TRING Athletic’s title aspirations were dealt a potentially fatal blow as league-leaders Chalfont St Peter secured a vital 1-0 victory over Phil Casserley’s side.
Chalfont captain John Carroll struck 10 minutes from time to extend the hosts’ lead at the top of the MSSML Premier Division to 10 points - an advantage which would appear too much for Athletic to claw back at this late stage in the season.
Tring may now need to focus their attentions on securing second spot in the league as Colney Heath leapfrogged the Cow Lane outfit with a win over Hatfield Town.
Tring, though, have two games in hand over Colney.
Athletic knew only a win on Saturday would keep them in with a realistic chance of catching Chalfont, and the game started in a cagey fashion befitting of the occasion.
Chalfont’s best chance of the half fell to Adam Louth, but his header flew over the bar, before Gary Dixon went close for Tring from Nick Jackson’s accurate pass.
The second half started in an equally tight manner, with Dan Hicks firing over for the hosts before substitute Vinnie Iannone headed over for Tring.
There was controversy in the 77th minute as Athletic felt they should have been awarded a penalty for handball, but the Tring players’ protestations were ignored by the referee.
And minutes later, Athletic’s anger was compounded when Chalfont made the decisive breakthrough.
Carroll picked up the ball from a corner and fired home at the back post to claim the crucial win and send Athletic home empty-handed.
Tring boss Casserley was disappointed with the result and believes his side did enough to earn a point.
“We didn’t deserve to lose on Saturday,” he said. “A draw would have definitely been a fair result.
“In my opinion we were the better side and played the better football,”
And Heath admits his team’s title dreams may now be out of reach.
He said: “We have been second all season and now we simply must finish as runners-up.
“We’ve got to keep going because finishing second would be a great achievement.
“We didn’t lose the league on Saturday, we lost it with silly results at other times in the season.
“We now need a miracle, but you never know. Until it’s mathematically impossible, we will keep on fighting.”