Grantham Town get back to winning ways
Northern Premier League Premier Division
Grantham Town 2
Stalybridge Celtic 0
Grantham Town finally returned to winning ways and took a much needed three points in their first match under caretaker manager Danny Racchi and his assistant and former Gingerbread Scott Goodwin.
Watched on by new Town club chairman Darren Ashton, members of the new board of directors and, reportedly in the stands, former Gingerbreads boss Gary Mills, Grantham put in a battling performance to wrest the spoils from their much higher placed opposition.
Stalybridge Celtic were, arguably, the better footballing side on the whole, but they were unable to finish what they started, whereas the Gingerbreads had two marksmen who were clinical in their finishing.
The visitors looked threatening from the kick-off and had their first shot in the fourth minute from Chris Holroyd, after Jon Ustabasi too easily unlocked the home defence.
Town's first chance came two minutes later. Akeel Francis fired on target but Celtic goalkeeper Alex Fojticek caught the awkwardly bouncing ball.
As might befit a Shakespearean tragedy, the Gingerbreads met with a potential downfall following a storm – a hailstorm.
After the deluge, Grantham conceded a penalty when keeper Jon Worsnop brought down Ustabasi just inside the box on 12 minutes. But the tragedy turned to comedy after an overly cocky looking Patrick Lacey stepped up to take the spot kick and then promptly fired it wide – much to the amusement of the Meres faithful.
Stalybridge continued to have more of the chances, with Connor Bartle charging down Adam O'Reilly's free kick on 15 minutes. A clearly frustrated O'Reilly then fired over the target five minutes later and wide of the mark on 23 minutes.
Town started to get more into the game and went close on 26 minutes when Joel Carta headed Curtis Morrison's corner kick goalwards, but his effort was headed off the goal line.
A minutes later, another good Gingerbreads move ended with Lee Hughes flagged for offside.
James Berrett's free kick on the half hour mark had several touches from Town team-mates, but none towards goal.
Morrison had a pot shot from the edge of the box five minutes later but the ball rose over the bar. Carta then fired wide a minute afterwards.
Celtic's last chance of the first half saw Scott Metcalfe send his 37th minute free kick wide whilst, at the other end, Hughes struck the post in the dying minutes of added time.
Stalybridge also started the second period strongly, putting the Gingerbreads on the back foot. However, dogged defending saw Town weather the storm.
The visitors' first real breakthrough after the break came from a counter-attack on 61 minutes, with Ustabasi scything through the centre of the park before sending his shot bouncing wide of the far post.
Arguably, the turning point might have been Grantham substituting one ex-professional player for another on 65 minutes, with Craig Westcarr coming on for Hughes.
Six minutes later, the Gingerbreads were in front. Carta's initial shot deflected off Celtic skipper Steve O'Halloran, but the ball ran on into the path of Declan Dunn who fired home with aplomb to great cheers from the home crowd.
Westcarr got in on the action in the 73rd minute, sending a tricky cross-cum-shot into the six-yard box that Fojticek managed to get under control after a fumble or two.
Stalybridge sub Alfons Fosu-Mensah ran in on the Grantham goal 10 minutes later, but Worsnop bravely smothered the ball from his feet.
Town doubled their advantage in the 85th minute. A Grantham ball forward caught out the Celtic defence and fell perfectly for Westcarr to run clear and fire in a net-bursting type of shot.
Despite referee Mr Jones adding on another five minutes of added time, the Gingerbreads saw out the remainder of the match with ease, Scott Bakkor being the visitors' only remaining threat and he dragged his extra time effort wide of the near post.
Grantham Town: Worsnop, Obeng, Bartle, Dunn, Robertson, Skarz (c), Berrett (Racchi 47), Carta, Hughes (Westcarr 65), Morrison, Francis (Campbell 81). Subs not used: Adelekan, Goncalves. Att: 269.
More by this authorJohn Burgess