Athletic reclaim the top spot

Tring Athletic's Jon Clements, pictured here receiving a club player of the month award from secretary Bob Winter earlier this term netted the winner against Biggleswade United on Saturday.
Tring Athletic's Jon Clements, pictured here receiving a club player of the month award from secretary Bob Winter earlier this term netted the winner against Biggleswade United on Saturday.

Tring Athletic leaped over Hadley to take top spot on goal difference after a fine 4-1 win over Stotfold on Saturday as the race for promotion heats up in the SSML Premier.

Athletic now have nine games left and their biggest challenge is likely to come from third-placed Biggleswade FC, who are three points behind but have two games in hand.

Fourth-ranked Biggleswade United are also in the hunt but are five points adrift having played one game more.

Tring’s final two games are against the two Biggleswade outfits, so an exciting end to the season awaits.

After a blip at the start of 2019, when Tring picked up only one point from three outings, Athletic have found their form at the right time, with 13 points from their last five.

This has coincided with the arrival of Jon Clements from Welwyn Garden City, who put on another star display with two goals against Stotfold.

On paper, it looked a mismatch on Saturday with hosts Tring sitting in second place while the visitors were propping up the table having won just three times all term.

But the recent arrival of new manager Marce Collington has galvanised Stotfold and they came into this fixture in good form, with just three defeats from nine encounters, including a morale-boosting 1-1 draw at title favourites Biggleswade FC.

Stotfold did not start like a team facing relegation, showing plenty of intent to get forward and took the lead in the 15th minute when Tring failed to clear a cross and midfielder Jermaine Francis took advantage to slot his shot home.

Athletic spurned a few chances but found an equaliser six minutes’ later when George Ironton showed some fine skills wide on the left before finding the head of James Verney with his cross for the youngster’s sixth goal in ten games.

The hosts went 2-1 ahead with a superbly-worked goal on 37 minutes. KieranTurner picked out Clements’ intelligent run into the box with a precise pass which Clements nonchalantly flicked past the keeper for a quality finish.

Clements made it 3-1 four minutes before half-time when he ran onto a long ball and calmly slotted past the keeper to take his tally to three goals from five starts.

After a lively and entertaining first-half the second period was more stodgy.

But Athletic wrapped up a very satisfactory afternoon with a fourth goal three minutes into added time when Turner produced another fine pass to release Clements, who unselfishly turned down an opportunity for a hat-trick by passing the ball to Lee Stobbs to slot into an empty net.

The victory built on last Tuesday night’s 1-0 home triumph over London Colney, which came thanks to an 85th-minute Turner penalty.

After Saturday’s win, Tring boss Ian Richardson said: “It was a great response from the boys after going 1-0 behind.

“You can see in the dressing room after the game that they have a great belief that we can still win this title.”

Next up for Athletic is a trip to seventh- placed Baldock Town this Saturday.