Evo-Stik Northern Premier League
Grantham Town 1
Ilkeston FC 1
Grantham Town took a deserved share of the points from their clash with old foes Ilkeston at The Meres on Saturday, giving a good account of themselves in another battling performance.
Following a goalless first half, the Gingerbreads conceded after the break but equalised in dramatic style to set up a nail-biting final 10 minutes.
Ilkeston keeper Chris Martin was forced into action in the second minute when he caught Deon Meikle’s header from a 35-yard free kick. Town went close again three minutes later but Nathan Watson could not get his head to Kallum Smith’s cross in front of an open goal.
Grantham looked the more aggressive generally in the opening 20 minutes, after which the visitors themselves started to move upfield. Ilkeston skipper Jamie Reid’s shot was deflected wide for a corner kick. Jack Watts took the flag-kick, from which Gary Ricketts got a header but the ball went wide.
At the other end, T. J. Nightingale forced another overhead catch from Martin in the 21st minute and two minutes later, Watson drove just wide with a diving Smith just failing to make contact at the far post.
The Gingerbreads continued to play some nice touch football but still with no final product.
Rhys Lewis conceded a free kick in the 27th minute. It was knocked short for Joe Maguire to line up a shot, but his effort flew over the target.
Watts teed up a shot in the 39th minute but his left-footed attempt curled wide of the Grantham goal. Two minutes later, Sam MacVicar got aheader on target but the ball went straight to the Ilkeston keeper.
The last action of the half saw a diving header from Ilkeston’s Alex Ford fly just past the post in added time.
The home side were the first to show after the break. Three minutes in, Smith broke down the right flank and put in a great cross-field ball to captain Emeka Nwadike, but he sliced his volley wide of the Ilkeston goal.
Another move down the right on 51 minutes saw Watson put a ball through to MacVicar. He bossed the Ilkeston defence and got a good cross in to Nightingale who just failed to tap in as the ball ran away from him at the near post.
Ilkeston had the same problem at the other end two minutes later, with Watts just unable to make contact with Matt Richards’ cross through the six-yard box.
A 56th minute Ilkeston corner kick saw the ball come back to taker Richards, who returned it into the six-yard box where Town keeper Jake Turner managed to punch to safety.
Play became more open in the second half and Grantham went behind in the 57th minute. Turner attempted to punch Laurie Wilson’s corner kick clear but knocked to the ground in the scramble, and the ball dropped nicely for Joe Maguire to knock into the net.
With their tails up, Ilkeston looked something of a threat at times. Ricketts had a run down the right in the 66th minute but he drove his effort over the bar. Grantham had a reprieve a minute later when Richards’ seemingly goalbound shot struck the post. Alex Ford forced a save from Turner in the 69th minute.
The open format of play also allowed the Gingerbreads to infiltrate more easily. Watson got a good ball in to Lee Ridley in front of the Ilkeston goal, but he was unable to get a shot off.
Lewis tested the visiting keeper with a 20-yard drive in the 77th minute, but Martin caught with confidence.
Grantham’s Deon Meikle deserved his man-of-the-match award for two acts of heroism within a minute of each other. The Town number four cleared Ricketts’ header off the line in the 81st minute, and then gave the Gingerbreads a deserved equaliser when he fired in a corking volley from the right.
Ilkeston’s defence began to get a bit ragged as the visitors sought to re-assert themselves, as Grantham too searched for a winner.
The nearest either side got was in the third minute of injury time when Ilkeston’s Ricketts, unable to quite reach the ball, missed the chance of an absolute sitter.
Grantham Town: Turner, Hannigan, Ridley, Meikle, Hawes (Asher, 64), Lewis, Watson, Nwadike (c), Nightingale (Carchedi, 59), MacVicar, Smith (Troke, 78). Subs not used: Elliott, Martin. Att: 323.