Grantham Town defeated by a single goal
Northern Premier League Premier Division
Grantham Town 0
Stafford Rangers 1
A single goal was all that separated the two sides at The Meres on Saturday – unfortunately, it went in Grantham's net, but there seemed to be new signs of vigour in the Gingerbreads throughout the game that hopefully promise much more to come.
Sporting their purple and white away colours (apparently due to a kit-washing disaster that effectively destroyed the home strip), Grantham Town and Stafford Rangers both got off to quite a pedestrian start, although the pace soon quickened and remained so throughout a competitive and combative encounter.
The first chance went to the home side in the second minute but the Gingerbreads' prodigal son Greg Smith was unable to get a touch to Michael Williams' free kick.
Fellow front man Lee Shaw miskicked his 11th minute attempt and Rangers goalkeeper Luke Pilling gathered safely, this after Shane Clarke's shot had appeared to have hit a Stafford defender's hand.
The visitors' first opportunity was a good one and came three minutes later when joint top goal scorer Joseph Kenton cracked a shot that struck the bar and post before bouncing out. Seconds later, a quick break ended with Jonathan Wafula firing over the Rangers bar.
With a goal seeming imminent at either end, a Stafford free kick saw Thomas Tonks blast over in the 16th minute.
Two minutes later, at the other end, Shaw went clear but fired his effort straight at the keeper.
The visitors went in front on 19 minutes following a Grantham defensive lapse. Joe Cuff subsequently found himself in space and fired in past a helpless Jim Pollard.
The Gingerbreads' first chance to find an equaliser was a 24th minute Smith glancing header, but it was too easy for Pilling.
Pollard was called into action a minute later to catch low from Tonks's 30-yard free kick.
One of Grantham's best chances came in the 27th minute when Shaw's ball found Ali Adeymir whose shot looked to be heading goalwards but rolled just wide of the far post after Pilling got a finger to it.
Tonks had a dangerous long throw in his tool bag and used it to great effect in the 31st minute, but Pollard caught it high in the six-yard box.
There was little to write home about in the remainder of the first half, but the visitors came out flying after the break and whipped in a dangerous cross in the opening seconds. Fortunately, keeper Pollard just beat Ethan Steward to the ball.
Pollard kept Grantham's deficit to one goal with a near-miraculous 'hand of God' save five minutes into the half, somehow acrobatically getting a glove to paw away Tonks's whipped in cross and denying Jake Charles what would have been the simplest of touches into the net from a few feet.
The Gingerbreads had a chance to level on 56 minutes when Shaw found himself face to face with Pilling, but he drove his shot straight at the Rangers custodian.
Another opportunity came Town's way six minutes later. Smith won a corner kick which, taken by Adeymir, found Smith who floated a header just over the Stafford bar.
Grantham continued to enjoy a good spell of pressure, but still with no reward for their efforts.
Town substitute Ifeanyi Ofoegbu impressed from his 51st minute introduction and had his 77th minute shot cleared off the line by a Rangers defender following another Adeymir corner.
Grantham supporters were on the edge of their seats as chances kept coming. Smith glanced a header upfield from a Pollard kick in the 88th minute. Shaw raced to the ball but Pilling managed to get their first and smother it from the striker's feet.
In the 90th minute, Wafula's high header was going goalwards but once again Pilling came to the rescue for Stafford and caught the ball at full stretch.
Pretty much the Gingerbreads' final opportunity to take a share of the spoils came two minutes into added time when Ofoegbu was brought down in the box, however referee Mr Wesson paid no heed to Town's penalty appeals.
Grantham Town: Pollard, Williams (Ofoegbu 51), Latty-Fairweather, Clarke (Wright 71), Williamson (c), Adelekan (Orlando-Young 78), Adeymir, Shrimpton, Smith, Shaw, Wafula. Subs not used: Parkin, Modest. Att: 245.