Bedford played their first national league match in six seasons on Saturday, going down 2-1 to Horsham HC – however there were plenty of positives to take from the game.
Paul Livesey took charge of the team for the first time and handed a start to Clare Stacey on the left of defence, while new signing Clare Beattie made her debut up front.
Bedford also welcomed back Kelly Bingham to the squad and they started the game with good possession and intensity, with lynchpin Rachel Jackson dictating play.
Bedford created their first opportunity in front of goal with Katherine Winger just unable to connect on a rehearsed set piece corner, while from several other good positions around the circle the ball was well cut out by a solid Horsham defence.
At the other end, Emma Pinny, who was outstanding at the heart of the defence, needed to be at her best to brilliantly tackle a Horsham forward who was clean through.
Midway through the half, Bedford were still moving the ball well and were putting the Horsham defence under a fair amount of pressure, so it was quite against the run of play when Horsham took the lead.
They launched a counter-attack down the right, creating an opening in front of goal and the ball was tucked under Leanne Sargeant.
Bedford responded well, however, and were deservedly back on level terms just before half-time.
Bingham stole the ball in the midfield and took the direct route to goal, driving at pace and drawing the Horsham defence expertly before spotting Kate Costin on the baseline – and her diving first time strike was emphatic.
Half-time gave Horsham a breather and, after the restart, Bedford couldn’t reach their first half levels with the game now finely balanced.
Bedford started to struggle with their composure in possession and made a few mistimed tackles, giving Horsham a penalty corner award.
Showing their significant National League experience, Horsham converted with a neat 1-2 at the top of the circle and a lifted effort into the corner.
Bedford tried to bounce back, buoyed by the home support, but Horsham stayed strong and compact, stepping in with timely interceptions to see out the remainder of the match and secure the victory.