Northern Premier League
Grantham Town 0
Grantham Town dropped a place to third in the table following a hard fought defeat to The Bucks at The Meres on Saturday.
The visitors came with a game plan to play hardball, physically bullying their way around the pitch albeit, admittedly, with more often than not an extra half yard of pace over the Gingerbreads – that is, when they weren’t using delaying tactics to wind the clock down.
Referee Mr Eley was kept busy with the issuing of yellow cards throughout, and Buxton ended with 10 men following a red for their troublesome, trouble-making striker Liam Hardy – the player to whom Town farcically conceded the single, deciding goal.
Grantham goalkeeper Kieran Preston blocked Andy McWilliams’ third minute shot with his feet, before his defence cleared from the resulting scramble, but hero Preston quickly turned to zero when he over-committed well out of his area seven minutes later.
Buxton broke on the left flank with Hardy racing down towards goal. Preston, a third of the way up the pitch and too far out to backtrack, was easily beaten by Hardy who then looped the ball into the net from the side of box before any Town players could manage to defend the open goal in time.
The Gingerbreads had a chance to make amends for Preston’s error three minutes later, but Oliver Luto drove his 20 yard free kick into the Buxton wall.
Hardy nearly doubled his tally in the 23rd minute with a backward header from a long free kick, but a Grantham head cleared the danger off the line.
Town had another opportunity three minutes later but Jordan Hempenstall’s glancing header went just wide.
The Gingerbreads continued to battle away in search of an equaliser as the half wore on. Curtis Burrows fired his 28th minute free kick into the wall, whilst Luto’s 31st minute effort from 20 yards just rose over the Buxton bar.
Grantham’s final chance to level in the first half came in the third minute of added time after Lee Shaw was fouled by Ben Middleton. Luto took the free kick short to Burrows who returned the favour, before Luto curled goalward but only found the side netting.
Preston reprieved himself somewhat with two saves early in the second half, tipping Luke Hinsley’s effort over the bar and reacting lightning fast to a Hardy strike.
Preston impressed again in the 55th minute with a fine acrobatic diving save to deny Hardy from a well-taken free kick, after a foul on Ant Wilson at the edge of the box.
But another Preston error two minutes later almost gifted Hardy his brace, but the Buxton forward drove straight at the keeper’s leg.
Shaw fired over at the other end on 64 minutes, whilst his glancing header was too easy for Buxton keeper Jan Budz three minutes later. Rhys Lewis’s 72nd minute overhead kick was repelled by the Bucks defence.
Buxton danger man Hardy was removed from the field two minutes later, receiving his second yellow card for a foul on Preston who was out of his area – again.
Now facing just 10 men, Town’s chances came thick and fast as the visitors sat back in numbers. Andy Wright’s drive was blocked, skipper Strefan Galinksi fired over from 18 yards and Luto’s 89th minute scorcher was tipped over the bar by Budz.
Shaw was denied a minute later and Lewis skied over from close range but, as the clock ticked down, the equaliser remained tantalisingly elusive.
Grantham Town: Preston, Potts (McMenemy 82), Luto, Lewis, Galinski, Hollingsworth (Batchelor 58), Meadows (Osborne 64), Wright, Hempenstall, Shaw, Burrows. Subs not used: Thompson, Curtis. Att: 297.