Brentford V Stoke City 11/5/2002 Division 2 Play-Off Final

Last updated : 15 May 2002 By Chris Wickham

Two goals at crucial times were all Stoke needed to win the game and take their place in the first division after 3 previous play-off defeats.

Brentford started the brighter team and went close to opening the scoring inside the first two minutes. Stephen Hunt got to the by-line and his pull back was met by Ben Burgess who shot just over the bar. Michael Dobson also had an early effort from 35 yards, which Neil Cutler had to be alert to hold and keep out.

Brentford fell behind on 15 minutes with a goal they would like to forget. Chris Iwelumo flicked on an Arnar Gunnlaugsson corner and Deon Burton squeezed a shot past Paul Smith and a posse of defenders.

That appeared to knock the stuffing out of The Bees and Stoke dominated the rest of the half. Gunnlaugsson fired just wide from 20 yards after a slalom run and Bjarni Gudjonsson was also probing in midfield and dominating that area of the game. Although Steven Sidwell was doing his best to marshal Brentford's team at times he was fighting on his own as many of Brentford's influential players went missing. Their cause was also not helped by Lloyd Owusu needing treatment for a head wound midway through the half.

Stoke got their second and killer goal just before the break. Gunnlaugsson was brought down on the edge of the box and Gudjonsson whipped in a dangerous free kick. Burgess managed to get a foot on the ball but only preceded to deflect it past his own goalkeeper to leave Brentford with a mountain to climb.

It almost got worse seconds later as Smith did well to keep out a fierce driven effort from Tony Dinning.

It was a completely different team which came out after the interval. Brentford fought for all they could but could not break down the Stoke defence controlled expertly by Peter Handyside and Sergei Shtaniuk, and when they did manage to get past the defence they found Cutler in brilliant form.

The Stoke keeper produced a marvellous save to keep out Owusu after Burgess had flicked on and towards the end saved on his line from a Mark McCammon header. Brentford had thrown on McCammon and Kevin O'Connor in an attempt to get back into the game but it was to no avail. Paul Evans also headed wide when well placed and Ijah Anderson wasted a good position by shooting wide.

Even at the death Owusu couldn't get a goal back. He failed to connect with a cross and Cutler gathered easily. Moments later the whistle had gone and Stoke were celebrating the promotion they craved, while Brentford lay exhausted and disappointed on the turf.

A great season had ended in glorious failure for Brentford but in truth they had done brilliantly to get close to promotion. Many of this team will now leave as their contracts expire and it will take a monumental effort from those players who remain to pick themselves up after getting so close twice in three weeks. They do however deserve a lot of credit for what they have achieved and it is only a pity that they didn't get the promotion they had richly deserved, for a season's labours.

Brentford: Smith, Dobson, Anderson, Powell, Ingimarsson, Rowlands (O'Connor), Evans, Sidwell, Hunt, Burgess (McCammon), Owusu

By Chris Wickham