Division One South
Grantham Town 1
Rushall Olympic 0
GRANTHAM Town extended their unbeaten league run to 15 games and closed the gap on fellow play-off hopefuls Rushall.
Town were made to fight for every ball throughout and a toughed-out first half ended scoreless. Grantham went ahead midway through the second half and could have had a couple more, with Rushall showing little threat at the other end.
But the visitors looked the more dangerous in the opening exchanges, with the Gingerbreads barely able to get out of their own half. Grantham’s first advance on the Olympic goal saw Sam Saunders put in a dangerous cross, but keeper Chris Gemmell was first to the ball ahead of Sam Puricoe. Saunders had a go himself a minute later, hoping to catch Gemmell off-guard, but his long-range effort sailed off target.
Town easily weathered Rushall’s promising start and were soon allowed to settle into their own game. Purcicoe’s 14th minute driven volley knocked the wind out of an Olympic defender as Grantham sent in wave after wave of attacks in an attempt to unlock the visitors’ defence.
Rushall’s Christian Dacres was given time aplenty to pick his spot in the 17th minute but still managed to place his shot well over the bar. Grantham number 10 Ben Saunders and his Olympic counterpart Chris Morris both volleyed off target before Gingerbread Alistair Asher’s looping cross-shot forced a good diving save from Gemmell, to deny Lee Potts at the far post.
Town keeper Rob Murray caught Morris’s 33rd minute point black header in the 6yd box. Ben Saunders and Gio Carchedi both missed chances to put the Gingerbreads in front, with skipper Saunders’ first-half injury time header producing a fingertip save from Gemmell.
Ben Saunders was involved in Town’s first move of the second half, setting up Carchedi who squared to Niall O’Rafferty, but Sam Purcicoe was flagged offside. At the other end, Matt Millns headed Anthony Maguire’s 25yd free kick over the bar for a corner kick. Dacres rose high to the Maguire flag kick but directed his header wide of the target.
A speculative 63rd minute 50yd Asher free kick gave Gemmell plenty of time to time his response, and the Rushall stopper dived to deny Purcicoe again at the post three minutes later. Under pressure, Millns headed wide from another Asher free kick in the 68th minute, but he made no mistake five minutes later. Asher’s free kick hung in the air perfectly for Millns to direct his header into the bottom far corner and bring the Meres main stand to their feet.
Gemmell denied Millns a second similar chance three minutes later, before Rushall substitute caused a panic at the other end when he whipped a ball across the face of the Grantham goal, but a Grantham head glanced away the danger.
Millns used his height effectively to head Maguire’s dangerous 85th minute corner kick to safety as Rushall searched desperately for a late equaliser.
Town’s best chance of sealing the win came in the 90th minute. Nippy substitute Jamie McGhee cut into the Rushall 18yd box and unleashed a beauty towards the top right hand corner, bringing an equally spectacular diving save from Gemmell who just tipped the ball over the bar.
Millns was keen to kill the game off too but couldn’t direct his injury time header downward from McGhee’s corner kick. Town substitute Matt Glass scuffed his effort after five minutes of added time, but that was soon forgotten when referee Mr Plowright blew the final whistle, heralding fans’ applause for another well-deserved victory.
Grantham Town: Murray, Puricoe, Potts, Asher, Millns, Watt, Lewis, S. Saunders, Carchedi (McGhee, 83), B. Saunders, O’Rafferty (Glass, 90). Subs not used: Kirton, Kirk, Sucharewycz.