GRANTHAM Town’s season opener ended in defeat after the Gingerbreads shocked FC United of Manchester by taking an early lead.
Evo-Stik Northern Premier League
Grantham Town 2
FC United of Manchester 4
A generally evenly-balanced first half saw early chances from FC United’s Carlos Rocca and Grantham’s Paul Grimes. Town keeper Jimmy Lindley punched Rocca’s fourth minute effort clear and Grimes’s curler went just past the far post four minutes later.
FC United posed little threat in the opening exchanges although they were able to keep Grantham penned into their own half at times.
The Gingerbreads shocked United and their 700-plus travelling support in the 13th minute. Grimes’s storming run down the left flank and into the 18-yard box ended with him slotting past keeper James Spencer.
Two minutes later, Town skipper Ben Saunders headed on target but it was too easy for Spencer. FC United were awarded a free kick in the 17th minute that was headed clear by the Grantham defence.
Ben Saunders set up Grimes for another shot on goal but his effort was deflected wide. Grimes turned provider to his skipper a minute later but Saunders’ strike was on the turn was charged down.
Grantham’s defending became slightly last-ditch as the half wore on but United were unable to take advantage.
Grimes was brought down on the edge of the United penalty box in the 28th minute. Martin Ball drove the free kick low through the wall but Spencer gathered at his feet.
Lindley faced a United free kick in the 34th minute. Grant Brindley made a bad late tackled on Lee Neville but Rocca curled wide from the 25-yard set-piece.
Four minutes later, United were level. Another Rocca free kick was headed in by Adam Jones, through the Grantham defence and Lindley.
The dying minutes of the half saw Ben Saunders head wide and Grimes fired off target after he hesitated a second too long and was closed down by United defenders.
Lindley was equal to Mike Norton’s close-range volley and Phil Watt did well to block Norton’s overhead kick just before the half time whistle.
Grantham had a chance to go back in front at the start of the second half, but Grimes scuffed a sitter.
It all started to go wrong for Grantham in the 48th minute. A quickly taken United free kick found Norton the ball behind the Town wall, appearing from the main stand to be well off-side. The flag stayed down, Lindley tripped Norton and referee Mr Finch pointed to the spot and showed the Grantham stopper a straight red.
Brindley took Lindley’s shirt and gloves and promptly saved Dean Stott’s penalty, only for Jerome Wright to fire in from the rebound.
Hardly recovered from the shock of it all, the Gingerbreads conceded again three minutes later. Naive defending allowed Rocca too much space to run in on a loose ball and he shot past Brindley with ease.
United’s celebrations were dampened a minute later when Grantham brought the scoreline to 3-2, with Sam Purcicoe firing in to reignite the Gingerbreads supporters.
Matthew Wolfenden skied a shot over the Grantham goal in the 56th minute as United continued to show more pace and cohesion as the game went on.
It was all hands on deck at times for Town as United surged forward and Brindley did well to tip substitute Stephen Johnson’s 64th minute corner kick from danger.
A minute later, Grantham were awarded a free kick from 20 yards out after Grimes was fouled. Grimes’s free kick was on target but Spencer was equal to it, with Town substitute Jamie McGhee on the United keeper’s toes.
Town threatened again in the 67th minute. Ball’s free kick found Sam Saunders whose flick-on header was just too high for Grimes to connect with.
United hammered the final nail in the coffin a minute later when danger man Norton threaded his way through the Town defence and tucked the ball past Brindley.
But Grantham continued to fight on. Ball’s 70th minute 40-yard free kick found Emeka Nwadike, whose header forced Spencer to tip past his post. Spencer punched Lee Potts’s subsequent corner kick out to McGhee but he fired off target.
As players came and went for both sides in late substitutions, the last real action saw Rhys Lewis’s 78th minute effort blocked after a Potts corner kick.
Grantham Town: Lindley, Purcicoe, Potts, Brindley, S. Saunders, Watt, Lewis, Ball, Grimes (Demidh, 72), B. Saunders (McGhee, 56), Nwadike (Magee, 84). Subs not used: Battersby, Jacklin. Att: 1,220.