A very early goal from Sun Sports was enough to inflict defeat on Tring Athletic in their SSML Premier Division match-up at The Grass Roots Stadium on Saturday.
After taking the scalp of league leaders Kings Langley in the previous game, Tring had the opportunity to inflict similar damage to second-placed Sun Sports’ title hopes.
However, a defensive mix-up presented Sun with an early goal and, despite a valiant effort to get back on level terms, Tring couldn’t find a way through the visitors’ solid defence.
Only 15 miles along the A41 separates the two clubs but, despite the geographical closeness, this was the first ever league encounter between them.
The visitors’ form had faltered recently, with just one win from their last four games, but they are one of the league’s highest scorers and are still very much in the hunt for the title so this was a testing match for Tring’s young guns.
With the festive season still in full swing, it was unfortunate that Tring should present their guests with a belated Christmas present after just 97 seconds.
A rare misunderstanding among the Athletic defenders allowed a simple pass to reach Sports forward Nathan Pooley, who held off a challenge to fire his side into a very early lead.
Undeterred by this set-back, the Tring players rolled up their sleeves and competed on an equal footing against their lofty opponents.
Stuart Stedman collected a cross from Luke Dunstan after a fine move down the right and fired a shot just over.
Sun went even closer in the 18th minute when centre-back Scott Bonner thumped a header from a free-kick against the bar.
There was little to choose between the two sides and it was Tring’s turn to hit the woodwork in the 37th minute when Dunstan and Ollie Hogg linked up nicely down the right flank with the former finding the head of Vinnie Iannone with an accurate cross.
Unluckily, though, the Tring forward’s header hit the post and bounced away to safety.
An even half came to a close but, crucially, Sun had a one-goal lead to hold on to after the interval.
Tring started the second period brightly, with Chris Vardy and Stedman whipping over excellent crosses from the left across the Sun area which were crying out for a finishing touch.
Neither keeper had been tested so far but Tring’s Jack Hopwood got down quickly to save a header from Ashley Lewis.
Taylor Collins lashed a long range effort just wide and, as the half progressed, Sun dropped deeper to protect their slim lead – relying on counter attacks to try and catch out the home side.
Hopwood tipped a free-kick away from goal and Stedman produced a couple of superb tackles to stop promising Sun moves, but generally Tring were dominating possession and territory.
During the last 15 minutes or so it was all one way traffic, but Tring could not get through the Sun defence and the visitors held on for a narrow win.
It was a disappointing result for Tring, but manager Julian Robinson will be pleased that his young side competed on an equal basis with a side seven places above them in the table.
In the end it was a unusual error from a normally reliable defence that proved to be the difference.