Bedford Town play-off bound despite 4-0 thrashing of North Leigh

Liam Dulson, Ryan Blake and Leon Lobjoit are celebrating the first of four Bedford Town goals in their game against North Leigh
Liam Dulson (left) celebrates an Eagles goal Image: Adrian Brown / Bedford Town FC

Bedford Town held up their end of the bargain on Saturday afternoon after brushing aside North Leigh at The Eyrie, but Biggleswade Town’s 4-1 win against Ware secured them the Southern League Central Division One title.

Had Biggleswade lost, the title would have been lifted at The Eyrie in front of over 1,000 fans but it wasn’t to be and now Lee Bircham has to regroup his side for a play-off campaign beginning on Wednesday night.

One of football’s most commonly used adages is, “It’s the hope that kills you”.

Unfortunately, it rang true today for Bedford Town. That outside chance of the title manifested itself around the ground before kick-off and those of a blue persuasion had hoped for their slice of glory.

By all accounts they had good reason to believe. Coming into this game, Bedford Town had won their previous four, games scoring an astonishing fourteen goals in the process.

However, since that tide-turning defeat on the first of the month, Biggleswade Town have shown few signs of faltering in their pursuit of promotion, dropping just two points in five games.

As for their on-pitch opposition, Bedford were up against a North Leigh side in nothing short of ghastly form. Without a win since January or even so much as a goal since March, it’s safe to say the Millers were an ideal match-up for a team in need of a hassle-free win.

North Leigh put up little resistance

The Eyrie was situated beneath an overcast sky, with a light spattering of rain covering its surface but in spite of the weather, Bedford drew first blood in the frantic final-day title race. 

Just moments after news came through that Theo Ofori had put Ware ahead against the Waders, Liam Dulson sent the home end into pandemonium with a goal of his own.

A looping switch from left to right was met by a marauding Joshua Mullins and he guided the ball into the path of Dulson, who expertly finished to give his side a precious lead just 23 minutes in.

The Eagles gave themselves some breathing room just four minutes later.

Leon Lobjoit slid in Ryan Blake, and despite resistance from North Leigh centre-back Andre Bromfield, managed to round the goalkeeper and finish into an empty net.

A rather uninspiring North Leigh side typified their form of late in the first half an hour, with a stagnant attacking display accompanied by a leaky defensive one.

Attention in the stands began to turn to events thirty minutes down the road in Biggleswade, with many Bedfordians keeping a nervous eye on the score, which at the time remained 0-1.

On the pitch however, Bircham’s side remained in full flow.

With two minutes until the end of the half, Jack Green found himself chasing down a ball on the left flank. He just about got there before the Millers defender Callum Morris, and dug out a cross for Dulson. 

He took a shot from twenty yards out which was palmed clear by Michael Emery in goal, but Henry Dudley followed it in and after quite the scramble in the box it was hammered home by Lobjoit for his 16th league goal of the season.

45 minutes from title glory

At half-time, Bedford were on track to win the league, and for much of the second half it remained that way.

With less than twenty minutes to go, Bedford Town made it four.

Leon Lobjoit’s tenacity paid off as an ill-judged flick from goalkeeper Emery bounced off the Bedford number ten and into the net to bring him level on goals with Ryan Blake for the season with considerably fewer games played.

But minutes later, the pendulum swung dramatically the other way in the race for the top spot.

A communal groan passed through the Eyrie as news began to circulate of a Waders equaliser against Ware. Before long Biggleswade had made it two and then three, and the nervous excitement that had filled the stands just moments before began to slowly seep out.

Biggleswade Town eventually beat 10-man Ware 4-1 to seal the Southern League Central Division One title by three points.

Not all was lost as fans knew that a date had been set for Wednesday night in what promises to be a pulsating playoff home semi-final against Ware.

On top of that, during the closing stages of the game, Jeanmal Prosper, who was a National League South player just a week ago, came on for Bedford in the middle of the park, and he could be a key addition to the squad come midweek.

A four-goal drubbing of North Leigh wasn’t enough in the end for Bedford, however, their season is far from over.

Bircham and his side will be back at the Eyrie in just four days in a season-defining tie against Ware, with the play-off final taking place on Bank Holiday Monday.