Bedford Town have finally won a league title with two games to spare after beating AFC Dunstable 2-0 in front of over 800 fans at The Eyrie.
That win, doubled with Berkhamsted’s 3-2 loss at home to Harlow Town, means the Eagles now can’t be caught at the summit of Southern League Central Division One and can celebrate their first league title in decades.
It’s been a gruelling season for Bedford Town; the majority of which has been a two horse race between Gary Setchell’s side and Berkhamsted who have fallen at the final hurdle in pursuit of the new league champions.
The season turned on one game; Bedford Town’s 2-0 win against Berkhamsted in January seeing them open up a six-point gap that the Hertfordshire team never closed as Bedford Town’s form stayed imperious.
Only North Leigh would take points off the Eagles between that key win in January and today, a testament to the professionalism and tenacity of Gary Setchell and his men in the run-in.
Tomlinson double sees Eagles fly to the title
AFC Dunstable had overtaken Welwyn Garden City into third place last weekend and had the ability to upset the party at The Eyrie, but Bedford Town controlled proceedings to claim a 2-0 win.
Connor Tomlinson, who has enjoyed a superb season, opened the scoring after twelve minutes with his 20th goal of the season to calm the nerves of the bumper Eyrie crowd.
Tomlinson chased down the Berkhamsted defence and blocked a clearance that fell to Will Summerfield who turned provider for Tomlinson to tap home at the second time of asking.
An important save from captain, Alex Street – who kept his 22nd clean sheet of the season – on the stroke of half time kept the score at 1-0 at the interval; a reminder of how the dangerous Dunstable have made it to a likely play-off spot.
Connor Tomlinson added his second with fifteen minutes to go, while the fan’s attention turned to Hertfordshire where Berkhamsted had taken a 2-1 lead moments before Bedford Town’s second.
With many thinking that the champagne would have to be kept on ice, Harlow Town equalised five minutes later via a world-class free kick.
The party at The Eyrie really began when Harlow Town scored a last minute winner to secure a 3-2 victory, confirming the title was coming back to Bedford.
“This bunch of lads never know when it’s over”
Speaking before the game, Bedford Town’s assistant Darren Edey was complimentary about his side’s commitment to the cause and their never say die attitude.
“This bunch of lads never know when it’s over and really do fight to the end. The team spirit the gaffer has created really is second to none.
“We knew it [Welwyn] would be difficult as they had been in great form. We had a good chat with their manager before the game who claimed our midfield was our weakness.
“Well, you can imagine our faces when we heard that before the game!”
However, there have been very few weaknesses in this Bedford Town team this season.
Rene Howe and Connor Tomlinson have scored over fifty goals between them and backed up by a sturdy defence, they have produced consistently professional performances.
There have been a few bizarre moments, not least the abandonment against Kidlington; the result of which has not yet been decided and the FA Trophy fracas but by and large, the Eagles have dominated their opponents.
The Kidlington result is now immaterial, as Bedford Town are eight points clear at the top with just two games to go, with St Neots Town and Aylesbury at The Eyrie next weekend to come in what is sure to be a party atmosphere.
Bedford Town are now likely to be promoted to Southern League Central Premier alongside the likes of Stourbridge and potentially Rushden and Diamonds, who are still competing for a play-off place.
For now though, Gary Setchell and his charges will be sure to celebrate finally bringing a league title to Bedford Town’s patient fanbase although Setchell will be keen to make sure his squad has a clear head ahead of Monday’s game at St Neots Town.