Two first half goals from Emma Pinny and Charlotte Holland combined with a resilient defensive display was enough for Bedford HC ladies to triumph 2-1 at East Premier Division rivals St Albans on Saturday as they maintained their unbeaten start to the season.
Bedford lost regular keeper Bex Howitt to illness on the eve of the match so Lucy Sellers made her first team debut in goal with the only other change to last week’s squad being the inclusion of Fran Lee in place of the concussed Laura Weaver.
Despite a nervy warm-up, Bedford started the game the stronger side with their high press preventing St Albans’ defenders from clearing the ball.
After 10 minutes Bedford took the lead from an unlikely source as Pinny struck her first goal for Bedford from a broken down short corner with her sweetly-struck shot too powerful for the defender on the line.
St Albans began to gain a foothold in the game and were quick to pressurise Bedford in possession, however with pace and a direct approach from the Bedford forward line, chances were being created to extend their lead.
Becky Childs put Kate Costin through on goal but the keeper came out to save with her feet with Fran Lee’s lifted follow up saved mid air by a covering defender.
It wasn’t long before Bedford did grab a second and it was another well-drilled set-piece that proved the difference as Yvette Van Yperen’s shot to the right post was pulled back across goal by Holland and again the St Albans defender could only help the ball across the line.
Bedford looked a strong unit defensively and were ably supported by hard-working wide midfielders Verity Mason McLeod and Riverside Grill Player Of The Match Kelly Bingham, who snubbed out any St Albans breaks with well-timed patient tackling and good team structure.
As expected St Albans gradually poured more and more bodies forward in the second half, but most of their attacks were easy for Rachel Jackson and Clare Stacey to read and pick off, so came to nothing.
When the Bedford defence was breached Sellers in the Bedford goal came to her side’s rescue with two top drawer saves.
Bedford were also indebted to a magnificent goal-line clearance by Sarah Walsh from a St Albans corner as they kept their heads well and started to play counter-attacking hockey.
Despite having to soak up a lot of pressure, Bedford still had their own opportunities in front of goal with a diving Suze Macken reverse stick effort and a Holland shot flashing across the face of the goal.
At times the St Albans defenders were having to use agricultural challenges to halt Bingham and Costin which, on another day, the umpires could have taken a harsher view of.
With five minutes to go a defensive error gave St Albans hope, but Bedford were able to run the clock down and grind out another important victory.