Tring Athletic booked their place in the second round of the SSML Challenge Trophy courtesy of a winning goal from birthday boy George Carbery, but Second Division Aston Clinton made life difficult for the visitors who didn’t help themselves by missing two penalties.
Less than five miles separates these two clubs but this was the first ever competitive encounter between them and the home side can feel proud that they pushed Athletic right to the final whistle, losing 2-1.
Aston got off to a terrific start with the classic case of ‘Sods Law’ that former players score against their old clubs and that is exactly what Neil Roberts did inthe fourth minute when he smashed home a superb free kick giving Athletic keeper Jack Hopwood no chance.
Unfortunately Roberts, who made 16 appearances for Athletic during the 2009/10 season, had to go off in the 37th minute with a hamstring problem.
Athletic responded immediately with Kieran Turner rifling a fierce shot just over and Dave O’Connor heading a presentable chance from a corner wide.
Kieran Turner was causing all sorts of problems for the home defence and he soon grabbed an equaliser. In the 16th minute Turner, who was making his second appearance since rejoining Athletic from Aylesbury FC, went on a trade mark run, cutting in from the left before shooting past the keeper for his 41st goal in 99 first team games for the club, a superb return for a midfielder.
Athletic started to get into their stride playing some nice football from the back and stretching the home defence. Opportunities were being created by the visitors with Chris Mason having a shot blocked in the area, Kieran Turner shooting just wide of the far post and Sam Joliffe forcing the keeper to save his free kick just under the bar.
Just past the half hour mark Athletic had a golden opportunity to turn their pressure into goals when keeper Liam Smith pole axed Luke Dunstan in the area. Smith was rather fortunate to get just a yellow card but it proved to be worthwhile sacrifice because Sam Joliffe smacked the penalty against the post.
Athletic kept pushing forward in the search of a second goal so they could go in at the break in front and four minutes into added time they achieved their aim. Kieran Turner slipped a lovely ball through to George Carbery who rounded the keeper and fired the ball home despite the presence of a defender on the line.
The visitors nearly made it three when Turner again found Carbery free in the area but the former Berko player, who was celebrating his 20th birthday, just could not quite add to his tally of seven goals since joining Athletic.
After an early set back Athletic responded well and went in at half time deservedly in front.
The Aston manager must have given a rousing half time team talk as they came out for the restart fired up and for 25 minutes they made life difficult for their opponents who struggled to get their passing game going.
Home centre forward Tom Brindley just failed to get on the end of a ball headed across the Athletic goal and from a long throw the Athletic defence blocked a dangerous shot. Aston were pushing forward forcing their opponents back on defence and keeper Jack Hopwood came out to make a good save from David Brown.
But gradually Athletic weathered the storm and started to get back into the game with Chris Mason producing a fine cross to the far post where Kieran Turner was unable to get a header on target. Athletic made a change bringing on highly rated youth team player Louis Walsh for his first team debut and the 16 year old quickly showed his promise with an intelligent pass to pick out Sam Joliffe who shot wide.
The game was still finely balanced but Athletic looked the more likely to score with Chris Vardy forcing a good save from the keeper who then palmed out a free kick from Sam Joliffe. Kieran Turner shot just wide and Chris Vardy cheekily tried to lob the keeper following a quick breakaway.
Bang on time Athletic had the chance to wrap things up when a defender grabbed Chris Vardy in the area. Vardy took the penalty himself but keeper Liam Smith made a super save to keep his sides hopes alive. Aston won a last minute corner but Athletic managed to hold on for a hard fought victory.
Full credit must go to Aston Clinton who put in a sterling performance and kept the tie alive to the very last moment. In the next round of this competition Athletic have a difficult away tie at Edgware Town, who are one of only three teams to have beaten them season.
Athletic entertain Bovingdon on Tuesday night in the St Marys Cup, then on Saturday they travel to Hornchurch to face FC Romania when they will hope to have some key players back for this important FA Vase game.
AC: 1 Liam Smith 2 Callum Jenkins (12 Jamie Philip 63) (14 Alex Smith 72) 3 Sam Austin 4 Neil Roberts (15 Teague Gallagher 37) 5 Alex McGowan (Capt) 6 Alec Bell 7 Tom Burton 8 Harrison Mann 9 Tom Brindley 10 David Brown 11 Lewis Workman. Sub not used: 16 Luke Russell.
TA: 1 Jack Hopwood 2 Tommy Twelves 3 Chris Mason 4 Luke Dunstan 5 Dan Steadman (Capt) 6 David O’Connor (12 Louis Walsh 66) 7 Jack Seaton 8 Sam Joliffe 9 Chris Vardy 10 Kieran Turner 11 George Carbery (15 Aaron Nash-Baker 79). Subs not used: 14 Stuart Stedman.