Stevenage signed off from Sky Bet League 1 with a 2-0 defeat at promoted Brentford this afternoon.
After an uneventful first half the game burst into life after the break, with both sides forcing saves from the ‘keepers. Just as it looked like Boro might hold out for a decent point, late goals from Marcello Trotta and Alan Judge saw the Bees pick up all three points amidst celebratory scenes at Griffin Park.
Team news saw Graham Westley handed first year scholar Ryan Johnson his debut at left-back aged just 17 years and 215 days. Roarie Deacon also returned from injury to start the game with youngsters Fejiri Okenabirhie and Rohdell Gordon amongst the subs.
With Brentford already securing promotion there was a real celebratory feel to the game at Griffin Park and five minutes in they nearly got off to a dream start. Jonathan Douglas danced his way through midfield and played in Clayton Donaldson but Hartley was there with a sliding block. It was a theme that would run through the entire first half with Boro successfully repelling everything the Bees tried to throw at them.
The visitors came into the game as the half progressed with Freeman looking increasingly influential and Roarie Deacon bright on his return to the starting eleven.
On several occasions during the opening 45, Boro’s triple Player of the Year found himself in space in front of Brentford’s defence. However the final ball was lacking with a ninth minute shot floating over the bar, a 15th minute pass through to Smith finding the midfielder offside and a number of other similar opportunities seeing him crowded out by covering defenders.
Brentford were seeing plenty of possession but weren’t really troubling Boro in the final third with Jones and Hartley standing firm in the centre of the visiting defence.
The arrival of Kevin O’Connor as a first half sub for his 500th Brentford appearance brought the biggest cheer of the opening half – a testament to the lack of goalmouth action – although Chris Day did have to stay alert to beat away an injury time header from the veteran from a corner.
Brentford turned up the pressure at the start of the second half with Day called into action within three minutes of the restart, as he got down to gather a shot from Saville.
Shortly afterwards the ‘keeper came to Boro’s rescue again, making a fantastic save to turn a Donaldson shot onto the post. The ball bounced along the goal-line invitingly for a tap-in but there was Hartley to clear once again.
Brentford continued to crank up the pressure as the half progressed but once again the visiting defence stood firm, much to the home faithful’s frustration.
With 20 minutes left on the clock Boro created a couple of great opportunities of their own to take the lead. First Freeman saw a shot deflected over by Douglas with the resulting corner failing to trouble the Bees defence. Moments later Doughty forced Button into his first real save of the game, with his shot being turned around the post.
However Boro’s stubborn resistance was finally broken 15 minutes from time. Excellent interplay between Douglas and substitute Trotta saw the former reach the byline and fire in a driven cross. Whilst that somehow evaded everyone the ball was recycled low into the box and there was Trotta to sweep home.
Buoyed by taking the lead the Bees came flooding forward again and within two minutes Stuart Dallas rattled the crossbar with a thunderous effort as they looked to double their advantage.
Boro kept plugging away with efforts from Akins and Smith but Brentford’s party truly started in the 89th minute when Judge played a neat one-two and curled into the far corner for the Bees’ second.
Whilst Mark Warburton’s men look forward to Championship football next season, Boro fans will be hoping the celebratory scenes at the final whistle this afternoon will be repeated at The Lamex in 12 month’s time after a successful League 2 campaign.
Brentford: Button, Craig, Tarkowski, Bidwell, Reeves, Douglas, McCormack,Judge, Dallas, Saville (Yennaris 70), Donaldson (Trotta 60)
Subs not used: Lee, O’Connor, Grigg, Diagouraga, Adams
Stevenage: Day, Obeng, Jones, Hartley, Johnson, Mousinho, Smith, Doughty, Deacon (Okenabirhie 63), Freeman, N’Guessan (Akins 54)
Subs not used: Arnold, Burrow, Gordon, Reid, Banvo
Referee: D Phillips