FA Vase hangover appears to be holding back Athletic
After their historic run to the last-16 of the FA Vase, Tring Athletic returned to the more prosaic requirement of collecting league points on Saturday to move away from the lower end of the SSML Premier Division table.
Facing bottom side Stotfold, they blew their opportunity to put some distance over their Bedfordshire rivals after a 4-2 loss and now find themselves mired in a relegation dog fight.
Having been without a game for two weeks due to bad weather, the Athletic players were not switched on from kick-off and paid an early price when a simple move set free Joseph Ryan who produced a nice first-time finish to put visitors Stotfold in front with less than a minute gone.
That early set-back jolted the hosts into a response and an equaliser soon arrived when Elliott Goward and Chris Vardy set up Jack Read who finished smartly to level the scores in the 14th minute.
The visitors were lively more than threatening in the first-half but looked a different proposition in the second period, helped by an Athletic side who started to look lethargic.
Stotfold retook the lead in the 63rd minute when their young forward Kieran Barnes volleyed home after the home defence failed to clear their lines properly.
Barnes doubled his tally in the 80th minute from the penalty spot then claimed his hat-trick four minutes later when he beat the Athletic offside trap and coolly slotted the ball home to set Stotfold well on their way to their first ever victory in Tring.
Athletic substitute Jack Sunderland added some much-needed urgency to the home attack and was rewarded with a goal three minutes from time to make it 4-2, but it proved to be too little too late for an Athletic team that failed to rouse themselves in the second-half.
This was a very disappointing performance and result for Athletic, who will need to pick themselves up after back-to-back reverses.
They now lie bottom-but-one in the standings, only two points ahead of Stotfold.
However, just four points separate the four sides ahead of Tring in the table so a few wins in a row could fire them up the table.
They will now have an opportunity to claim vital points over their fellow strugglers in the next two outings.
Tring were due to travel to 15th-ranked Colney Heath last night (Tuesday), as the Gazette was going to press, then they entertain 16th-placed London Tigers this Saturday.