Kings Langley through to the Challenge Cup final as Bedford pay the penalty

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Kings Langley are through to the SSML Challenge Cup final after seeing off Bedford 3-1 in Tuesday night’s semi-final clash.

Continuing their policy of relying on youth in Cup competitions, Kings were set on their way with a debut goal by 18-year-old wing-back Steve Ward.

Kings keeper Ant Ladyman saved a late penalty and Danny Hutchins converted twice from the spot in a dramatic encounter.

Langley duo Ollie Cox and Alex Campana went close early on and Sheldon Washington shot just wide, but the first half hour was fiercely contested and it was an error that broke the deadlock.

Bedford keeper Aaron Bodger came to the edge of his area to clear, but the ball ran free to debutante Ward who kept his head and stroked the ball into the net from fully 20 yards to set Kings on their way.

When Ashley Kersey broke free as the interval beckoned, Ladyman pulled off a saving block with his legs, but Bedford emerged the stronger after the break.

A Craig Grieve rocket was tipped over the bar, before Ryan Smith levelled things up as he smashed home a rebound after his initial shot was cleared off the line.

The pendulum appeared to have swung the home side’s way, but Kings hit back as Alex Campana was pulled down from behind, allowing Hutchins to calmly dispatch his third penalty in four games.

Langley’s experienced back line of Jack Pattison, Stuart Deaton and Callum Adebiyi were exceptional – the latter pair carrying injuries while Ward and his counterpart Jack Stevens showed a maturity that belied their years.

However, just as Kings looked to have held out, Jack Pattison’s challenge was adjudged unfair and Chris Johnson stepped up for the penalty, surely destined to take it to extra-time.

But Ladyman saved low to his left and the drama continued as Matt Bateman was hacked unceremoniously down at the other end and Hutchins finally eclipsed Bedford’s aspirations.