Crucial win over Banbury keeps Bedford survival hopes alive

Bedford kept their survival hopes alive with a 4-3 victory over visiting fellow strugglers Banbury.
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The victory clawed Bedford off the bottom of the England Hockey Midlands Conference League table and up to ninth while Banbury slipped a place down to eighth, leaving Banbury needing to win one of their last two in order to keep their place at the top level.

Bedford started bottom in a 'do or die' position and fought very hard, making the best of missed chances by their visitors, despite ill-discipline nearly costing them dear in the final quarter while Banbury will rue missed chances that could have seen them safe.

It all looked so promising for the visitors when they went close in the fifth minute and then a Josh Nunneley aerial pass to Connor Roberts saw him find Jordi Groenewald to fire home and claim an early lead.

Crucial win keeps Bedford survival hopes alive.Crucial win keeps Bedford survival hopes alive.
Crucial win keeps Bedford survival hopes alive.

Moments later Groenewald broke through the home defence to find Jacob Buckner-Rowley, but the chance went wide only for Bedford to retrieve the ball and charge down the other end and Tom Blythman coolly levelled the scores.

Banbury opened the second quarter strongly with Tyson Nunneley working his way through the crowded midfield to find Man of the Match Nathan Hochman, whose close range deflection brought a superb save from home keeper Ben Knights.

But Bedford broke immediately away through defensive mix-ups by Banbury for Liam Stevens to clip into the net again from close range to grab a lead against the run of play.

Banbury began to lose shape, showing frustration that their efforts were unrewarded but then settled down, forcing forward to win a penalty corner slammed home by Hochman to level the scores.

Then a promising mazey dribble into the area by Will Crowfoot won another corner, only for Knights to save Nunneley’s goalbound drag flick, leaving the scores level at half-time.

The second half saw Banbury press forward with Jamie Boardman floored and Matt Wilson being yellow card sin-binned for the offence but no reward for the visitors.

Restored to full numbers, the home side pressed back in their desperate campaign to avoid relegation, winning a penalty corner put away by Tom Blythman to retake the lead.

The home efforts looked doomed to fail as Wilson fouled again to get a red card suspension for the remainder of the game and Banbury took advantage but could not put chances away.

Against the run of play as Banbury pressed forward, 10-man Bedford broke away, splitting the visitors' defence, bringing a desperate goal line save from Nunneley.

In the final quarter, as in recent weeks, Banbury again played their best hockey but chance after chance went begging only to see the reduced Bedford break away again and Richard Evans double their lead, showing how finishing should be executed.

The visitors again pressed forward, even bringing on coach Richard Hobley, with the home side down to only nine players on the pitch, in the frantic closing minutes to draw a brilliant goal line save from James Long’s close range effort.

The pressure finally led to a penalty corner slotted home by Nunneley to reduce the lead.

After recent weeks it was again too little too late for Banbury while Bedford can believe that they can beat the odds to stay in the Conference League as they held onto the lead.

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