Lincolnshire East League
Division 6 (NW)
Alford 3rd 1
GRANTHAM returned to the top of the table with a hard-fought win at The Meres thanks to goals from Ben Willey, Paul Hollingworth and David Starr.
Quickly out of the blocks, Grantham struck an early blow when a swift attack found Willey in space in the circle and he made no mistake, firing past the goalkeeper to give the home side the perfect start.
Grantham thought they had a second when Oli Phillips crashed the ball home but the effort was disallowed for an earlier infringement.
Grantham were unable to maintain this early tempo, however, allowing Alford back into the game with an equaliser.
The home side responded to finish the half strongly with a number of short corners but frustratingly, just as had been the case one week before against Spalding, fluency, direction and luck were all lacking and Alford were able to clear their lines on each occasion.
Grantham simply had to up their game in the second half and they did so, immediately regaining the lead when Hollingworth reacted quickly, nipped in front of his marker and swept the ball in at the near post.
Man of the match Alex Clark combined well with captain Mark Gray, Starr and Phillips, as Grantham took control of the crucial midfield battle and exerted themselves on the game, patiently building the ball from the back and surging into attack with some lovely short passing moves that had their opponents chasing shadows.
Finally they moved into a more comfortable two-goal lead when an attack down the left offered Phillips the opportunity to cross the ball at pace, and after his pass bounced back off a post, with the goalkeeper completely wrong-footed, Starr reacted well to knock the ball home.
As Grantham pressed hard for more goals, further chances were missed with Starr unlucky with a couple of drag flicks that were saved or blocked and several through-balls just missed their targets, despite fine off-the-ball work from Hollingworth, Will Hill and Muzamill Pirwani to get into good attacking positions.
Sporadic Alford counter-attacks were snuffed out by the backline of Jem Hill, John Pennington, Andy Nix and Nick Wraith while Will Leadenham was on hand to clear the odd stray ball. It was a quiet afternoon for the goalkeeper with Grantham only conceding eight goals in their seven matches.
Grantham: Leadenham, J. Hill, Pennington, Nix, Wraith, Phillips, Gray (c), Clark, Starr, W. Hill, Pirwani, Hollingworth, Willey
Long Sutton Ladies 2nd 3
Grantham Ladies 1
GRANTHAM showed good form in a good team performance but were beaten on their travels by a stronger, well-established Long Sutton side.
Despite sterling performances from defenders Rachel Belcher, Katie Sandell and Christina Mower, Long Sutton made the most of their attacking opportunities and scored a quick goal to gain the ascendancy.
Grantham did not let this affect their game and the midfield were able to distribute the ball effectively so that Long Sutton did not dominate the game. Long Sutton, however, were quick to make the most of defensive errors in the 20th minute and goalkeeper George Barratt was beaten with a flick, and the home side pressed further to score their third goal before half time.
Grantham came out with renewed vigour in the second half and Long Sutton were unable to keep up with the visitors’ pace. Although they dominated the second half, Grantham were unlucky not to score in the first 10 minutes.
Eventually, persistent play from Sasha Smith, Ellie Johnson and Kirstin Barney resulted in Grantham getting on to the score sheet with a brilliant strike from Katie Davison.