After confirmation of Leeds United’s promotion to the top-flight last night, it seemed written in the stars that Brentford would continue their remarkable run of eight straight league victories and join them in the automatic promotion spots. However, the crazy and unpredictable narrative that is the Sky Bet Championship adds yet another dramatic chapter to the 2019/20 story.
Brentford came into the fixture with the knowledge that even a point would propel them into the automatic promotion places and leave it in their hands on the final day after West Bromwich Albion were defeated by Danny Cowley’s Huddersfield Town yesterday evening.
Stoke City point on the road at Bristol City would’ve eased any worries of relegation to Sky Bet League One next season, with a five-point deficit with just six to play for before kick-off today.
After a slow start to proceedings, it was Brentford who had the first clear sight of goal. Said Benrahma lifted the ball towards the back post and it was met by Bryan Mbeumo but his header was held comfortably by Adam Davies in the Barnsley net, who spread himself across the goal well.
Championship top-scorer Ollie Watkins also threatened to break the deadlock minutes later, but he couldn’t guide his header on target, after meeting with Mathias Jensen’s cross.
Lee Gregory has had a frustrating 2020, with his only goal coming on New Year’s Day, however, the former Millwall frontman was on hand to tap home and break the deadlock on 38 minutes.
Bees stopper David Raya seemingly found Sam Clucas’ first-time strike from the edge of the area too hot to handle, as the Spaniard parried the midfielder’s effort right into the path of Gregory, who stabbed home from inside the six-yard area.
A resilient and hard-working first-half display from the hosts will have impressed manager Michael O’Neill and they continued to frustrate Brentford, limiting them to very little in the final third in the minutes after the break.
Full-back Rico Henry fashioned the only shooting opportunity for the Bees in the opening 15 minutes after the interval. After switching the ball from right to left, Henry eventually tried his luck from range, but it sailed away from the target.
Both sides had a chance to bulge the net just before the hour mark, but inevitably came up short. Sam Vokes rose highest inside the area to meet James McClean’s weighted cross, but his header flashed wide of the upright. Josh Dasilva then squandered a great opportunity from close range after some neat play down the right flank – his low shot trickled wide.
The visitors applied a great deal of late pressure on the Stoke defence, but they found no way through. The ball broke for Watkins inside the area, but he was met by a sea of red and white shirts to block and clear from danger.
Brentford then saw a free-kick fly over the crossbar from 30 yards out. After a large stoppage in play, Emiliano Marcondes shaped up for the set-piece, but he couldn’t keep his effort down.
Marcondes then tried his luck once again from range just moments later but his strike was pushed round the post for a corner.
Six minutes of stoppage time was awarded, and the Bees continued to bombard the Stoke backline with chances, but to no avail. Substitute Sergi Canos drilled the ball across the six-yard box but a sliding Benrahma failed to connect.
Ethan Pinnock then saw his powerful strike deflect goalwards but it was palmed away superbly by Davies in the dying embers of the game.
Final day shootout for the automatics
Brentford still have a chance of automatic promotion next weekend when they face Barnsley, however, they miss out on the chance of having one foot into the Premier League and leave it all in West Brom’s hands, with the Baggies boasting a one-point advantage going into their season finale at The Hawthorns against QPR.