Bedford FC have quite an interesting history. Originally formed in 1957 as a printing company works team they played under the name Bedford United and at one point shared a ground with local rivals AFC Kempston. A brief merger with Bedford Town did not go well and in 2002 the club joined forces with another local side, Unione Sportiva Valerio (founded by, unsurprisingly with that name, an Italian). The full merger took place in 2006 with the club being known as Bedford Valerio United for one season. The 2007-08 season saw the emergence of the name Bedford FC.
Their home ground McMullen Park, named after their late founder Jim McMullen, is within a decent goal-kick of The Eyrie. In fact, to get into McMullen Park you have to go past the the entrance to Bedford Town's stadium. It is a much smaller ground than The Eyrie boasting just one covered stand, which has a handful of seats and a standing area. The rest of the ground is hard-standing with the dugouts on the opposite side to the main stand. The clubhouse and players areas are outside of the main stadium area and there are no facilities within the boundary of the ground (ie, after the entrance gate).
It was a chilly evening in Bedfordshire and a fine drizzle was being blown around the ground in the cold wind. A perfect setting for a classic top versus bottom clash in the Spartan South Midlands Premier League. Bedford, promoted from Division One last season and finding Premier League life quite difficult, were sitting second from bottom on 20 points (not helped by a three point deduction). They had, however, beaten high-flying Berkhamsted 1-0 just a month ago and still had a number of teams, just above them, easily in their sights. Their visitors, The Lilywhites of Hoddesdon Town, sat at the top of the league with a 2 point advantage over AFC Dunstable and just one league defeat in 2016.
For the first five minutes of the game it was hard to tell who was the top side and who was struggling near the foot of the table. However, as the game settled and the teams got into their strides, Hoddesdon began to take control of possession more and more. Despite this though they rarely managed to muster a clear cut opportunity.
On 34 minutes, however, The Lilywhites got a lucky break. A right-wing free-kick was floated into the Bedford penalty area. A striker and a defender
running across the flight of the ball got a small touch which sent the ball spiralling over the keeper and, as another defender and striker ran in the
defender put his hand up to divert the ball away. A clear penalty and a yellow card for the defender who, it has to be said, really didn't need to deflect the ball away. However, that's easy to say in hindsight but much more difficult to make these decisions in the heat of the moment. The penalty was duly struck home by Ed Taylor even though the home keeper got a hand to it.
The remainder of the half was played out in a similar vein to the first 30 minutes. Plenty of possession from the away team but no serious threats to the Bedford goal. Bedford, for their part, rarely caused any consternation in the Hoddesdon defence.
Twitter was showing numerous red cards all across the non-league world and it made me wonder if we might see one at Bedford especially as the home number two did seem to be on a short fuse and had already been spoken to by the referee on two occasions.
The players went off at half-time with the score 0-1 which was a fair reflection of the first half.
We all trooped off to get a warming cup of tea from the clubhouse which. it turns out, is accessed via a ramped walkway. I have to say, that ramp must have been fun on any day where the weather was either much damper or icy, especially the bottom section that had no handrail.
Nevertheless, tea in hand, I negotiated the ramp and made my way back pitch-side for the second half.
When the second 45 kicked off it was immediately apparent that Bedford had been instructed to up their game. The intensity of their tackling and the urgency of their play was noticeably higher. The closing down of the Hoddesdon players who, in the first half had been given plenty of room to play, was causing them some difficulty and they gave possession away numerous times in the opening encounters of the second half.
However, as often happens in these situations, the away side then broke forward and put together a very nice move which culminated in left-winger Rickie Light sending over a very inviting cross. This was met by the stooping Brett O'Connor who had got ahead of his marker and suddenly The Lilywhites had a two goal lead.
Bedford set about trying to find an equaliser which did leave them a little exposed at the back at times. Hoddesdon tried to exploit this as much as they could, trading blows with Bedford for the remainder of the half. Hoddesdon did clip the woodwork in the second half but Bedford probably edged possession and, although mainly limited to long range efforts, looked the more likely to get the next goal.
There was still time for some off the ball niggle, all involving the aforementioned home number 2, who did seem intent on winding up the Hoddesdon players. To his credit, he was quite willing to take it as well as hand it out though. The referee, thankfully, didn't dish out any red cards.
In the end Bedford didn't quite have enough to pull it back but they can be proud of their efforts and, if they continue to perform in the same way as they did in the second half, can certainly expect to pull away from the drop zone.
As for Hoddesdon, they take a five point lead (having played two more games) into the Saturday showdown at home to second-placed AFC Dunstable.
Bedford FC - @bedford_fc
Hoddesdon Town - @hoddesdontownfc