Tring Athletic stalwart Sam Joliffe achieved the milestone of 200 games for the club against Harefield United on Saturday and was able to celebrate the occasion with a 2-1 win thanks to the contribution of two teenage colleagues.
Goals from 17-year-old Ben Seaton and a last gasp winner from 19-year-old Jay Caines sealed a fortuitous win a Harefield side who will feel aggrieved that they left Tring empty handed in their fight to avoid relegation.
Athletic enjoyed a big advantage in terms of possession and territory in the first half but failed to open up the visitors’ massed defence.
Their best moves involved Kieran Turner, who set up presentable chances for Caines and Ryan Sturges who both failed to find the target.
At the other end, the visitors focused their attack through their giant centre-forward Melford Simpson who proved to be a handful all afternoon.
He neatly set up fellow forward Perry Dicker who was denied by a super save from keeper Matt Evans, before Simpson headed home a corner in the 16th minute to put United 1-0 up.
Fortunately for Athletic it took them only four minutes to equalise when Seaton’s speculative long shot looked unlikely to cause any problems until it hit a divot and bounced past the startled keeper.
Athletic continued to have the better of the play but only tested the opposition once when the keeper beat away a fierce shot from Turner.
Evans had to twice dash off his line to clear potential danger and Athletic had a let off when Simpson fired a shot just wide of the far post.
There was a sea change from the restart, with the visitors adopting a more attacking approach, and for much of the second half the game was more evenly balanced.
Neither side created any clear cut chances and the game appeared to be drifting towards a draw as the clock reached 90 minutes.
But there was a sting in the tail when Dave O’Connor’s header from the keeper’s clearance sent Caines away, and the youngster calmly slotted the ball past the keeper for a late dramatic winner.
This was not Tring at their best and Harefield will feel with some justification that they deserved at least a point. But although the performance was a little flat Athletic will be pleased that the victory pushed them up two places to eighth in the SSML Premier Division table.
Tring Athletic: 1 Matt Evans, 2 Stuart Stedman (Ryan McMahon), 3 Chris Mason, 4 Ben Seaton, 5 Jack Seaton, 6 David O’Connor, 7 Ryan Sturges (Jack Westlake), 8 Sam Joliffe, 9 Taylor Collins (Chris Blunden), 10 Kieran Turner, 11 Jay Caines.
Tring will have to improve considerably before they entertain fourth placed Hertford Town tomorrow night and again on Saturday when they make the trip to Bedford.
In between they have a home St Marys Cup game on Wednesday night when they play Bushey Sports, which will entail making full use of the first and reserve team squads.