Bees and Boro settle for dull stalemate
Brentford 0 Middlesbrough 0
Julian Taylor at Brentford Community Stadium
When supporters are finally allowed the enter the freshly-unwrapped Brentford Community Stadium, they must hope that Brentford can serve up something a bit more creative and eventful than this competitive, but ultimately dull, affair.
Thomas Frank’s men found Middlesbrough lived up to their billing: a team which is well organised, hard to break down and, as it transpired, very hard to beat.
Chances to grab all three points against a Neil Warnock side are always likely to be precious, and the one that fell to Vitaly Janelt in the second half might have made the difference, but it wasn’t to be. Such was the tone of the afternoon.
Diligence, organisation and cohesion was enough for Boro to earn a point, and any concerns regarding entertainment will prove completely academic to Warnock. His side collectively kept Championship top scorer Ivan Toney quiet. The Teessiders got what they came for, with Brentford disjointed compared to their usual fluent selves.
Brentford boss Frank noted in the match programme that the recent away win against Luton Town was “almost the complete performance” as well as acknowledging his regard for his opposite number. The Bees have had a hard time traditionally against teams managed by Warnock – just five wins in 22 games recorded against the game’s wily veteran.
Boro arrived in west London four places and two points above Brentford, with three wins and two draws in their last five games, and although ultra-resolute in defence, they had been finding goals hard to come by. Nothing here suggested a major sea-change in this respect.
Still, in £5m man Toney - with ten goals to his credit - Frank would have been entitled to have faith that the parsimonious Teessiders’ could be breached. Toney was directly up against Middlesbrough’s best player this term, Paddy McNair, with the Northern Ireland international detailed to stop any danger from the marauding forward.
After a very sluggish start, it seemed to take forever for either side to fashion a decent opportunity. Eventually, one fell to Josh DaSilva for the hosts, but the midfielder, having burst through the Boro lines, fired a yard wide when he really should have at least struck the target. The suspicion was that such moments would be at a premium as the contest proceeded; testimony to each sides’ discipline.
Sergi Canos then tried his luck from distance but Boro keeper Marcus Bettinelli – who used to ply his trade across west London at Fulham – easily held the effort.
There was hope, albeit rather faint, that the second half might open up, with a late surge of counter-attacks a common feature of Middlesbrough this season. And the visitors nearly broke the deadlock in 54 minutes. Chuba Akpom swivelled onto a pass from Jonny Howson 12 yards out, but the striker’s fierce left foot shot whizzed inches over David Raya’s goal. It was, regrettably, one of the few moments we got to something approaching excitement.
Janelt took that dubious honour, though, when he missed a golden chance to put the Bees ahead on the hour. A nice move on the right involving Toney and Dalsgaard saw the ball reach the midfielder invitingly. Yet from six yards, he somehow hacked the ball wide. An absolute sitter, drawing groans of frustration from Frank, patrolling the touchline.
With the hosts labouring, the Brentford chief substituted Bryan Mbuemo, who was strangely anonymous all afternoon, for Marcus Forss in an attempt to somehow ignite this monochrome afternoon.
Boro’s Marc Bola briefly rocked with a speculative effort which went wide when he picked up a clearance from a corner, but both sides simply lacked precision and nous when those rare opportunities presented themselves. Middlesbrough persevered as the darkness settled, working the Brentford rear guard and Raya did well to turn a Lewis Wing shot over the bar, but the west Londoners managed to hold out.
As expected, there was to be no drama at the climax and Brentford remain planted in the Championship mid-table. The one consolation for Frank is that, fortunately, they will have more productive days than this, against less stuffy opponents.
Brentford: Raya, Henry, Pinnock, Canos (Ghoddos 73), Jensen, Dasilva, Toney, Mbuemo (Forss 65), Dalsgaard, Janelt (Fosu 78), Sorensen