Away defeat confirms relegation for Grantham Town
Northern Premier League Premier Division
Stafford Rangers 4
Grantham Town 1
By Graham Cowell
The end of the Gingerbreads' 10-year stay in the Northern Premier League Premier Division was confirmed with defeat at Stafford Rangers on Saturday.
A win was the only thing that would have kept Grantham Town’s faint hopes of survival alive. Three unanswered goals after the break put paid to those chances.
“First 10 minutes of the first half, we looked a bit ropey as we adjusted to a new formation,” said Grantham manager Matt Chatfield. “We battled hard and at 1-1 it was a fair scoreline. The second half, I’m so disappointed with the ethic of some players, the work rate and desire. I don’t ask for much from people but at least give me everything. We are asking people to at least work hard and in the second half there weren’t enough that did that.”
Grantham played a 3-5-2 formation, making four changes from the previous week.
In the early stages of the game, Stafford took advantage of some unfamiliarity at the back and could have taken an early lead. Keegan Townrow dwelt on the ball and lost it, conceding a corner. The home side played the ball back in to Kaiman Anderson who set up Joseph Kenton with a great chance, but he stabbed his shot wide.
When Grantham began to settle, Ellis Storey put a good ball into the centre for Ricky Miller, returning from injury, but Stafford goalkeeper Mateusz Hewelt blocked his effort.
The home side took the lead after 11 minutes. They won a free kick almost 30 yards out. Tom Tonks hit his effort past the Grantham wall and curled it inside Jim Pollard’s left-hand post.
Stafford had chances to add to their lead, but Kenton and Tonks could not make the most of them before another free kick led to the equaliser for Grantham.
With 20 minutes gone, Elliott Durrell lifted a free kick into the Stafford penalty area. Jonathan Wafula got to it ahead of Hewelt. His header was goal bound but was helped into the net by Joshua Dunne who got his attempted clearance all wrong and headed into his own net.
The remainder of the first half was a fairly low key affair as the two sides largely cancelled each other out. The Gingerbreads had the better of the chances, Miller twice getting on the end of things, but he fired one shot over the top, and then only found Hewelt with a left foot shot after good work by Storey.
Grantham started the second half the better of the two sides. The Gingerbreads pressed the home side and Shane Clarke won the ball. His shot was easily dealt with by Stafford, but the ball came to Miller who flashed a volley wide of the target.
Stafford began to turn up the pressure on Grantham and restored their lead on 57 minutes. Anderson worked a position inside the Grantham penalty area but was stood up by Pollard and two Grantham defenders. Anderson cleverly laid the ball back for Kenton who fired into the bottom corner, wide of the three Grantham defenders.
The same two players combined again on the hour mark. This time, Kenton headed over the top from Anderson’s cross. Six minutes later, the Stafford centre forward made no mistake himself. A ball down the middle found him with only Pollard to beat. He rifled an early shot into the bottom corner of the net for a 3-1 lead.
Stafford dominated the remainder of the game. Tre Pemberton delivered a low cross into the danger zone that somehow eluded everyone, and with five minutes to go got on the end of a Tonks long throw. He hit his shot well, but Pollard pulled off a tremendous save.
With six minutes to go, Ethan Stewart saw his header from a corner cleared off the line, and will feel he should have done better when he met another delivery into the Grantham penalty area but headed over the crossbar.
Stewart finally got his goal with two minutes left on the clock. Another long throw from Tonks was allowed to fly to the far post unchallenged. It dropped perfectly for Stewart to prod home to end a disappointing afternoon for the Gingerbreads.