Kempston Rovers stun table-topping Eagles in Bedfordshire derby

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Kempston Rovers celebrate the winning goal with some of the 502 fans in attendance Image: Kempston Rovers / 'X'

A dramatic derby which saw Bedford reduced to nine men and Kempston to ten also saw a 2-1 victory against the odds for the Rovers, taking them three points closer to safety and leaving the door open for North Leigh and Biggleswade Town at the top. 

After Liam Dulson salvaged a late point against relegation-threatened Kidlington in the week, Bedford Town were looking to get back to winning ways this Saturday against local rivals, Kempston Rovers. 

With just 13 points all season, Kempston Rovers sat last in the table and 12 points away from safety. In stark contrast, Bedford were perched at the top of Southern League Division One Central with 46 points, three more than the closest rivals, North Leigh.

From the very first minute, it became glaringly obvious that Kempston Rovers would be penned back into their own box for large parts, looking to absorb Eagles pressure and hit them on the break with the likes of Rio Dasilva and Lauric Diakiesse.

Bedford looked to stretch Kempston’s back four in the opening exchanges with Ryan Blake wreaking havoc down the right wing, and causing real problems for Kempston’s, Charlie Black. 

A number of crosses came into the box from both wings for Bircham’s men but the finishing touch evaded them as evidenced by a Kyle Connolly effort which cannoned back off George Whitehall’s right-hand post. 

A forced substitution of Ben Walster on for Fernando Bell-Toxtle in the 20th minute didn’t seem to affect Bedford Town negatively as just moments later, captain Adam Watkins stabbed in the opening goal from close range after Kempston failed to clear a Blake cross.

Bedford Town continued to probe after the goal without much of a Kempston riposte. Leon Lobjoit was lively for the Eagles but could only find the post in a frustrating afternoon for the January signing. 

Bircham’s side would rue their missed chances in a dominant first-half display as five minutes before half-time Rio Dasliva’s speculative long-range effort for Kempston was parried into the path of Lauric Diakiesse who stroked it home from an unmissable distance to make it 1-1.

Kempston went into half-time the far happier of the two teams, having seldom emerged from their own half with the ball yet still managing to be level with a side 33 points higher than them in the table.

Dasilva winner as Eagles see red

The second half began frenetically, with Bedford having the better of it but neither side posing a threat to Whitehall or Smith in between the sticks. The turning point arrived in dramatic fashion with just twenty minutes to go.

The Rovers number seven, Edwin Daffern was released in on goal and took it around Smith, much to the delight of the home crowd, leaving Carl Mensah with no option but to bring down Daffern in the box. 

The referee brandished red for the Bedford man and Dasliva coolly slotted in the resulting penalty, sending the keeper the wrong way. He proceeded to wheel away in celebration in front of those of the red and white persuasion.

Rio Dasilva with the winning goal for Rovers Image: Kempston Rovers / ‘X’

Still pushing for a leveller, despite having ten men, Bedford squandered more chances. A golden opportunity for Lobjoit was saved by Whitehall with just five minutes of normal time remaining.

With tensions boiling and tempers flaring, Bedford found themselves down to nine as Kyle Connolly brought down Dasilva just outside the box, following a magical run from the Kempston livewire. 

Phoenix Scholtz was dismissed for Rovers with just seconds remaining for fouling Blake twenty yards from the Kempston goal, with the last act of the game seeing Ben Walster blaze the resulting free-kick into the houses.

A disappointing result for the Eagles, which has brought the title race to life for the chasing pack. Maybe not for Biggleswade Town however, who lost 1-0 against Waltham Abbey.

Bedford Town have a chance to bounce back next weekend at Cirencester Town, while Richard Keil’s side will look to mount what will be the greatest of escapes as they travel to Biggleswade Town on Tuesday night.