Grantham Town improve – but not enough
Northern Premier League
Grantham Town 2
Nantwich Town 3
Grantham Town's black October continued with a fifth straight defeat to the Dabbers on Tuesday night.
But it was a much improved performance from Saturday and the Gingerbreads looked to have the shot in the arm they needed when Joe Smith put them ahead in just the second minute, despite looking to be offside.
However, from the off, Nantwich looked to be a side not to be underestimated; with their pace, energy and finesse, it was never going to be an easy ride.
The Dabbers' first real threat came in the ninth minute following a dangerous break, but Grantham goalkeeper Theo Richardson smothered the ball from Sean Cooke's feet.
A fast and frenetic pace was quickly established and it remained so throughout the encounter.
Richardson made a great reaction save in the 13th minute whilst, at the other end, his opposite number pulled off an admirable double to deny both Shane Blaney and Joe Smith on the quarter hour mark.
The Gingerbreads had a let-off in the 22nd minute when the always dangerous looking Joseph Mwasile missed an absolute sitter from close range, with the home defence and Richardson having been neutralised.
Richardson came to Grantham's rescue again three minutes later, spotting Cooke's 25-yard strike early and diving low to catch at the far post.
Nantwich had the ball in the net on 26 minutes but an offside flag came to the Gingerbreads' aid.
With the Dabbers' superior passing and ability to control the ball at speed, an equaliser seemed inevitable and it was no surprise when it came in the 36th minute – albeit in a controversial manner.
The visitors were awarded a free kick from around 30 yards out. Referee Mr Kaye goose-stepped the Grantham wall back to what looked nearer 15 yards than 10, which gave Cooke more room to blast goalwards. Richardson got a touch to the ball but it rolled in off his glove at the post.
The final two chances of the half saw Gingerbread Max Watters drag wide from inside the box on 40 minutes, whilst Richardson produced a good save to stop Matthew Bell's impressive half-volley three minutes later at the other end to keep level pegging going into the break.
Richardson was brought into action again early in the second half to catch Cooke's on-target effort.
Both sides had a couple more goal scoring opportunities apiece as the game became ever-centred in a midfield battle, until the visitors went ahead in the 57th minute, with Craig Lindfield's spectacular 30-yard screamer curling out of reach past the diving, outstretched Richardson.
The game continued apace with neither side relenting in their endeavours and, once again, Richardson came to Grantham's rescue in the 68th minute, espying early Cooke's low drive that came to him through a gaggle of legs.
The Gingerbreads and the Dabbers both had several half-chances apiece before the latter extended their advantage in the 81st minute.
Grantham wasted a potentially useful free kick, taking it too quickly, and the ball was stolen by Nantwich and fed quickly up to front man Callum Saunders who made no mistake – bringing a smile to his father and former top professional striker Dean Saunders who was watching the game from the directors' box (when he wasn't following the fortunes of Wales on his phone!).
The Gingerbreads almost went 4-1 down in the 84th minute after Richardson made an initial save but failed to control the resulting loose ball, however two of his defenders raced to his rescue to deny substitute Stephen Jones a chance of a poke-in.
Grantham battled on till the end and pulled a goal back on the stroke of 90 minutes when Jacob Fletcher dipped his free kick over the Nantwich wall, with fumbling keeper Fabian Speiss allowing the ball to slip in quite comedically.
However, despite Mr Kaye playing six minutes of added time, it proved not to be enough time for the Gingerbreads to rescue at least a share of the points.
Grantham Town: Richardson, Barrows, Luto, Fletcher, Ward, Blaney, Hollingsworth, Smith (McCormick 74), Oliver, Siddons (Bastos 81), Watters. Subs not used: Curtis, Thompson, Bastock. Att: 171.