There’s a saying in football that although it is played with arms, legs and shoulders it is mostly played from the neck up. While the physical side to the game is crucial, the attitude of a team is the clearest sign of who is more likely to achieve their goals.
So, when Sheffield Wednesday conceded an early freak goal to Brentford they knew that although that it was just one game out of 46, their mind-set could set the tempo for the rest of the season.
And in the pouring rain the home side dug deep and battled back, through Gary Hooper and Ross Wallace’s strikes, to climb to sixth in Championship, leaving a winless Brentford second from bottom.
The Owls went into the match unchanged while the Bees were forced to make one, Josh Clarke coming in for the injured Sergi Canos, who was subbed off against Aston Villa with an ankle knock.
Brentford, who had registered just three points in their first six league games this season, started the brighter of the two sides with playmaker Romaine Sawyers controlling the midfield on a wet and windy South Yorkshire night.
Early on they strung the chords just outside Wednesday’s box but couldn’t hit the target when Yoann Barbet’s deflected free-kick bounced off the wall into the Kop End.
Remarkably, it did not take long for a side who had not scored in three league games to find the net, although it was handed to them on a silver platter when Keiren Westwood spilled a seemingly simple Nico Yennaris shot, the ball slowly creeping into the net behind him much to the anguish of the home fans.
Think Rob Green at the 2010 World Cup. Same distance on the shot. Same type of shot. Same mistake. A mirror image.
Wednesday did not have the presence of Carlos Carvalhal in the dugout, who was serving the final match of his two game touchline ban, but they did nearly hit back straight away when Wallace was denied from close range after a darting run off the right.
For the next ten minutes, the game twisted and turned as both sides ramped up the pressure. First, the home side went close again, after Tom Lees saw two headers agonisingly kept out of the goal, the former cleared off the line from an out-swinging corner and the latter well saved by an acrobatic Daniel Bentley.
Then in a flash Brentford broke free of their shackles and raced up the pitch, but Neal Maupay, who had delicately beaten the offside trap, was suddenly denied after Westwood made amends and pushed the striker’s effort around the post.
By this time the Wednesday fans had already voiced their displeasure at their side’s performance. The Owls had lost their last league match to Brentford at Hillsborough 2-1, and were certainly in no mood to see that result replicated.
Yet the Bees continued to control the channels in midfield through the ever-present Sawyers, while the pace of Oliver Watkins had on more than one occasion troubled a nervous-looking Adam Reach on the right.
So, it was not a surprise to see the away side put the ball in the back of the net again, but on this occasion John Egan’s header was immediately disallowed after the ball had gone out of play from the corner.
For a period of time the game ebbed and flowed, neither keeper having to produce any memorable saves, and although Brentford had not won a single Championship game this season they had clearly proved that they could hold their own in a testing atmosphere.
And an injury to Steven Fletcher compounded the home side’s misery, although the Owls’ joint leading goal-scorer did continue on.
He and Hooper had both scored three goals this season, but with less than minute to go until the half time whistle Hooper decided he would take the initiative and claim the outright lead.
Although Brentford had been resolute at the back for a large proportion of the first half they had still conceded nine goals in their first six games, so it was perhaps inevitable they would open up when they faced the first real flash of Wednesday quality.
That’s exactly what happened. The moment Hooper raced through the Bees’ backline they were on the back foot, and even though Egan and Barbet combined to prevent Hooper at the first opportunity, they were both powerless to prevent him from tapping in the rebound and drawing Wednesday level.
The momentum had swung towards the Owls and they leapt out of the gates in the second half. Just a minute in and they saw an optimistic penalty shout turned down by referee Jeremy Simpson.
Moments later and the pressure mounted on Brentford’s back-line again, but after a neat one-two between Barry Bannan and Kieran Lee, the latter saw his first-time effort saved by Bentley on the angle.
Brentford boss Dean Smith had only ended up on the losing side once against the Owls in six previous league meetings, but by the hour mark knew that his record was under risk so he tried to change the dynamism of the game, replacing Josh Clarke for Florian Jozefzoon.
It didn’t have any effect. In the pouring rain Brentford now faced a torrent of pressure.
And it didn’t take long for Wednesday to smash through the flood barriers.
Brentford had valiantly kept the home side at bay from open play in the second half, but on the 70-minute mark the Bees defence collapsed at a Lee corner, allowing an unmarked Wallace to fire the ball home at the back post.
Football can be a funny old game though. As soon as the Owls scored they switched off mentally and Brentford could sense it, Maupay nearly equalising late on but his shot was blocked by a battling Bannan.
A late injury to Bees midfielder Henrik Dalsgaard overshadowed the final few minutes, taken off to a standing ovation from both sets of supporters. In the end, Wednesday hung on to claim the three points.