Grantham Town get back to winning ways
Northern Premier League Premier Division
Grantham Town 2
Stafford Rangers 0
Grantham Town remain unbeaten in 2020, recording their first win since the beginning of November with a battling performance over basement side Stafford Rangers at The Meres on Saturday.
With a good hour or more played, the game looked to have 0-0 written all over it, with the two sides pretty evenly matched.
However, the Gingerbreads struck in the 72nd minute and finished Rangers off with a second goal in the dying minutes.
The game started briskly and continued so throughout.
Grantham's first couple of chances saw Craig Westcarr's dangerous ball across the face of goal cleared from the six-yard box by Stafford defender Paul Bignott in the fifth minute whilst, two minutes later, Rangers goalkeeper Lewis King caught James Berrett's cross-cum-shot before Andre Johnson could get a touch.
Town's new keeper Jon Worsnop was first brought into action in the 14th minute, pulling off the first of what would prove to be a string of good saves throughout the afternoon.
Large parts of the first half were battled out in midfield, with play swinging from side to side.
Gingerbreads striker Johnson forced a good save out of King on 25 minutes whilst, at the other end 10 minutes later, Jake Charles had a good opportunity to put the visitors in front but he blasted over the target.
Grantham had a couple of sniffs of a penalty shout in the dying minutes of the first half. First, Johnson was brought down in the box by Jonathon Moran in the 39th minute but referee Mr Mackey saw it as a 50/50 challenge and played on. Six minutes later, Johnson was flattened in the area again and this time the man in black blew his whistle – unfortunately, it was for half time.
The game continued apace after the break with still not much separating the two sides.
Worsnop confidently plucked Stafford's 57th minute corner kick from a crowded penalty area and then, five minutes later, the keeper's wall repelled a thumping Rangers 25-yard free kick.
Again, play descended into side-to-side midfield play, much of it aerial ping-pong from head to head.
The next chance on goal went to the home side but impressive substitute Jacob Green 's close range shot was blocked.
Two minutes later, Declan Dunn drove a peach of a shot goalwards, forcing King to tip the ball around the post. Westcarr's close range effort after the resulting corner kick was blocked.
Stout Grantham defending kept Stafford at bay in a workmanlike fashion, with Worsnop pulling off another confident catch from a corner kick in the 71st minute.
Worsnop's resulting kick from the Grantham goal was collected by Westcarr whose cross-cum-shot was finished off by Green to give the Gingerbreads the lead and bring a rousing cheer from the Meres faithful.
Stafford were not done, though, and Daniel Hawkins forced another good save from Worsnop in the 75th minute and Jack Sherratt fired just wide a minute later. Worsnop then saved a shot from Joshua Green in the 78th minute.
The flurry of Rangers activity was due, in part, to Grantham sitting back en masse and letting the visitors come at them with wave after wave of attacks – a potentially dangerous tactic to employ.
Town's 86th minute sub Jack Wightwick immediately made an impact, with a Stafford player finding that a blatant foul was the only way he could halt his fleet-footed darting run up the left flank.
Rangers had another opportunity to draw level in the 88th minute, but Hawkins drove his 25-yard free kick over the Grantham wall and the bar.
Anxious Gingerbreads fans were able to breathe more calmly when the home side doubled their advantage in the 89th minute. Dunn played the ball forward to Westcarr who, having beaten the offside trap, proceeded goalwards and fired home into the back of the net.
A few minutes of added time were soon dispensed with before Grantham Town were able savour a victory that seems to have been a long time coming.
Grantham Town: Worsnop, Ward, Bartle, Atkinson, McGowan, Dunn, Berrett, Broadhead, Westcarr (Zoko 90), Campbell (Wightwick 84), Johnson (Green 59). Subs not used: Smith, Baxter. Att: 233.