Battle royal – Grantham Town keep play-off hopes alive in tense victory over Belper

Tempers boil over in Grantham Town's nail-biting encounter with  Belper at The Meres on Saturday. Photo: 335B
Tempers boil over in Grantham Town's nail-biting encounter with Belper at The Meres on Saturday. Photo: 335B

Evo-Stik League

Division One South

Grantham Town 2

Belper Town 1

GRANTHAM Town kept their play-off ambitions well and truly alive with a blood and guts performance that had home supporters biting their nails down to the quick at a sun-drenched Meres.

The Gingerbreads went behind but levelled before half time, and had to wait until the dying minutes to grab the winner, courtesy of super substitute Rob Norris.

Grantham’s Jamie McGhee made a promising run down the centre of the pitch as early as the fifth minute but fired his shot just wide of the post. Team-mate Rhys Lewis headed Lee Thompson’s corner kick away from the danger zone at the other end two minutes later, seconds before Belper skipper Jon Froggatt teed up a volley that sailed wide of the mark.

Grantham found themselves penned in their own half in the early exchanges although Gio Carchedi managed to break away and his cross-shot was not too far off target. Gingerbreads keeper Rob Murray safely gathered Froggatt’s 15th minute shot and a minute later Matt Plant’s header beat Murray but struck the crossbar.

Grantham captain Ben Saunders needed only the slightest of touches to put his side in front in the 20th minute but somehow managed to put his effort wide. The hard-fought tussle continued at apace. Sam Purcicoe’s 30th minute cross-shot went close for Grantham but a minute later Belper were ahead when Daryll Thomas headed in Froggatt’s cross.

Tempers frayed shortly after the restart with referee Mr Harvey yellow-carding two players per side after a midfield fracas.

The enforced delay did Grantham no harm and they equalised in the 40th minute. McGhee’s 20yd effort was given a cheeky tap in by Ben Saunders which beat Belper keeper Allesandro Barcherini.

Ben Saunders’ 43rd minute header veered off target and Carchedi’s shot was accurate but lacked venom. Belper had a chance to regain the lead deep into first half injury time but Jamie Smith managed to thump the ball over from close range.

Grantham looked a little docile immediately after the break, allowing Froggatt bags of time and space to tee up what looked to be a virtually unmissable volley from the edge of the 6yd box, but an embarrassing miskick brought whoops of delight from the home crowd as the Belper captain’s boot struck thin air.

Belper’s Charlie Weir volleyed over in the 50th minute and at the other end, Carchedi fired into the ground towards goal but the ball bounced straight into the arms of Barcherini.

Grantham had another let-off a couple of minutes later when Thomas fired over from close range, and Barcherini saved twice in succession at the other end, halting Chris Glarvey’s fizzer and tipping Carchedi’s effort from the rebound past the post.

Belper went close again in the 62nd minute when Wiggins-Thomas outwitted the Grantham defence but saw his shot bounce wide of the far upright. The end to end exchanges continued and Barcherini was forced to tip a Glarvey volley over the bar.

Substitute Norris made his presence known fairly soon and Barcherini had to dab his dangerous 77th minute curling cross from danger. Purcicoe struck the post two minutes later.

With the Gingerbreads supporters still urging them on every step of the way, Matt Glass’s hopeful 86th minute bicycle kick went askew and with the clock ticking down, a share of the points looked to be Grantham’s only reward for their afternoon’s toil.

But then with a minute remaining, Belper failed to clear danger in their penalty area and Norris was there to rocket in a volley to the deafening roars of the Meres faithful.

Grantham Town: Murray, Purcicoe, Potts, Asher, S. Saunders, Watt, Lewis, Glarvey (Millns, 71), McGhee (Glass, 71), B. Saunders, Carchedi (Norris, 71). Subs not used: Dyson, Beardsley. Att: 211.