Three seasons into a Premier League journey which Luton Town – to name one of many – look upon with envy and aspiration, Brentford are still doing a lap of honour after home victories. The novelty and surprise factors have long dissipated though. Now they are finding new ways to eke out victories.
“This is still a fairytale,” said Thomas Frank, the Brentford manager. “We still have dreams and ambitions, but we keep adding layers: one gameplan to face Arsenal, another for Luton. The way the players executed that plan, to have 27 shots and be so dominant, was phenomenal. We’re still going in the right direction.”
At a freezing Gtech, Brentford were unsettled by Kristoffer Ajer injuring his foot during the warm up and for 45 minutes they laboured against an obdurate, dogged Luton for whom Tom Lockyer is increasingly growing into his Premier League role as each week passes. Yet, Lockyer had never quite shaken off the effects of an early Christian Norgaard challenge on his back and failed to reappear for the second half.
Upwardly mobile Luton were brimming with resolution and confidence, but Brentford adapted to prosper. Adherents to a new, more brisk philosophy, they began to drag Luton wide, they began to move the ball quicker and they began to get lucky.
“We knew what we were going to get,” admitted Rob Edwards, the Luton manager. “Brentford are really aggressive without the ball. With it, they control games and they ask set piece questions. We couldn’t get rhythm and nothing fell for us.”
Two goals in the early stages of the second half should have settled things. Both were a mixture of inspiration and fortune. Neal Maupay prodded home the first after Tahith Chong theatrically tumbled. Yoane Wissa crossed brilliantly and Ben Mee’s scuffed shot hit Amari’i Bell on its accidental way to Maupay. Then Bryan Mbeumo, a mercurial player at his most mercurial, floated over a corner. Thomas Kaminski would surely have saved Mee’s header, but he was left wrong-footed by Carlton Morris’s deflection.
Game over? Not really. Once Jacob Brown tucked in his second goal in two games after Vitaly Janelt misjudged Ross Barkley’s exquisite crossfield pass, Brentford had to work for victory again. This time, rather than shuffle styles, Frank shuffled personnel and their clinching third goal came when a dazzling run by one substitute, Keane Lewis-Potter, ended with Kaminski obligingly spilling his shot. A second substitute, Shandon Baptiste, tapped him his first goal since this week, two years ago.
As victories go, it wasn’t especially pretty, but, against a team who scored with their sole shot on target and who had looked defensively serene for a first period so drab that Kaminski was booked for time-wating, it was comfortable. “Bottom line?” said Edwards whose team face Arsenal and Manchester City next. “Brentford deserved to win. We gave away early Christmas presents. I thought we’d stopped giving presents away after the first two games. This was an off-day. We can be so much better.”