Vardy strikes to earn Tring a battling draw at AFC Dunstable

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It was honours even in the SSML Premier Division as Tring Athletic earned a 1-1 draw at high-flying AFC Dunstable.

The Tring players did the club proud with a hard working, tenacious performance against a big, powerful Dunstable side that went into the game on the back of a magnificent 16-game unbeaten run in the league.

The stand out moment from the game was a piece of class finishing from Chris Vardy, who came through the ranks at Dunstable before joining Tring.

In the 35th minute he picked up a fine pass from Ollie Hogg then danced his way past the keeper and a couple of defenders before slotting the ball into the net.

This was a tough fixture because Tring knew their hosts would go all out to keep the pressure on league leaders Kings Langley.

They started strongly and Athletic had to dig in and concentrate on keeping things tight at the back.

It took 20 minutes before Tring had their first shot at goal, an effort from Luke Dunstan that went well wide, but it was the start of a better period for the visitors as they started to grow in confidence.

Vardy went over in the area and there was a shout from the Tring players for a penalty which the referee turned down.

Soon afterwards, Hogg sent Vardy away down the left with a terrific pass. Tring’s leading marksman beat the defender for pace and then picked out Ryan Sturges at the far post with an accurate cross, but his shot was cleared off the line.

Tring were looking dangerous going forward, and Sturges and Vardy smashed presentable chances high over the bar.

Finally Athletic’s good play was rewarded in the 35th minute with the goal from Vardy, his 24th of the season.

Dunstable have some big players and Tring were missing their two main centre-backs, Chris Salmon and Adam Toone, so set pieces were a constant source of danger.

Soon after Athletic took the lead, the home players thought they had equalised from a corner but Jack Hopwood managed to scoop the ball away under severe pressure.

The visitors had one more scare in the 43rd minute when Chris Francis was played into their area, but under great pressure from Dan Steadman he stabbed the ball just past the far post.

The home side made a change during the break, bringing on Enzo Silvestri for Fabio Bufano, and they made the running from the restart as Tring started slowly.

Just seven minutes into the half Athletic conceded the equaliser following a couple of errors. They gave the ball away cheaply near the halfway line, then a home players scuffed his pass but it managed to be played through to James Warne who didn’t waste the opportunity.

Dunstable were clearly perked up by the goal and could sense a place at the top of the table was within their grasp but Tring responded superbly to keep their opponents at bay.

Tring had some anxious moments, especially from set pieces, and Hopwood had to get down sharply to save a deflected cross at the near post.

But the back three of Kevin McManus, Steadman and stand -in skipper Sam Joliffe stuck to their task diligently.

Athletic might have claimed a winner with about 15 minutes to go when Rob Tomlin’s precise shot looked destined for the far corner of the net until Ricky Perks made a great save to tip the ball around the post.

From the corner there was a mad scramble in the Dunstable goalmouth but Athletic just couldn’t get a foot to the ball and it was eventually hacked clear.

Dunstable kept pressing and brought on a giant forward Leon Simpson, but Tring were in no mood to concede any last minute goals and the game ended all square which was a fair result.

Next up is another tough fixture for Tring with a short trip to Dacorum rivals Berkhamsted on Saturday, which is always a lively affair.

Tring Athletic: 1 Jack Hopwood 2 Ryan Sturges 3 Stuart Stedman (15 Ryan McMahon 78) 4 Sam Joliffe 5 Dan Steadman 6 Kevin McManus 7 Ollie Hogg 8 Rob Tomlin (17 Kieran Turner 78) 9 Chris Vardy 10 Vinnie Iannone (16 Taylor Collins 66) 11 Luke Dunstan. Subs not used: 12 Stewart King 14 James Butler.

AFC Dunstable: 1 Ricky Perks 2 Wayne Mills (Capt) 3 Newman Carney 4 Grant Fryer 5 Leon Cashman 6 Jamie Warne 7 Jon Cooper (Marcus Campbell 88) 8 Fabio Bufano (14 Enzo Silvestri HT) 9 Jermaine Hall 10 James Bishop 11 Chris Francis (12 Leon Simpson 78). Subs not used. 15 George Biggadike, 17 Louis Porcelli (G/K).

Crowd: 95.