel hard done by. Whilst Brentford had dominated possession, they had lacked a cutting edge and the visitors had looked the more dangerous side. But that counted for nothing when, after a long spell of possession, Romaine Sawyers found some space between Preston’s lines and received a Nico Yennaris pass, he slipped a ball though and Hogan raced in to a gap in the defence before slotting low past Lindegaard first time with his left foot.
Brentford had started to improve before the goal, which came after a series of probes in to the Preston defensive areas, and moved through the gears afterwards. Sawyers, clearly buoyed by his role in the goal, was at the heart of everything, and the ball was moving in and out of midfield quickly, allowing Brentford to dominate. There were a few last ditch clearances from the visitors and Lindegaard had to make a full length save to prevent Tom Clarke chesting a Macleod cross in to his own net. Sullay Kaikai then shot over as Brentford pressed.
But Preston almost struck back just before the break. Right back Marnick Vermijl jinked inside Andreas Bjelland and smashed a shot towards the near post that Bentley had to palm over the crossbar. Doyle also shot over for the hosts seconds after the restart before the striker forced Bentley in to another fine save after meeting a cross from Aiden McGeady with a firm near post effort. John Egan had a header saved at the other end and the centre half then headed wide after Hogan had delivered a Macleod free kick back in to the middle.
Preston started the second half looking to wrestle back the initiative Brentford had gained at the end of the first. They played higher up the pitch, getting Doyle closer to Hugill, and sacrificing a little defensive solidity. It meant there was more action in the penalty areas in the second period as Brentford were keen to attack as well. The open game probably suited The Bees, who had more attacking weaponry than their visitors.
Kaikai forced Lindegaard in to a low save with a 25-yard free kick before Dean saw a header saved from a Macleod corner. A fine run from Maxime Colin nearly led to a goal but his low cross eluded both Hogan and Macleod and Kaikai then pulled a shot across the face of goal after more good work by Sawyers. Dean blocked a Robinson shot and a follow-up effort from Doyle was also blocked by a hard-working Brentford defence before Alex Baptiste nodded a corner over the bar.
Robinson wasted a good opportunity by shooting well wide from 20 yards and a McGeady effort was deflected away from goal but Brentford grabbed a second soon after and the game was just about finished. It came from a Josh McEachran corner, Hogan nodded it back, Bjelland tapped it down and Dean drilled it through a forest of legs and in to the back of the net. It was the first goal for the Brentford captain since November 2014 and one he celebrated with gusto.
Preston substitute Simon Makienok could have reduced the arrears but missed his kick when eight yards out and when Vermijl limped off moments later, the visitors’ race was run. Brentford capitalised on the change Preston had to make, pushing Humphrey to right back and ruthlessly pushed forward. Macleod forced Lindegaard in to a low save with a free kick but the third goal wasn’t long in coming. Preston were, however, masters of their own downfall. A weak header from Daniel Johnson was seized on by Hogan and he nipped around Lindegaard before rolling home.
Preston’s heads dropped and Brentford moved in for the kill. The fourth goal came two minutes after the third when Macleod released Josh Clarke on the right and his cross was turned in to his own net by the hapless Humphrey. The fifth followed within seconds and was the icing on the cake. A wonderful one-touch move that also involved McEachran and Sawyers saw Macleod feed Hogan and he slotted it past Lindegaard to end a very good afternoon for The Bees.
Brentford: Bentley; Colin, Dean, Egan, Bjelland (sub Barbet 76 mins); Woods, Yennaris (sub McEachran 64 mins); Macleod, Sawyers, Kaikai (sub Clarke 82 mins); Hogan
Subs (not used): Bonham, McCormack, Vibe, Saunders
Preston North End: Lindegaard; Vermijl, Clarke, Baptiste, Cunningham; McGeady, Gallagher, Browne (sub Johnson 69 mins), Robinson; Doyle (sub Humphrey 77 mins); Hugill (sub Makienok 69 mins)
Subs (not used): Maxwell, Wright, Pringle, Welsh
Bookings: Cunningham (64 mins), Humphrey (81 mins)
Attendance: 9,920 (949 away fans)