HARTLEY Wintney moved to within touching distance of the Combined Counties League Premier Division crown with an excellent 1-0 win against in form Epsom and Ewell.
The leaders travelled to High Road, Chipstead to play the ground sharing hosts Epsom & Ewell, knowing they were in for a tough encounter.
The Salts had an impressive record of nine wins and a draw over the last ten matches and indeed were unbeaten at home in the league since August 2016.
However, it was Hartley who had the first effort after three minutes.
A long accurate pass down the middle by Tom Walsh found Luke Perkins who was just unable to force home his shot from a tight angle.
The Row were looking to take the High Road to succeed with a series of set piece long throws from Marc Vockins. Each throw presented much danger to the home goal. On 25 minutes a Vockins throw saw Shane Hollomby rise highest and head narrowly wide.
Two minutes later, Epsom had a chance following a high ball into the Hartley area. Jake Maddock partially cleared but the ball fell to Jordan Gallagher who quickly fed Matt Fernando who shot wide.
The Salts had a good spell of pressure and on 30 minutes good play down the left between Matt Tanton and Agi Panaylotou, set up Reisse Griffin.
The midfielder’s shot beat Maddock all the way, and the Row were relieved to see the ball crash off the outside of the post.
On 37 minutes Hartley had a chance following a well worked short throw on the right. The cross from Dean Stow found Liam Eagle who saw his fierce shot blocked.
Two minutes later the Row broke the deadlock.
A long throw from Vockins was headed on by Eagle to Sam Argent. Sorting his feet out quickly the striker turned quickly and fired low into the net.
Hartley almost got the perfect start to the second period, Luke Perkins created space on the right side of the penalty box on 46 minutes and appeared to be hauled down by a defender.
The referee waved play on and Perkins quickly regained possession.
His cross found Argent whose low shot was pushed around the post by Salts goalkeeper Michael Eacott.
On 50 minutes another long throw from Vockins found the head of Liam Eagle who headed wide.
Nine minutes later, Epsom were awarded a free-kick just outside the penalty box. Fernando took it, but found Maddock well positioned to save.
The Salts started to exert considerable pressure and on 61 minutes a corner from Rob Hendry found the head of Dan Dean who was off target with his effort. Four minutes later, after constant home pressure, Reisse Griffen on the right created a chance for Gallagher who brought out a good save from Maddock.
On 75 minutes, the Row had a let off when Maddock was forced to head clear a long ball just outside his area.
His clearance found Rob Hendry who was wide with his lob towards the unguarded goal.
Two minutes later, a long free-kick into the Hartley penalty box found the head of Dan Dean.
His header across goal found James Taylor who headed just over.
The final whistle came as a great relief to Hartley. News soon came through that nearest rivals Westfield had scored a late goal to win over Windsor, meaning the league winning champagne will have to remain on ice until at least one more match.
After the game, joint manager Anthony Millerick said: “The dry surface made fluent play difficult for both teams. We knew this was a difficult match with the hosts recent form and excellent home record. Epsom and Ewell are a good team.
“It was not pretty at times, but sometimes you have to battle to get results. I was pleased the way the side stuck to their task under pressure.”
Millerick added: “We now put all our focus on the match next week against Horley Town in front of our own followers.”
Victory in this game would clinch the Combined Counties League Premier Division title and promotion.