Chief poacher Chris Vardy grabbed a dramatic late winner in Tring Athletic’s 3-2 win at home to Stotfold on Saturday.
It was joy for the home side but tough for the visitors who came from behind twice to level the score and did enough to warrant something out of the SSML Premier clash.
Athletic were not at their best but worked hard and kept going to the end and were ultimately rewarded for their efforts and commitment.
They got off to a great start when George Brinkman curled home a free kick from just outside the box in the third minute.
Athletic had two great chances to extend their lead with the keeper, aided by a defender, just managing to deny Ryan Sturges. Vardy rounded the keeper and pulled the ball back to George Carbery but again a defender just managed to deny the 19 year old.
The home side were in the ascendancy but were punished for their profligacy when Stotfold equalised in the 33rd minute, Ben L’Honore finishing smartly after being set up by fellow forward Daniel Bond.
Encouraged by the goal, the visitors nearly took the lead a few minutes later when a free kick from L’Honore came off keeper Mark Richardson, who was standing in for the injured Jack Hopwood, and hit the woodwork.
The half ended on a sour note when the goalscorers Brinkman and L’Honore were sent off after a scuffle which seemed completely out of context with the mood of the match.
Athletic retook the lead in the 55th minute following some clever thinking by Vardy who caught the opposition defence napping with a quickly taken free kick that sent Carbery away. The former Berko player rounded the keeper and from a tight angle calmly slotted the ball into the net to open his account with Athletic.
With each side a player down it was no surprise that the game was more open and both keepers were called into action to make important saves. A defensive mistake by Athletic in the 78th minute presented the impressive Drew Cardines with an opportunity which he took to level the scores.
Visiting keeper Harry Pilsworth made a superb save to deny Carbery and with the game entering the third minute of added time a draw seemed the logical conclusion until Vardy intervened, with the help of a deflection off a defender, to score his eighth goal of the season.
The three points pushed Athletic up three places to seventh in the table with a game or two in hand over the teams above. The victory also extended their unbeaten run to 10 games.
On Tuesday night Tring visit Colney Heath in the Herts Charity Shield then on Saturday they visit Hoddesdon Town in the Premier Division.
TA: 1 Mark Richardson 2 Jack Seaton 3 Jamie Warne (16 Chris Mason 73) 4 George Brinkman 5 Dan Steadman (Capt) 6 David O’Connor 7 Ryan Sturges (14 Jack Sunderland 73) 8 Sam Joliffe 9 Chris Vardy 10 George Carbery 11 Luke Dunstan . Subs not used: 12 James Banfield 15 Joe Naylor 17 Lessa Boka.
S: 1 Harry Pilsworth 2 Drew Cardines 3 Michael Simpson (14 Jordon Stewart 65) 4 Tobi Falodi (12 Collins Atrumram 73) 5 Michael Payne 6 Luke Burkett 7 Ben McMullen (15 Paul Morris 53) 8 Ashley Fitton (Capt) 9 Daniel Bond 10 Ben L’Honore 11 Jonny Butler.
TA: George Brinkman (3), George Carbery (55), Chris Vardy (90+3)
S: Ben L’Honore (33), Ashley Fitton (78)