GRANTHAM Town’s promotion hopes came crashing down at the final hurdle on Bank Holiday Monday.
The Gingerbreads destroyed Newcastle Town 3-0 in last Thursday’s Evo-Stik League Division One South play-off semi-final to set up the all or nothing final at Rushall Olympic which decided who would join Barwell in promotion to the Northern Premier League.
Unfortunately it was not to be Grantham’s day and the West Midlands home side took victory with two second half goals in the space of a five minute period.
Town joint manager Jimmy Albans said that his side had slipped up in not making more of several goal scoring opportunities in the first half, whereas Rushall capitalised fully on their two chances after the break.
Albans said: “Fair play to them. We didn’t really test their keeper in the whole 90 minutes.
“They probably adapted to the conditions better than we did. The wind was swirling and maybe home advantage was the difference.”
Grantham chairman Steve Boam said the club’s board of directors had hoped for a top 10 finish this season and that the team had exceeded all expectations by finishing fifth and making the play-off final.
Mr Boam said: “The run-in to the end of the season has been absolutely fantastic. It was just one match too far unfortunately. Disappointment is an understatement. We are all a bit gutted really.”
Mr Boam expressed gratitude to the Gingerbreads’ players and management for the entertainment given throughout, and loyal supporters for turning out in such numbers.
The queue to the turnstiles snaked out into the car park even as the game kicked off on Monday, and Town fans made up the majority of the 750-plus attendance, with a legion of Grantham followers lining the entire perimeter of Rushall’s modest ground.
With the turn around in Grantham’s fortunes this season, joint boss Wayne Hallcro said that the club had given fans something to cheer about. He said: “With a bit of success, everything has come on leaps and bounds. We said we wanted to achieve an atmosphere where everyone is pulling together and we have certainly got to that position.
“The fans obviously enjoyed us doing well and we look forward to providing more of that feeling next season.”
Already looking to the Gingerbreads’ next campaign, Hallcro said that Grantham are now recognised as a force in the league and are seen as one of the favourites to win the title in 2012.
Hallcro said: “I think we have possibly under-achieved this season given what we have done in the last 30 league games.
“Whatever happens next season, we will be under more pressure than we were this season to get results. The expectation at the club will be heightened. I do expect that we will come across some teams who will set up differently against us because of what they expect from us. It is down to us to have the flexibility to deal with that.”