Match Report – Brentford 3 Swindon 3 (4-4) Pens 5-4
Swindon were denied a place at Wembley in the cruellest fashion as a second half comeback was not enough to deny a rampant Brentford team in a thrilling contest. After 210 minutes, the two teams could not be separated and it was Miles Storey who had the misfortune of seeing his penalty kick saved ending Swindon’s season one game before they’d have liked. Report by Lee Clark.
Pre-match, Swindon fans were filled largely with hope more than expectation. There was a belief that the late Brentford penalty at the County Ground might prove costly. 1,800 Swindon fans travelled in gorgeous sunshine and created a fantastic atmosphere pre-game. Kevin MacDonald picked the same team from the draw at the County Ground two days earlier.
The first good chance of the game came to Swindon with less than a minute on the clock. Swindon earned an early corner after good work by Adam Rooney. Massimo Luongo’s cross was met by Aden Flint, and only a smart save from Brentford goalkeeper Simon Moore could prevent Swindon from taking the earliest of leads.
Swindon did not build on that early momentum. Brentford started to dominate possession and territory, without creating any clear cut chances. Like the first half of the home leg, the game lacked a lot of quality and a lot of the game was spent in the air. Both teams seemed more concerned about conceding the first goal than scoring it.
Around a quarter of the way into the game Brentford took the lead. Brentford started to get a lot of set pieces and Swindon were made to pay. The corner came in from Swindon’s right side, and via a combination of Adam Rooney and the big central defender Harlee Dean, the ball went beyond the reach of Wes Foderingham. Brentford took the lead on aggregate for the first time in the tie.
The goal should have sprung Swindon into life. However, it did the opposite, and Brentford looked even more dangerous and had numerous chances to double their lead. Firstly, Harry Forester got away down Swindon’s right side, and was only denied by a fantastic save by Foderingham at his near post. A few moments later, Trotta was played in on goal down the same side and he was also denied, this time by the upright. Only one team was in it.
Brentford weren’t to be denied. Their top goal-scorer, Clayton Donaldson, who had been quiet up to that point, found some space to turn on the edge of the area. His low shot nestled into the bottom corner to send the home fans into raptures. Most Swindon fans were certain their season was over and there was no coming back from 2 goals down. Moments later, the outlook was a whole lot more positive.
Swindon found space on the counter, with Adam Rooney, Andy Williams and Gary Roberts up against 4 defenders. Roberts had the ball on the right side of the Brentford box, and after faking a shot, he hesitated, and laid the ball across the goal to Adam Rooney, who from around 12 yards took the sort of chance that Swindon strikers had been missing all year. That Rooney goal meant Swindon went into the half time interval knowing if they won the second half they’d force extra time.
The second half got off to the worst possible start for Swindon. Brentford gave a foul away inside Swindon’s half. Swindon committed players into the attack, including Darren Ward. Instead of going long and using the height of the central defender, Swindon opted to take it short and pass it to Gary Roberts. Without looking, the winger played a criminal pass across the line of defence which Clayton Donaldson intercepted. With players committed, Donaldson was free to run in on goal and delicately lift the ball over the on-rushing Wes Foderingham.
The third goal finally managed to get Swindon playing the football that got them into the play-offs in the first place. Both Raffaele De Vita and James Collins came on for Andy Williams and Adam Rooney. The substitutes made a big difference. Raffaele De Vita took a corner on the right side of defence, and Aden Flint rose highest to head goal-bound. The header was blocked, but Joe Devera was on hand to rifle the ball home into the roof of the net from close range.
Swindon continued to dominate, although Brentford looked dangerous on the break. Miles Storey replaced Simon Ferry who had a quiet game on his unflavoured position of the right side of midfield. As Swindon were pressing, Brentford were inches from killing off the tie. Brentford played the ball across the box to Sam Saunders, and he curled a shot onto the Swindon bar. Wes Foderingham was stranded, and it was a major let-off for Swindon.
Swindon had just moments to score and Aden Flint went up front to increase the aerial threat. It looked like the chance was gone, when Gary Roberts corner was knocked down and Raffaele De Vita’s swivel volley was blocked on the line. The handball protest was waved away, and as Swindon were appealing in desperation, Gary Roberts ran over to the other side to take another corner. He hooked the ball in, and Aden Flint rose into the clouds to power in a header and give Swindon 30 more minutes of football. The away end erupted into sheer carnage with Swindon equalising with less than 30 seconds on the clock.
The first ten minutes of extra-time were largely Swindon’s. Brentford were giving away possession cheaply. The momentum changed however, when Nathan Byrne, already in a very harsh booking, was adjudged to have deliberately handled the ball to prevent Clayton Donaldson get a run in on goal. This booking also seemed harsh, as Byrne had slipped and fell on the ball.
Swindon were now clinging on for penalties. Donaldson had the final chance of extra time, as he was poked through. From close range, he drew another fantastic save from Wes Foderingham. Donaldson rushed in on the loose ball, however Aden Flint got there first and cleared the danger. A few minutes later, and the final whistle blew. Swindon’s season was going to be decided on penalties again.
The first two penalty takers for Swindon were unexpected, but they both scored. Joe Devera placed the ball into the right side of the goal, and Aden Flint did the same with the opposite side. Simon Moore, the goalkeeper, guessed correctly both times but the penalties were so well placed he could not stop them. Sandwiched between them, were two successful Brentford spot kicks by Sam Sunders and the substitute striker Paul Hayes.
With the third spot-kicks, James Collins and the towering central defender Harlee Dean stepped forward. Both scored, putting pressure on the final four penalty takers. Sadly, Miles Storey cracked. He took a short run up, and his spot kick was easily saved my Moore once he had guessed the right way. Brentford scored their fourth spot kick, and although Gary Roberts scored, he was only delaying the inevitable as Adam Forshaw stepped up and lashed the ball past a helpless Wes Foderingham much to the delight of the Brentford fans who invaded the pitch to celebrate.
Just like a lot of the season, it was a “what if” sort of game. What if the referee had spotted Douglas’ handball in the run up to the Brentford penalty on Saturday? What if Gary Roberts hadn’t played that awful pass across the back line? What if Nathan Byrne hadn’t been harshly sent off? It was truly fitting that the most up and down season finished with the biggest rollercoaster of a game.