Grantham Town lose to leaders and still not guaranteed play-off spot
Northern Premier League
Grantham Town 0
Grantham Town were defeated by the league leaders at The Meres on Saturday, with the three points securing the Northern Premier League Premier Division title for Altrincham.
With the loss, the Gingerbreads are still not guaranteed a place in the play-offs after rivals Shaw Lane managed a draw.
Saturday’s match saw an expected bumper crowd at The Meres, bathed in spring sunshine with the usual strong wind, in what felt like a cup final atmosphere.
It was a well balanced first 45 minutes and 0-0 was a fair score going into half time. The visitors looked the fresher side after the break and Town were undone twice, with Grantham goalkeeper still the hero as he made countless quality saves to spare his side’s blushes.
The first chance on goal went to Town in the second minute when Tom Batchelor headed Danny Meadows’ free kick across the box to Lee Shaw who flicked the ball out to Jack McGovern, but his shot rose over the crossbar.
The Gingerbreads had another good opportunity on the quarter hour mark but Altrincham keeper Tony Thompson dived to smother a Meadows cross from the attentions of Batchelor.
A minute later, at the other end, John Johnston put in a good ball across the face of goal but none of his team-mates could get a touch to it.
The game became an end-to-end encounter with successive counter-attacks as play swung to and fro.
Meadows got a good header to Sam Osborne’s 23rd minute corner kick but it went straight to Thompson. Six minutes later, Osborne ran through on goal and beat the keeper, only to leave himself too acute an angle and his shot became a cross that was easily defended.
The first of many great saves by Preston saw him tip Josh Hancock’s 34th minute close range strike around the post.
Both sides had ambitious 30-yard attempts unsurprisingly go over their intended targets before referee Mr Howes blew his whistle for half time.
The game continued apace after the break and Altrincham went in front after just five minutes.
A minute previously, Preston pulled off a miraculous save to block Jordan Hulme’s close range effort, followed by a couple more great stops, but he was unable to prevent Chris Merrie’s left footer from flying in the net in an intense spell of pressure from Altrincham.
This put the large travelling contingent in good voice and the atmosphere went up a further notch, despite the disappointment of the home crowd.
Preston pulled off another great save in the 56th minute, tipping Alts skipper Jake Moult’s strike over the bar.
Grantham were almost undone yet again by a short pass back to Preston, but the Town keeper once more saved to deny Moult a second time.
Hulme’s 65th minute effort brought another spectacular save from Preston, with even the Altrincham fans impressed by his agility.
However, it was clear Altrincham had the upper hand and, despite Preston denying both impressive substitute Max Harrop and Hulme from close range, the visitors doubled their lead in the 79th minute, with Johnston running through the Town defence and slotting in for 2-0.
Preston continued to deny Altrincham any further goals with more impressive saves, whilst the Gingerbreads’ final attempt to a pull goal back saw sub Curtis Burrows’ shot charge down when closing in on goal.
Altrincham and their supporters celebrated the final whistle and their league title, but Grantham are still well and truly safe in with a chance of one of those play-off spots now.
Next up is the visit of second placed Warrington Town to The Meres on Tuesday night. Kick-off 7.45pm.
Grantham Town: Preston, Potts, Luto, Lewis (c), Batchelor, McGovern (Wright 52), Meadows, Hollingsworth (Burrows 67), Hempenstall, Shaw (McMenemy 84), Osborne. Subs not used: Vince, Thompson. Att: 689.