Newly-promoted Hoddesdon Town, back in the Premier League after an eight year absence, took the opening day honours and condemned Tring Athletic to a 3-1 defeat.
The Lilywhites came to Tring with a clear game plan and a lot of confidence after knocking Berkhamsted out of the Herts Charity Shield with a fine 2-0 win at Broadwater.
From the start the visitors set out their stall by playing one forward and getting 10 men behind the ball whenever they lost possession.
Athletic struggled to break through and had to be on their guard against quick counter-attacks, which proved to be their undoing with lively left winger Tyler Hatherly having a hand in all three Hoddesdon goals.
He opened the scoring on 15 minutes with a cross-cum-shot that took a deflection and ended up in the net, but although Athletic shook themselves down and enjoyed the lion’s share of possession they lacked a cutting edge.
A corner fell to Vinnie Iannone whose shot was cleared off the line, and a superb pass from Jack Seaton’s nearly found Jack Sunderland in the area, but otherwise there were few clear cut opportunities.
Iannone and Matt Jarvis had shots blocked before Ryan Sturges fired the loose ball over, and a corner cleared to Jack Sunderland just outside the area gave him time to tee up a solid strike which went wide.
In the final action of the half Iannone had a header well saved, but Athletic could then have gone 2-0 down as Hoddesdon broke sharply only to spurn an inviting chance.
Hatherly did double the lead soon after the restart, picking up a loose ball and cutting inside on his favoured left foot before curling a superb shot past Mike Underwood from outside the box.
Athletic made an immediate change by bringing on Martin Skinner for Ryan Sturges and within 10 minutes had reduced the deficit when Jack Seaton opened his account for the club by steering home Greg Deer’s accurate free kick.
And club captain Graham Hall, who has been out with an injury, made a welcome return when he came on for Chris Vardy.
But any hopes of a comeback for Athletic were dashed in the 74th minute when Hatherly’s header from a far post cross hit the bar and Dave Pigeon converted the the loose ball from close range.
Athletic kept plugging away and in the last few minutes created their best opportunities with Martin Skinner, Graham Hall and Vinnie Iannone going very close but the visitors held on for a fine win.
Athletic, who had nine new players in the squad, are still a work in progress.
They travel to face another newly promoted side, Cockfosters, tomorrow, and on Saturday are on the road again, travelling to Essex side Cogenhoe in the FA Cup extra preliminary round.