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Grantham Town promotion dreams are shattered

Grantham Town manager Adam Stevens with his inconsolable striker Lee Shaw after Saturday's final whistle. Photo: John Burgess
Grantham Town manager Adam Stevens with his inconsolable striker Lee Shaw after Saturday's final whistle. Photo: John Burgess

Grantham Town’s dreams of promotion to the National League North came crashing down in the NPL Premier Division play-off final at Ashton United on Saturday.

Hundreds of Gingerbreads fans made the near 200-mile round trip to see their beloved side lose to two second half goals without reply in the caldron of heat that was Hurst Cross stadium.

On a day truly too hot for football, Grantham generally had the upper hand in the first half, with Ashton venturing forward on occasional counter-attacks that were well defended by Town.

There were few clear cut chances for either side, Jordan Hempenstall having the first for Grantham in the second minute but his header went over the bar.

The home side did, however, begin to assert themselves more towards the end of the half and Grantham goalkeeper Kieran Preston pulled off a couple of excellent saves to deny the Robins in the last 10 minutes before the break.

Both sides had an opportunity or two at the start of the second half, but Gingerbreads fans’ hearts sank in the 57th minute when Ashton went in front. Preston appeared to be out of his six-yard box early and Liam Tomsett skipped round him and fired into the back of the net.

Grantham sought earnestly for an equaliser and immediately piled on the first of three substitutes in Jack McGovern, for Andrew Wright.

Town’s second sub Curtis Burrows had a good run in on goal on 64 minutes, raising visiting supporters’ hopes, but his strike was blocked by the United defence.

Where Gingerbreads’ singing and chanting had very much ruled the roost, now the Robins began chirping in seemingly ever greater numbers as their side clearly had their tails up ever since the goal.

But Hempenstall went close to an equaliser in the 70th minute, twisting and turning before firing his shot just over the Ashton bar.

Town sent in wave after wave of attacks Ashton’s way, but they were repelled each and every time. At the other end, United struck the bar to the gasps of the whole ground.

With the clock ticking down, Grantham continued to look for the goal that would take an already long season into another 30-minutes of nail-biting tension.

But devastation came in the 87th minute when keeper Preston saw fit to allow a ball across the face of his goal to roll by, only for Nic Evangelinos to tuck it away with aplomb.

There was surely no time to recover from that late a blow and the Grantham supporters – who made up the majority of the close to 1,000 crowd – fell briefly silent.

The visitings fans struck up song again to guide their boys to the final whistle after which the majority of players fell to the ground along with Gingerbreads’ sunken hearts.

But well done lads, you did Grantham proud this season – a truly memorable campaign.

Roll on next season . . .


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