Grantham Town exit FA Trophy in first round proper
FA Trophy First Round
Nantwich Town 2
Grantham Town 1
By Graham Cowell
Lightning struck twice in more ways than one at Nantwich on Saturday as, for the second time this season, Grantham Town went out of a cup competition in Cheshire.
An unfortunate own goal separated the two sides this time in the first game since Carlton Palmer’s departure from the dugout.
Jim Pollard returned in goal from a hand injury in a Grantham side showing few changes from the visit to Morpeth Town a week earlier. After the game, joint manager Jas Colliver was philosophical about the defeat.
“It’s always difficult when you come to Nantwich,” said Colliver. “It was disappointing to concede early on to a set-piece, but after that, the character, desire and togetherness around the squad were fantastic. We did well through to the 96th minute. We thought we were going to take it to penalties with Shane Clarke’s late chance, but it just wasn’t to be.”
In a mirror image of the FA Cup tie, Grantham conceded an early goal to a well-worked Nantwich corner. The Gingerbreads clearly forgot the home side’s opening goal as in almost the same 10th minute as before, the same short corner passed low for Sean Cooke who drove the ball low into the Grantham net.
Grantham quickly got back into the game, creating half chances for Finlay Shrimpton and Jonathan Wafula, but neither stretched Andy Wycherley in the home goal. Nantwich went close to adding to their lead on 17 minutes. Cooke’s free kick was turned over the crossbar by Pollard. This time the corner was delivered into the penalty area where Joel Stair headed wide of the goal.
Lee Shaw got his first goal since re-joining the Gingerbreads on 20 minutes. He won a long clearance from Pollard and raced clear of the home defence. With only Wycherley to beat, Shaw made no mistake, slipping his shot past the Nantwich goalkeeper to level scores.
Grantham were the better side for the rest of the first half but could not create too many clear chances. Ali Aydemir looked the most likely source of a goal, setting up Rod Orlando-Young seven minutes before the break, but his low shot went wide. Another cross a few minutes later from Aydemir flew away from an unmarked Shaw.
There were few opportunities for the home side either. Joe Mwasile caused Grantham some tough moments on the left wing, but when he delivered a quality ball to the far post just after half an hour, the home side had no-one there.
The second half started with Grantham looking bright. Shaw got away from his defender again four minutes after the break, but only got a corner for his efforts, Wycherley turning his shot round the post when a square ball to Aydemir might have been a better option.
The home side were rattled by Grantham and started to slow the game to disrupt the Gingerbreads' rhythm.
The game began to open up as Grantham went close next. Aydemir hit a cross too long for the Grantham players in the centre, but Wafula returned it to the danger zone. Orlando-Young met it at the far post but headed over the crossbar.
The winning goal came with an element of fortune about it on 65 minutes. Nantwich stole an extra 10 yards on a free kick near the halfway line. The delivery into the penalty area saw Henry Eze and Dan Cockerline continue the physical battle they had enjoyed all afternoon. As they fought for the high ball, Eze got there first. Unfortunately for the Grantham defender, he could only glance the ball behind him, and it looped over Pollard and into the net.
Nantwich looked to play time out once they got their noses in front, only bringing Pollard into action in the last minute. The Gingerbreads goalkeeper made a good save to deny Cockerline at the expense of a corner, then made a double save as the ball bounced around inside the six-yard box.
As the game went into stoppage time, Nantwich’s David Webb was shown a red card by referee Mr Croft for the second bookable offence within five minutes. Grantham gave everything to take advantage of their superior numbers and force a penalty shoot-out. Eze was pushed forward, but his last-minute header lacked the power to trouble Wycherley.
The Nantwich goalkeeper had breathed a sigh of relief in the 93rd minute when Wafula set up Clarke on the edge of the penalty area. Clarke’s low shot had left the Nantwich goalkeeper watching the ball, but unfortunately for Grantham, it went a foot wide of the post.