The teams in question were Badshot Lea and their hosts Bedfont Sports. The Eagles, as they are known, play their home games next door to local rivals Bedfont & Feltham at the Bedfont Sports Recreation Ground. The club was only founded in 2002 so I wasn't expecting too much from their stadium. However, after entering through the single turnstile, just off the car park, I was very pleasantly surprised.
Immediately to your right as you enter is the snack bar (always good to know where your cup of tea is coming from) and to your left is the main facility block which houses the clubhouse, changing facilities and other activities (I believe there was some boxing training taking place that evening). There are covered seating and standing areas on all four sides of the pitch, which is unusual at this level. When I say all sides, I think the area behind the allotment end is definitely a work in progress at the moment (see photo below). The dugouts, suitably separated by a seating stand, are opposite the main entrance and clubhouse.
A little plug for the groundsman (who's name I didn't get), being the first person I met when I got into the ground. A very pleasant chap, he checked that it was ok for me to use my GoPro during the game. He has also done a fine job on the playing surface which to me looked in very good condition.
As I said, Sports have only existed for a short time but have steadily climbed the pyramid, achieving Step 5 status in 2011/12. Badshot Lea, The Baggies, have been around for considerably longer having been founded in 1904 and have been in the Combined Counties League since 2009. They achieved their highest ever finish a season later, securing sixth place. Since then they seem to have alternated between top half and bottom half finishes and are currently sitting in 22nd spot.
Last season both league fixtures ended in 1-0 wins for the away side, so goals had been at a premium. As it transpired, that was not to be the case this evening.
With Bedfont riding high in the league, currently fifth, their confidence was clearly high and they started like a team on top of their game. Within 3 minutes a right-wing corner was headed against the bar and when the ball dropped debutant Christian Hurst was on hand to put the rebound away. The goal clearly unsettled Badshot Lea and gave an additional boost to Sports. Consequently, it came as no surprise when Bedfont doubled their lead on 11 minutes. A free-kick awarded just outside the box was cleverly dinked over the wall for player-manager Paul Johnson to control and fire past Pat Kinsella in the Badshot goal.
At 2-0 down, Badshot looked completely shot and I was starting to wonder just how many goals Bedfont might score. However, Badshot were having none of that. They rolled their sleeves up and gradually fought their way back into the game. They mustered their first shot on target just after the fifteen minute mark but, more importantly, they steadied the ship at the back, stemming the flow of the red and black Bedfont shirts.
Just after the half-hour mark Badshot managed to gain a foothold. The ball found it's way to Baggies player-manager Neville Roach inside the home penalty area who finished with some confidence. There can't be too many games where both managers score.
Five minutes later we were treated to the goal of the game when the ball found it's way to Jordan Goater some twenty-odd yards out. He fizzed a wonderful shot over the keeper and in off the underside of the bar. A superb strike worthy of the entrance fee on it's own.
It was now the turn of Bedfont to look rattled. A couple of goals does wonders for a team's confidence and this was apparent in the way that Badshot were now taking the game to their opponents.
Just on the stroke of half-time a slip in the Bedfont defence allowed Cameron Blackie a clear run on goal. He made no mistake, slipping the ball past the onrushing Bishop to send Badshot in 3-2 up at the break.
Both sides seemed keen for more and appeared for the second-half well ahead of the officials. When we did get started it was Bedfont who hit the ground running, just as they did in the first half. Just shy of the 55 minute mark a great Scott Harris effort almost drew the sides level but it wasn't all Bedfont. Badshot were playing some delightful football of their own and put together a great passing move just before the hour resulting in a glancing header going just wide.
A minute came what turned out to be the turning point of the game. Another Badshot attack ended with the ball dropping in the Bedfont area. Attacker and defender challenged and the ball was cleared but the referee had blown for a foul and was pointing to the spot. From my vantage point the foul was not clear but there didn't seem to be a great deal of protest from the home side. The penalty was hit low to Bishop's right hand side but he got down fell and pushed the ball away. So, it remained 3-2 to Badshot but the penalty save seemed to invigorate Bedfont.
Ten minutes after almost going 4-2 down, Bedfont conjured up an equaliser. Scott Harris taking advantage of some uncertain defending to round the keeper and score from an acute angle.
There was no let up from either side. No settling for a point in this game. Both sides continued to go for it but, as the half wore on, the pace of the Bedfont forward line, especially from the introduced substitutes, started to give the Baggies defence more problems.
Sure enough, with 5 minutes remaining the Badshot back-line was breached again. A perfect ball across the six-yard line was met by Harris who smashed it past the keeper to claim his second and Bedfont's fourth.
There was still enough time left for Bedfont to miss a chance to really put the game to bed. A shot from distance was parried by Pat Kinsella but Eagles substitute Gidson Pasma could only put the rebound over the bar.
After a few minutes of added time, it finished Bedfont Sports 4 Badshot Lea 3. Slightly harsh in the visitors who, after going two down so early on, had fought back magnificently. However, Bedfont also rallied themselves after trailing at the break.
As a neutral it was a fantastic game and a credit to the Combined Counties League. I would imagine that some of the defending may give the respective managers nightmares but as a spectacle it was worth the £6 entrance fee many times over.
Bedfont Sports - @bsfc_official
Badshot Lea - @blfccommunity