Northern Premier League
Grantham Town 1
Stafford Rangers 2
Grantham Town were brought back down to earth following the elation of Tuesday night’s goal bonanza.
A generally evenly-balanced game saw the Gingerbreads have the majority of goal scoring opportunities, but they failed to capitalise on them – including a missed penalty that ultimately might have at least rescued a point.
Stafford were effective on the counter-attack, with defensive lapses in Town’s ranks gifting the opposition chances.
Grantham were grateful to their keeper Kieran Preston who made a good save at close range to deny Izak Reid from one such lapse in the eighth minute.
Rangers custodian Adam Whitehouse also made a good reaction save to block Jordan Hempenstall’s effort two minutes later. Hempenstall could only stand and watch eight minutes after as his half-volley was deflected off a player and on to the bar.
The Gingerbreads went behind on 20 minutes when a Stafford counter-attack saw Jack Sherratt too easily evade the home defence and fire in past Preston.
The visitors doubled their advantage in the 31st minute when awful defending against a Sherratt free kick saw them lose the ball in the box to Reid, who rocketed it into the back of the net.
Town had a great chance to pull a goal back a minute later as the home side were stirred into action, but somehow Lee Shaw was unable to get a touch to Andrew Wright’s squared ball as he slid into the six-yard box.
Danny Meadows’ 33rd minute header was headed off the goal line, Oliver Luto’s free kick minute was saved at the near post, and the resulting corner kick was headed goalward by Hempenstall but also headed off the line as the Gingerbreads piled on the pressure.
Town’s Lee Shaw had his 37th minute shot charged down and two minutes later he was hacked down in the box and referee Mr Guest pointed to the spot. Wright was hoping to replicate his penalty from Tuesday night but Whitehouse was equal to his attempt.
Grantham continued to search for that elusive goal to kick-start their comeback in the second half, but it was nowhere on the horizon.
Skipper Stefan Galinski did go close with a header over from a Luke Shaw corner kick in the 52nd minute whilst, at the other end, Preston confidently caught a tricky cross-cum-shot with a Rangers player lurking dangerously at the far post. Preston also did well to save Reid’s 55th minute close range strike.
Meadows tried to catch Stafford out with his 62nd minute shot from distance, but it just glided over the target.
Lee Shaw went close too a minute later with his downward header from a Meadows ball into the box, whilst Luke Shaw’s 69th minute cross-cum-shot forced a good stop at the near post by Whitehouse.
The final 20 minutes saw Grantham have less clear cut chances as Rangers disrupted their flow and defended in numbers.
Town substitute Curtis Burrows’ 70th minute shot was ultimately too soft to trouble Whitehouse, with Preston, at the other end, pulling off an excellent diving save to deny Louis Briscoe 10 minutes later.
There was a glimmer of hope in the 84th minute when Hempenstall was bundled over in the box. The referee shook his head but his assistant was waving his flag with some vigour, and so the referee overruled himself! Lee Shaw took a long run up before hammering the penalty home.
The final minutes flew by as the Gingerbreads sought to rescue something from the game, but Stafford just closed their ranks even tighter.
Grantham’s final chance of sneaking a point came in the third minute of added time, but Whitehouse did well to catch the wet spinning ball from Hempenstall’s header, on the end of a Tom Curtis cross.
Grantham Town: Preston, Potts, Luto, Baker (Burrows 62), Galinski (McMenemy 90), Hollingsworth (Curtis 86), Meadows, Wright, Hempenstall, Lee Shaw, Luke Shaw. Subs not used: Da Silva Bastos, Martin. Att: 320.