IT COULD have been torn straight from the pages of a Robert Louis Stevenson novel.
Ever since the new season got under way in August, Sheffield United have looked silky smooth and ruthless one week, laboured and profligate the next.
At Griffin Park, though, against opponents their manager has described as potential challengers for promotion, the visitors were both Jekyll and Hyde.
The best and worst of Danny Wilson’s side condensed into 90 frustrating minutes.
“It‘s important that we’re honest with each other,” Chris Porter, the United centre-forward, said. “Everyone knows that we’re pushing to go up, that we’re expected to go up and how people see us as the team to beat.
“That means we’ve got to work even harder than them and, at the start, I don’t think that was the case. We’ve been punished for it.
“They worked harder than us before the break and we got punished.
“It’s unusual for that to be the case but it’s a fact.
“I don’t think we deserved anything out of the game.”
Porter’s brutally honest assessment of United’s display suggests a lack of tenacity and bite was the cause of their downfall.
Brentford, playing with the purpose and verve expected of a team which has now gone eight games without defeat in all competitions, overwhelmed Wilson’s men with their energy in midfield during a fine first-half display embellished by goals from Clayton Donaldson and Harry Forrester.
United wrestled back the initiative after the interval and created enough opportunities to have gained a share of the spoils.
But, with Brentford’s Simon Moore in inspired form, they were unable to make these periods of pressure pay.
“We had some good chances but didn’t put them away,” Porter continued. “If we had have done that perhaps it might have been different. Fact is, though, we didn’t and it wasn’t.
“Sitting in the dressing room afterwards we all admitted it’s easy to play when you are 2-0 down.
“We gave it everything second half but what cost us was the first.
“There’s no point in shying away from that and we’ve got to do much better.”
While Moore impressed, twice thwarting the lively Shaun Miller before smothering a long-range Nick Blackman shot, Forrester was superb.
The 21-year-old rejected the opportunity to join Ajax earlier in his
career and the touch and technique which captured the imagination of coaching staff at Sportpark De Toekomst, the Dutch Masters’ training complex, was in evidence when he caressed a superb finish beyond George Long following Donaldson’s opener.
There were question marks about the ease with which Forrester ghosted into position.
But none about the quality of the strike.
“Sometimes, you’ve just got to hold your hands up and say that was a great piece of play,” Wilson acknowledged.
United, now fourth in the table after suffering only their second defeat of the campaign, mustered 13 shots on target while Brentford, who climb to fifth, unleashed 10.
Uwe Rosler’s side, though, manipulated the football far more effectively during the early skirmishes, with Rob Kiernan producing a peach of a pass to send Toumani Diagouraga scampering through while Donaldson did the rest.
Forrester had already gone close before leaving Long, who had parried that effort over the crossbar, rooted to the spot with an angled drive.
Although Porter, Miller and Neill Collins all enjoyed attempts, it was not until after the re-start that United established control.
Nick Blackman, again deployed out wide, grew in influence as the afternoon progressed and twice tested Moore’s resolve following his excellent stop to deny Miller.
Porter, whose deft flick had released his fellow centre-forward, miscalculated soon after while Harry Maguire thought he had converted a late header but referee Andy D’Urso’s assistant adjudged it had been scrambled clear before crossing the line.
Porter said: “We’ve got a week to work on things and then come out all guns blazing for the next game. That’s what we’ve got to do, make sure we take our anger out on somebody by getting the type of result that we want.”