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Grantham Town win season opener

Northern Premier League Premier Division

Radcliffe 1

Grantham Town 2

Grantham Town players thank their loyal travelling support who made the journey to Radcliffe, near Manchester, to see the Gingerbreads register victory on the first day of the season. (50294567)
Grantham Town players thank their loyal travelling support who made the journey to Radcliffe, near Manchester, to see the Gingerbreads register victory on the first day of the season. (50294567)

- By Graham Cowell

After 971 days, the Gingerbreads finally recorded a win on the road in the league.

Carlton Palmer's first outing as manager saw a 94th minute winner after a game of resilient defending.

“They battered us in the second half,” said the Gingerbreads boss. “We wish their lad a speedy recovery from a bad injury.

“My boys defended the cage with their lives and deserved a break. My lads represented me today; all in, never say die. I’m very proud of them all.”

Radcliffe started on the front foot. Matthew Crothers was the first to deliver a cross, Jim Pollard taking the delivery comfortably.

There was space on the Grantham left early on which Adam Dawson exploited, his 10th minute shot was deflected for a corner that was headed over the top by Callum Grogan.

Grogan’s game ended five minutes later when he went down away from the ball in the Grantham penalty area and had to be taken off the field on a stretcher.

The Gingerbreads threatened from a free kick after 18 minutes. Joe Parkin saw his dead ball effort cleared straight back to him. He hit a volley that was gathered by Sam Ashton in the Radcliffe goal.

The home side could count themselves fortunate twice in the first half to retain all 11 players on the pitch. Manny Kianga was hacked down by Rod Orlando-Young with the ball at least five yards away, as Kianga raced away from the home defence.

Orlando-Young was only shown a yellow card for an awfully dangerous challenge. Oliver Thornley also benefited from the generosity of referee Mr Bruce later in the half when a head butt on Michael Williams also only warranted a yellow card.

Kianga was struggling on the left flank after his brutal treatment by the home side, which also saw Dawson booked when he tried to put the Grantham winger into the perimeter wall.

The home side had most of the possession in the first half but seemed to have little idea how to break down the Gingerbreads defence. Radcliffe played the ball largely in front of Grantham, which led to crosses from deep or hopeful through-balls that Grantham dealt with well.

When Grantham got forward, Ali Aydemir looked a threat. He fired over from Williams’ pass on 22 minutes, then opened the scoring two minutes later. Jack Walters crossed for Brad Grayson, but his shot was parried away by Ashton. Aydemir had work to do to get to the loose ball but stroked it past the home goalkeeper.

After the break, Radcliffe came out faster and with a plan to get behind the Gingerbreads defence.

As the rain came down, crosses and shots began to rain in on the Grantham goal. Bobby Grant got on the end of a deep cross from the Grantham left hand side. His first-time volley fizzed inches wide of the post with Pollard at full stretch.

On 54 minutes, Grant bagged the equaliser. Simon Lenighan crossed into the centre for Jean-Louis Akpa-Akpro. He turned and shot, Pollard made a good save, conceding a corner.

The flag kick was played into the near post. Grant got across the front of the Grantham defence. As Pollard came out to try to punch clear, Grant got a vital touch on the ball, and it flew off the Gingerbreads goalkeeper and into the net.

Efforts from Radcliffe’s Akpa-Akpro, Grant and Thornley flew wide of the target, while AJ Adelekan and Nico DeGirolamo got challenges in many times in the penalty area to clear the danger.

The home side had a penalty shout turned down when Adelekan and Kole Hall tangled in the penalty area. They both went to the ground with the home fans baying for a spot kick, but Mr Bruce was well positioned to see the incident and waved play on.

Ashton in the home goal was hardly involved in the second half, but almost presented Grantham with the lead after 66 minutes. Nathan Modest closed him down as he went to clear his lines. Ashton’s clearance ricocheted off Modest and could have gone anywhere, unfortunately for the Gingerbreads it went wide of the goal.

Pollard tipped over an effort from Grant, gathered a deflected shot from the same player, then made a good save to deny Hall as Radcliffe stepped up their efforts to snatch a winner. The Gingerbreads keeper also denied Dawson two minutes from time.

Mr Bruce disappointed the home side twice in the dying minutes. First he turned down another penalty shout when Adelekan and Grant challenged for the ball in a goalmouth scramble. Grant was then denied a goal when he bundled the ball into the net, only to see his effort ruled out for a foul on Pollard.

Grantham grabbed the winner in the fourth minute of stoppage time. A long throw from the left caused panic in the home defence. Sam Scrivens had one shot blocked, but when the ball fell back to him, he sent the travelling fans wild with a low shot into the corner of the net.

With only enough time left to kick off, the home side were left to rue their missed chances while Grantham celebrated.

The Gingerbreads are back in action tonight (Tuesday) when they entertain Buxton. Kick-off at The Meres is 7.45pm.

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