It’s three steps forward, two steps back for Biggleswade United as they suffered consecutive defeats for only the third time since October on Saturday.
A disappointing 2-0 loss at London Tigers in midweek was compounded by a narrow 3-2 reverse at Oxhey Jets on Saturday.
The result leaves ambitions of a top six finish in the SSML Premier Division in jeopardy despite the prospect looking very promising just a week ago, but results have conspired against them and a place in the top eight now appears a more realistic target.
There’s reason to be frustrated however when, considering the dismal start the team had to Head Coach Cristian Colás’ inaugural season in charge, being above mid-table obscurity and comfortably clear of relegation should be sufficiently satisfying - especially when it should see the club record its highest ever league position.
Proceedings began in an even manner as both sides grappled for control, with neither looking particularly threatening. Luke Lloyd almost opened the scoring for The Jets with a fierce volley from an acute angle that United goalkeeper Adam Counihan watched fly over his bar. The visitors, looking slightly lethargic, responded as Kane Farrell floated a pass out to Jake O’Neil and the diminutive winger fired into Robert Partington’s gloves.
Nick Elliot’s sent a tame free kick into the arms of the keeper prior to Lloyd volleying over once more from a unhelpful angle, as chances continued to be at a premium.
Elliot’s next dead ball delivery was more ominous as he picked out Lee Bilcock at the back post, but the skipper’s knock down wasn’t latched onto by another red and blue shirt.
Dangerous forward Chris Blunden then whipped his free kick over, representing the home side’s final effort of the first period. There was still time, however, for United to create their best opportunity of the afternoon thus far when teenage striker Scott Batchelor turned his header over the bar after finding space at the back post.
If the beginning of the first half was rather subdued and uneventful, the second was quite the opposite with the hosts evidently invigorated by their break as they came flying out the blocks. It took all of three minutes for them to race into a 2-0 lead with John Smith smashing his shot into the top corner to break the deadlock. Chris Blunden followed that up with an exquisite finish that nestled in the far corner of Counihan’s net, leaving United stunned.
The response from the away side was encouraging as Elliot slipped in behind the two centre backs but could only direct his header wide of the keeper’s far post. Minutes later Tom Bryant had a shot which fizzed over the bar before the deficit was halved on 53 minutes when a superb pass by Batchelor sent the lively Elliot through on goal. The technically gifted midfielder steadied himself and proceeded to drill emphatically past the stranded Partington and into the corner.
Having found a route back into the game, Colás tried to exert his influence by making three fairly swift substitutions. Adam Sartini replaced Adam Drakulić, which saw Farrell advance into a more attacking left wing position, and minutes later Batchelor and Liam Sweeney departed as Charlie Black and John McFarlin entered the fray.
United had several chances to restore parity, first when James Cooper arrowed a header towards the bottom corner forcing a terrific save out of the keeper. Elliot then came close to doubling his tally, only to see his measured effort just evade the target. Bryant squandered their most presentable opportunity after Elliot’s initial shot broke kindly for him, but he couldn’t adjust his feet to send it goalwards.
Blunden’s close range shot brought the best out of Counihan as the Irishman dived to his left and clung onto the ball. That was quickly followed by another United chance as O’Neil’s ball across the face of goal eluded all his onrushing teammates.
The decisive goal came with five minutes of normal time to play as Greg Usher was played in on an overlapping run on the right hand side of the penalty area and, despite Counihan getting a palm to it, slotted the ball in the far corner. That euphoric moment for The Jets was swiftly followed by a more unsavoury incident as Warren Gladdy was dismissed by the referee for a second bookable offence.
With a two goal cushion and the match’s climax in sight, that decision shouldn’t have proved problematic for the hosts. Although when Black drilled past the keeper at his near post it did set up a fairly nervous finish. However, United couldn’t find an equaliser in the closing minutes and eventually succumbed to a deserved defeat.
Motivation can be lost in teams without the fear of relegation or the prospect of promotion to spur them on and perhaps that’s the issue the coaching staff face as the season approaches its conclusion. Saturday’s loss at The Boundary Stadium was another demonstration, similar to that of the game at London Tigers, of a lack of tenacity and determination in certain situations which may have been more present if there was greater incentive for the players.