Back into the 21 Century and the main reason for the choice of game. This was a crucial game at both ends of the Combined Counties Premier League. Visitors Bedfont Sports, started the evening in second place and, although they had already conceded the league to Westfields, were desperate to hold on to their position and grab the second promotion slot. The position at the top was very tight with Sutton Common Rovers pushing The Eagles all the way. The equation, however, was clear. Win all three of their remaining games and Sports would be promoted. The home side were in dire need of points for an entirely different reason. With Farnham Town and Epsom & Ewell already consigned to Division One next season, Hayes started the game with a nine point lead on Godalming Town (looking to avoid a second consecutive relegation season), who occupied the last drop-zone place. Seven more points for Hayes, regardless of The G's results, would guarantee Step 5 football next season. Then, just to add to the tension of the game, the sides are very much local rivals with only seven miles between the grounds. Earlier in the season Sports had edged the reverse fixture by 2-1.
The first 10 minutes of the game was a fairly even contest with neither side really stamping their authority. Of course, at this point in the season games can often be slow starters and tense affairs. Both sides had a lot to play for and, this season especially, the last few weeks of the season tend to see lots of games shoe-horned into very few days. Hayes, who have had a number of games postponed, still had six games remaining at the start of the day, Bedfont had three left. This highlights one of the advantages of an artificial surface. Bedfont have one, Hayes do not. I am not a big fan of the artificial pitch but I do see the benefits to clubs at this level. Not only do they have potential extra income from being able to use the pitch on a daily basis, they also get more games played at the time of asking rather than being left with a game a day at the end of the season.
It would be interesting to hear from supporters of both clubs on this point. Sports fans, do you like the artificial pitch? Hayes, would your club benefit from moving away from grass?
Back to the game and, as we passed the ten minute mark, Bedfont started to pick up the pace somewhat, beginning to dominate possession of the ball. They would continue to do this for the majority of the remainder of the first half.
The 17th minute of the game saw the effort that came closest to giving us a goal so far. Sports left-back, Alex Rose, latched onto a loose ball on the edge of the box and tried his luck only to see the ball beat Kennedy but smack against the keeper's left-hand upright and away to safety. Coincidentally, at exactly the same time a few miles away, CD Hounslow United were in the process of missing a penalty against Farnham Town. It seems that the 17th minute is not a good time to nip to the toilet in Combined Counties games.
Bedfont were now well and truly on top and it was testament to Hayes's determination at the back, as well as some wayward finishing, that they were not behind before the half-hour mark.
It took until the 33rd minute for Hayes to muster a serious effort, Mark seeing his shot go narrowly wide with Pickford scrambling across his goal. Seven minutes later Bedfont were handed an opportunity to break the deadlock when Jack Mills was clipped in the box for an obvious penalty. Mills picked himself up and, after several re-spots of the ball from the referee, slotted the ball past Kennedy. 0-1
Two minutes later Mills showed excellent technique to connect, on the volley, with a ball dropping from the sky. However, his effort was straight at Kennedy and the score remained 0-1.
HT AFC Hayes 0 Bedfont Sports 1. The away side were on top for the majority of the half but still required a penalty to take the lead. Hayes' effort can't be faulted but their decision making for the final ball has been very poor.
Hayes looked to be tiring and were hitting fairly aimless balls towards their lone striker only to see the Bedfont defence mop up with ease and begin another attack for the away side.
However there was still just a single goal between the sides and Sports almost lived to regret their profligacy when a rare Hayes foray into their territory led to Pickford needing to go full length to keep out a decent effort from the edge of the box. In response, Bedfont launched a raid of their own which culminated in Rose's cross clipping Kennedy's crossbar before rebounding to safety.
As we entered time added on Bedfont finally made the points safe with a goal very much out of the Route One playbook. A long clearance upfield turned the home defence allowing Bedfont substitute Simo Mbonkwi, who is for some reason called Jeff, to out-pace and out-muscle his defender to get onto the ball before finishing with a low drive past Kennedy. 0-2.
FT AFC Hayes 0 Bedfont Sports 2. Bedfont were easily the better team but made much harder work of the game than they probably should. Hayes will need to gather their strength for the run-in but they couldn't be faulted for effort even if they lacked craft in a few areas.
AFC Hayes: Kennedy, Benincasa, Bishop, Carter, Cahill, Masembe (c), Maw, McDonnell, Ahenkorah, Ahmadi, Mark. Subs: Fitzgerlad, Rennemo, Bustard, Galloway
Badfont Sports: Pickford, Pitt, Rose, Ruddick, Jackson, Richards (c, Mills, Johnson, Tiryaki, Baxter, Nwachukwy. Subs: Mbonkwi, Harris, Mngadi, Read, Jones
Ground Number: 155
Programme: £1.00 (discounted on the night because it was from the original game that was called off in March)