Mark Flekken banishes Brentford struggles as battling Bees crawl slowly towards safety

Back to his best: Mark Flekken has recovered from his early-season issues to play a key role for Brentford (AFP via Getty Images)
Back to his best: Mark Flekken has recovered from his early-season issues to play a key role for Brentford (AFP via Getty Images)

This was not a match that will live long in the memory, but a first clean sheet for Brentford since October edged them closer to safety.

“Both teams neutralised each other,” said goalkeeper Mark Flekken, after a goalless draw that moves the Bees six points clear of the relegation zone.

Wednesday night’s point could prove another crucial one for Thomas Frank’s side, following Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Manchester United. A first win since the middle of February continues to elude them, but they are crawling away from danger.

Helped by vital blocks from Kristoffer Ajer, Flekken kept his fifth Premier League clean sheet in a season he has had to fill the big gloves of David Raya.

“It’s not a big secret that I didn’t have a good first period of the season,” said Flekken. “I had some troubles on and off the pitch which kept me from being at the level I am now.

“Since the Tottenham away game in January, I’ve finally been able to transition stuff from training into matches. I’m feeling really comfortable.”

Brentford had just 33 per cent possession on Wednesday night and managed only five shots to Brighton’s 24, but they limited the Seagulls to few clear-cut chances.

I had some troubles on and off the pitch... but now I’m feeling really comfortable

Brentford goalkeeper Mark Flekken

For the first time since November, the 15th-placed Bees have avoided defeat in consecutive league games.

“It’s another point we desperately need, to stay away from the bottom three,” Flekken added. “Brighton had the better chances, which were blocked in a tremendous way. A clean sheet is a good feeling.”

Having shown their attacking prowess with 31 shots against United, here the Bees demonstrated brilliant defending.

“If you put these two games together, it definitely shows the capability we have as a team,” said Flekken. “We’ve dropped a lot of points we shouldn’t have dropped because of individual mistakes. We definitely have way more quality than the standings show.

“The only thing we need to do in the remaining games is take the necessary points and start building anew towards the new season.”

Frank resisted the urge to start Bryan Mbeumo, sticking with Yoane Wissa as Ivan Toney’s strike partner.

Both Toney and Wissa missed chances, but the latter more than justified his selection. Few players of such small stature and slender frame can hold the ball up so well.

There was also another dynamic midfield display from Yehor Yarmoliuk and the case is growing for the 20-year-old Ukrainian to be given a full 90 minutes.

Games against struggling Sheffield United, Luton and Everton this month present Brentford with a chance to secure survival.

In the meantime, two points against United and Brighton keep their heads above the water.

“It was a point we have missed a lot of times this season,” said manager Frank. “If you can’t win, don’t lose.”