Marcus Forss starred in his first Championship start for Brentford in more than two years to help secure the win at Rotherham United.
Forss had impressed off the bench this season and was given his chance to shine from the start, and did so with style. He opened the scoring early in the second half, before Ivan Toney continued his goalscoring form this season with a 13th goal from the penalty spot late on.
The result extended Brentford's unbeaten run to eight matches and moved them up to fourth in the table, while strugglers Rotherham have lost five of their past seven.
Story of the match
It was a struggle at first for Brentford though, as they failed to make the most of their possession in the first half with Rotherham excelling at holding them back in their own half. Most of their threat came from longer balls, or set pieces such as the one from Bryan Mbeumo which Ethan Pinnock couldn’t steer towards goal.
The home side were more reliant on quick, direct plays, but didn’t carry too much goal threat in the opening 45 minutes. Toney blocked one Jamie Lindsay rocket, and Matt Olosunde appealed for a penalty when checked slightly by Rico Henry as he advanced in the box. Moments after that, Michael Smith headed possibly their best chance of the half over the bar.
Niggly fouls disrupted the flow of the game as both sides struggled for anything more than fleeting opportunities. Vitaly Janelt’s radar was out when shooting from a corner routine while visiting goalkeeper David Raya was called upon to beat away a firm strike from Matt Crooks after a good run down the left. Forss also had a stinging effort blocked by Angus MacDonald.
Brentford looked sharper from the outset in the second half, as they embraced a match based more on speed and power than technique. Forss brought the first real save out of Jamal Blackman shortly after the restart, following an exciting counter involving Toney and Mbeumo. The winger forced his way into more territory before a Wes Harding block, but the hosts did not heed the warnings.
Three minutes after that, Rotherham were finally made to pay. A last-ditch block was needed to deny a Toney tap-in moments before, but the pressure was sustained and a Mbeumo cross was nodded down by Toney at the back post for Forss to smartly angle in his seventh goal of the season in all competitions.
Rotherham had a better spell as they searched for a response, but an inaccurate Smith header for a corner was just about that best they could create despite throwing on a trio of forwards.
Instead, the visitors would seal the three points with eight minutes left on the clock. One of their own substitutes made the difference as Sergi Canos received a square pass from Toney on the break, cleverly stepped around Blackman on the ground and waited for faint contact from Mickel Miller behind him. The penalty was given, Miller shown a second yellow card and Toney found the net yet again.
Forss is strong with Marcus
Thomas Frank at last handed a league start to Finnish international forward Forss, who had already scored four Championship goals off the bench this season, plus two more in the cup, to be Brentford’s second-highest scorer.
His only other start came in August 2018, shortly after signing for the club from West Bromwich Albion, and a combination of injuries and tough competition in the front line have seen his opportunities become limited.
But this season, with the departures of Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma leaving Frank chopping and changing in search of his most dangerous front three, Forss has carried huge threat off the bench from different positions up top.
Frank says that the 21-year-old’s preferred position as a number nine works against him when in a squad featuring Toney, but he showed that he has the qualities to be successful starting wide in the attack, in this case on the left.
Despite becoming known for quick impacts this season, he only slowly found his way into the game and his position in the first half as Brentford laboured, but he took the second half by the scruff of the neck and showed his ability to both manufacture and finish scoring opportunities.
On this showing, he certainly won’t be waiting another couple of years for a start.
Millers can take pride
Any defeat is tough to take, and a run of just one win in seven games is far from the form required to keep Rotherham heads above relegation water, but they should not be too disappointed with themselves after this one.
Their plan almost worked to perfection in the first half to frustrate a very technically-skilled Brentford side, but after the opening goal their stretched team looked more jaded and struggled to summon the required fight to take the game to their high-flying opponents.
Manager Paul Warne most regretted his team not taking one of their opportunities, and it would certainly have been a different game if they had. None of them were particularly clear-cut though, the only thing lacking from another highly industrious performance compared to their creditable draw with Bournemouth three days earlier.
Rotherham can take this one on the chin and look forward to more crucial matches ahead, not least a trip to fellow relegation-battlers Coventry City this weekend.
Man of the match: Marcus Forss (Brentford)
Forss provided the kind of wide threat that Brentford have sometimes been lacking this season, and he dragged his side through this tough game with a star turn in the second half and a fine goal.