Northern Premier League
Grantham Town 1
Witton Albion 1
Grantham Town were finally rewarded for 90 minutes of unswerving, battling perseverance, with a last gasp goal in the dying seconds, against a strong Witton Albion side.
The match started in a lively fashion and never let up on a damp, overcast Saturday afternoon at The Meres.
There was little action in either box early on, with the Gingerbreads’ first shot taking more than 20 minutes to appear.
Albion striker Steve Tames caught the Town defence half asleep in the second minute but his soft shot was saved by Kieran Preston’s boot. Preston blocked another shot with his foot 10 minutes later, whilst Owen Dale’s 20th minute header went just wide.
Grantham’s first chance came a minute later but Sam Osborne’s effort was blocked. Danny Meadows had an opportunity on 24 minutes but scuffed his shot, which made it easy for Witton goalkeeper Calvin Hare.
By the half hour mark, the Gingerbreads could probably guess they had met their match as play continued to be fought out in midfield, swaying from side to side.
The last two chances of the first half saw Town defender Rhys Lewis step in to end Dale’s advance on goal in the 38th minute whilst, at the other end, Meadows’ 40th minute cross-cum-shot was blocked to prevent top scorer Lee Shaw getting even a sniff.
Following the 15-minute break, Gingerbreads fans could have been forgiven for hoping for a more productive second half – and that is what they got.
Early opportunities saw Osborne’s dangerous corner kick headed clear three minutes in and, two minutes later, Andy Wright pulled his shot just wide of the target.
On 57 minutes, Shaw raced down the right flank and squared to Jordan Hempenstall, but he was just beaten to the ball by a Witton defender.
Albion squandered a good chance to take the lead a minute later when Dale picked up a long cross-field ball but, in bags of space, somehow managed to fire wide of a virtually open goal.
Town, too, went close in the 59th minute but Hare caught Osborne’s header just under the crossbar from a Meadows cross.
Another Meadows cross went to a header, this time from Hempenstall on the hour mark, but he directed it wide of the mark.
Meadows looked almost certain himself in the 62nd minute, but just could not get the slightest of touches needed to divert Shaw’s cross-cum-shot goalward.
Hempenstall attempted a spectacular overhead kick a minute later but it flew over the visitors’ goal.
At the other end, on 65 minutes, the dangerous Danny McKenna swung in a deft free kick from 25 yards, but fortunately Preston was equal to it and caught confidently.
Michael Hollingsworth drove over for the Gingerbreads on 70 minutes, whilst Michael Wilson headed over for Albion two minutes later – as still a goal would not come for either side.
Grantham had one more strike fly over, through Wright, before the visitors took the lead in the 76th minute. Another McKenna free kick was headed back out to Will Jones who powered into the back of the net.
Witton sat back somewhat, in an attempt to defend their slender lead for the final quarter of an hour.
Town fans held their collective breath when Shaw’s delicate 84th minute header rolled slowly across the face of the Albion goal, but it refused to cross the white line. A minute later, Hempenstall’s header from a corner kick was just tipped wide by Hare.
The visitors made a couple of forays into the Grantham half, with Dale firing wide on 87 minutes, and Lewis heading James Foley’s effort off the goal line and over the bar a minute later.
The fourth minute of added time saw Grantham substitute Jack McGovern send his 25-yard half volley wide and the Grantham faithful must have been resigned to defeat as they glanced at their watches and phones.
But the valiant Gingerbreads rallied one more time and, in a goalmouth scramble, Lewis found the ball at his feet and fired in with aplomb to a riotous reception from the home crowd.
When referee Mr Reeson blew his whistle seconds after the kick-off, it felt somehow like a home victory. And it was a victory – a victory over capitulation, and just reward for unswerving persistence and perseverance till the very end.
Grantham Town: Preston, Potts (Hakeem 83), Luto, Lewis, Galinksi (c), Hollingsworth, Meadows, Wright (McGovern 77), Hempenstall, Shaw, Osborne (Burrows 63). Subs not used: McMenemy, Thompson.