SMITH ALL ABUZZ AS BEES SWARM
DEAN Smith was delighted with his side’s fighting spirit after Brentford ended a run of four straight defeats with a deserved win at Preston.
A goal from John Swift and Alan Judge’s fine strike just before half-time – his 12th of the season – settled a pulsating clash after Adam Reach levelled for the hosts after Greg Cunningham had put the Bees ahead with an own goal.
Preston piled on the pressure in the second half, but David Button repelled the home side before Swift’s late strike, and Smith believes his side showed the required grit to clinch the points.
“We had to weather a storm for ten minutes,” Smith said. “There was a period where they got on top, but in the end, first half I thought we were really good and deserved to go in front.
“Overall I’m really pleased with the performance, it’s just ten-minute periods where we need to get a bit better in showing composure.
“Some players have been in the Championship for a long time, some of them are starting to get to know it, and they can look after themselves.
“They know there are physical challenges you have to meet but the lads held their own.”
Ahead of the game, Preston’s impressive haul of ten points from the last 12 available starkly contrasted with Brentford’s poor run.
The away side’s confident passing belied that statistic early on, although both sides failed to make an impression on the game in a poor first 20 minutes.
Midway through the half, Jake Bidwell made Cunningham pay for a trip on the edge of the box, whipping in a vicious free-kick that deflected off his opposite number and into the corner of the net.
Preston were level two minutes later, when Harlee Dean failed to clear a routine attack, Reach sweeping the ball beyond Button’s despairing dive.
And just before half-time Brentford retook the lead with a fine goal from Judge, as he smoothly collected a long pass to cut inside and stroke the ball past Sam Johnstone. In first-half injury time, the referee was forced to deal with a major flashpoint following a swinging arm from Joe Garner, but after long consultation with his assistants, deemed a yellow card as sufficient punishment.
Eoin Doyle missed a golden opportunity to put Preston level soon after half-time, but the striker failed to even test Button after collecting Garner’s perfect pass.
Preston went agonisingly close to an equaliser with 20 minutes left, as Huntington headed onto the bar before Garner’s strike was ruled out for a marginal offside.
Button produced a magnificent save to deny Preston again with 16 minutes remaining, somehow palming Paul Gallagher’s touch onto the bar from a Daniel Johnson strike.
And with ten minutes to go Brentford had the points in the bag, as Swift’s strike cruelly deflected past Johnstone, as North End boss Simon Grayson was left to rue the defining moments in both boxes.
“I think when you look at it they’ve only had three shots on target and scored three goals,” Grayson said.
“Ultimately in the first half they were better with the ball, and if you allow a team like Brentford room, they’re going to punish you.
“We’re disappointed with the goals we gave away, but also ultimately we didn’t cause them enough problems in the first half being the home side.
“Obviously in the second half we laid siege to the Brentford goal, and in the big moments of the game we didn’t take our opportunities.”
BIG BID: Brentford’s Jake Bidwell celebrates the opening goal, after his freekick went in via a deflection off Greg Cunningham
STAR MAN JAKE BIDWE