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Tuesday, 22 January, 2019

Brentford better than their position suggests

Dean Smith's side could push for promotion

Ryan Woods of Brentford battles with and Adam Le Fondre
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Sky Bet Championship

Brentford 2-0 Bolton
Jozefzoon 40
Maupay 90

After 27 rounds of Sky Bet Championship action most people will expect the table to have taken shape but in any division there will always be false positions and Brentford are a perfect case in point.

If you are a stickler for the theory of "the table never lies" then Brentford are apparently the 11th best side in the Championship although the truth is somewhat different and Dean Smith's side could quite easily finish the campaign in a playoff position.

This was a comfortable 2-0 victory over Bolton at Griffin Park as the Bees made it four league wins in five. The one blip was a 3-0 loss at runaway leaders Wolves.

Their slow start - one win in 11 - is long forgotten and on Opta's expected goal ratings Brentford should be fourth in the Championship, a point respected by the market as Smith's side were backed in to 8-15 to overcome the robust visitors.

Brentford controlled the first half without creating too many clear opportunities until they sparked into life on 40 minutes when Lasse Vibe fed Florian Jozefzoon, who smashed past Ben Alnwick.

Opposite winger Ollie Watkins had earlier seemed the most likely man to break the deadlock, cutting in from the left with a couple of efforts as Brentford attempted to unlock a packed Bolton defence.

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Things were easier in the second half with Jozefzoon fluffing a glorious chance, while Nico Yennaris's deflected shot struck the post, and it was left to substitute Neal Maupay to seal maximum points with a delicate flick to end his ten-match goal drought.

The final margin of victory was deserved and Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe, who was watching in the stands, will have been drawn to west London because of Brentford's attractive style of play which is testament to the excellent work of Smith, who may one day follow Howe to the Premier League.

Maybe it would be considered too soon, but would Smith really be a worse appointment for Stoke than, say Martin O'Neill or Slaven Bilic?

Smith uses a 4-1-2-3 formation with the philosophy of passing out from the back.

Top keeper Dan Bentley's excellent distribution helps in that regard, full-back Yennaris is a goal threat from cleared set pieces and centre-back Chris Mepham's decent range of passing aids the ideology.

Most of Brentford's football goes through deep-sitting playmaker Ryan Woods, aka the Ginger Pirlo, whose slight frame disguises a love for a tackle, while fellow central midfielders Kamohelo Mokotjo and Romaine Sawyers are often seen making runs beyond Vibe.

Lone striker Vibe drops deep to link play and has good movement which makes him difficult to mark.

His shooting was unusually wayward on Saturday but Vibe's assist for Jozefzoon's goal was a decisive factor and Watkins, who admittedly drifted out of the match in the second period, still looks a typically astute signing from Exeter.

The previously influential Alan Judge will soon be back to full fitness after a shocking injury and Brentford, who are only three points outside the playoff positions, are capable of squeezing into the top six.

The opposition

Nottingham Forest are the only side to have won a league game at Griffin Park this season and Bolton never looked like changing that statistic. Early time-wasting tactics made their intentions clear.

It was a real clash of styles with Bolton's giants opting for a physical approach as they aimed long balls up to the isolated Gary Madine, who did his best with little support.

Set-pieces with David Wheater up from the back looked their best route to goal, although the powerful Madine almost equalised with Bolton's best chance as they capitalised on a Woods turnover which forced a smart save from Bentley.

Sammy Ameobi provided a threat down Bolton's right but they were weakened by the absence of central midfielders Darren Pratley and Karl Henry and, given their precarious financial predicament, Phil Parkinson could do with a little bit of loan magic this month.

However, debutant Harry Charsley made little impact, and Bolton's relegation dogfight looks set to be a season-long battle.

Teams - Brentford 4-1-2-3: Bentley; Yennaris, Mepham, Bjelland, Barbet; Woods; Mokotjo, Sawyers; Jozefzoon (Canos 77), Vibe (Maupay 86), Watkins.

Bolton 4-2-3-1: Alnwick; Little (Wilbraham 84), Beevers, Wheater, Robinson; Vela, Derik; Ameobi, Charsley (Buckley 55), Morais (Le Fondre 68); Madine.

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The Bees made it four league wins in five. The one blip was a 3-0 loss at runaway leaders Wolves
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