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Bedford Town 2-1 Kingstonian

Bedford - a team who hadn't lost in their last seven - against Kingstonian - a team who hadn't won in their previous five matches. Only one side in it? So you would think. In fact, when it became clear that K's had eight players missing for various reasons and a seventeen year-old A-Level student making his debut at centre-back, those who had made the nine-hour (or less) journey would have been forgiven for shedding a tear or two.

Kathryn and James meet the captains and officials

Yet as it was, the thirteen who appeared in the hoops at The Eyrie did themselves proud. A defeat by one goal may have those not present tutting and shaking their heads, but those who had made the long journey will know that this was one game that didn't go according to the form guide.

The new-look K's defence - with Matt Bradford looking fairly composed in the opening moments - was tested several times before the clock had ticked to double figures. Lance Key saved well from Carl Adams after good work by Mark Paul on the left.

Just before the ten minute mark was reached though, the home side led. Ian Edge ran at - and beat - the double barrier of Billy Mead and Liam Collins on the Eagles' left and crossed to the far post. The usually solid Lance Key was unusually gaseous as he flapped at the cross and Kevin Slinn took advantage as he headed home. Sean Thurgood did his utmost to clear from under the crossbar, but by the time he headed the ball out in, the goal had been given.

Sills misses with a header

K's awoke from their early slumber and could have restored parity within just a few minutes. Good work from Mead, James Pinnock and Collins on the right allowed the right-back to cross for Mark Jones. The man renowned for his heading ability couldn't quite connect though, as Rob Miller cleared. Pinnock followed this with a corner which fell to Sills - unfortunately his shot was blocked on the line by Paul Wilson.

Although K's were coming more into the game, there was still an element of doubt about the defence and Key had to make up for his earlier blunder when Pinnock conceded possession to Edge some twenty-five yards from goal. A superb shot from the Town midfielder looked destined for the top corner before Key's fingertips intervened.

The best chance for K's to finish the half on level terms fell to Mark Jones, who was having another good game in midfield. David Sadler received the ball from Pinnock, ran to the right-hand side of the area and crossed for Jones. In several acres of space, his first touch let him down as he stepped on the ball, and by the time he sorted his feet out he'd been closed down well by Derek Brown. He did get a shot in, but James Heeps had no trouble keeping it out.

Just look at all the flies behind that goal...

A slice from Billy Mead almost doubled Bedford's advantage, but Key was again alert enough to keep the ball out, and at the other end Thurgood went close to scoring what would have been a cert for inclusion in the "Goal of the Season" contest as he volleyed just over after a Craig Rocastle cross had been headed clear. Yet the break was reached with just the one goal separating the teams, deservedly in Bedford's advantage.

The change in the K's team for the second period was evident within just a couple of minutes of the re-start. Where in the first half there had been a reticence to commit numbers forward, there were several times where the majority of the team was committed to attacking the non-fly-infested end of The Eyrie.

Tim Sills - who is yet to score since signing permanently - was provided with the first real chance of the half when a good run and cross from Collins saw his headed effort aimed straight at the midriff of Heeps. And not three further minutes had passed before that action was repeated. This time it was Sadler who crossed - after beating Wilson for pace - but once more Sills headed straight at the goalkeeper from just a few yards out.

Where's the 'Kingston Windows' advert?

The start of the rainy season in Bedfordshire saw all of the visiting supporters congregate under the roof in front of the K's attack, and this seemed to inspire the team even more. Rocastle crossed from the left only for Sills to head wide at the far post, but on sixty-four minutes the deserved equaliser came.

Substitute Mark Royal - on for the injured Liam Garman - raced down the right and crossed to Sadler on the edge of the Eagles' box and with his back to goal. A slip from Derek Brown made the job slightly easier for the striker, but his chest control, pivot and shot all came in one fluid movement and goalkeeper Heeps had no chance as the ball was fired into the net. Sadler and co were delighted with the goal (below) and well they might be. It really was a very good goal, and scored by a player finally looking the part.

Sadler celebrates with a faceful of mud

Yet as is the way of these things, the repost was swift and stinging. A goal-kick from Wilson sailed into the K's half, Mead didn't make any sort of contact and Mark Paul ran in to collect. Key was stranded on the edge of his box and an exquisite chip saw the lead restored in Bedford's favour.

The goal seemed to knock the visitors' confidence for a few minutes, but it didn't take long before they were back on top of the game. Another Sills header produced another Heeps save following a Pinnock cross, who was then replaced by Ronnie Green with some ten minutes remaining.

As it was the change didn't quite have the desired impact. K's never gave up, indeed they came close to levelling the score again on a couple of occasions through Royal - who shot against Green from the edge of the area - and Bradford - who headed just over at the far post - but in the end Bedford's one shot in the second half proved to be the most important.

Although this was another game where K's failed to collect all three points, this was a fine display. With so many players out, it was testimony to the new-found strength in depth that this match against a team at the top of their form was so nearly won. Debutant Matt Bradford can be happy with his first outing, and once the goals start going in for Sills there will be no end to his scoring.

Sat 16th Mar 2002
The Eyrie
Isthmian League Premier
Bedford Town2
1Lance Key
2Billy Mead
3Liam Garman14
4Sean Thurgood
5Matt Bradford
6Craig Rocastle
7James Pinnock12
8Liam Collins
9Tim Sills
10David Sadler
11Mark Jones
12Ronnie Green7
14Mark Royal3
15Luke Dowling
Man of the Match
Matt Bradford
Matt Bradford
Match Report By
Gary Ekins