Ivan Toney: How the Brentford striker broke the Championship scoring record

Daryl Murphy and Chris Wood came within three goals, Ross McCormack came within two and Teemu Pukki was just one away two seasons ago.

But Brentford striker Ivan Toney has now eclipsed all of those who fell short before him and broken Glenn Murray’s record of the most goals scored in a Sky Bet Championship campaign, since the division’s rebrand in 2004, by hitting his 31st goal of the season in the Bees’ 3-1 win over Bristol City.

The bar was set by Murray in 2012/13, when he notched 30 goals as Crystal Palace were promoted to the Premier League under Ian Holloway, after a narrow 1-0 play-off final win over Watford at Wembley.

Toney had never played in the second tier prior to joining the west London club for an initial £5m as Ollie Watkins’ replacement last August, yet to say he had taken to it like a duck to water would be quite the understatement.

Here, we take a look at how the 25-year-old rewrote the history books…

Toney scored his 31st goal of the season in Brentford’s final day victory over Bristol City at Ashton Gate

Prior to joining Brentford, Toney had expressed to Sky Sports his belief he was capable of playing in the top flight of English football. It was understandable, given his earlier stint at Newcastle, but a minority took his self-confidence for an over-inflated ego, which was fuelled by the fact he failed to score in his first four appearances for Thomas Frank’s team.

Then came the turning point. Having bounced back from a second successive opening-day defeat to Birmingham with a 3-0 triumph over Huddersfield in the first league game at the brand new Brentford Community Stadium, the Bees travelled to south east London to take on Millwall, who they had beaten just once on the road since 1984.

The game followed a familiar pattern, as Jed Wallace struck an early opener, but midway through the first half, Toney won a penalty and gave a glimpse at what was to come when he approached the ball in a slow, menacing manner and coolly rolled it past Lions goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski into the bottom left corner. There was no overzealous response; he cupped his hands to his ears, celebrated as his team-mates closed in and, ultimately, earned his side a point as the game ended 1-1.

It was against Millwall on September 26 that Ivan Toney struck his first goal in a Brentford shirt
It was against Millwall on September 26 that Ivan Toney struck his first goal in a Brentford shirt

The delight on his face was evident when he added two more against Preston eight days later – though the Bees would go on to concede four second half goals in an eventual 4-2 collapse – while he displayed his prowess in the six-yard box with two more against Coventry before yet another double away at Sheffield Wednesday on October 21.

Further strikes against Norwich and Luton took him to a final tally of eight goals in just six games throughout October meant there was little surprise when Toney was presented with the Sky Bet Championship Player of the Month award.

“I would never have thought I’d be in this position at the beginning of the season but I did believe in myself and I know what I’m capable of and it’s starting to really show,” he told Sky Sports in November. “I’ve believed in myself, and the manager, all the staff and the players have helped me.

Brentford striker Ivan Toney is the Sky Bet Championship Player of the Month for October
The 25-year-old was named Sky Bet Championship Player of the Month for October

“I feel like everyone is a team player; there’s no individuals or standouts. I know I’ve been scoring the goals but without them I wouldn’t have been able to score them. Everyone wants the same goal at the end, which is to get promoted.”

The fabled Player of the Month curse was nowhere to be seen when he started November by slamming the opener in a 1-1 draw against Swansea and though he drew a blank in stalemates against Middlesbrough and Wycombe thereafter, a deft header was enough for Brentford to take the plaudits at Oakwell on November 24.

Toney’s strike just after the hour mark then sealed a 2-1 west London derby win over QPR three days later, before penalties against Rotherham and Blackburn increased his tally to 14 goals by the first week of December. He added two more with goals against Nottingham Forest and QPR but given how consistently he was scoring in the early part of the season, it was perhaps to be expected that a seven-game barren spell in all competitions would follow.

It wasn’t all gloom and doom by any stretch, though, with the frontman once again illustrating he is just as capable of creating chances for team-mates as he is finishing them off himself by laying on three assists. His tally now stands at 10 for the season, which has only been bettered Norwich’s Emi Buendia (16), Reading’s Michael Olise (12), Blackburn’s Harvey Elliott and Cardiff’s Harry Wilson (both 11).

It was perhaps to be expected that such a run would screech to a halt in devastating style on the final weekend of January. It was a perfect storm for Toney. He had a burning desire to get back on the scoresheet, Brentford had not lost in 17 games and Wycombe were rooted to the bottom of the table.

There was no doubt about the penalty he rolled home 11 minutes after the break, or the tricky effort he struck past Ryan Allsop while off-balance, but it was his first of the day – which had been credited to Tariqe Fosu, who prodded in from close-range after Allsop had made the initial save – that forced him to wait for confirmation of a hat-trick.

A confident Toney commandeered the match ball on the day and a few days later, the treble was officially ratified as the ball was adjudged to have crossed the line prior to Fosu’s intervention.

After a seven-game barren spell in all competitions, Toney struck a hat-trick in the 7-2 win over Wycombe
After a seven-game barren spell in all competitions, Toney struck a hat-trick in the 7-2 win over Wycombe

That ignited another hot streak, where he scored five goals in the next six games – including one in the defeat to QPR – and then, on February 27, he scored his 25th of the season in the 2-1 win over Stoke, equalling the tally reached by Brentford frontmen Neal Maupay and Ollie Watkins across the past two seasons.

It was an admirable achievement for the player, but also for Brentford, who became the first EFL club to have three different players score 25 league goals in consecutive seasons since the 1960s. It was made all the more incredible by the fact Maupay and Watkins had reached 25 at the end of the season – Toney still had 13 games still to play.

There were fears that he might have been missing for a large chunk of the Bees’ run-in, given the fact he was forced to sit out the disappointing 2-0 defeat to Coventry with an ankle injury. Many breathed a sigh of relief, however, when he appeared from the bench against Sheffield Wednesday and started in the aforementioned game against the Potters, with the injury not as bad as initially feared.

Toney's calm penalty-taking technique has been eye-catching this term
Toney’s calm penalty-taking technique has been eye-catching this term

Though he could only muster one shot on target in the Bees’ showdown with Norwich on March 3, Toney was soon among the goals again and, prior to the March international break, had scored penalties in three games in succession.

On each occasion, with ice coursing through his veins, he found the back of the net in trademark fashion. “It’s a little stroll, just nice and slow. Stare at the ‘keeper, let him make the move. When he makes the move, pass it in to the other corner,” he explained to the Official EFL Podcast, in the most nonchalant manner.

As Brentford recovered from four straight draws – two either side of the March international break – to get their automatic promotion quest heading in the right direction again with a 5-0 demolition of Preston at Deepdale, Toney became just the third man to hit the 29-goal mark in the division when he glanced in at the back post after Fosu had invitingly hung the ball up to the far post.

Toney became just the third player to reach 29 goals in a Championship season with this header in the 5-0 demolition of Preston.
Toney became just the third player to reach 29 goals in a Championship season with this header in the 5-0 demolition of Preston

With the fixtures ticking by, he then drew blanks against Millwall, Cardiff and Bournemouth. In the latter, he was given the freedom of the south coast when a superb pass found its way to him, but with the pressure building, his effort was saved by Asmir Begovic in the Cherries’ goal.

Fears he might not break the record that looked within reach, naturally, began to arise, particularly given the fact Brentford secured a play-off place with three games to spare and against Rotherham – in the third-to-last – the closest he came was in the first half of a 1-0 win, when he drove in from the right and crashed a shot off the right-hand post.

A few days later, though, he cracked it. With almost an hour gone in the Bees’ eventual 2-0 home win against Watford, he was caught by Francisco Sierralta as he turned in the area and was presented with a golden chance to level with Murray from the spot.

Goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann guessed correctly, but Toney’s delivery escaped his clutches and hit the bottom right corner of the net. The smile and punch of the air illustrated exactly how much the milestone meant to him.

He equalled the Championship scoring record with a penalty in Brentford's 2-0 win over Watford on May 1
He equalled the Championship scoring record with a penalty in Brentford’s 2-0 win over Watford on May 1

Then, on the final day of the season, when Frank may have preferred to rest his prized asset for the play-offs, Toney started at Ashton Gate and duly made history when Marcus Forss’ shot was deflected into his path, allowing him to slot goal No 31 past former Brentford stopper Daniel Bentley.

Regardless of Brentford’s fate this season, it’s plain to see Ivan Toney will likely be a Premier League player next season. His work in the Championship is almost complete but he’s creating a legacy with a record that has the potential to remain in place for many years to come.

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