Grantham Town have virtually got one hand on the NPL Integro League Cup after they defeated Clitheroe 2-1 at The Meres on Tuesday night.
The Gingerbreads were, not surprisingly, the dominant side throughout, although the Division One North outfit were no pushovers and played a tidy game of football at times.
Town were a goal to the good at half time and doubled their advantage straight after the break, but the visitors did not roll over and replied to make for a tense and exciting final half hour.
The game started in a fast and furious manner, almost too quickly as both sides struggled to control the ball, such was the pace.
Grantham had early chances through a Harry Clifton drive and a Rhys Lewis header over the bar, before Clitheroe conceded a penalty after Charlie Russell fouled Lee Shaw in the box. Luke Shaw stepped up to take the spot kick and struck it down the middle where it was stopped by goalkeeper Chris Thompson.
Undaunted, the Gingerbreads continued their assault on the visitors’ goal, with wave after wave of attacks.
A fleet-footed Jeremiah Dasaolu caused the Clitheroe defence some problems, whilst his captain Stefan Galinski drove a decent opportunity over the bar in the 17th minute.
A couple of counter attacks tested Town keeper Kieran Preston’s mettle 10 minutes later, but he showed a safe pair of hands both times.
Grantham were finally rewarded for their persistence in the 34th minute when Lee Shaw’s flick from Dasaolu’s hopeful ball into the box looped over Thompson and into the back of the net.
Lee Shaw had a chance to double Town’s lead two minutes before the break, but he was somehow unable to get a touch to Danny Meadows’ excellent squared ball across the face of goal.
The Gingerbreads had Clitheroe on the back foot straight from the restart and soon doubled their advantage in the 47th minute. Luke Shaw took a short corner to Danny Meadows who returned the pass to Luke, who in turn returned the ball to Danny who whipped in a cross which found Lee Shaw who glanced the ball home.
Lee Shaw again could have extended the lead further five minutes later, but Thompson did well to block his close range effort.
And that felt like a good chance squandered two minutes later when the visitors reduced the deficit to a single goal. Grantham were caught out by a looping cross that found Kurt Willoughby in space, and he fired in under Preston to the delight of the travelling support.
However, Clitheroe showed little going forward after that and the unrelenting Gingerbreads continued to dominate with a battling performance.
In the 58th minute, Curtis Burrows put in a good cross to Dasaolu in the box, but his left foot volley flew over the Clitheroe bar.
Lee Shaw had the ball in the net in the 69th minute but the offside flag denied him a hat trick on the night, as did a Clitheroe defender two minutes later as Shaw frantically chased a Felipe Barcelos feed to the goal mouth.
Substitute Barcelos’ 78th minute shot was tipped wide by Thompson, whilst the Brazilian striker’s blushes were saved by his own keeper, Preston, five minutes later. A soft pass by Barcelos was picked up quickly by Clitheroe and crossed to sub Adam Bolton whose header brought a top drawer catch by Preston under the cross bar.
Grantham played out the final minutes confidently, with that man Lee Shaw again having the last real goal scoring opportunity, outwitting the visitors’ defence in style before being denied once again by Thompson.
The Gingerbreads’ opponents in the league cup final will be either Buxton or Bamber Bridge who play on Thursday night.
Grantham Town: Preston, Wildin, Burrows, Purcicoe, Galinski (c), Meadows, Clifton, Lewis, Dasaolu (Barcelos 63), Lee Shaw, Luke Shaw. Subs not used: Curtis, Gibbons, Storey, Martin. Att: 234.