This result means that the team have now defeated three of their top of the table opponents in the past three weeks as the second half of the season gets underway in earnest.
Unsurprisingly 17 league games has begun to take a bit of a toll on the squad and injuries have meant changes to the side in several positions. The club went into this game missing top try scorer Stephen Woodhead, new recruit Steven Smith as well as No.8 Andy Ince as the impact of recent hard clashes has been felt. Those available and selected ultimately acquitted themselves well even if a slow start meant that the home side were giving away penalties and surrendering territory in the early minutes. Once the team found their feet and began to dominate the set pieces the scoring chances started to come. Tommy Mills scored the first try on seventeen minutes with James Mortimer on hand to kick the conversion and Charlie Darlow followed suit on 25 minutes with Mortimer again successful with the conversion kick to establish a 14-0 lead. As the fluency and tempo arrived in the home side’s game they started to put real pressure on the visitors and the dam finally broke in the minutes before half time. First scrum half Tom Orton sniped over from the base of a ruck and then wing Josh Cassell finished a well constructed backs move to secure the try bonus point before half time. Mortimer converted the first of these two tries for a 26-0 half time lead.
In the second half Bedford Athletic continued to command the key areas of the game. David Simpson produced a man of the match display at inside centre leading the way in both creating attacking opportunities and providing solid defence. Nick Thomas carried the ball well to provide plenty of forward momentum and Stefan Hughes-Brand and Rob Watkins ensured that Ilkeston’s chances were kept to a minimum as they set the standard for the side’s defensive aptitude. Several scoring chances were squandered when crucial passes were poorly executed but those that were taken resulted in a try hat trick for Josh Cassell who added to his first half try with further scores on 61 and 72 minutes. Mortimer’s conversion of the last of these tries was the final scoring act on a day when Bedford Athletic dealt effectively with the task set before them.
January has proved to be a tough month to date and will get no easier this coming Saturday as the team visits near neighbours Kettering, currently sitting in fourth place, in what is always a difficult encounter. With Derby also gaining a bonus point victory Bedford Athletic continue to lead by nine points at the top of the table.