Lincolnshire County Shield
Grantham Town 4
Spalding United 2
GRANTHAM Town progressed to the semi-finals of the county competition after suffering a second-half comeback scare from a gutsy Tulips side.
The Gingerbreads were comfortably 2-0 up at half time but Spalding bounced back after the break, before Town rallied to regain composure in the last quarter of an hour.
Both sides looked for an early opening, with the visitors caught out by the offside flag time and again. Town’s Jamie McGhee had the first shot on target in the ninth minute and 60 seconds later Grantham went in front. Lee Potts whipped in a free kick and Martin Ball was able to get a free header and thumped the ball into the back of the net.
Spalding were not fazed and continued to look full of invention and running as they sought to get back into the game.
McGhee’s 25th minute opportunist shot forced United keeper Luke McShane to get down to smother his effort and a minute later he doubled Grantham’s lead with a good header over the flailing Spalding stopper.
Spalding were almost back in the game a couple of minutes later when Grantham keeper Rob Murray fluffed his challenge to leave an open goal but the United attacker chose to square the ball rather than shoot.
The United number 10 Simon Mowbray learnt from his mistake and in a 32nd minute copycat move down the right flank, he unleashed a shot that Murray was just able to get a hand to before his defence cleared the danger.
Rob Norris had a go from 30 yards for Town in the 34th minute but his shot rose steadily over the bar and eight minutes later, Murray was forced to get down low to save Liam Harrold’s cross-shot at the other end.
McGhee had a chance to double his tally with two minutes remaining but a Spalding defender managed to block his goalbound effort, with McShane well out of the equation.
Grantham substitute Paul Grimes made his presence known early in the second half, working well down the right before squaring to Norrise whose shot floated just wide of the far post. Grimes then had a go himself from just outside the box but was unsuccessful.
Spalding’s Jammal Shahin was allowed too much space in the Town 18yd box in the 52nd minute, giving him time aplenty to tee up his shot, but his curling effort went just wide of the post.
The warning signs were beginning to show as gaps in the Town defence became apparent. Spalding hit the post on the hour and Liam Hook’s half volley bounced through the penalty area and wide eight minutes later.
Five minutes further on, the Tulips got their reward. Ryan O’Loughlan’s corner kick found Hook who drove into the ground again to send an awkward ball into the box where Harrold was on hand to knock the ball into the net.
United drew level four minutes later when Mowbray headed in from a good O’Loughlan cross.
A penalty shoot-out looked to be a possibility but Grantham rallied well, regaining the advantage from an 83rd penalty, tucked away with confidence by Lee Potts following a handball by Spalding skipper Gary Pawson.
United continued to look dangerous and desperate defending was needed to clear the danger from another O’Loughlan corner kick.
Town sealed victory in the 87th minute after Grimes was fouled 25 yards out. The free kick crept dangerously into the centre of the Spalding penalty box where Grimes darted through to tuck away the winner.
Grantham had a couple more chances in added time, with Rhys Lewis hitting the bar from a lob and Grimes sliding in to just push Ben Saunders’ squared ball past the near post.
Grantham Town: Murray, Purcicoe, Potts, Asher, Helliwell (Brindley, 85), Ball, Lewis, S. Saunders, McGhee (Grimes, 45), B. Saunders, Norris (Maddison, 75). Subs not used: Glass, Carchedi. Att: 143.