A game of two halves as Bedford claim champions of champions title
Full Match Report
Southern League Division 1 South Champions Parkway travelled the five and a half hour coach journey to Central Division 1 Champions Bedford Town for the end of season Champion of Champions trophy game. Due to injuries and unavailability Parkway were without 5 of their regular squad along with their 2 Plymouth Argyle work experience loanees who had been recalled by their parent club. 4 of their Under 18’s were among to the squad of 13 with 2 starting and 2 named as substitutes.
In front of a crowd of 302, Parkway made a good start and on 5 minutes a well-directed free kick by Jordan Copp was headed just wide by Jack Crago. The game was being played at a high tempo and on 7 minutes a Bedford free kick saw Kyle Moore gather an attempt by Drew Richardson.
Parkway continued to press and on 11 minutes a corner on the right was recycled with Billy Palfrey firing just wide. With Parkway looking the sharper and using the flanks to good effect, they took the lead on 19 minutes.
A neat exchange between Gabby Rogers and Copp along the left released Copp who showed good control close the by-line and cross low into the 6-yard area where Harrison Davis coming in at pace shot in off the underside of the bar from around 5 yards.
Play continued from end to end at a lively pace and on 25 minutes a Bedford corner on the right saw a Rory McAuley header cleared off the line into the arms of Moore with the hosts claiming the ball had crossed the line.
Parkway continued to impress, moving the ball quickly through the midfield area with Palfrey and Jake Smith prominent and with Crago and Callum Bleasdale causing the home defence problems in the wide areas.
On 28 minutes they doubled their lead. Parkway won a free kick some 10 yards inside their own half centrally and Callum Rose seeing Elliot Duffy off his line fired his long range kick over the backpedalling keeper and into the net from all of 65 yards.
Parkway continued to look the better side and on 32 minutes a strong run by Crago saw his 25 yard shot pushed away by Duffy at full stretch.
Bedford began to force their way back into the game but the Parkway defence held firm with Rose and Michael Landricombe winning the majority of the aerial exchanges with Moore relatively untested.
On 38 minutes a deep cross from the right from the dangerous Dan Walker was well defended as the hosts came more into the game and they pulled a goal back on 43 minutes. A long through ball into the right hand channel saw Walker muscle his way clear of Ryan Lane, cut inside and fire an angled drive from around 18 yards across Moore into the far corner.
In the 2 minutes of added time Parkway restored their 2 goal lead. Davis did well to win the ball on the right and release Bleasdale who made a strong run forward and delivered a well-directed deep cross to the far post where Rogers headed downwards from close range with the ball bouncing up on to the underside of the bar and then on to the post and over the line despite the best efforts of McAuley to clear.
A good first half performance from Parkway and deserving of their lead having converted the few clear chances they created and defending solidly against the hosts who came more into the game as the half progressed.
Clearly fired up, Bedford came out early for the second half with Shaun Keane replacing Zak Brown at the break. An early whipped in free kick from the left by Copp was cleared off the line as the second half started at the same high tempo.
A long ball on 48 minutes was gathered by Moore as the hosts looked to adopt a more direct approach by hitting early long balls in behind the Parkway backline. On 49 minutes good work by Connor Tomlinson along the left saw his cross into the 6 yard area pushed just wide by the vastly experienced former professional and 7 times Scottish international Craig Mackail-Smith.
With Bedford now the stronger side and looking to stretch the play at every opportunity, on 50 minutes Tomlinson raced on to another long ball and just failed to beat Moore when well placed. Bedford continued to apply pressure and on 52 minutes a cross from the right by Tomlinson found the unmarked Callum Donnelly who shot just wide.
With the Parkway defence under pressure, on 58 minutes Rose made a strong run forward out of defence which was halted by good Bedford defending with Rose pulling up and after lengthy treatment was unable to continue with young Brandon Gavican-Lapthorn replacing him in central defence.
Bedford continued to threaten and with Parkway unable to create any forward momentum the hosts pulled goal back on 67 minutes. A free kick on the left found the tricky Tomlinson who showing good close control got to the by-line, outsmarted 3 defenders in one move and crossed into the 6 yard area where the predatory Mackail-Smith slotted home from close range.
Parkway were working hard to retain their lead and on 73 minutes Richardson received the game’s first yellow card seemingly for remarks made to the referee.
With Bedford now looking the stronger outfit, on 74 minutes Parkway conceded possession in midfield allowing Walker to cut inside with Moore pushing his powerful shot behind for a corner from which the keeper comfortably saved McAuley’s header.
Bedford were not to be denied and their next attack saw them draw level. Once again Parkway conceded possession in midfield allowing the increasingly influential Tomlinson to square the ball back to Hugh Alban-Jones who fired home through a crowded area from around 18 yards. Alban-Jones then saw yellow for a foul as Parkway looked to regain some control however it was the hosts who went ahead for the first time on 79 minutes.
Once again Tomlinson created the opportunity with his run and low cross into the danger area getting a slight deflection to McAuley who poked home from close range.
Richardson then headed over from a corner as the hosts continued to apply pressure and stretch play forcing Parkway to defend in depth .Both sides made substitutions on 82 minutes with Will Summerfield replacing Donnelly for Bedford and Parkway sending on Charlie Castlehouse for Jake Smith who had done well in his first senior start.
Parkway pushed forward looking for an equaliser and on 85 minutes good play by Rogers along the right saw his cross cut out by Duffy just beating the lively Bleasdale to the ball. Castlehouse then saw his header go just wide after good work by Copp.
With Parkway now being stretched, Bedford sealed the game in the 90th minute with the strong running Walker going clear on the right and crossing to the unmarked Mackail-Smith who fired low into the bottom corner giving Moore no chance.
Parkway created one more chance with Bleasdale seeing his long range effort pushed away by Duffy with Copp’s follow up shot being blocked and cleared away. Bedford created one final chance on 93 minutes with Tomlinson’s shot being well stopped by Moore with Mackail-Smith’s cheeky back heel from the loose ball going narrowly wide.
An entertaining game between two well matched sides with Parkway the better side in the first half and deserving their lead. Bedford were the stronger side in the second half using the wide areas to good advantage against a tiring Parkway who competed well throughout and were not disgraced against a strong side who won their league by 10 points with games to spare, losing just 3 of their 38 games, scoring 100 goals and conceding just 28.
Maybe just a game too far today in more ways than one for a depleted Parkway squad who despite the disappointment of today’s result can look back with considerable pride on a memorable season. All can now take a well-earned break before the summer when they embark on a new season, new league, new challenges and new grounds. See you there.
BEDFORD: 1 Duffy, 2 McAuley, 3 Miccio, 5, Brown (Keane 46), 6 Alban-Jones, 7 Tomlinson, 8 Donnelly © (Summerfield 82), 9 Walker, 10 Butterworth, 12 Mackail-Smith, 14 Richardson
Substitutes: 11 Keane, 13 Street (gk)(unused), 15 Page (unused), 17 Summerfield
PARKWAY: 1 Moore, 2 Davis, 3 Lane, 4 Palfrey, 5 Rose (Gavican- Lapthorn 58), 6 Landricombe ©. 7 Bleasdale, 8 Smith (Castlehouse 82), 9 Rogers, 10 Copp, 11 Crago
Substitutes: 12 Gavican-Lapthorn, 14 Castlehouse, 15 Godfree (unused)