They had waited nearly half a year, 182 days to be precise, to play a competitive match; 182 days since they sealed promotion too. And it was 163 days since that promotion was taken away from them. It is all behind them now – for now – as the Island club have it all to do again.
It shouldn’t be a problem.
Apart from a 20-minute period in the second half between Bedfont & Feltham hauling themselves back into the game and Bulls reasserting their dominance, the outcome of this match on the perimeter of Heathrow Airport was never really in too much doubt.
With a clear case of ring rust, Bulls were anything but raging as they patiently picked apart their opponent. For large swathes of the match it was a low-definition performance in a high-definition stream for the Bulls fans watching back home. The pitch didn’t help either. The Orchard, as it is known, was more like a savannah, such was how long the grass was, but Bulls kept on ploughing through. Denying the groundsman access with his Flymo might have been part of the game plan for the home side but it will take more than that to slow down the stampede.
Kieran Lester took most of the glory in Bulls’ win, bagging a brace from an inside-left position and transferring his prolific scoring record for St Paul’s to the bigger stage . He opened the scoring in the 35th minute after a steady build-up in play. Adam Trotter laid the ball in Lester’s path, who cut back on to his favoured right foot to sweep the ball home into the far corner.
Fraser Barlow, starting in the number 9 position, should have doubled the lead before the break when he spurned two good chances within a minute of each other.
The second half got off to a sluggish start and Bedfont were starting to gain territory in areas seldom seen in the first. Then came the equaliser from a corner that caused confusion in the Bulls penalty box. A resultant scramble lead to Charlie Dunkley directing the ball towards goal, which the away side tried to clear. Bedfont claimed the ball had gone over the line, the assistant referee concurred, and it was game on.
Bulls kept prodding away but Bedfont held firm. Manager Gary Freeman rolled the only dice he had up his sleeve and brought on Arthur Illingworth up front for his debut to provide an extra physical presence. Plan B was in action and the decision paid off handsomely.
Sometimes a striker just needs to stay in position, on the last man in defence, and sacrifice any overt involvement in the game to create space for others. And now the Bulls’ runners from deep had plenty, as the Bedfont defenders’ attention stuck firmly on the foil Illingworth’s presence was providing. Ruben Mendes spurned a chance to put Bulls back in the lead in 76th minute but he made sure less than 60 seconds later as he steered the ball home from a deep cross sent in from the impressive Jonny Le Quesne at right-back.
Five minutes later, Lester was found in acres of space to grab his second, slotting the ball past an over-exposed goalkeeper. Then, as full-time approached, Barlow got the goal he deserved – a header from a corner – to seal the victory.