Inching to safety

Town edged closer to safety with a hard working performance, accompanied by some good fortune at significant moments, which thwarted a talented but rather pedestrian Brentford side whose automatic promotion hopes were dented.

A comfortable first 20 minutes would have been very different had Duhaney’s dallying on the ball been punished by Canos, who nicked possession, rather than halted by a referee who saw offence where there appeared none.

An early clash of heads between Vallejo and Norgaard didn’t seem to affect the Spaniard too much at first, despite long treatment following the incident, and he was instrumental in the opening goal. Brentford, strangely sluggish and particularly when playing out from the back, were punished when Vallejo robbed, ironically, Norgaard with the ball running free to O’Brien who wrong footed the Bees’ scrabbling keeper for a surprise lead.

Brentford were unable to respond as Town hassled them in possession with Sanogo and Campbell working hard up front to disrupt their flow and Vallejo and Hogg anchoring a midfield determined to restrict attempts to play through the lines.

The game suffered as a spectacle but the monotony was broken briefly by an excellent run and cross by Holmes down the right, but it was too high for O’Brien who had burst in to the area.

Vallejo had to leave the field half way through the first period and with him went Town’s control and dominance. Unbalanced, the Terriers’ dogged performance dipped and the visitors’ naturally superior ability came to the fore and an equaliser looked extremely likely before the break.

A combination of poor finishing, strange officiating and some decent last ditch defending thwarted them. 
Almost immediately after Vallejo’s replacement by Bacuna, a lovely dummy in midfield by Toney released Canos who fed Janelt in to the area. A slightly poor first touch allowed Sarr to get back and, in combination with Schofield, they thwarted the German.

Encouraged, the visitors proceeded to dominate the rest of the half without achieving their usual quality, particularly in front of goal. They should have been given the opportunity to equalise when Naby Sarr used his arm to get a high ball back to Schofield with the menace of Toney far too close to comfort. The assistant on the right was unconvinced despite being well placed.

Further incursions ended with desperately poor attempts and despite their increasing superiority, Schofield was untroubled and the defence largely unruffled. Nevertheless, it was a relief for Town when the half time whistle blew.

The Bees’ intent for the second half was clear for all to see as 8 players were strung across the halfway line for the kick off and their strong start was quickly rewarded.

Town were as convinced that a throw in should have gone their way as they were unprofessional enough to allow a quick execution thoroughly expose their defence. A dangerous cross towards the onrushing Jansson hit his upper arm and was excellently cleared by Sarr from the line, only for the second ball in to fall very kindly for Sorensen who squeezed the ball in.

Despite several elements of good fortune surrounding the goal, it was well deserved and there was a genuine fear that the home side could be overwhelmed as the visitors surged with confidence. Those fears were heightened just a minute after the leveller when Toney got free for once and smashed a great effort past Schofield but on to the upright.

Strangely, Brentford failed to maintain their momentum and, largely through the energy of O’Brien, bang back in form, Town took back some control. Unfortunately, the free kicks and corners which flowed from their more aggressive approach were invariably wasted. Bacuna hit a promisingly positioned free kick over and failed to clear the first man on a couple of others.

It was also Town’s turn to feel aggrieved at a penalty decision. Inevitably, it was O’Brien bursting past Brentford’s right back which led to an apparent clip but the referee decided it was jointly attributable clumsiness, though a similar challenge outside the area would likely have been given.

The best chance for the hosts fell to Duhaney who capitalised on good work from the industrious Sanogo, but his clever duping of the Brentford defender in his way forced the ball on to his weaker left foot and he couldn’t generate power nor direction to get it past Raya.

The final 15 minutes belonged to the Bees, whose need for 3 points was rather more pressing. A point from a fixture as difficult as this was sufficient for the Terriers and they were admirably dogged in their protection of it.
Schofield made a decent save down to his right to foil Fosu and one or two balls in to the box caused mild palpitations, but the guile associated with Brentford was largely absent and Toney was excellently marshalled bar the effort just after the equaliser.

While the point was most welcome and the dogged performance showed character, there was little to enjoy besides O’Brien’s return to full form. However, it is difficult to imagine the Town of a month ago gaining a return from such a challenging fixture; Corberán’s decision to abandon his principles has probably saved the club from much deeper trouble, even if that trouble is not entirely eliminated.

The unbeaten run, diluted somewhat by the fact it contains only one win, will be under severe threat on Tuesday evening in Norwich ahead of a meeting with Rotherham which could be the one which realistically, if not mathematically, guarantees Championship football next season. Carlos should not apply a Bournemouth style gamble to concentrate on the winnable weekend fixture, he should take the positives from this draw and continue to build on the spirit now clearly visible in the team.

Survival however, if and when it arrives, must be the catalyst for a brighter future. Dogged late season avoidance of disaster needs to be banished. It is difficult to see how many of yesterday’s team can achieve this despite their commendable resilience and the result, but for now it is on them to finish the job at hand.

One thought on “Inching to safety

  1. Good, truthful and fair report yet again, Martin.
    I especially agree with your closing sentence, about the side not being good enough for next season; it will be interesting to see just exactly who is retained.


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