Bees brush past Hornets as Toney hits 30-goal Championship landmark
Brentford 2 Watford 0
Automatic promotion may have been beyond Brentford this season, but at least they can bookend their fortunes with what turned out to be a deserved victory over Watford.
The Hornets edged out the west London side for the coveted second place, but they were short of the kind of vibrancy and ruthlessness which guarantees them Premier League football next term.
Watford’s industry was more than matched by Thomas Frank’s side, keen to maintain their momentum ahead of the playoffs, and a final third place in the Championship table is the least Brentford deserve.
Yet the main highlight of the day was Ivan Toney reaching the landmark of 30 goals in the division, after Marcus Forss put Brentford in front immediately after the break.
Bees' hit man Toney is only the second player to earn the accolade since Glenn Murray in 2012-13 for Crystal Palace. Toney continues to impress and the obvious footnote after another fine display is that of his value to would-be suitors in the top tier, as the Bees brace themselves for serious interest in the summer.
Brentford made six changes from the side which beat Rotherham United 1-0 in midweek and were hoping - despite the comparative humdrum nature of this fixture now promotion and play off placings have been established – to account for an unwanted hex. Not since Easter 1977 and a total of 17 fixtures had Brentford managed to defeat Watford. The Hornets had a refreshed look to their line-up and also included Maurizio Pochettino Jr, son of the former Tottenham manager, on the bench for just the second time.
That Watford overcame a thrawny Millwall by a single goal in their last encounter, with Brentford only drawing against the same opposition, is essentially one of the key factors that has propelled the visitors to automatic promotion instead of the playoffs, which Frank’s side must now settle for.
And it was Watford who were first to threaten in ten minutes, after a committed opening from both teams. Brentford could consider themselves rather fortunate when Dan Gosling’s snap shot was turned away by the legs of Bees’ keeper David Raya before the ball was eventually being scrambled away.
It was, at least, a wake up call that the Bees noted, and seven minutes later Christian Norgaard went close with an angled side-footed volley from a set piece.
Watford, meanwhile, made an enforced change in only 23 minutes when Joseph Hungbo went off with a suspected hamstring injury and was replaced by Philip Zinckernagel. Oddly, this was then accompanied by another untimely, early alteration when Tom Cleverley made way for Isaac Success. And as the Hornets’ midfielder looked dejected as he made his way immediately down the tunnel, presumably also injured.
Unsurprisingly, the hosts were not carving out the usual number of scoring opportunities as they normally enjoy on home soil, and the first half was no exception. Toney headed straight at Watford keeper Daniel Bachmann from a choice position with Brentford edging possession. Still, the breakthrough wouldn’t come at either end.
The Bees didn’t have to wait long – with Forss forging them ahead inside the first minute of the restart.
It was, in fact, such a well-worked move which caught Watford cold. Tarique Fosu, in the starting line-up again, supplied Sergi Canos down the left - and the Spaniard’s low cross ripped across the six yard box where Forss was on hand to drill home at the far post. Both the technique and execution typical of Frank’s Brentford aesthetic.
The Bees - with Canos and Mathias Jensen in particular, enjoying themselves going forward - were pressing for more, sensing the disjoint from their buzzy counterparts.
Watford faded and a frustrated Fransisco Sierralta nudged Toney inside the box to set the west Londoners up for goal number two.
With the scoring landmark poised for him, the Bees’ striker and new London EFL player of the year stepped up to net from the spot. And while Brentford can rue a host of draws throughout their campaign, ultimately preventing automatic promotion, the 30-goal marker remains a rare feat for an individual.
Isaac Success blasted the ball against the bar in a rare Hornets’ incursion, but otherwise it was an odd afternoon of torpor for Xisco’s men.
The respective goal scorers’ work done, Frank sent on Bryan Mbuemo for Toney in 73 minutes while also giving an opportunity to Saman Ghoddos for Forss.
Other than Canos hitting the bar with spectacular 30 yard drive in the final minute, there was little extra action of note in the closing stages. All things considered, Frank will be most encouraged with this performance and clean sheet. Xisco, you suspect, will be a touch more philosophical.
Bees: Raya, Norgaard, Canos, Jensen (Marcondes 79), Forss (Ghoddos 73), Toney (Mbuemo 73) , Jansson, Fosu, Bech Sorensen, Roerslev (Stevens 88), Bidstrup (Goode 79)
Hornets: Bachmann, Cleverley (Success 29), Masina, Sema, Cathcart, Gosling (Perica 85), Gray (Pochettino 85), Hughes (Wilmot 85) Kabasele, Sierralta, Hungbo (Zinckernagel 23)