Tring Athletic came from two goals behind to secure a memorable 3-2 derby victory over Leighton Town on Saturday.
A mere 11 miles separates the clubs but despite their close proximity this was the first competitive encounter between them, taking place in the SSML Premier.
With just over half an hour played Leighton Town must have been enjoying their first taste of the Grass Roots Stadium, having scored two goals without reply to put them in a dominant position and well on their way to their first win of the season.
But the visitors were in for a shock in the 20 minute period either side of half time as Athletic mounted a terrific fight back to turn the deficit into a 3-2 lead and take control of the game.
Athletic should have added to their tally in the second half, spurning some very good chances, but they still had enough in the tank to secure victory.
Athletic included new signing George Brinkman in their line-up and the former Barton Rovers player settled superbly into midfield and will be an asset to the team.
After their encouraging performance the previous Saturday against league leaders London Colney the Athletic supporters must have hoped for more of the same but it was the visitors who looked the better side in the early stages.
Leighton Captain Reece Williams produced the first shot at goal after only 52 seconds and a few minutes later Mitchell Hamilton got his head to a fine free kick that fortunately for Athletic went straight into the hands of their Keeper Jack Hopwood.
Athletic did respond with a shot from Chris Vardy that went wide of the far post but generally the visitors were looking the more dangerous.
In the 16th minute Leighton were rewarded for their positive start when their nippy winger Victor Osuba sped down the left and pulled the ball intelligently for Jordan Davis who converted the chance with a cool finish. A few minutes later the visitors should have doubled their lead following a cross from the right but somehow the Athletic defence managed to clear the danger.
Ryan Sturges had the chance to reduce the deficit when he latched onto a through ball but his lob over the keeper drifted wide of the empty net. Leighton centre forward Matt Bateman forced a good save out of Jack Hopwood but the home keeper could do nothing to prevent the same player firing a shot past him in the 28th minute for the second.
Athletic were still struggling to find their form but in the 37th minute they produced a move of some quality to give themselves a life line, with George Brinkman and Jack Seaton setting up Ryan Sturges who struck a superb volley past the keeper.
With their tails up Athletic went in search of an equaliser and Jack Seaton was again involved sending over a great cross that picked out Dave O’Connor who turned on a sixpence and smashed home the equaliser four minutes before half time.
Worse was to follow for Leighton 10 minutes into the second half when a shot from George Brinkman fell to Chris Vardy who calmly slotted the ball home.
Within less than 20 minutes the game had turned on its head with Athletic now bossing things and they should have added to their lead with Ryan Sturges and Sam Joliffe both missing great opportunities.
Not much was seen of the Leighton attack after the break but midway through the half Jordan Davis did test Jack Hopwood with a good shot. Dave O’Connor forced the visitors’ keeper into a fine diving save but with the clock ticking down and with Athletic holding a slender one goal lead the visitors did step up their game during the last 10 minutes.
Jack Hopwood was called into action to push away shots from Davis and Kai Gardner and there were some anxious moments for the home supports as the visitors won some last minute corners but their team were able to hold on and claim all three points which pushed them up to sixth in the table.
Athletic have another tough league match next Saturday when they face highly fancied Welwyn Garden City at the Grass Roots Stadium.
Tring Athletic: 1 Jack Hopwood 2 Jack Seaton 3 Chris Mason (12 Paul Jeffrey 69) 4 Luke Dunstan 5 Dan Steadman (Capt) 6 Lessa Boka 7 Ryan Sturges (16 Joe Naylor 86) 8 Sam Joliffe 9 Chris Vardy 10 David O’Connor 11 Gordon Brinkman (15 Kane Axton 76). Subs not used: 14 Lanrewajh Ladipo 17 Stuart Stedman.
Leighton Town: 1 Jack Sillitoe 2 Tom Roberts 3 Louis Norton 4 Craig Maisiri 5 Jack Elliot 6 Reece Williams (Capt) (14 Kai Gardner 87) 7 Matt Hewitt (12 Omololu Onabolu 72) 8 Mitchell Hamilton (15 James Towell 76) 9 Matt Bateman 10 Victor Osobu 11 Jordan Davis. Subs not used: 16 Craig McKay GK Brad Kirkwood.
Tring: Jordan Davis (16), Matt Bateman (28)
Leighton: Ryan Sturges (37), Dave O’Connor (41), Chris Vardy (55)