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Fulham 1-4 Brentford Cham 40 1415 Daily Mail

last updated Saturday 04th April 2015, 10:36 PM
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Jack Gaughan at Daily Mail

Fulham (0) 1-4 (1) Brentford

The chant was loud and it was pronounced. 'Bees up, Fulham down' rang out of the not-so neutral end at Craven Cottage on a day for Brentford's 6,000 travelling fans to savour. A day they again stamped their serious play-off credentials down on the Championship, humiliating their once superior neighbours.

As Stuart Dallas thundered in his second of the afternoon, boos descended down on Kit Symons, who slunk back into his dugout. But this wasn't about Fulham and their mounting deficiencies.

There were hairy moments for Mark Warburton's side - particularly after Ross McCormack's 67th minute penalty halved the deficit - but they continue to chip away at those above them with a fearless way of playing the game, excitement in abundance.

Here was a first league double over Fulham in 23 years and still the potential for a play-off campaign, although the manager might be looking for more.

'If a team puts a run together they'll go clear with 90-odd points,' he reasoned. 'If they do that, with the nature of the fixtures, teams will drop points.

'The average for the play-offs has been 72 for the last five years. I think you'll need 75 minimum. If that's the case we need two more wins.'

Every single resident of the tiny area of west London would have snatched and bitten fingers off for that if offered in August. The celebrations after Alan Judge's stunning late free-kick were almost muted, such was the shock at what they'd just seen, and delirium as Jota smashed in a fourth.

The guard has been changed around these parts and, when Symons looks back on the video today, he'll have serious misgivings as to how the little upstarts five miles down the road were allowed to humble Fulham in their own back yard.

'People will look at the scoreline and think it's a hammering but it isn't,' he said. Sadly, Symons was wrong. What he could not legislate for was the oceans gifted to Alex Pritchard in the build-up to Dallas' opener.

The excellent Pritchard, on loan from Tottenham, is a midfielder with the brightest of futures, someone adept at orchestrating the Bees. So when he picked up possession inside his own half, looked up and just saw vacant grass ahead of him, the alarm bells should have been ringing in the hosts' defence.

But they did not. Pritchard went on for 30 yards, recycled possession just outside the home box and - later in the move - Dallas manouvered enough space for himself to put his laces through a daisy-cutter across Marcus Bettinelli into the goalkeeper's bottom left-hand post.

The first phase of that attack gives an indication why the Cottagers have struggled so badly this term and still aren't safe from relegation.

That, and a failure to take their chances when on top. Cauley Woodrow saw two presentable opportunities go begging before Seko Fofana - all alone at the back post - could only skew an effort wide with goal gaping. Alexander Kacaniklic earlier jinked away from two defenders but saw a shot smartly saved by David Button.

McCormack, the multi-million pound signing from Leeds last summer, became increasingly on the periphery; starting as one of two strikers, the Scot felt the need to constantly drop off into midfield, such was Fulham's lack of creativity. All that meant was Woodrow had to fend for himself against the two aggressive central defenders Harlee Dean and James Tarkowski.

In short, Fulham need a plan for next season - and quickly. Even though it looks as if they will remain in the division, their supporters will not accept another campaign of stagnation. Compare that to buoyant Brentford, who are on a crest of a wave and unsure where the next six weeks will take them for all the right reasons.

They grew into this, comfortable in retaining the ball after half-time and looked every bit the play-off side.

Dallas' second of the afternoon was something to behold, a wondrous strike in the same direction as his first but into the roof of Bettinelli's net from 30 yards out.

Up went the inflatables, over went the arms in hugging celebration. Brentford's supporters can't quite believe what they are witnessing.

To say their brand of football does not deserve these accolades would be to decry Warburton's hard work over the course of 18 months. It is just a shame he will not see that through beyond May.

It ought to have been three when Andre Gray blazed over from six yards but, just as the visitors looked to be cruising to the points, referee Simon Hooper gifted Fulham a way back into the game. Toumani Diagouraga was harshly adjudged to have hauled down debutant James Husband, with McCormack doing the rest from 12 yards.

Lanky Matt Smith was a menace when introduced, almost catching Button out with a cheeky lob as Fulham pressed hard for an equaliser.

Tarkowski needed to stretch every inch of his giant frame to keep out Kacaniklic too. They'll need a bit more of that if this adventure is to finish at Wembley, although the quality of Judge's late free-kick might just be even more important.

Was this Warburton's best individual result as a manager? 'No, and I don't mean that in a derogatory way,' he said. 'It's a big local derby and the atmosphere was electric.

'We've had momentum from day one, not in an arrogant way but we have. It's self belief. The players deserve to be where they are.'

They weren't finished there, Jota hammering home in stoppage-time to cap off a stunning move. The key for Warburton is Brentford possess both class and guts in spades. Nottingham Forest better watch out on Monday.

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