Grantham Town defeat FC United in season-opener
Northern Premier League
Grantham Town 3FC United of Manchester 2
Grantham Town made a great winning start to the new season in a ding-dong seesaw of a game at a sun-drenched Meres.
The Gingerbreads stunned the visitors by taking the lead early on but FC United responded, and by half time the Manchester side were in front.
But Town fought back in the second half and snatched victory in the dying minutes.
FC United's travelling hordes were as vocal as ever, but less so when Grantham pinched all three points from under their noses.
Although there was a good-sized gate, the visiting support was noticeably down in numbers from previous years, perhaps having lost fans to the more successful, high-flying Salford City?
The Gingerbreads had the first shot of the game in the second minute through captain Danny Racchi, following a good build-up by Jacob Green and Craig Westcarr.
Grantham went ahead five minutes later when Westcarr dribbled into the United box unharassed and nutmegged goalkeeper Patrick Wharton.
In the 10th minute, at the other end, Town keeper Tom Nicholson got a glove to Nialle Rodney's close range effort after a defensive lapse allowed him to run in on goal unhindered.
The visitors drew level in the 17th minute when Rodney collected the ball, after Regan Linney had struck the post, and fired home.
Town had a chance to go back in front on 25 minutes but Wharton had Green's 30-yard strike covered.
FC United were visibly growing in confidence as the half wore on and duly went in front in the 26th minute from a curling Linney shot.
There were only one or two further opportunities for either side before the half time whistle. Paul Ennis found a gap in the Town defence in the 43rd minute but fired over from close range, whilst Tom Ward's injury time header was tipped over the United bar by Wharton.
The Gingerbreads were the first to have a sniff at goal three minutes after the break, but Wharton plucked Gregg Smith's cross from the air before Westcarr could get a touch, whilst team-mate James Baxendale blazed his 56th minute 25-yarder well over the bar.
Another chance for Town came five minutes later when Baxendale squared to Westcarr but his shot rolled past the far post; a debatable offside flag would have negated a goal anyway.
FC United's first real chance came in the 63rd minute but Nicholson was always going to be equal to Luke Griffiths' slow, looping shot.
As the second period wore on, the pace and impetus seemed to be sink for a whilte as the heat took its toll.
United substitute Louis Myers looked to be on to extend his side's lead in the 76th minute, but Town's defence closed him down and forced him to shoot wide of the far post.
The game changing moment came in the 77th minute when Grantham's Green was tripped in the box and referee Mr Nelson had no hesitation in signalling for a penalty. A confident-looking Westcarr danced his way to the spot and blasted the ball into the back of the net to put his side back level.
The goal brought the Meres faithful back to life and reinvigorated the Gingerbreads. Was there a chance of snatching victory with just 10 minutes remaining?
Town's first chance to regain the lead came on 82 minutes with Westcarr through on goal, but he scuffed the top of the ball and it rolled gently to the United keeper.
Westcarr was there again a minute later but headed Green's cross wide of the post.
Racchi's 85th minute cross-cum-shot looked to be heading in at the far post, only to headed wide by a United defender.
And then the goal came on 88 minutes. United's defence was at sixes and sevens as Grantham peppered the ball in and around the visitors' penalty area until it found Ward outside the box and he rifled a shot in past the unsighted Wharton to send the home support wild.
The Gingerbreads just needed to hang on for four minutes of added time, during which Rob Atkinson was in the right place to clear Linney's shot off the goal line to ensure three points for Grantham Town.
Grantham Town: Nicholson, Green, Bartle (Bell-Toxtle 23), Atkinson, Ward, AJ Adelekan, Berrett, Racchi (c), Westcarr, Smith (Tweed 67), Baxendale. Att: 821.