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  • by Julian Taylor

Clinical Preston expose Brentford's soft centre in dramatic style

Brentford 2 Preston North End 4

Julian Taylor at Brentford Community Stadium

Feisty and fearless Preston North End exposed Brentford’s soft underbelly in a dramatic afternoon which saw the Bees spectacularly implode.

Thomas Frank’s men were looking great value at the interval with a two goal advantage, courtesy of a double from Ivan Toney. And at the start of the second half there was no sign of what was to come. But when it did, what intensely painful viewing it was for the head coach.

Goals from Scot Sinclair (twice), Brad Potts and Sean Maguire exposed Brentford, whose collapse was as dramatic as it was swift. Moreover, the manner of their ill-discipline and outright surrender could have extensive consequences in the weeks to come.

In a rain-swept corner of west London with Brentford still sounding out their new stadium without, of course, any fans present due to the ongoing effects of Covid-19, there was an importance to build on the feel-good factor of the midweek victory over local rivals Fulham in the EFL Cup.

That handsome 3-0 success put the Bees, naturally, in buoyant mood going into a game against Preston, who were still looking for their first win in the Championship, having lost against Stoke most recently.

Fortunately for Brentford, their early endeavours paid off when they took the lead with a well-executed goal. A sweeping move down the left began when Dominic Thompson set Josh Dasilva free – and the in-form midfielder slipped a threatening ball low into the six yard area, where Toney was sufficiently alert to poach and stab the ball past Lilywhites’ keeper Declan Rudd. A great start, considering Preston’s early approach was rather muscular and particularly for Toney, the Bees’ recent – and club record – signing.

As Brentford looked to consolidate their advantage there was bad news when playmaker Christian Norgaard had to withdraw in 22 minutes. The Dane fell awkwardly inside his own half and Frank took the sensible decision to replace him with Mathias Jensen. Meanwhile, Brentford keeper Luke Daniels was forced into action a couple of times as the Lancashire outfit pressed occasionally as the first half wore on but, overall, the home defence remained solid.

And just two minutes from the interval, Brentford added a second – and what a goal it was too. A textbook Bees’ move, in accordance with the style patented by Frank.

The sequence began when Sergi Canos caressed a cross field ball from inside his own half on the left, which was picked up instantly via a fine first touch by Bryan Mbuemo. The sprightly winger then threaded the ball invitingly for the onrushing Toney, who calmly despatched the ball past Rudd from ten yards. It was the kind of strike which, under normal circumstances, would have virtually lifted the roof off the new stadium.

Yet who could have possibly predicted what was to follow?

The visitors began the second half with full intent – and they pulled a goal back in 51 minutes. Attacker Sinclair was lurking with intent in the danger area and the former Swansea and Celtic player was first to react to Patrick Bauer’s redirected header from a Joe Rafferty cross, leaving Daniels with no chance.

Unsurprisingly, with the goal, came increasing confidence from Alex Neil’s men who were making their presence felt inside the Brentford half, probing all the time. Crucially for Preston they made it count with a 57th minute equaliser. Dasilva’s inattention midway inside his own half ensured he was dispossessed by Andy Hughes who wasted no time in firing the ball into the path of Sinclair who, with two touches, planted the ball home in emphatic fashion.

Brentford’s sudden nervousness was most uncharacteristic – their players were arguing amongst themselves seconds after the leveller – and they found an opponent more than capable of taking advantage.

Once again, the Bees stepped back when Preston took possession, this time allowing Potts to compose himself and fire past Daniels at his near post from around twenty yards, with Henrik Dalsgaard failing to track him.

Frank made a double substitution to try and arrest the slump, sending on Said Benrahma and Saman Ghoddos for Canos and Emiliano Marcondes. However the pair had no time to bed into the game before Preston, incredibly, netted a fourth goal. In the 70th minute, Maguire was first to react to a teasing corner to fire home amid a crowded six yard box. Somehow the striker was able to pounce despite four Brentford defenders in close attendance; a matter which will surely be noted in the post-mortem.

Dasilva sprang into life briefly when he fired inches wide from 18 yards – but with time running out for the Bees and Toney looking a peripheral figure compared to the first half, the damage was done. Mentally, Brentford were gone. Completely.

A shocker and no mistake – Frank now has to ensure there are no lingering ramifications from this costly, and unexpected, second half collapse.

Brentford: Daniels, Thompson, Pinnock, Norgaard (Jensen 22), Canos (Ghoddos 67), Marcondes (Benrahma 67), Dasilva, Toney, Jansson, Mbuemo, Dalsgaard


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