Friday, 28 December 2012

Bedford Town - The Eyrie

Bedford Town FC
The Eyrie
Meadow Lane
MK44 3SB

01234 831558

Matchday Number: 235
Wednesday 26th December 2012
Bedford Town 3-0 St Neots Town
Southern League Premier Division

My second game of the day was to be Bedford Town v St Neots in the Southern League Premier Division. I was happy when Chaz said he would come with me to the second game, as football is always better with company. I originally had Cambridge City as a backup plan should this game be called off, but thankfully it was not needed as the pitch passed a 10.30am inspection and it was game on. After dropping Ryan off we were on our way and arrived at an already busy ground at 2.30.

I had previously been to take pictures of Bedford Town and also Bedford FC's ground next door on the way to Peterborough in 2007 and had always fancied going back for a game. Especially when I heard the programme shop at the ground had a good reputation. And fully justified it was too, with everything laid out really neatly, with individual piles of programmes for each team, priced at 50p each. I could have spent ages looking, but I just looked for all the league ones I needed, picking up a Blackpool v Wycombe one from a game I went to in 2003. I also got the day's programme to add to my collection.

By that time, it had started to rain and so after getting some chips we went and took shelter under the terrace at the near end of the ground. There was one name I recognised from each side. Nick Beasant for Bedford had a trial for Wycombe about 10 years ago. And for St Neots it was the former Aston Villa and QPR striker Stefan Moore. The game was not as good as the previous one at Biggleswade and took a while to get started, as this match report from the BedsOnSunday website explains:
Bedford Town showed their mettle in testing conditions to overcome local rivals St Neots Town in front of a record attendance of the season at the Eyrie.
The deadly duo of Will Green and Mark Bell put the Eagles in the driving seat and, in the process, continued their rich vein of form. They have now scored eight goals between them in the last three goals. John-Paul Duncliffe’s late own goal sealed a deserved win.
The first ever league meeting between the two sides was in some doubt as pitch inspections were held at 10.30am and 2.10pm, but the game went ahead and heralded the return of St Neots defenders Ollie Thorne and Gavin Hoyte who exited the Eyrie on the eve of the season.
They were jeered when the teams were read out and their presence may have been a factor behind a spell of three yellow cards in the space of 15 first-half minutes and a second-half melee as tempers frayed.
Bedford entered the game on the back of two consecutive league wins while the Saints were looking to stop a miserable five-game winless streak and kick-start a promotion revival.
With the rain teaming down, Bedford showed the brighter touches as Cyprus Under-19 international Chris Pitharas, on a work experience deal from League One Stevenage, went closest with an attempted shot come cross.
In front of a crowd of 567 - beating the previous best against Kettering earlier in the season – the Eagles also had shouts for a penalty turned down as Ed Adjei looked to have hauled down Josh Beech in the six-yard area.
St Neots hit back almost immediately as a Ben Mackey header was well claimed by Bedford captain Ian Brown after a whipped cross from strike partner Craig Calver.
Calver then found himself at the centre of a melee as he reacted angrily to a denial of a 29th minute penalty.
Cutting in from the right touchline, he collided with Oliie Wilkinson but the Eagles’ defender’s challenge was adjudged to have been fair.
The Saints were slowly showing their early season form and turning the screw on the Eagles.
Bedford had Brown to thank for their continued parity as he saved smartly from the dangerous Calver with the hitman six yards out.
Both teams re-emerged for the second half in the deteriorating light, hoping to spark a feisty but ultimately disappointing stalemate.
Nick Platnauer’s men started the second similarly to the first half as they looked the more likely to break the deadlock.
Firstly Beech headed tamely wide when afforded space in the Saints’ area from a corner while Bell almost registered his third goal in as many games in the 51st minute but for a vital goal-line block from Hoyte.
Bedford pressure seemed to spark the visitors into life as captain Dan Jacob’s rasping 25-yarder flashed wide of Brown’s near upright.
Despite the Saints marching back into the game after a strong Bedford opening, it was the home side that finally found the killer touch on the hour.
Jamie Grimes provided Green with a perfect pass 15 yards out and he sublimely curled his effort past Jack Giddens to the delight of the jubilant home crowd.
With the fierce afternoon wind in Bedford’s sails, they looked to put the Saints to the sword further.
Bell and Pitharas both went close in quick succession and eventually it was Bell that strengthened the home side’s slender advantage.
Crafty work down the left wing from Steve Kinniburgh teed up the impressive Bell who smashed the ball beyond Giddens to double the lead.
Bedford’s performances of late had been the Green and Bell show as the strike partnership had notched all of Bedford’s league goals in December and it looked like a similar story would unfold here.
A sixth game without a win looked a distinct possibility for the suffering Saints and despite their predicament they failed to fashion any more clear-cut opportunities.
Just a minute from time, Michael Built wrapped up this late Christmas present for Bedford as his cross was nudged home past his own ‘keeper by St Neots’ defender John-Paul Duncliffe.
Substitute Jermaine Ivy could have poisoned the Saints further in stoppage time but his effort was swiped clear by Lewis Hilliard to spare the away side more misery on their short journey back to Cambridgeshire.

It had been a good day, seeing 2 games of football and meeting some good people. The only downside of it was getting flashed by a speed camera on the way home. More fool me, as I have been past it a fair few times, but was just keeping pace with the car in front. Looking at my speedo I was only doing about 5mph over the speed limit, so hopefully I will get lucky and won't be contributing to next years Hertfordshire Police Christmas party!

THE NEW EYRIE is a smart modern ground that is probably good enough to grace Blue Square Premier Football, with the addition of more seats if the need arises. It has already seen Blue Square South action when they were in that league a few seasons ago.

All 4 sides of the ground are covered. Along the side where the bar, changing room and club shop are, there is a seated stand holding around 300 fans. At the near end of the ground there is a terrace that holds around 800 under over. Again like so many others it is a metal one, but it provides good shelter on what was a rainy day. The other 2 sides were mainly open, but they had small areas of cover, probably holding around 150 each.

As mentioned the programme shop is excellent, and there is another shop which sells the usual range of merchandise. The tea bar is pretty good too. As for the bar, I didn't go in, but it is probably the only option as the ground is a long way from anywhere

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