North Leigh 1-4 Bedford Town : The game to define a season?

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Lee Bircham celebrates a massive win Image: Adrian Brown / Bedford Town FC

When one of our up and coming football reporters spoke to Lee Bircham at length in January, the Bedford Town manager was keen to stress that he and his team were taking it one game at a time.

It’s a football adage as old as the FA Cup, used by the great and the good of the game to temper expectations from a media and perhaps their fanbase, expecting their side to romp home to a league title.

Read: Interview: Bedford Town FC manager Lee Bircham taking one game at a time

On Tuesday night, it was the next game. North Leigh, top of the table, welcomed the Eagles to Eynsham Park in Oxfordshire for what some labelled a league title six-pointer.

Bedford Town – off the back of a shock home loss to fourteenth-placed, Aylesbury United the previous Saturday – needed a response.

And boy, did they provide it.

A defeat would have seen North Leigh take a seven-point lead at the top of Southern League Central Division One, albeit with Bedford Town claiming two games in hand, but more crucially it would have meant the Eagles losing three of their last four league games.

In a division where only the champions are automatically promoted, short spells like that have the potential to shape a campaign.

Lobjoit starts Eyrie life well

Leon Lobjoit, brought in to the Eyrie to bolster an already good attacking line, has started life well under a manager he is familiar with and his double on Tuesday night cemented a psychologically boosting victory.

He opened the scoring after half an hour with a looping header into the far corner and he was on hand to feed Ryan Blake with a clever back heel after the hour mark to double the away side’s lead.

When Lance Williams got a goal back for the hosts after 74 minutes, the pressure was restored to the Eagles but to their credit, Bedford Town continued to press forward in search of a third, and they were duly rewarded thanks to their new star man.

Lobjoit was on the end of a pinpoint cross to restore Bedford’s two goal advantage and when substitute, Louis Walsh scored a fourth in injury time, it capped a perfect night’s work for Lee Bircham’s men.

The win leaves Bedford Town just one point behind North Leigh – and four clear of a chasing Biggleswade Town in third – and also confidence restored as the games come thick and fast heading into the business end of the season.

“We’ve got a good lot”

“We’re not doing this just because we’ve won!”, exclaimed Bircham, opening his post match comments to the club’s media team on Tuesday night, beginning with the defeat at the weekend.

“On Saturday, we took a bit of a bloody nose in there. It’s not easy playing at home, it’s a difficult surface.

“There’s a bit of anxiety at home that probably needs to stop. It can’t be doom and gloom when we don’t win, and we have no God given right to win every game.

“If you can take the lows of Saturday and produce the highs of today, it shows we’ve got a good lot here.”

Lee Bircham has made a great start to his time as Eagles manager Image: Bedford Town FC / ‘X’

What Bircham does have is a good lot; with credit to the man himself for gelling his team so quickly from scratch after last season’s squad was essentially replaced with a new one.

There are echoes of the title race with Berkhamsted in 2021/22 in this campaign as two sides go toe-to-toe, perhaps with the added ingredient of a strong set of teams in behind them.

Biggleswade Town in third have played the same amount of games as the Eagles and only four points behind plus the likes of Ware in sixth, although Lee Bircham’s side have beaten them 7-1 this season already.

While it’s true there is a long way to go, and as Bircham would be quick to remind us, can only play one game at a time, the love from the Eagles faithful was clear to see on social media last night as they celebrated what was a key victory.

Will it be season-defining? We’ll find out in a few months but focus will turn quickly to Saturday and Bircham will be keen not to throw away a huge positive such as this as Bedford Town face a quick fire league double against AFC Dunstable.

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