The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Ed Higgs

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.”

PIC­TURES: Cam­era Sport

BIG BID: Brent­ford’s Jake Bid­well cel­e­brates the open­ing goal, af­ter his free­kick went in via a de­flec­tion off Greg Cun­ning­ham


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