MK Irish fell to a desperately unlucky 1-0 defeat away to Real Bedford in the opening game of the season on Tuesday night.
After more than 75 minutes of dominance from the visitors, it was the hosts who grabbed the game’s only goal with one of only two or three chances at best.
The first chance of the game fell to Irish after some great work down the right from George Shrieves, who skinned his man and found a cross into the box. Waiting unmarked was Ty Ward, but with a lot of pace on the cross he couldn’t direct his header on target and the effort went over the bar.
Moments later the visitors went even closer to an early goal.
Irish were getting joy down both flanks and this time it was Andre Olukanmi on the left, beating the defender with ease and whipping a ball across the box. It fell to Shrieves on the edge of the box who had time to touch it down and measure a half volley that was heading towards the far corner and needed clearing off the line by a covering Bedford defender.
Real Bedford had posed little to no threat in the first fifteen minutes and with Irish applying the pressure it was important they took advantage.
Another golden chance passed after a quick break away saw Mason Spence pick up the ball in the middle of the park, turning and releasing Shrieves down the right who showed his pace as he ran through on goal.
The pass had forced him just a touch wide of the goal and made it a much more difficult chance, and his shot was straight at the Real Bedford keeper.
Home team Bedford had their only threat on goal soon after, counter attacking quickly down the left and flashing a ball right across the face of the goal that just missed the on-rushing attackers.
With thirty minutes gone Irish were looking stronger and stronger and had the best spell of possession so far, probing the Bedford defence trying to find an opening.
One eventually came as Olukanmi, this time popping up on the right, drove past his man, cutting in onto his left foot and curled a shot in which was spilled by the goalkeeper – again needing clearing off the line in desperate fashion.
The opportunities didn’t stop as the break approached.
Shrieves found space to get a ball in from the left, delivering a teasing cross that found Spence, who’d lost his man and headed down into the ground cleverly, however the keeper showed great reactions to make an excellent stop as the ball headed for the top corner.
And the final chance of the half so nearly resulted in the opening goal in strange circumstances.
With MK Irish struggling to convert themselves, Real Bedford almost did it for them. A cross came in from the right and the defender stooped low to head it clear, however it was flying towards his own goal and needed saving well.
It was a half totally dominated by MK Irish, but the question was whether they’d come to rue the spurned chances.
The second half began in the fashion the first ended.
Perhaps the best passage of play so far resulted in some lovely one-two passing as Irish moved forwards, eventually coming to the feet of Hirst in the middle, driving at the defence but his shot wasn’t clean and was saved comfortably.
Irish were really turning the screw now and some lovely link up play between Spence and Shrieves on the left saw the latter running through before trying a deft dink over the oncoming Real Bedford keeper, which again was saved.
Switching back to the right just after, Shrieves picked up the ball and drove directly at the defender, beating him with a quick touch towards the byline to make space. He then struck a fierce low drive across towards the bottom left corner which was saved excellently.
Real Bedford had by far their best chance of the evening so far with twenty minutes left after a rare mishap at the back from Irish.
Under little pressure, Nat Beecher looked to play a pass back to Owusu Kyeremateng which fell short and was picked up by a Bedford forward. Coming over to cover in heroic fashion was Shaheim Ward, sliding in to make a perfectly timed, last-ditch tackle to prevent the shot troubling Kyeremateng.
The moment Irish dreaded and so clearly did not deserve came as the final ten minutes approached.
Completely against the run of play, a rare foray forward for the home side saw a cross come in from the right, which was headed past Kyeremateng, off the post and in to make it 1-0.
Irish had little time to reflect on the missed chances and had to dig deep to try and find a leveller as time started to run out.
Substitute Powfil Raposo, brought on to bring some energy into the front line late on, looked to latch on to a ball forward and caused a panic in the Bedford defence as the keeper and defender almost collided before the former collected the ball.
Ryan Smith went close to equalising in spectacular style, collecting the ball just outside the area on the right, cutting in on his left and curling a shot just past the far corner.
And just before the final whistle as Irish threw everything forward, a clever ball over the defence from Nathan Smith found Ty Ward but he couldn’t direct his volleyed strike on target.
The defeat will leave Irish disappointed after a thoroughly encouraging performance, but the level of dominance on display shows incredibly positive signs for the rest of the season ahead.