Lincolnshire County Shield
Grantham Town 3
GRANTHAM Town triumphed over local rivals Stamford to reach the final of the county competition in which they will face Boston United.
The Gingerbreads found themselves a goal down after an indifferent first half, but looked a different side after the break when they dictated the pace and had the Daniels defending in numbers throughout.
The match started at a fast and furious speed and Town’s Jamie McGhee volleyed a shot wide before the first minute had elapsed. The pace of the game soon steaded to one sustainable by both sides at a sun-drenched Meres.
Stamford’s Greg Smith poked his sixth minute effort well wide and four minutes later, Grantham’s Lee Potts failed to control his volley which sailed oveer the bar. Town were awarded a free kick 30 yards out as Sam Saunders unleashed his shot. Martin Ball stepped up and curled the free kick over both the Stamford wall and the bar.
With 15 minutes played, the visitors took the lead. Jake Gibson pierced the Grantham defence down the left and deftly shot past keeper Rob Murray.
Former Grantham keeper Mario Ziccardi showed he still has what it takes, despite the advancing years, plucking Potts’ 21st minute corner kick from danger with some aplomb.
The Gingerbreads began to dictate affairs for a spell but there was no real sign of a goal on the horizon. The pendulum swung the other way towards the end of the half as Stamford looked dangerous again.
Danny Brooks’ long range 38th minute effort was not far off for the Daniels, but a minute later Sam Puricoe hit the post for Town before McGhee turned quickly and fired over from 25 yards.
Murray saved easily from Gibson’s 41st minute softly struck shot before Stamford team-mate Smith ran down the right and fired just wide of Grantham’s far post. Murray then rose well to claim the ball from Lee Beeson’s last minute corner kick.
The second half began much in the same vein as the first. Murray scooped up Sam Mullarkey’s 54th minute drilled effort through a croweded penalty area and a minute later bravely rushed out to block Gibson’s shot.
The tide turned for the Gingerbreads in the 58th minute. McGhee beat Ziccardi beatifully with a teasing lob. Stamford defender Matt Cook made a last ditch effort to prevent the equaliser but the ball landed in the net.
McGhee’s looping header forced a good save from Ziccardi on the hour mark, and three minutes later Purcicoe curled a volley just wide.
Grantham went in front for the first time in the 65th minute. With eight players in the 18yd box, Stamford were tripping over themselves to keep Town at bay and Rhys Lewis took advantage of the confusion and fired home.
The Gingerbreads went close to extending their lead eight minutes later. Rob Norris delivered an inch perfect cross in to Potts whose header went agonisingly close.
Town had further chances, with Ziccardi blocking a Potts shot and McGhee volleying over the Stamford goal.
Then against the run of play, Stamford levelled the affair in the 82nd minute. A defensive mix-up allowed former Gingerbread Mullarkey easy access to the penalty area and an open goal.
But Grantham were undaunted and were back in front five minutes later. McGhee’s initial shot was saved by Ziccardi but the ball only went out as far as Gio Carchedi. The Town number 10 launched the ball back into the danger zone and this time McGhee slotted past Ziccardi.
Grantham continued to dominate as the clocked ticked down, although they had a scare in the fourth minute of added time when Stamford substitute Danny Cotton’s 25yd free kick rounded the Town wall and bounced just shy of the post and the outstretched Murray.
Grantham Town: Murray, Purcicoe, Potts, Ball, S. Saunders, Watt, Lewis, Maddison (O’Rafferty, 56), McGhee (Melton, 90), Carchedi (Whitman, 88), Norris. Subs not used: Glass.