First round qualifying
Grantham Town 1
Halesowen Town 0
A single second half goal was enough to get the Gingerbreads over the first hurdle of the competition at a grey and windy Meres on Saturday.
It was a generally uneventful start but it was all Grantham going forward, with Michael Hollingsworth having the first shot in the third minute. Halesowen skipper Daniel Bragoli did test keeper Kieran Preston with a dangerous eighth minute cross, but the Grantham man snaffled the ball at full stretch.
Gingerbreads top scorer Lee Shaw was through on goal two minutes later, but his effort was blocked out by Asa Charlton.
Grantham captain Stefan Galinski floated a header over the bar on the quarter hour mark and, three minutes later, Oliver Luto tried one of his trademark free kicks from the sideline, but was unable to put enough curl on it.
Galinski almost dropped his side in it on 20 minutes when he pulled Yasin Al-Massry down right on the edge of the penalty area. John McAtee’s low free kick bobbled through the Grantham wall, but did not fool Preston who was quick to gather.
Halesowen did have a couple of chances, with Al-Massry’s 26th minute shot being charged down, and Alexander Woodhouse was allowed a close range attempt, but he fired wide.
Grantham’s final two opportunities of the first half saw Jordan Hempenstall drive over from an excellent Danny Meadows cutback cross, whilst visiting keeper Daniel Platt caught Curtis Burrows’ 43rd minute glancing header.
The sun poked its head out at the beginning of the second period as play continued to be fought out in midfield under briefly blue skies.
And out of the blue, six minutes in, the Gingerbreads snatched the lead. Burrows’ initial shot was blocked but the ball ended up at Hempenstall’s feet and he fired in off a defender’s leg.
Halesowen looked stunned, whilst Grantham had their tails up and continued the assault. Hempenstall’s 59th minute strike went across the face of goal and, three minutes later, Shaw ran in on goal maybe a yard too far, but he still got a shot off which Platt did well to get a fingertip to.
Hempenstall skied over in the 64th minute and Shaw headed over two minutes later, but a second goal would not come.
Preston safely smothered Al-Massry’s 69th minute shot from inside the box at the other end, and Rhys Lewis directed his 73rd minute header wide of the Halesowen goal.
Halesowen substitute John Hill’s first touch was a half volley that flew over the bar in the 75th minute. A defensive misunderstanding almost allowed the visitors an equaliser through McAtee two minutes later.
The Gingerbreads still sought a second goal to make for a safer margin and went close with 10 minutes remaining when Shaw volleyed over from a Burrows cross.
Grantham’s fitness showed as they seemed to up the pace as the game petered out. Their final assault on goal saw Shaw on a lone breakaway in the second minute of added time. He beat the final defender but Platt somehow managed to parry Shaw’s shot.
Grantham Town: Preston, Potts, Luto, Lewis, Galinski (c), Hollingsworth, Meadows, Wright, Hempenstall (McMenemy 85), Shaw, Burrows. Subs not used: Baker, Curtis, Da Silva Bastos, Thompson. Att: 226.