Brentford boss took star striker off during draw at Birmingham to ensure he would face Norwich

Neal Maupay in action during Brentford's 1-0 loss at Norwich in October Picture: Paul Chesterton/Foc

Neal Maupay in action during Brentford's 1-0 loss at Norwich in October Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Brentford boss Thomas Frank took top scorer Neal Maupay off early during his side's draw at Birmingham to ensure he was ready to face Norwich City on New Year's Day.

The 22-year-old has 15 goals and six assists to his name from 23 Championship games so far this season, leaving him tied with City striker Teemu Pukki and Sheffield United talisman Billy Sharp as the division's top scorers.

Frank took the Frenchman off in the 67th minute of a 0-0 draw at Birmingham on Saturday after the forward had been booked for an angry reaction to some rough treatment from the Blues' defenders.

'I would say in general I think the match official needed to protect the key players in the game,' the Bees' head coach said. 'You should see Neal's back. There are scratches all the way down his back.

'I know that is part of the game. You have to handle that. Defenders know all the tricks in the book. He is clever as well. I understand what happens but if you are smashed and hit every single game for 90 minutes there comes a time when all of us would be annoyed over those situations.

'With the booking, when they were all over him, I thought it was best to take him off. Playing four games in a short space of time I thought it was it would be good for him to be fresh against Norwich and score goals.'

Maupay missed a golden chance to equalise at Carrow Road as Brentford lost 1-0 in October, hitting the bar after Emi Buendia's lovely goal had given Norwich the lead, with Jordan Rhodes also missing a penalty.

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That was part of a run of just one win in 10 after Frank had stepped up following Dean Smith's departure to Aston Villa, but the Bees are now unbeaten in three games.

'We did well in the first half and controlled the game,' Frank continued. 'We needed to be more positive with the half-chances we created.

'In the second half I wasn't satisfied with my players not being brave enough on the ball. To be fair Birmingham pressed us and made it difficult by smashing the ball forward.

'We handled it well. Defensively we were very solid and gave away zero chances.'