Once inside, however, the ground has a tight and atmospheric feel to it. Along the car park side is the club house (including the tea bar), the players and officials areas and the rather magnificent and unique David Evans Stand. The seating area in this structure is raised high above pitch-level, looking out over the dug outs to the playing surface. I don't think I have seen another structure like it anywhere. To the left of the David Evans Stand there is a low covered area which has a single row of seats bolted onto it.
On to the game itself. After an initial period of sparring between the sides the game sprang into life in the 11th minute. Tring were awarded a free-kick halfway inside the Dunstable half. As they took the kick it was charged down by Lorenzo Silvestri, who was clearly no more than a few yards from the ball. Neither the referee or his assistant, who was less than 20 yards from the incident, deemed it to be an offence and Dunstable immediately broke downfield forcng a corner. The resultant cross from the left caused chaos in the Tring box and, after the home keeper saved one effort, the rebound was finally smashed home from close range by centre-half George Biggadike. A controversial passage of play which did not go down well with the home contingent.
Tring, however, picked themselves up and tried to get a passing game together. This looked quite good at times, especially in the midfield area but, once they pushed a little further forward, the passes went astray and the forward line looked a little toothless in all honesty. The away side, in contrast, tended to be a little more direct, not a long ball team but certainly wanting to hit the front two earlier. This tactic was causing problems for Tring throughout the half. The two up front for Dunstable supported ably by their two attacking midfielders were pacy, direct and showed that they had a little more experience than their counterparts. Testament to this was the shout from a Tring defender after their midfield had once again seen a pass go astray 'come on guys, give us a rest at the back'. However, they did hold out and, at half-time, it remained Tring Athletic 0 AFC Dunstable 1.
The second half started with Tring looking slightly brighter than in the first half but still not really testing the Dunstable defence and certainly were not troubling the visiting keeper. However, a series of events 15 minutes into the half sparked the game into life. First of all Dunstable took off Silvestri, who had been a major thorn in the side of the home defence all game. Then Tring made an unusually bold triple substitution, something rarely seen at any level of the game. Finally, a challenge in midfield where a Dunstable player appeared to lead with his elbow, sparked a small fracas which the referee had to step in to calm down. I have to say, from my vantage point just a few yards from the incident, I thought the Dunstable player was lucky not to see red. Although I am sure there was no intent to injure, he did lead with his elbow and contact was made.
This event, or maybe a combination of all three, seemed to galvanise Tring. Suddenly they had a spring in their step, were winning the 50-50 balls and passes were hitting their mark. Within a couple of minutes they had their reward when a driven free-kick from their left was met by a glancing header from Chris Vardy and, via a deflection, nestled in the far corner. So, with around 25 minutes to go it was all square and game on.
Almost immediately after the Tring equaliser Dunstable broke up the other end and very nearly snatched the lead back when a through ball was latched onto by a Dunstable striker who beat the keeper only to see his effort go wide of the far post on go for a goal kick. It was nip and tuck for the next 10 minutes, with Tring probably shading it in contrast to their first half performance. Saying that, they still looked a little vulnerable at the back and almost paid the price when Silvestri's replacement, Francis, beat the keeper only to see his shot clip the post and go for a goal kick.
Then with less than 10 minutes remaining Dunstable won a free-kick on their right wing close to the edge of the 18 yard box. The kick was lofted to the far post and met with a powerful Fryer header, much to the consternation of the home support at that end of the ground. I heard later from a number of them that the scorer was in an offside position and that the referee and the assistant had clear enough views to have spotted it. However, I was at the other end of the ground and cannot comment myself.
It was a little harsh on Tring after their second half showing, where they matched and probably edged their high-flying opponents. Still, that's football. There was plenty of injury time to play after an injury to a Dunstable player who was stretchered off but, thankfully, re-appeared from the changing rooms later, hobbling somewhat, but otherwise ok as far as I could see.
Dunstable capably played out the remainder of the game and claimed the win, which takes them to within a point of the top. They ultimately won this game due to their greater experience. There was a feeling, throughout the game, that their players had 'been around' this level more than the Tring players. Having said that, Tring showed signs of being a good side. Their passing was, at times, very neat and the way they upped their game in the second half showed that they can mix it with the best in the league.
Tring Athletic - @tringathletic
AFC Dunstable - @afcdunstable