Chelmsford 2 Bedford Town 4

NE14hockey East Men’s League

Premier A

DESPITE an improved performance, Chelmsford were unable to turn around a disappointing start to the season at home to title challengers Bedford at Chelmer Park on Saturday.

As has been the case in previous weeks, Chelmsford were slower out of the traps than their opponents. An early shot from a short corner for Bedford appeared to be going comfortably wide, however Chelmsford defender David Hunter could not avoid the shot and the ball deflected off him into the top corner to give Bedford an early lead.

The goal seemed to spark Chelmsford into life, and it wasn’t long before they were level. Harry Rayner continued his impressive introduction to the team with a jinking run down the left wing before sending a reverse stick cross to Adam Hunter. Hunter evaded the challenge of his marker before slotting the ball under the advancing keeper.

Play continued to swing from end to end with both sides forcing a number of opportunities, but neither side were able to take advantage. Bedford looked the more likely to score as a number of purposeful runs by their inside forwards continually caused the Chelmsford defence problems. They eventually regained the lead through a short corner when, despite Jason Evans beating away the initial shot, slack marking meant Bedford had spare players on the far post, one of which had time to lob the ball into the roof of the net.

Chelmsford’s response to conceding the lead for a second time could not have been more emphatic. Almost straight from the push back, an aerial ball from the back by Tom Fanger picked out Adam Hunter, who squared past the keeper for an unmarked Geoff Mills to fire the ball into an empty net.

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As half time approached, the visitors dealt a hammer blow to Chelmsford as a break away attack down the right produced a bobbled cross which was scrappily bundled over the line at the far post by yet another unmarked striker to give Bedford a 3-2 lead at the interval.

In contrast to the first half, play after the break was much tighter with fewer chances created at both ends. Chelmsford enjoyed a greater share of possession but Bedford were well organised and continually prevented the hosts playing the flowing hockey they have produced in their previous home games. Chelmsford were punished for not converting their possession into goals as a counter attack from Bedford brought another smart save from Evans. However, as Fanger looked to clear the danger, he slipped and gave the Bedford winger the chance to prod the ball past Evans at the far post.

Chelmsford continued to press, but when they did create chances the Bedford keeper was equal to anything that was thrown at him, first denying Hales after an incisive team move before producing a fine double save from Mills. In addition a lack of cohesion at offensive short corners meant that Chelmsford set pieces were easily dealt with by the Bedford defence.

Chelmsford’s first home defeat of the season leaves them in the lower half of the table with five games played, however they can take comfort in the fact that they have already played the top two in the league. They can start to move back up the table next week when they travel to Cambridge City on Saturday. There is also a chance to spring an upset in the cup on Sunday when they host struggling EHL side Sevenoaks at Chelmer Park (2pm start).