Evo-Stik Northern Premier League
Division One South
Grantham Town 2
Ilkeston FC 1
CHAMPIONS Grantham Town rounded off a great season with victory over old rivals Ilkeston in front of the largest crowd of the season.
The Gingerbreads went ahead early on but were pegged back not long after. The game was at stalemate for almost 80 minutes until super sub Tony Battersby gave Town the winner in stoppage time.
Grantham looked good in the opening exchanges and Jamie McGhee set up Sam Purcicoe in the third minute, with Ilkeston keeper Ben Gathercole forced to tip the Town defender’s shot away from goal. McGhee and Purcicoe both had attempts at netting the loose ball but failed.
Five minutes later, the Gingerbreads went in front and silenced the large travelling throng of Ilkeston fans. Ben Saunders collected Lee Potts’s ball and threaded through to McGhee who curled in past the diving Gathercole with the outside of his left foot.
Grantham had the ball in the Ilkeston net again in the 12th minute but the offside flag was already up before Rhys Lewis slotted home.
Against the run of play, Ilkeston levelled two minutes later. Francis Green broke free in the centre circle and raced downfield before passing to Sam Duncum who, in acres of space, fired past Rob Murray in the Grantham goal.
McGhee was smothered off the ball by a combination of Duncum and Gathercole as he homed in on target in the 17th minute.
Ilkeston defended Town’s corner kicks well and from a 40yd Laurie Wilson free kick, Joe Maguire headed wide for the visitors. Ilkeston kept finding gaps in the Grantham midfield to instigate forward movement. Town gave away free kicks from which the visitors were foiled time and again by solid defending, thankful for Grant Brindley headers on more than one occasion.
The end of the half petered out into something of a damp squib and it was Ilkeston who were on the attack first after the break, with Andrew Osei-Siribour’s cross-cum-shot sailing wide of the mark two minutes into resumption of play.
Ilkeston went close to taking the lead in the 62nd minute. Substitute Daryl Thomas curled his shot to the far corner, forcing Murray to pull off an acrobatic dive to tip the ball wide. Thomas was in the thick of it again three minutes later but put an easy header over the bar.
A promising Ilkeston move was snuffed out by Murray who smothered the ball before Thomas could get a touch in the 73rd minute. .
Grantham’s Martin Ball was fouled 40 yards out two minutes later. Potts powered a dangerous free kick all the way to the 6yd box but Gathercole had a safe pair of hands.
Damian Magee cleared with Ilkeston’s Duncum lurking at the far post in the 78th minute and Thomas’s luck did not improve, missing his simple 82nd minute attempt for the visitors by a country mile.
Ball got well behind his 86th minute drive but the ball rose over the bar and a draw looked to be the likely outcome as the clock ticked down.
But three minutes into stoppage time, Grantham snatched the lead and the win. Ball set up Lewis in the box. The second of his attempts found its way back out to substitute Battersby who fired against the post and the ball went in off the keeper’s heels, signalling the start of joyous celebrations around the ground.
Grantham Town: Murray, Purcicoe, Potts, Brindley, S. Saunders, Magee, Lewis, Ball, Grimes (Cann, 79), B. Saunders (Battersby, 79), McGhee (Glarvey, 90). Subs not used: Carchedi, Briers. Att: 780.