Grantham Town triumph over Rushall Olympic in eight-goal Trophy thriller
FA Trophy First Qualifying Round
Grantham Town 5
Rushall Olympic 3
Grantham Town progressed in the FA Trophy after a humdinger of a cup tie that saw them come back from a two-goal deficit, and then play the entire second half with only 10 men.
On a day when many matches were postponed due to waterlogged pitches, The Meres as usual drained well, although conditions were understandably slippery as well as cold, wet and miserable.
The game started briskly but with no real chances at either end until Rushall went ahead in the 13th minute, Levi Rowley dancing unchallenged around the edge of the box and firing in by the post.
With his confidence clearly high, Rowley tried his luck from 25 yards two minutes later but blasted over.
The visitors doubled their lead on 20 minutes and it was that man again, Rowley, who was allowed too much freedom and fired in from the edge of the penalty area once more.
With it already not looking like Town's day, home fans were cheered in the 28th minute when Rob Atkinson pulled a goal back from a scramble in the Rushall penalty box.
Not expecting another attack so soon, the Olympic defenders were caught out a minute later. Rushall goalkeeper Jonathan Flatt saved an initial shot but the ball fell to Adam Smith who made no mistake.
A re-ignited Gingerbreads had the majority of the chances in the remaining 15 minutes of the first half, James Berrett's header forcing a save from Flatt on 38 minutes, and Remaye Campbell just unable to get a touch to Craig Westcarr's squared ball two minutes later.
But Grantham were struck a blow on 42 minutes when referee Mr Fryer showed Karl Byrne a straight card for what looked an innocuous challenge on Shaquille Whittingham as the pair went for a 50/50 ball.
The two sides had a chance apiece after the break before the visitors retook the lead in the 54th minute. Reece Flanagan's 20-yard low bobbler looked pretty harmless, but Town keeper Sam Andrew only got a touch to it and the balled rolled slowly into the net.
But the resolute 10-man Town were unfazed and drew level again for 3-3 seven minutes later, a header from a Smith cross being claimed by Remaye Campbell, although it looked like an own goal from the stands.
The Gingerbreads went in front for the first time in the match on 69 minutes, Westscarr poking in from an Andrew Wright cross.
Rushall had an opportunity to level in the 75th minute, but Andrew caught Flanagan's 20-yard free kick whilst seconds later, at the other end, Flatt punched Wright's close range cross-cum-shot clear from danger.
Flatt caught Danny Racchi's 78th minute corner kick at the far post to deny Atkinson a header, whilst Town keeper Andrew did well to spot and save Rowley's shot through a crowded box in the 87th minute.
The Gingerbreads effectively sealed victory from the spot a minute later after Asa Charlton took Campbell down just inside the box. Westcarr stepped up and fired in the penalty to the delight of the now euphoric Town supporters.
Two minutes of added time saw Andrew save with his feet to deny Rushall substitute Daniel Waldron, whilst Jonathan Letford fired over seconds before Mr Fryer blew the final whistle.
Grantham Town: Andrew, Byrne, Bartle, Atkinson, T. Ward, Racchi (c), Berrett, Wright, Westcarr, Campbell, Smith. Subs not used: Broadhead, Green, Zoko, Tweed, C. Ward, Cox. Att: 215.