BRENTFORD manager Andy Scott vented his frustration as a “disappointing” second half performance allowed Walsall to snatch a point at Griffin Park.
The Bees started the game against 10th placed Walsall with a spring in their step, fresh from their 5-2 thrashing of Gateshead on Tuesday. And that early urgency resulted in an 11th minute goal from striker Ben Strevens. Strevens, recently returning from the team after a lengthy layoff, powered home a header after a mazy run-and-cross from winger Myles Weston to give Brentford an early lead.
- Ben Strevens celebrates his opening goal
Weston then had a fabulous opportunity to make it 2-0 not long after. The midfielder charged into the box but took one too many touches instead of letting his shot rip, allowing Rhys Weston to make a vital last ditch tackle, much to the annoyance of Charlie MacDonald who was waiting alongside for the easy finish.
New Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who joined Brentford on loan from Arsenal on Friday, had little to occupy himself with in the first half but reacted well to block an instinctive shot from Darren Byfield before pushing away the rebound from Troy Deeney.
The barrage of Brentford shots continued with MacDonald, in an uncharacteristic manner, smashing a shot over from deep inside the box on 32 minutes. Tottenham loanee John Bostock also had a chance to add to last week’s two goals, but he too put his effort over the crossbar.
Karleigh Osborne, making a rare start ahead of Alan Bennett, had a header saved by Walsall ‘keeper Clayton Ince and captain Kevin O’Connor tried his luck with a strike, but to no avail.
A shellshocked Walsall must of returned to the pitch for the second half expecting the Bees to be banging at the door for more goals, but the West London side instead came out with a limp and unfocused mentality.
The creative winger Weston, who had been the stand out player in the first half, hobbled off on 53 minutes complaining of a suspected hamstring strain. As Weston exited the field of play, so did the free-flowing element of Brentford’s game, with the Bees being far more reserved in their attacking play and misplacing a succession of easy passes.
A ragged Walsall seized upon this moment of rest-bite, and on 68 minutes, midfielder Steve Jones lashed home the ball from eight yards after the Brentford defence failed to deal with a cheeky lob pass from the experienced Byfield.
The goal gave the Saddlers a much needed boost. Mark Bradley forced a good save from the Polish international Szczesny and Matt Richards curled a lovely freekick just wide of the post.
With another victory slipping through Brentford’s fingers, manager Andy Scott attempted to rally the team to push on to find that crucial second goal. MacDonald, who must of left his shooting boots at home, blazed yet another attempt over the top of Ince’s goal. Marcus Bean also snatched at a chance, sending the ball wide of the mark from the edge of the box.
The game began to peter out as the weather worsened. Walsall created a few half-hearted chances, Bradley and Jones both having weak efforts saved by Szczesny.
- Kevin O’Connor battles hard in the heavy rain
The Bees thought they had rescued a deserved late winner on 86 minutes as Strevens headed the ball home to the delight of the Grffin Park fans. The striker had his smile wiped away though by the linesman who flagged the goal as offside, only adding to a frustrating afternoon for Brentford.
Bostock and new Dutch signing Pim Balkestein had injury time efforts on goal but both proved to be fruitless. As the final whistle went, a disappointed Andy Scott took to the field to console his team. The manager will be left to ponder how the Saddlers rode off into the West London sunset with a point in their possession after the Bees created so many chances to kill the game off in the first half.