Grantham Town share the points with Celtic
Northern Premier League Premier Division
Grantham Town 0
Stalybridge Celtic 0
Grantham Town remained unbeaten under new caretaker manager Matt Chatfield in his first match in charge, as his side battled out a goalless stalemate on Saturday.
The bottom-of-the-table Gingerbreads had, for the most part, the better of the play and definitely the majority of chances with a succession of near misses; but it was not to be and Stalybridge Celtic were able to take home a share of the spoils from a sun-drenched but wind-battered Meres.
Town had the first opportunity as early as the second minute when Harry Wood fired wide from Lee Shaw's cut-back.
The visitors' first chance came in the sixth minute when the fleet-footed Justin Johnson danced through the box and fired just wide of the near post.
Grantham went close again on 12 minutes with Wood shooting through a gaggle of legs, but Celtic goalkeeper Grant Shenton gathered safely.
A minute later, at the other end, Ali Aydemir ran in in goal and fired just wide of the far post.
Taken by Town captain Elliott Durrell, a 16th minute free kick from 20 yards should have had Celtic in trouble, but no Grantham player was able to get that vital touch.
Again, on 24 minutes, Khallem Bailey-Nicholls' diagonal ball over the box went straight to Durrell but he could not quite get the slightest of touches needed at the near post.
Shaw should have made more of his opportunity four minutes later when Durrell put a ball through to him, but the Town number nine's shot lacked enough power and a defender cleared from the six-yard box.
The Gingerbreads' last real chance of the first half came on the half hour mark when Durrell floated in a 40-yard free kick, but Shenton made sure he was the first to the ball.
Stalybridge's final assault of the half on the Town net came in the 43rd minute and saw a dangerous, curling cross-cum-shot head goalwards, but home keeper Jim Pollard caught the awkward, swirling ball with a safe pair of hands.
Durrell was once again instrumental in Grantham's early chances in the second half, with a free kick and a corner kick defended well to deny the home side an opener.
Another Durrell free kick, in the 48th minute, saw him curl the ball in from the corner of the box, but how Sisa Tuntulawana's touch failed to go in will remain an eternal mystery.
And it was Tuntulawana who again five minutes later who had the Meres faithful holding their breath but, equally amazing as before, his close range header from Durrell's 40-yard free kick refused to go goalwards – but once more only by a hair's breadth.
It took 10 minutes into the second half before Town allowed Celtic a sniff at goal, but Pollard confidently punched Sam Wedgbury's free kick into open space.
Pollard truly came to Town's rescue in the 57th minute when the dangerous Johnson ran in on goal and drove for goal, but the Gingerbreads stopper dived acrobatically and tipped the ball wide with a fingertip.
Grantham were on the attack again on the hour mark, with Shaw unable to get a shot off from a Bailey-Nicholls cross and, seconds later, Shaw again firing through a gaggle of legs – but eagle-eyed Shenton had it covered.
Town had something of a let-off in the 68th minute when an uncharacteristically slapdash Durrell gave the ball away in his own box, with two Celtic forwards in space. Luckily for the Grantham skipper, Celtic substitute Conor Falls was unable to react quickly enough and Durrell raced back and cleared the danger from his own mistake.
The next five or six minutes saw the visitors up the pressure and keep the Gingerbreads penned in their own half.
Pollard tipped Callum Harris' 69th minute corner wide and then gathered the ball to safely two minutes later from a low Johnson shot.
Two minutes later, another quick Johnson run in on goal saw him end his move by dragging his strike wide of the post.
It took till the 78th minute for Grantham to really restore their composure, although Wood's golden opportunity was squandered when he blasted wide following a good move involving Ellis Storey, Durrell and Shaw.
Durrell closed in on the Stalybridge goal in the 82nd minute and tried his luck with a lob, but it sailed over the bar.
There were no more real opportunities until added time when, in the first minute of referee Mr Hales' allotted extras, Celtic were awarded a free kick just outside the penalty area.
Town supporters once again held their breath, not wanting another late goal defeat, but their worst fears were allayed when Pollard came to the rescue once more, down quickly to smother Wedgbury's driven low strike.
But Grantham now had little time left to steal the win, the best chance they had being yet another Durrell free kick from 40 yards in the 92nd minute – however, the battling Gingerbreads were unable to make anything from it.
Grantham Town: Pollard, Tuntulawana, Storey, Clarke (McBride 60), Unwin, Hall, Adyemir, Wood, Shaw, Durrell (c), Bailey-Nicholls (Stone 74). Subs not used: Leslie, Cook, Johnson. Att: 249.