Axford brace gives Bedford back to back wins
By Kate Costin
Bedford produced their best performance of the season so far to take all three points in the Investec East Conference clash against St Albans, inspired by a man of the match performance from Maddie Axford.
Martin Mason-McLead added 17-year-old Megan Claggett to the match day squad for the visit of St Albans to Chester Road, a team who Bedford have enjoyed recent success against having secured 2 wins against the tangerines last season, although going into the game Bedford were trailing their opponents by four points in the table. The maroons started the game tremendously well; pressing the St Albans defence hard from the start with frequent turnovers pounced on. Through their first PC, the home side made an immediate impact on the scoresheet and it was a first National League goal for Maddie Axford whose drag flick could only be helped home by the defender on the line. Bedford were looking dangerous around the circle and Axford manufactured a chance for Kate Costin but the St Albans goalkeeper stretched out a leg to turn the deflection around the post whilst Emma Baxter’s lifted effort from a short corner was tipped over the bar.
Bedford were hugely competitive in the midfield with Baxter and Emma Pinny working very hard throughout to keep the pressure on and the pair won tackle after tackle. At the back Bedford looked solid in the first half with some great interceptions from SJ Darrington, Elli Priston, Sam Turner and Jenna Maclaren. Leanne Sargeant made one excellent penalty corner save with her hand with other set pieces well defended by Bedford collectively.
After the break and the intensity of the match upped another notch with several meaty challenges coming in and the umpires carding players on both sides. Bedford doubled their advantage in the 44th minute and it was Axford again making it count from the top of the circle but that only served to spark St Albans into life and they enjoyed their best spell of the game working the ball to the back post to pull a goal back two minutes later. Bedford were certainly under the cosh but defended excellently and kept great team shape and discipline. Jenna Maclaren made a number of excellent challenges whilst Sargeant was excelling in the Bedford goal as the tangerines looked to convert their set plays, but Bedford stayed resolute. When it did look like Sargeant was beaten, Beth Noble made an incredible goal-line clearance which was a big defining moment in the fixture.
The maroons weathered the storm and again started to apply pressure of their own. Steph Holyoak and Claire Higginson combined to set up Charlotte Holland but her touch ran agonisingly wide whilst Becca Budd nearly scored at the back post but the effort was seemingly stopped by a St Albans foot however with ten minutes left to play Bedford made the game safe as Holland found Costin in the circle and she took one touch before dispatching an upright reverse stick shot high past the keeper. There was almost a fairy-tale ending for Bedford and MOTM Axford as she was played through and her pace took her round the St Albans keeper but she just found the side board from the tightest of angles, but it was a result well deserved from Bedford and a very good all round team display.
Next week Bedford travel to last year’s champions Hampstead and Westminster.