Despite not producing their most fluent performance, Biggleswade United were still comfortable winners again in the SSML Premier as they eased past a beleaguered Bedford 3-0 at Second Meadow on Saturday.
A hatrick from Tom Cookman inspired Cristian Colás’ men to a fifth win in six, a period which has also seen them avoid conceding a goal, as they continue to climb up the league table and away from the relegation zone. If Cookman was inspiring then Bedford were quite the opposite as United scarcely had to venture out of first gear in order to secure the three points.
But every fixture has to be played and United dispatched their opponents on this occasion with great efficiency and can now look forward to sterner tests in the future.
The effervescent, exuberant United of recent weeks was non-existent in the opening stages of the match as they struggled to maintain possession, with their passing lacking in precision and fluency. Fortunately Pete Waller’s men weren’t much better and consequently chances were limited at both ends.
The home side appeared to have acclimated themselves to the game as Bedford were restricted to defending their 18-yard line. However, it was the visitors who produced the first shot of the match when Jack Boyd lifted his shot over from the edge of the box. United responded swiftly with Nick Elliot as his long range effort on the half volley dipped just over the bar.
That sparked a moderate period of pressure from the hosts as they began to pepper the Bedford goal. First with Cookman as he received a pass from the flamboyant Mohammed Hashim on the edge of the area before placing the ball into position and firing his shot marginally over. Recent signing Hashim became increasingly influential in the game with his technique and willingness to receive the ball in tight situations proving invaluable.
But the diminutive midfielder wasn’t involved in arguably the most wonderfully constructed move of the match as Adam Drakulić fizzed a ball into Akwafei Ajeakwa who cushioned it delightfully into the path of the onrushing Elliot, but he dragged his shot just wide of the left hand post.
Cookman then struck for the first time as following an intricate turn by Ajeakwa, the American striker laid the ball into the path of the former Stevenage academy player who drilled his shot expertly into the bottom corner. A terrific finish from a player relishing his return to first team action after a frustrating spell on the sidelines a few weeks back.
Being the division’s ‘basement boys’, Bedford could have capitulated at that point but they almost provided the ideal response when Stefan Powell’s powerful run got him to the byline. However, none of his teammates kept up with him and were unable to latch onto his tame cut back as a result and the danger was averted. The visitors showed their first real signs of attacking intent in the closing stages of the first half following that chance and almost restored parity when Tremayne Charles shot wide of the near post after finding space on the right hand side of the area.
The opening period concluded in controversial fashion as a heated exchange between Ajeakwa and Bedford goalkeeper Ross Tompkins resulted in both being cautioned. The incident saw Tompkins clash with Ajeakwa as he tried to usher the ball out of play for a goalkick and Ajeakwa retaliated with a kick out at the Bedford skipper, culminating in the yellow cards being brandished by the referee.
United improved in the second half and they provided the early pressing without creating any notable opportunities. Ajeakwa has seldom failed to score in the majority of his appearances this season but he wouldn’t find the net on this occasion as he was replaced by another new signing in Lukas Joyce.
Bedford’s distinct lack of invention of going forward was palpable and reflected their position in the league table but United’s shortcomings allowed them to remain in the game. Yet Adam Counihan was still untroubled, with a cross from Boyd a rare moment of concern for the Irish keeper as the away side struggled to breach the excelling centre half pairing of Ollie Peters and Nyasha Sagwete.
Drakulić then almost beat Tompkins at his near post before Cookman bagged his second of the game to seemingly clinch victory for his side. An Elliot corner caused havoc in the Bedford area and eventually found Cookman who couldn’t miss from about three yards out.
The game settled down after that goal with Bedford looking resigned to their fate. Cookman almost added to their misery as he came close to latching onto a Drakulić ball across the face. That was the tricky winger’s last contribution as he made way for Charlie Evans-Critchley.
United remained marginally on top as the irrepressible Hashim found Elliot on the right hand side of the area, only for the former Aston Villa academy player to blaze over. Hashim was then replaced by Matt Cooper for the closing minutes with neither team creating much. However, an incredible run by the previously subdued Joyce saw him power past several players before selflessly laying the ball into the path of Cookman, who finished neatly to complete his treble.
United visit Hoddesdon on Saturday.