Three-time Herts Charity Shield winners Tring Athletic were knocked out of this year’s competition at the first hurdle as they were edged out 3-2 by Hertford Town.
After some encouraging performances in pre-season friendlies, this was a big step up in terms of intensity, pace and physicality for Tring – and with six players making their first team debuts, it took the visitors some time to settle.
Hertford, on the other hand, started at a cracking pace and took less than two minutes to open the scoring with a well taken goal when Charlie Smith produced a skilful drag back and then slotted the ball past Matt Evans.
Hertford continued to test Evans, but Tring had their first chance after 14 minutes when Sonny Bailey-Aird linked up with Stewart King and Chris Vardy fired past the post.
A few minutes later, Ryan Sturges appeared to have sent Vardy through on goal until home defender Danny Wolf managed to stretch and get a big toe to ball.
But just as Tring were starting to get a foothold in the game, they were rocked by another quality goal from Hertford when Lewis Donovan curled home a superb free-kick from just outside the box to make it 2-0 after 19 minutes.
The hosts were buzzing, but right on half time Tring got the break they were looking for.
It came from a nice move involving Sturges and Vardy and, when the ball reached King in the box, he was caught by a defender for a clear penalty.
With regular penalty taker Graham Hall having retired, Vardy took over the responsibility and smashed the ball past the keeper to give Tring a timely boost just before the half-time whistle.
Athletic had a couple of scares soon after the restart when Evans produced a fine save from a rasping shot from Charlie Smith, then did well to recover quickly to prevent Jordan Watson from snapping up the loose ball.
But a minute later, Evans could only stand and watch as Watson fired a magnificent shot from nearly 40 yards that smacked against the bar.
Tring came close to an equaliser in the 51st minute when good battling by King enabled Bailey-Aird to collect the ball and whip a cross over to the far post to pick out Vardy who shot wide.
But it was Hertford who grabbed a third goal in the 56th minute when Leigh Rose took advantage of defensive indecision to slot the ball home.
The hosts had the chance to wrap the game up but, with seven minutes remaining, King went through and calmly slotted the ball past the keeper to give Tring hope.
The visitors pressed for an equaliser but Hertford ran down the clock by keeping the ball by the corner flag before the referee finally blew his whistle.