Dean Smith felt his Brentford side had finally proved the critics wrong after leaving the Midlands with an honourable point after a goalless stalemate with Aston Villa.

The Bees could have in fact taken all three points, but a string of second-half saves from goalkeeper Sam Johnstone ensured the wait for a first win of the league season goes on.

But in a week where the strength of the squad was questioned after losing Harlee Dean, Jota and Maxime Colin, to Birmingham, Smith believes the detractors have now been silenced – at least for a short time.

“There’s been a lot of talk because we lost three big players – but I brought a squad of 19 and we have five or six full internationals and five or six youth internationals within that,” he said. 

“I really do believe we haven’t diminished the quality of the squad. It was a good point, but we’re sat here again feeling like we should have had three points. 

“We controlled the football in the first-half and second-half we created three big chances. If we had put one of those away we would have won the game. Unfortunately, Sam Johnstone kept us at bay. 

“You have to keep believing in what you’re doing. You don’t suddenly panic because you’re not winning games when you’re creating big chances like we have. 

“We have a great belief in what we’re doing and the squad we’ve got and that will certainly take us far.”

Villa had actually got on the front foot quickly, and Keinan Davis dragged a low shot wide on nine minutes after Andre Green’s low cross from the byline.

But Villa chances were fewer as the game wore on, and Neal Maupay caused their defence problems – cutting inside two defenders and shooting into the side netting on 21 minutes. 

Davis did shoot into the side-netting on 26 minutes, when Joshua Onomah won the ball well and slotted it through, but Brentford seized control after the break. 

Maupay’s first-time through ball released Josh Clarke on 58 minutes only for Johnstone to spread himself well and make his first big save of the afternoon. 

A minute later Yoann Barbet’s 25-yard free-kick dipped over the wall, but Johnstone saved well at the second attempt. 

Maupay then released Oliver Watkins on 72 minutes, with the winger getting inside James Bree, but his right-footed shot across goal was tipped wide by Johnstone. 

And Johnstone then got up high to his left to deny Watkins again on 76 minutes, this time from a more central position. 

Robert Snodgrass sold Ryan Woods a dummy on 85 minutes and crossed for James Chester, who had time to take a touch, but Daniel Bentley charged his shot down as the game ended goalless.

“I blame myself a little bit, because with my experience I should have been better,” Villa manager Steve Bruce admitted.
“I take a bit of responsibility for it, because there was no real freshness and we were as flat as we possibly could be. 

“I can understand the frustration, of course. That’s arguably the worst we’ve been since I’ve been here. 

“We didn’t have enough spark, we didn’t do enough with the ball or without the ball, and looked jaded. 

“I look at myself and I take responsibility for that. I should have known better having had 90 per cent of the team away on international duty. 

“It was frustrating, disappointing, and we were thankful to take a point. The goalkeeper in particular has earned his spurs.

“At the end of the day, we haven’t won at home but we’ve got a big game on Tuesday and hopefully it will be the game that will turn us around.”