United suffer narrow defeat to end unbeaten run...
UNITED 0, BRENTFORD 1 (Pritchard 64).
United: Silvestri, Wootton, Bamba, Cooper, C Taylor, Byram, Austin, Murphy (Cani 85), Cook, Sharp, Morison (Antenucci 73). Subs. S Taylor, Berardi, Bianchi, Sloth, Mowatt.
Brentford: Button, Obubajo, Dean, Tarkowski, Bidwell, Douglas, Diagouraga, Jota (Toral 58), Pritchard (Smith 82), Dallas, Gray (Long 66). Subs. Bonham, Craig, Saunders, Yennaris.
Referee: G Salisbury
Booked: Cooper, Austin, Cook (United), Dean, Bidwell, Toral (Brentford)
Att: 23,164 (1,022 Brentford)
Brentford arrived at Elland Road with United looking to make it three consecutive wins for the first time since November 2013, and head coach Neil Redfearn made just one change from the previous weekend's Yorkshire derby win at Huddersfield as match-winner Billy Sharp came into the starting line-up to replace Alex Mowatt. There was also a home debut for January signing Sol Bamba, while fellow loanee Edgar Cani was named among the substitutes.
United looked to get on the front foot almost immediately, with Sam Byram and Lewis Cook searching for early openings behind the Brentford defence, but it was the visitors who had the first sight of goal as Alex Pritchard dragged a low effort wide from range. Brentford goalkeeper David Button was then called into action at the opposite end for the first time to hold Steve Morison’s goal-bound header after the striker was picked out by Charlie Taylor’s cross from deep.
It was a bright start to proceedings from Redfearn’s men and their best opening of the early stages came following Luke Murphy’s deflected free-kick, with Liam Cooper glancing the resulting corner across the face of goal and inches away from the arriving Bamba at the back post.
Brentford quickly responded, though, and Marco Silvestri pulled off a superb block to deny Andre Gray from the game’s clearest chance after the striker had raced onto Pritchard’s searching through ball. Rodolph Austin then blasted over after surging forward, before Pritchard fired a free-kick into Silvestri’s arms as the game approached the 25-minute mark.
Despite United’s openings, it was Silvestri who was the busier of the two keepers and he thwarted Jota from inside the area with another strong, two-handed save after Brentford had broke away at pace. Harlee Dean then nervously sliced Sharp’s low cross behind for a corner as Redfearn’s side looked to re-assert some authority.
Former Elland Road captain Jonathan Douglas headed a corner into Silvestri's arms on the stroke of half-time, before referee Graham Salisbury blew the whistle on a competitive but goalless opening 45 minutes.
Both sides re-emerged from the break unchanged and, after a relatively uneventful start to the second half, the game burst back into life, with the Elland Road atmosphere red hot following a number of decisions ruled against United.
Silvestri was soon called upon, pouncing at the feet of Gray to smother the ball after the forward was played in by Pritchard, before United’s first sight of goal in the second half came through Morison. Murphy’s corner found the striker’s feet at the back post, but he could only fire over from a tight angle after working himself into space.
The deadlock was eventually broken on 64 minutes and it was the 1,022 travelling fans who were celebrating as Pritchard swept Brentford ahead, the Tottenham loanee arriving at the back post to convert Toumani Diagouraga’s low cross.
Redfearn made his first change of the afternoon on 73 minutes, replacing Morison with Mirco Antenucci in attack, as United were urged forward, but Austin was just unable to get the desired connection as Button held his low effort.
The post then came to United’s rescue from Jon Toral’s volley, before the Brentford substitute fired inches wide as the visitors probed for a second. But United’s intent remained there to be seen and Sharp came closest to finding the net following a swift break up-field. Austin’s cutback rolled into the striker’s path, but he could only drag it inches wide of Button’s far post.
Silvestri was then alert to push away Chris Long’s effort from inside the area, before Redfearn made his second change with five minutes remaining on the clock as Murphy made way for the debutant Cani, with United going all-out attack.
Five minutes of stoppage time were added on with United throwing everything forward. Brentford were sitting deep and defending in numbers, meaning there was no way through for either Sharp or Cani in an almighty goalmouth scramble. And that proved to be the final chance on a frustrating afternoon as United’s suffered a league defeat for the first time in 2015.