Brentford have moved third in the Championship after narrowly surviving a second-half barrage to claim a 1-0 win against Luton Town in their first league tie since December 30th, with both Tom Lockyer and Ivan Toney sent off in second-half injury time.
Lockyer saw red for the off the ball incident, while Toney was shown a second yellow.
The striker had played his part in the decisive goal inside the opening 15 minutes, swinging in a pinpoint cross for Saman Ghoddos, whose loan deal was made permanent earlier this month, to nod in for his new full-time employers.
But Nathan Jones’ side grew into the game, dominating after the half and ultimately left rueing a lack of quality in the final third.
Sergi Canos was Brentford’s brightest spark in the early exchanges and he nearly put Thomas Frank’s men ahead inside the first 10 minutes, picking up the ball just outside the box and sending a curling effort toward the top corner but Simon Sluga was equal to it, tipping it over the bar.
The hosts continued to exert pressure and eventually, it told with Ghoddos giving the Bees the lead in the 14th minute.
Toney has been a goal machine since arriving in the summer, scoring 16 times already, but this time he flexed his muscles as a creator, swinging a wonderful cross in from the right for Ghoddos to nod his side ahead.
Perhaps they were wary of keeping their hosts within reach, having been hammered 7-0 at Griffin Park last season, but Jones’ men responded well to going behind and began to grow into the game. They saw a lot of the ball as the half wore on but were limited to long speculative efforts.
At the other end, the Bees front three and particularly Toney continued to cause problems. He could and perhaps should have had a penalty just after the half-hour mark when a remarkable two-handed push from a defender sent the striker tumbling but referee Stephen Martin wasn’t interested.
The 24-year-old was denied once again in the closing stages of the first half but this time it was by a piece of brilliance from Luke Berry, the midfielder sliding to pinch the ball from Toney as he opened his body up to shoot after latching onto a ball into the box.
But in a way that will have pleased their manager to no end, the Hatters refused to go away and despite not creating a chance of note, were only one down at the break.
It was the visitors that started the second period much the brighter, as well, with Brentford chasing the ball for much of the opening 15 minutes.
Jones’ side started to find their quality as the half wore on – creating a trio of half chances and keeping Raya significantly busier than his opposite number.
Luton couldn’t keep Toney quiet for long, however, and he was uncharacteristically wasteful with two chances just after the hour-mark. He powered the first straight into Sluga after Canos had teed him up beautifully and then moments later Lockyer denied him at the top of the box.
The introduction of three substitutes helped the visitors raise the tempo heading into the final 25 minutes but that killer pass or moment of brilliance continued to allude them.
Substitute Jordan Clark nearly produced it in the 75th minute, finding space and driving a low effort across the face of goal but there was no one there to convert it.
James Bree’s low driven ball into the box did find a teammate five minutes later but Harry Cornick couldn’t get a proper connection, spurning arguably Luton’s best chance for an equaliser.
As the final whistle edged closer the game intensified and there were a flurry of chances in the final few minutes. Brentford captain Henrik Dalsgaard produced a fantastic low header to keep the scores level at one end and Mathias Jensen was sent tumbling over Sluga at the other.
The major dramatics were saved for the final throws, though, as Lockyer was shown a straight red and Toney a second yellow deep into added time for an off the ball incident.
FULL TIME: Brentford 1 – 0 Luton Town