Something had to give at the David Wilson Homes Ground last night . . . and it was Godmanchester Rovers’ perfect start to the season.
Ollie Drake’s men saw their winning streak brought to an end by fellow fast-starters Histon in a Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division showdown between two teams tipped to be title contenders.
It provided a clash of contrasting styles with the brawn of Histon’s musclemen - “What do you expect, they’re a team full of personal trainers,” quipped one knowledgable watcher - proving too much for the footballing finesse of their hosts.
A 3-1 victory for the away side meant the spoils headed back down the A14 (or more likely down some Cambridgeshire back-roads to be more accurate given the current night-time road closures) and there could be no complaints about that outcome.
Rovers were the better team in a first half which featured a trade of dubious goals, but Histon were far superior in the second period when only home goalkeeper Niall Conroy and his woodwork denied them a greater margin of victory.
Jack Chandler, Rovers’ leading scorer last season, headed against the bar early on before the hosts fell behind as Histon highlighted their considerable threat at set-pieces.
Big Evan Key headed down a deep corner for the even bigger Ed Rolph to hook home over his shoulder while stood with his back to goal.
Rovers’ defending could have been better. So could referee Andrew Gray’s decision-making they felt. The home side were adamant they should have had a goal kick when the corner was given.
But Rovers weren’t behind for long - just five minutes in fact - as Chandler pounced from point-blank range to get a touch to a Matty Allan volley from a corner.
The assistant referee’s flag was initially raised with Chandler looking to be offside, but the goal was allowed to stand following a discussion with referee Gray.
Rovers captain Micky Hyem and dual-signed striker James Hall were both unable to make the most of good shooting chances as the hosts looked the more dangerous team in the remainder of the opening half.
But Histon seized the initiative in the second period during an aerial bombardment.
Max York saw one header from a corner crash back off the underside of the bar befoe another was kept out by a fine Conroy stop.
But there was no stopping Rolph from restoring their lead midway through the half as Histon turned defence into attack in a split-second.
A clearance from inside their own box sent Rolph away and he breezed last last Rovers defender Tom Spark before coolly finishing last Conroy. It was an expertly-taken goal from a player who looks to be a cut above this level of football.
And Rovers’ fate was sealed a few minutes later when Dan Brown made no mistake at the second attempt after seeing his initial effort - from a deep, diagonal cross by ex-Godmanchester man Lewis McDonald - saved by Conroy.
Rovers weren’t helped by central defender Charlie Bowen picking up an injury which eventually forced him off, while the absence of Arran Mackay (a man with the height to look the Histon forwards in the eye) didn’t help either.
Any faint hopes of a late comeback were scuppered when Rovers substitute Ben Yeomans was sent off for shoving Histon defender Jamie Chivers to the deck after being on the receiving end of an ugly challenge - one which earned Chivers a caution.
Battering ram Rolph burst through again late on but fired over when having the chance to complete a hat-trick.
The damage had already been done, though, with the manner of Rovers’ setback clearly a concern for boss Ollie Drake who wasn’t prepared to use the absence of three or four important players as an excuse.
The size of the crowd - 256 - will have been a positive for Rovers on a night where they didn’t get the result or performance they wanted.
They return to action in another big Friday game when going to Premier Division rivals Thetford on August 24 in the preliminary round of the FA Cup.