A fairytale ending with three goals in the closing stages saw Bedford retain the Bedfordshire Senior Trophy in dramatic style on Wednesday night with a 3-2 victory over Crawley Green at Langford FC.
Goals from Sean Downey (73) and John Butler (77) had put the Maroons on course for the Trophy, only for Bedford to snatch victory with three goals at the death through Jamie Cole’s penalty (88), Ryan Smith’s last-minute equaliser and Josh Bamford winner in the second minute of stoppage-time in an unbelievable finish.
After the game manager Luigi Rocco said: “I always knew we could do it, we have belief as a squad, and we never give up.
Match winner Josh Bamford, who is leaving the club to move to America, admitted it was a perfect send-off.
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He said: “It’s just the perfect way for me to leave, you couldn’t write it.”
Bedford will now be hoping to complete the double and us this win to inspire them to the Molten Spartan SML Division One title.
Both sides struggled to come to terms with the bobbly conditions of the pitch early on, but it was direct Crawley Green who settled first.
After a cagey opening Butler headed wide for Crawley and James Hilsden had an effort for Bedford saved by Dean Bull.
This was the scare that Bedford needed, who kicked into gear with some scintillating passing football.
Bedford’s first chance came when Chris Johnson latched on to a through ball and with a first-time shot lobbed the stranded Dean Bull, only for the ball to bounce off the bar.
Crawley replied with an effort from Adam Reid which was tipped over by Aaron Bodger and Stuart Strange then shot over from a Craig Savage long throw.
Bedford visibly grew in confidence and started to retain the ball and put pressure on Crawley’s defence.
A beautiful piece of one-touch football down the right between Dean Sturniolo, Gareth Hunt and Jamie Cole saw Bedford win a corner.
And from the resulting delivery Ashley Kersey rose well to test Bull and his parry fell to captain Craig Grieve, who could only fire over the bar.
Luigi Rocco was a constant threat to the Crawley defence and after 29 minutes he fired in a free-kick which was headed clear by Mark Smith.
Both teams continued to trade blows and Bodger did superbly to tip Butler’s shot on to the post on 37 minutes.
From Butler’s corner Mark Smith rose well, but his header went just wide as the half finished all square.
The second half was a scrappy affair with an over zealous referee booking a number of players.
Bedford started strongly in the second half, keeping possession well and pressing forward.
A number of half chances were made, but none could be taken with the Crawley keeper again saving well.
Bedford defended superbly, with Dean Flanagan and Grieve making a number of superb tackles, limiting Crawley to set-piece chances.
Ashley Kersey headed over after 66 minutes, while Butler’s headed effort was easily collected by Bodger.
But the Maroons took the lead on 73 minutes when Mark Smith’s cross was firmly headed past Bodger by Downey to make it 1-0.
Four minutes later O’Donnell went close to doubling Crawley’s lead, but was he was denied by Bodger.
However, they did make it two when Adam Reid curled in the resulting corner and Butler rose to head home a carbon copy goal as shell-shocked Bedford looked beaten.
Bedford’s heads dropped and there was seemingly no way back for the holders.
Assistant Manager Alex Bishop rolled the dice and sent on subs Smith and Bamford.
With Bedford throwing caution to the wind and leaving only one defender back, the Luton side defended stoutly.
But the breakthrough came when Sturniolo was tripped inside the box by Savage and Cole duly dispatched the penalty for what looked like a consolation with two minutes to play.
Bedford won the ball back quickly and Grieve played in Billy Sells down the left wing whose first-time cross picked out Smith on the edge of the box.
The substitute’s instant control deceived the oncoming defender as he fired the equaliser into the bottom corner.
Crawley responded by chasing the game instead of waiting for penalties and were caught on the break.
Bedford attacked again and snatched an unlikely winner when Sturniolo slid Cole through and, although Bull parried his effort, Bamford was on hand to calmly slot the ball into the empty net for the winner in his last ever game for the club.