Tring Athletic’s superb run in the FA Vase came to an end in disappointing circumstances as hosts Sporting Khalsa won via a soft penalty 13 minutes from time.
Despite this very close defeat manager Ian Richardson paid tribute to his players, stating afterwards: “Our lads played very well during our FA Vase run and can feel proud at the way they played against Sporting Khalsa.
“It was gut wrenching at the way we went out but we have to bounce back with a win on Tuesday night at St Margaretsbury and start climbing back up the table.
“I would also like to thank the Tring Army for their great support on our cup run”.
As has been the case all through this year’s competition Athletic were drawn away and had a 200 mile round trip to Sporting Khalsa, based in Wolverhampton. The home side occupied fifth place in the Premier Division of the Midland Football League and were on a good run of form and were the bookies favourite to win the game.
The first half was testing for Athletic as the home side’s strategy seemed to rest on bombarding their penalty area with set pieces at every opportunity. The visitors faced a series of corners, long throws and free kicks aimed at their big players, of which there were quite a few. But this young Athletic side have demonstrated this season that they are made of stern stuff and they met the challenge head on.
There were some anxious moments for the visiting supporters but captain Dan Steadman and his colleagues managed to get their heads to the crosses and to block potential shots on target. Keeper Jack Hopwood also played his part showing a safe pair of hands and clawing away a couple of dangerous balls to the far post.
But as the half wore on and Athletic started to get the ball down and play they caused some real problems for the home defence particularly down the right through some fine link up play by Kieran Turner and Lee Stobbs, particularly in the 37th minute when the latter’s cross was agonisingly inches away from being touched home by Chris Vardy and Chris Stapleton.
As the half drew to a close the visitors started to look dangerous and from a fine move Luke Dunstan chipped a lovely ball to the far post forcing the keeper to tip his effort over the bar. From the corner Chris Vardy tried to flick the ball home from close range but thee keeper did well to put his effort over the bar.
There was a little flurry at the start of the second half with Chris Vardy just being unable to get his head to a Tommy Twelves cross and the home centre back Tesfa Robinson sending a powerful header over from a corner. But the intensity of the game dropped and neither side looked like scoring, as chances dried up and both keepers went untested.
A mistake or moment of brilliance was needed to settle the game and unfortunately for Athletic they lost their concentration with 13 minutes left on the clock to give away a silly penalty which Khalsa’s leading scorer David Meese converted.
Athletic tried to rouse themselves but their opponents were not about to let them off the hook and the visitors superb run in this years competition came to an end.
Athletic can look back with some pride at reaching the fourth round for the first time in their history. They had to do it the hard way, being drawn away in every round and taking seven games to reach this stage.
Due to their cup success Athletic have fallen behind on their league fixtures and have a backlog of games to get through starting on Tuesday with a trip to St Margaretsbury before returning to cup action again on Saturday with a trip to Aston Clinton (kick off 2pm) for a Challenge Trophy game.
SK: 1 Tom Turner 2 Joe Rogers 3 Jonny Haynes 4 Brad Lawley 5 Tesfa Robinson (Capt) 6 Michael Perks 7 Fabrice Kasiama (12 Mensah Kingh 64) 8 David Meese 9 Craig Bannister (14 Yusifu Ceesay 64) 10 Marvin Nisbett 11 Luke Shearer (16 Matt Martin 82). Subs not used: 15 Tim Jackson 17 Aaron Perrin.
TA: 1 Jack Hopwood 2 Tommy Twelves 3 Chris Mason (12 Jamie Warne 86) 4 Luke Dunstan 5 Dan Steadman (Capt) (14 George Brinkman 86) 6 Dave O’Connor 7 Lee Stobbs (15 George Carbery 75) 8 Sam Joliffe 9 Chris Vardy 10 Kieran Turner 11 Chris Stapleton. Subs not used: 16 Aaron Nash Baker 17 Ben Seaton.
SK: David Meese Pen (77)