Swindon 1 Brentford 1: Late Bees Sting Sets Up Tense Wembley Decider
Swindon were denied taking a deserved win to West London on Monday after Brentford converted a late penalty to equal out Luongo’s goal and set up a tense second leg Play-Off decider. Reports STFC007.
Town, with the wind on their back in the first half, could have opened the scoring in the first minute had Adam Rooney crossed from the left to the on-running Gary Roberts, rather than squandered a golden opportunity by going at it alone and try to beat the Brentford keeper from a tight angle.
The Swindon squad included a number of players returning from injury. Alan Navarro and Miles Storey were on the bench with Simon Ferry starting out of position on the right of midfield. The Scot is most effective when being able to get involved in the distribution of play in the middle of the park rather than making searing runs on the wing. It’s therefore no surprise that Devera did not make any overlapping runs during the entire game making that right flank almost impotent from an attacking point of view. Despite this, Town were dominant throughout the game but again lacking the composure and quality upfront to take a healthy lead into the second leg.
Massimo Luongo in centre of midfield was initially unable to replicate his recent form, with mis-queued corners, wayward passes and deliveries into the box that weren’t clearing the first defender.
A packed Brentford midfield didn’t allow Luongo nor Alan McCormack enough time on the ball to retain possession and instead both Swindon attackers Adam Rooney and Andy Williams were being reached too soon with long balls.
And although Aden Flint and Darren Ward were defensively on top winning every single aerial challenge presented to them, their build up play was often too long including numerous inaccurate and sloppy passes between the defenders. Despite this, Swindon controlled the game. Roberts was well on top and causing problems on the left throughout the game with Byrne supporting him in attack where possible.
On 20 minutes, Brentford did have an opportunity to take the lead. A quick counter attack allowed the ball to be put behind Devera but Forshaw put his shot wide. Five minutes later Rooney was put through following a headed flick-on from Williams, but he allowed the ball to get too close to the onrushing Brentford keeper Moore who managed to clear his shot.
The start of the second half saw a similar pattern with Swindon controlling most of the game but unable to test the Brentford goalkeeper. So step up the match officials to make an impact on the game. When they were warming up I noticed that one of quartet was unable to complete some of the leg warm-up exercises. The Benny Hill / mini Donald from Benidorm look-a-like was in fact the lino on the Don Rogers Stand side.
During the entire game he wasn’t following play once; only ever looking for offside and throw-ins. It was therefore no surprise he hadn’t noticed that Logan had tripped Luongo and had to rely on the referee to spot this. The same referee who didn’t spot a penalty when someone tried to mount Flint from behind in the Brentford penalty area. Another clear case of watching the ball but not play.
Swindon did take the deserved lead in the 70th minute. Some intricate play involving Ferry on the right ended up with Luongo a little off-centre outside the penalty area. A well placed side footed shot beat Moore to his left. During the celebrations that followed, the referee made a ‘hurry-up’ gesture to McCormack, who himself made a dismissive gesture to the referee and pointed at the Brentford goalkeeper who had been allowed – unpunished – to maximise the time taken for goal kicks.
Town were in the ascendency and trying very hard to score the second. Five minutes later it should have been 2-0 when a breakaway allowed Rooney through on goal but some hesitation allowed the Brentford defender block his shot. Some of the Brentford players started to panic and Douglas had to calm down ‘The Bruiser of Brentford’ Dean, from losing his head. On the other end, a last ditch clearance from McCormack prevented El Alagui to test Foderingham from close range.
Luongo was voted Man of the Match by the match sponsors – seemingly for his goal – and the 4th official showed there were an additional 3 minutes to be played. Brentford piled on the pressure and I – as well as others around me – was waiting for Kevin MacDonald to show his nouse and relieve some of the pressure by introducing both remaining substitutes during the remaining 3 minutes and see out the game. Not so, the naivety showed.
So instead, Brentford were allowed to continue to apply the pressure helped by the referee for initially not spotting the clear block by Donaldson on Byrne and then again a handball – this time by Douglas – leading up to the penalty award after the goal hero Luongo unfairly tackled Forrester.
This time, Brentford converted the penalty deep into injury time to equal the tie – meaning that Foderingham has been beaten in each of his previous six penalties faced.
Swindon deserved more, keeping in mind not only the number of opportunities they created but also that the only time Wes was called into action was to get the back out of the net from a penalty. But, it’s still all to play for. Would I have liked for Town to take a 1-0 lead to Brentford on Monday? For sure. But somehow, this late equaliser which for some felt like a defeat could somehow be a positive instead of a negative.
That last minute penalty Brentford scored seemed to have a profound effect on the Brentford team and their manager; it came across as a sort of cleansing from ‘that’ Championship penalty miss.
But it was the way in which they celebrated at the end of the match – not relief – but it almost seemed as if they had just received their Wembley suit fitting appointment.
This last minute pain inflicted on the Town players could help rally and galvanise Town to perform like they did against Crewe – with passion, determination and without fear. With the great Swindon support behind them and the way Swindon outplayed Brentford for 70 minutes earlier this season, I am confident they are able to get the result they deserved but were unable to get today.
It’s been a good season so far, let’s hope we can make it a great one on Monday.
Wes Foderingham / Aden Flint / Joe Devera / Darren Ward / Nathan Byrne / Simon Ferry ( James Collins – 82′ ) / Gary Roberts / Alan McCormack / Massimo Luongo / Andy Williams / Adam Rooney
Substitutes not used: Leigh Bedwell (GK) / Alan Navarro / Luke Rooney / Tommy Miller / Miles Storey / Rafaele De Vita
Referee: Geoff Eltringham
Attendance: 10,595 (1,502)