GRANTHAM Town restored their three-point lead at the top of the Evo-Stik League Division One South with a hard fought win over a determined Rainworth side.
Evo-Stik Northern Premier League
Division One South
Rainworth Miners Welfare 1
Grantham Town 2
After Rhys Lewis gave Grantham an early lead, Rainworth equalised and it took some quick thinking from Paul Grimes to win the game for Grantham in the second half.
The game was fiercely contested from the first whistle. Rainworth closed Grantham down quickly and never allowed the Gingerbreads to get into their stride. There was a good tempo to the game and it was Grantham who showed first.
Lee Potts ran at the Rainworth defence and delivered a good pass for Martin Ball. His shot was deflected for a Grantham corner which Rainworth defended well.
Two minutes later, the Gingerbreads went in front. Mr Hopton awarded them a disputed free kick. The delivery to the far post was met by Lewis and he squeezed the ball over the line for an early lead. Grantham continued to dominate the early game and Grimes went close with a header after nine minutes.
Rainworth were bright and dangerous on the attack and they levelled the game after 15 minutes. Ryan Goward took on Potts and delivered a teasing cross. Rob Murray punched it away, but only back to Goward who came inside and fired a shot into the top corner of the net.
The home side could have taken the lead as they kept Grantham on their toes. On 19 minutes, Stephen Akers played a good through ball for Ben Spargo, but Sam Saunders was alert to the danger and cleared his lines well.
Grantham made chances of their own in an end to end game. Sam Saunders got forward to deliver a cross for Lewis who nodded the ball down for Ball on the edge of the Rainworth penalty area. He teed up Gio Carchedi, but his effort was saved by Alessandro Barcherini in the Rainworth goal.
Grantham thought they should have had a penalty in the 36th minute. Sam Saunders again delivered the ball into the danger zone. Grimes took it with his back to goal and appeared to be hauled to the ground by Steve Kennedy as Grimes tried to turn. Referee Mr Hopton turned a blind eye and waved play on.
The Gingerbreads finished the half strongly with a Potts free kick forcing Barcherini to punch away under pressure. Right on the stroke of half time, Grantham held the ball up well and Ball played in Grimes, but he shot over the bar.
Sam Purcicoe got into good positions twice early in the second half. First he robbed Goward when he hesitated on the ball, but a poor final ball let Purcicoe down. Two minutes later, he gathered the ball and cut inside but shot wide.
The two sides exchanged chances. First Rainworth thought they had taken the lead. Grantham were opened up when Akers and Andy Toyne exchanged passes. Toyne played a perfect cross for Spargo to fire home, but the striker had strayed offside.
Purcicoe then played a long clearance for Grimes who made room to get a shot off, but Barcherini was equal to it. On 57 minutes, it was Murray’s turn to get in on the action as Danny Bacon and Spargo created a chance for Curtin Shaw, but Murray kept his strike out.
The winning goal came on 60 minutes. Another long clearance was chased down by Grimes. He just got there ahead of the Rainworth keeper and a defender and lifted his shot over both with just enough power to beat the covering man and run into the net.
Grimes began to cause headaches for the home side. He played a one-two with Carchedi, but his return was just too close to Barcherini. Then with 20 minutes remaining, he turned well on the edge of the Rainworth penalty area, but Barcherini was well placed to take his shot at the second attempt.
The home side struggled to create clear chances despite pushing Grantham all the way. A half chance for Spargo saw his effort fly harmlessly over the bar.
At the other end, Grantham had another penalty claim turned away when Tony Battersby went down under a challenge in the box, only to see Mr Hopton book him, interpreting his tumble as a dive.
As the game entered the last 10 minutes, Barcherini had to come off his line twice to pluck dangerous crosses out of the air as Grantham looked to seal the win. Lewis also got on to a good ball from Grimes but fired well over the bar.
Rainworth mounted a last ditch attempt to level the game again in the dying minutes. They threw on a third forward and when former Gingerbread Matt Glass beat Grant Brindley, he delivered a great cross for Spargo. His strike partner headed over the bar. Captain Steve Kennedy had the last chance for Rainworth, but his attempted overhead kick dropped well wide.
Grantham Town: Murray, Purcicoe, Potts, Brindley, S. Saunders, Watt, Lewis, Ball, Grimes (McGhee, 91), B. Saunders, Carchedi (Battersby, 70. Subs not used: Cann, Magee, Jacklin. Att: 174.