Brentford 1, Sheffield United 1: New dad Chris Basham on target but it's a missed opportunity for play-off chasing Blades

It still sounds considerably more realistic than Mauricio Pochettino's call for Chelsea supporters to encourage Dele Alli through tomorrow's London derby at Stamford Bridge.

Friday, 30th March 2018, 11:46 pm
Updated Saturday, 31st March 2018, 12:10 am
Chris Basham celebrates

But while Chris Basham's claim that Sheffield United remain serious contenders in the battle for Championship play-off qualification was irrefutable, the defender's words would have carried even greater weight had they converted at least one of the chances they created towards the end of an absorbing tussle with Brentford.

He obliged by scoring only his second of the season before Chris Mepham's finish sparked a tangle between Jamal Blackman and Ryan Woods which ended with both being dismissed.

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The most important piece of the post-script, however, came when Basham analysed the finer details of an otherwise strong performance at Griffin Park.

"We're still in with a shout," he said. "A really strong shout and if you'd told us we'd be here at this stage of the competition then we'd have been bitten your hand off for that.

”We've been working on creating things for the lads up top and if we'd have been able to stick just one of them away, the result would have been even better. But it's still all to play for with seven games left."

This fixture, which forced both teams to battle the elements as well as themselves, always demanded your attention. But it was not until Basham pounced early in the second-half that the football became frantic and the tensions which had previously simmered just below the surface finally boiled over in the shape of two red cards.

Chris Basham celebrates

They were harsh; neither Blackman nor Woods, who exchanged slaps rather than punches as Brentford celebrated Mepham's leveller, could be said to have staked a claim for a place on the Anthony Joshua versus Joseph Parker undercard.

But as Wilder later conceded, it was careless on both men's part. Indeed, the sight of Daniel Bentley denying Leon Clarke and substitute Clayton Donaldson during the closing stages of the game, caused Wilder greater angst than Blackman's temper.

"Jamal has given the referee the excuse because he's slapped their lad back," he said. "If he'd have rolled around on the floor I don't think anything would have happened because the ref wouldn't have seen it.

"They were trying to get the ball back but we don't have to give it back to them. And anyone with half a brain could see we weren't interested in time-wasting. We wanted to win the game."

Simon Moore prepares to come on

With Mark Duffy nursing a groin injury and Lee Evans the after-effects of a gruelling journey to China during the international break, Wilder was forced to rotate his squad less than 48 hours after acknowledging consistency is vital at this stage of the campaign.

But his disappointment will have been tempered by the conditions which, given the sheer volume of rain drenching this corner of the capital, lent themselves perfectly to the type of sliding tackles and thunderous challenges the 50-year-old fears are being driven from the game.

The sound of one, executed by Jack O'Connell on Sergio Canos, reverberated around the stadium for what seemed like an age afterwards.

Given the two teams' determination to move the ball quickly, possibly the only two people on the pitch troubled by the conditions were Blackman and his fellow goalkeeper Bentley. Although United enjoyed enough territory and possession to ensure Brentford's rearguard remained alert, it was no surprise when Blackman was called upon first given that most of the action, until Billy Sharp roused the visitors midway through the opening period, had taken place around his penalty box.

Leon Clarke takes on two defenders

After adjusting his feet well before parrying a Henrik Dalsgaard attempt to safety, Blackman then combined with George Baldock to prevent Neal Maupay prodding home a loose ball.

Just as Brentford felt the momentum was with them, Sharp wrestled it back by turning a Basham cross wide of the far post. Although United's captain, arcing his back and screaming skywards, was clearly frustrated by his technique, the near miss helped them establish a foothold in the game.

Baldock also shot just the wrong side of the post as he tried to pick a spot in the bottom corner of Bentley's net before John Fleck and Brentford's Mepham traded long-range opportunities.

It was another shot from distance, this time unleashed by Basham, which finally broke the deadlock as the hour mark approached. Bentley was wrongfooted when the ball appeared to take a bad ricochet but the United defender, wheeling away in celebration, did not care a jot. Likewise Wilder who, after punching his assistant Alan Knill on the shoulder, shook a fist jubilantly in the air.

United's joy, though, was short-lived as Mepham's equaliser sparked a tangle between Blackman and Woods which ended with both being dismissed.

Donaldson was presented with a chance to restore their advantage but Bentley, correctly predicting his intentions, got a hand to the ball as the former Brentford striker looked to caress it into the back of the net.

Chris Basham celebrates

Clarke enjoyed an even better opportunity after barging his way through to the edge of the six yard box but, yet again, Bentley intervened.

"The gaffer has told us not to take our eyes off the prize," Basham said. "We won't because that prize is still there."

Simon Moore prepares to come on
Leon Clarke takes on two defenders