New look Grantham Town sink Mariners
Northern Premier League
Grantham Town 2
South Shields 1
It was all change at The Meres last night with a rejuvenated Grantham Town toppling title-chasing South Shields in a truly exciting encounter that had Gingerbreads fans on the edge of their seats till the final whistle.
The new management duo of Russ Cousins and Paul Rawden put out an all-new starting 11, captained by former Gingerbread Danny Brooks, with only Oli Luto and Ross Barrows having already worn the black and white stripes this season.
The experienced footballing side of South Shields generally played a more relaxed, sedately-paced passing game but, ultimately, they were undone by Town's relentless workrate and defensive 5-4-1 formation.
The visitors were no doubt expecting an easy ride but soon took on an air of concern when Town made their intentions known early on, with Ali Omar hitting the post and Jordan Adebayo-Smith heading wide in the fourth minute.
As the game settled down, Grantham absorbed the first of many waves of attacks, whilst countering with feeds to lone front man Jordan Adebayo-Smith.
The best early chances saw Shields' Joshua Gillies hit the side netting in the 20th minute, whilst Barrows fired just wide for the Gingerbreads two minutes later.
The Mariners had the ball in the net in the 28th minute when Gavin Cogden headed in a cross-cum-shot, but his effort was ruled out by an offside flag.
Seconds later, at the other end, Barrows' strike flew just wide of the far post and the Town number seven had another opportunity in the 35th minute, but this time Blair Adams blocked.
Town got the reward for their efforts in the 36th minute, rocking the visitors when Adebayo-Smith threaded his way through the Shields penalty area and let fly with a spectacular strike that dipped dramatically before billowing the back of the net.
Two minutes later, Barrows was at it again but once again his shot went wide of the far post.
The final action of the first half saw Adebayo-Smith dispossessed on the edge of the area when through on the Shields goal whilst, at the other end, former Harrowby United goalkeeper Sam Andrew was swiftly out to hoof the ball off the boot of the on-rushing Gillies in virtually the last kick of the period.
The first chance after the break went the Mariners' way, but Cogden's 25-yard pot shot went straight into the arms of Andrew in the 51st minute.
The Gingerbreads began to find themselves coming under considerable pressure, but resolute defending restricted Shields to mainly speculative efforts on the whole.
Gillies' 64th minute 30-yard free kick was headed clear, three minutes before he dragged his 25-yard effort wide of the far post.
Adams blasted wide of the far post for the Mariners in the 69th minute, but four minutes later the visitors pulled level when Luke Daly knocked the ball in at the far post from fellow substitute Ben Harminson's cross-cum-shot.
Grantham were unfazed and Adebayo-Smith was immediately back dancing around in the Mariners' box after the restart, but he fired his shot wide of the near post.
However, Adebayo-Smith made no mistake in the 73rd minute, blasting home after a counter-attack, also involving Chris Dawson Michael Tweed, to restore the Gingerbreads' lead.
Adebayo-Smith was almost in again in the 77th minute but his impressive pace this time proved all too rapid, as he was unable to keep control of the ball on approach and found himself dispossessed.
Grantham then came under an intense minute-long scramble in their own penalty area, that seemed like an eternity as shots rained in from all around, but Town fans were finally able to catch their collective breath as their boys managed to repel all Shields' best efforts.
Andrew looked comfortable in the Grantham goal throughout and made another good save to keep his side in front in the 87th minute.
The Gingerbreads had a chance to extend their advantage a minute later when sub Nathan Kelly broke quickly on the right flank, but Adebayo-Smith was unable to get a decent shot off.
Referee Mr Saunby added a nerve-jangling five minutes of added time but Town held on to record their first win since New Year's Day and left the pitch to rapturous applause from the suitably impressed Gingerbreads supporters.
Grantham Town: Andrew, Briers, Luto, Obara, Omar, Tweed, Barrows, Brooks (c), Adebayo-Smith, Dawson, Smith (Kelly 48). Subs not used: Chaplin, Durkin, Millard, Isamene. Att: 312.