Wild celebrations at McMullen Park as Real Bedford secure another league title

The Real Bedford squad celebrate a league title at McMullen Park
Image: Bedford Independent

McMullen Park saw fireworks on Tuesday night after Real Bedford secured back-to-back league titles and the Spartans South Midlands Premier Division championship after their 2-0 win against London Lions.

That victory, coupled with MK Irish’s 0-0 draw at Cockfosters leaves Real Bedford five points clear with one solitary game to play, enough to secure another league title, and see Real move one step further up the English football pyramid.

The final whistle at McMullen Park set off muted celebrations as the players waited for news from the capital but when confirmation came through of the goalless draw, fireworks and flares filled the night sky in jubilation.

It was a tense evening, made even more so by a London Lions side who were resolute in defence and frustrated Real for large periods of the game.

The first half contained few chances; and the Lions had the best of the first twenty minutes, as a last ditch Brett Longden tackle saved an almighty defensive mix up in the first ten minutes while a Felix Shalom effort forced McGregor into an acrobatic save.

Real’s Josh Setchell nearly opened the scoring on the quarter hour mark but sliced wide, before he became provider for Charlie Smith who saw his shot drowned out by the Lions defence.

Josh Setchell running with the ball at his feet in a match against London Lions
Josh Setchell for Real Bedford Image: Will Roberts / Real Bedford

Further chances came and went for the Lions; Daniel Creese’s shot was excellently blocked by Tom Wood before another Shalom effort went wide as both sides went into the break deadlocked.

Patience is a virtue

It would become a game where patience was needed as Real set about unlocking the London Lions defence, with most of the attacking action in the second half contained to the Lions’ final third.

Mo Ahmed started the second half excellently, his mazy runs causing a lot of problems early on as another snap shot from Charlie Smith was seen off, and Ahmed’s brilliant assist for Stevens saw the striker shoot wide in the game’s best opportunity.

Ben Stevens didn’t have to wait long to make amends however as he scored the opening goal thanks to more fine work from Setchell on the opposite flank.

Setchell showed great pace – a trademark of his season – on the right wing to gain a yard from the defender before slotting back for Stevens on the penalty spot who showed great composure to find the bottom corner.

Ten minutes, later the lead was doubled as Ahmed was fouled in the area and Luke Knight sent the keeper the wrong way to give Real Bedford some daylight heading into the last half an hour.

Luke Knight celebrates scoring from the penalty spot in a close up image for Real Bedford
Luke Knight celebrates Real’s second Image: Will Roberts / Real Bedford

It knocked the stuffing out of a Lions side who had held on well up until that point, and while Real Bedford had their chances to break away and score a third, they were more than happy to sit on the ball and run down the clock.

The attention of the fans turned to their mobile phones, checking and refreshing the social media feed from Cockfosters to see if Irish would score that key goal to take the title race – mathematically at least – to the final day.

That goal never came.

On a cold, wet night in Bedford…

Let’s not forget. Winning a league title, over the course of eight months, is difficult.

As football fans, we can only look from the outside in. Yes, Real Bedford have a budget and they have attracted some of the best players but we sometimes don’t factor in the pressure and the anticipation.

Many expected the Pirates to walk to the league title this season, but recent weeks have shown that other teams in this division were not going to make it easy for them, and they saw games against headline-grabbing Real Bedford as mini cup finals.

That made Rob Sinclair’s task much more difficult, and to win this league title at the first time of asking is an achievement not many complete. They now go up to the eighth tier after a second league title on the bounce, and rest assured, co-owner Peter McCormack will be eyeing up a third.

There may be a few sore heads on Wednesday morning, and that task will begin in earnest but perhaps not before a League Cup final against the aforementioned Cockfosters, taking place on 24th April at Colney Heath.

Should they win that, it will cap a league and cup double, bringing an end to another wonderful campaign for all at McMullen Park.