The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Ross Law­son

BRENT­FORD man­ager Dean Smith be­lieves his side re­main in rel­e­ga­tion dan­ger af­ter suf­fer­ing a sev­enth de­feat in eight Cham­pi­onship out­ings at the hands of Black­burn Rovers.

In a drab af­fair, Brent­ford had looked favourites to find a win­ner when Rovers skip­per Grant Han­ley was sent off for a hand­ball early in the se­cond half.

But Shane Duffy’s ex­cel­lent win­ner en­sured Smith’s side faced a fourth suc­ces­sive de­feat to be left just six points clear of the rel­e­ga­tion zone.

The Bees were miss­ing John Swift from their squad, who posted a con­tro­ver­sial mes­sage on so­cial me­dia on Fri­day evening which he later re­moved.

“There’s no doubt about it, we’re in a bit of trou­ble. We’re on a bad run of form, and now we have to use that in­ter­na­tional break to put that right,” said Smith.

“We didn’t work the keeper enough, some of our de­ci­sion mak­ing was not quite there but we wanted to be more dif­fi­cult to beat hav­ing con­ceded so many poor goals re­cently.

“When you get on a run like this, play­ers some­times take it on them­selves to make some­thing hap­pen and put things right be­cause they care and want that re­spon­si­bil­ity.

“John posted on so­cial me­dia last night, and I didn’t think it was right to have him on the bench.

“He ex­plained and apol­o­gised for it, and I don’t think there was any mal­ice in it, just naivety.”

In a game lack­ing flow and qual­ity, Brent­ford had the brighter open­ing as Alan McCor­mack fired high and wide for the first of many oc­ca­sions shortly af­ter the quar­ter-hour mark.

It was a sign of the times for the hosts, al­though Yoann Bar­bet’s free-kick was well dealt with by Ja­son Steele as Smith’s side mus­tered just three shots on tar­get de­spite boast­ing 66 per­cent of pos­ses­sion.

Black­burn were equally un­der­whelm­ing go­ing for­ward, but en­joyed half’s best chance as Hope Ak­pan met Craig Con­way’s cross, only for David But­ton to tip ex­pertly over the cross­bar.

The game needed liven­ing up, and that came 12 min­utes into the se­cond pe­riod as Han­ley saw a se­cond yel­low for a hand­ball from Alan Judge’s cross.

Ryan Woods’ tackle set Judge away down the right, with his de­liv­ery catch­ing the flail­ing arm of Han­ley, ear­lier booked for a cyn­i­cal foul.

With nu­mer­i­cal ad­van­tage, the home crowd sensed an op­por­tu­nity for just a third win in 2016, yet chances re­mained a pre­mium as nu­mer­ous shots ended up in the stands through­out the half.

And with Black­burn re­main­ing in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to break down, Duffy stole the win­ner with a spec­tac­u­lar strike. El­liott Ben­nett’s wide free-kick found an un­marked Tony Watt, who teed up Duffy to lash past a help­less But­ton to ease any rel­e­ga­tion fears Paul Lambert may still have con­tained.

“I was never look­ing over my shoul­der, I never do,” said Lambert. We’re play­ing re­ally well at the mo­ment and we should have more points that we have, but we’re play­ing well to win games.

“I thought we de­served it. We were al­ways com­fort­able and they never re­ally had too much of a threat, but that was an ex­cep­tional fin­ish to win the game.

“Shane at­tacks the ball so well in both boxes, I’ve never seen any­one like him. He should have more goals, but he’s only 23 and still learn­ing.

“Un­til you get your own stamp on a side, the big mo­ment is in the sum­mer, whether the club wants to go for it or not.We want to go for it, so it’s go­ing to be a big mo­ment for us come the sum­mer.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

HAVE SOME OF THAT: Shane Duffy cel­e­brates scor­ing the win­ner

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