Sam Joliffe celebrated his 26th birthday with two goals that came at crucial times to see Tring Athletic through in the FA Vase on Saturday. in this absorbing cup tie.
His first in this absorbing tie was an equaliser and the second put Athletic in pole position against a gallant Winslow side.
There was also a well taken goal from Ryan Sturges and a brilliant finish from Chris Vardy which ensured Athletic’s name goes into the hat for Monday’s draw.
The final 4-1 scoreline suggests an emphatic win for the visitors but Winslow put up a sterling fight in front of a decent crowd of 103.
They led 1-0 at half time and battled throughout, and although Athletic dominated most of the second half they only succumbed in the latter stages when the visitors’ quality finally told.
Winslow have had a mixed start to their season, lying 14th in SSML Division 1, but they won 6-4 in the previous round and it was clear from the start that they were a better team than their league position and results suggested.
Athletic are notoriously slow starters and it took them a while to settle so the game was evenly balanced during the early stages.
Despite a fine late Summer/early Autumn day there was a strong breeze blowing down the pitch into the faces of the Athletic players and this caused them problems from long balls down the middle and set pieces. It was therefore no surprise that the first genuine scoring opportunity should arise from a corner midway through the first half when Winslow skipper Ryan Freshwater’s fine header produced a good save from keeper Jack Hopwood.
Chris Vardy forced a good save from home keeper Carl Know and soon afterwards the same player headed a cross from Ryan Sturges wide.
In the 31st minute the home side produced the first real moment of quality in the game when their leading scorer Drew Mitton played a sumptuous pass inside the full back to Grant Karwacinski who finished with aplomb to put Winslow into the lead.
This seemed to stir Tring who stepped up their game with Chris Vardy and Sam Joliffe shooting wide. Just before half time Athletic carved open the home defence and should have equalised, but Jack Sunderland screwed his shot just wide of the far post.
Athletic are always a different proposition after their half time cuppa and from the restart they took control of the game. Their equaliser came in the 55th minute when Luke Dunstan set up Sam Joliffe who rammed the ball past the keeper.
Five minutes later Athletic took the lead with a special piece of play from leading scorer Chris Vardy. His speed enabled him to beat the keeper to a through pass who forced him wide, but despite the very acute angle he half volleyed the ball into the net. It was a terrific finish and put Athletic ahead for the first time in the game.
Athletic were hogging possession but their failure to find a killer third goal kept the game still in the balance. A Richard Armstrong header and a volley from Charlie Flanagan were both just off target and this seemed to give the home side hope of staying in the tie. With just a few minutes remaining came a defini9ng moment in the game with Jack Hopwood repelling a volley from James Davy.
With time almost up Adam Scotcher was pulled back and Sam Joliffe rammed home the penalty to give Athletic a commanding lead.
Three minutes into added time Ryan Sturges fired home a good shot from 25 yards to finally put the game to bed.
Athletic were made to work hard for their victory and they will be pleased to have come through a tough tie and book themselves a place in the next round.
Athletic have a Tuesday night trip to Cockfosters, who have made a good start to the season and are fourth in the table, then on Saturday they entertain Stotfold.
WU: 1 Carl Knox 2 Alex Iyenger 3 Hateley Mercer 4 Ryan Freshwater (Capt) 5 Ben Baines 6 Richard Armstrong 7 Geno Tosolari (17 James Davey) 8 Ollie Goulding 9 Drew Mitton 10 Charlie Flanagan 11 Grant Karwacinski. Subs not used: 12 Chris Setterfield 14 Leo Brooks 15 Carl Clay 16 Michael Reed.
TA: 1 Jack Hopwood 2 Jack Seaton 3 James Banfield (14 Stuart Stedman 85) 4 Luke Dunstan 5 Dan Steadman (Capt) 6 Lessa Boka (16 George Carbery 70) 7 Ryan Sturges 8 Sam Joliffe 9 Chris Vardy 10 Jack Sunderland (15 Adam Scotcher 70) 11 George Brinkman . Subs not used: 12 Callum Gregory
WU: Grant Karwacinski (31)
TA: Sam Joliffe (55, Pen 89), Chris Vardy (60), Ryan Sturges (90+3)