JACOB BUTTERFIELD admits that many players in the Championship are unsure if they should look straight ahead or over their shoulders, such is the thin line between success and failure.
The player Middlesbrough swapped to get Adam Clayton to the Riverside is, however, buoyed by Town’s victory over a classy and confident Brentford side who were seeking a sixth successive win which would have taken them to within a point of leaders Derby.
One-time Barnsley play-maker Butterfield acknowledged the biting return of Jonathan Hogg into central midfield had helped him and match-winner Sean Scannell take the game to the visitors and extend Town’s unbeaten home run to seven games, lifting them four places in the process.
“It was a great win even if we were defending at the end and our keeper made some great saves. We could have scored more, though, and killed the game off. It was one of those games with loads of chances and must have been good to watch.
“We have been good at home so we were confident although I thought Brentford were one of the best we have played here. But we matched them and will take a lot from the game.
“In the Championship, you win one or two and you look up and if you lose a couple you look down – it’s that close. If you put a run together like we did with the seven games unbeaten then you shoot up so we will be looking to put another such run together again.”
Town, however, have suffered three successive away defeats and travel to eighth-placed Norwich on Saturday but Butterfield argues: “The margins are so fine and we have been unlucky in some games away. We don’t go into them with a different mentality, it’s just the way it’s being going for us so we will keep going and stay positive and get that win. We have shown we can match anyone on our day and will give anyone a game.”
Saturday’s encounter was a cracker with the Bees showing the confidence engendered by a winning run but rarely will their strapping central defenders have been as battered as they were by Grant Holt nor tormented out wide by Scannell’s pace and strength or by Nahki Wells’s darting runs down the middle.
Scannell struck in the first half and then forced left-back Jake Bidwell into chesting home an own goal shortly after the break. Former Leeds star Jonathan Douglas struck back in the 70th minute but Town repelled late pressure with Alex Smithies, though he lost a couple of deep crosses, making three brave saves to take three points.
Manager Chris Powell had made two changes to the Town side which lost at Bolton with Hogg replacing Diego Poyet in midfield and Murray Wallace brought into central defence for thigh victim Joel Lynch.
Douglas should have headed the Bees into an early lead before Smithies did well to tip a deflected shot from Alan Judge over the bar.
Judge and Alex Pritchard were also narrowly off target with shots from outside the area but Town matched their threat and took the lead with a free-flowing move in the 18th minute.
Jack Robinson overlapped, Wells helped on his low cross and, although Holt narrowly failed to connect, Scannell raced in from the right to fire the ball home.
Tony Craig’s last-ditch tackle prevented Wells making it 2-0 and the Bermuda international also curled a free-kick narrowly over the bar before the break before being thwarted by David Button’s close-range block after the interval.
Town went 2-0 up soon after half-time when left-back Robinson raced on to Hogg’s delightful chip over the defence and drove in a cross that Bidwell, chased by Scannell, could only chest into his net at the far post.
Douglas found space in Town’s area to make it 2-1 and Brentford piled on late pressure to no avail as they also had to be alert to keep out James Vaughan on his long-awaited return from injury after replacing Wells.
It already appears Powell’s best decision was made before he became Town manager, persuading while still in the interview process chairman Dean Hoyle not to sell Scannell to Millwall.
The winger has certainly had a new lease of life and clutching a bottle of Champagne as Town’s player-of-the-month and armed with a new two-year contract, he said: “I just want to keeep performing at this level and playing with confidence.
“My thigh was hurting the whole game but it wasn’t bad enough to force me off. For my goal, it was the only place I could hit it and for the second, I just wished I had got my head to it first but I am happy it went in and we got the result because we needed it.”
Both Scannell and Butterfield praised the return of birthday boy Hogg. “He is a really good player for us, he works really hard and is so strong,” said Scannell while Butterfield added: “Jonathan works as hard as anyone I have seen in the game to be fair and does a great job, setting the tempo when we are defending.
“He is an unsung hero and tends to do most of the ‘dirty’ work and then plays it simple, giving me the ball, Scans the ball to go and express ourselves. It works well for us.”
With only a couple of injuries to clear ahead of the festive programme, he continued: “The squad looks strong and with it being a long, hard season you need a good squad. People say you are only as strong as your bench and if that is getting stronger and stronger then that’s all the better.”