Grantham Town dominate in win over old enemies
Grantham Town 4
Ilkeston Town 2
Grantham Town's prelude to the new season gained momentum with an impressive display against old foes Ilkeston on Saturday.
There was initial disappointment for Gingerbreads fans when the visitors went in front early on, but there would be little more for the 'Ilson' supporters to cheer about till the dying throes of the encounter.
The Gingerbreads' final pre-season home match got off to a brisk start at a balmy Meres, with play quickly switching from end to end.
When the Robins went 1-0 up through Harry Wakefield in the third minute, home fans may have thought they were going to be in for a long afternoon; but soon the tables would turn, with Craig Westcarr and Gregg Smith bagging two goals apiece.
Grantham front men Westcarr and Smith combined exceptionally well on the afternoon, the first time being on four minutes when the former was just unable to direct Smith's squared ball goalwards.
Another impressive performance on the day came from the number two shirt who made some good moves down the right, including in the eighth minute to set up a fellow trialist, number 11, but his effort was blocked by an Ilson defender.
The visitors had a chance to double their advantage in the 16th minute, but home goalkeeper Tom Nicholson was equal to Jordan Nadat's strong header.
A minute later, at the other end, Tom Ward got a good header to AJ Adelekan's throw, but Robins keeper Brandon Ganley was in the right place.
The Gingerbreads caught the Ilkeston defence half asleep in the 19th minute to draw level. Smith laid on a ball for Westcarr who scuffed his shot but it nevertheless rolled slowly into the net before a defender could come to the rescue.
Grantham had an opportunity to go ahead in the 22nd minute but Smith's header from a Westcarr ball hit the top of the crossbar.
However, the home side did go in front three minutes later, with that man again, Smith, headbutting the ball deep into the back of the net, Westcarr once more the supplier.
The Gingerbreads weathered a short spell of Ilkeston pressure with relative ease and were soon back on the attack themselves, with Smith getting an on-target volley to a 40-yard free kick, with only Ganley getting in the way.
Grantham had further chances through Adelekan and James Berrett before making it 3-1 on 40 minutes when Westcarr's 25-yard free kick seemed to take a slight deflection, going in past a static, unbelieving Ganley.
The Gingerbreads had a couple more goalscoring opportunities through Rob Atkinson and Westcarr before the referee blew for half time.
Ilkeston had the first chance after the break but a home defender cleared Fabian Smith's 25-yard free kick.
A string of Grantham headers followed Westcarr's 51st minute outswinging free kick, but none could send the ball goalwards.
Three minutes later, Westcarr's ball across the box found substitute Connor Bartle, but he was unable to get a shot off.
Lively sub Ryan Baldwin had his bullet of a shot repelled in the 56th minute but, a minute later, the Gingerbreads extended their lead when Smith smashed in a half-volley from yet another Westcarr cross.
Westcarr was not infallible, though, and missed the chance of a hat trick when he fluffed his 61st minute close range effort.
Grantham continued to pile on the subs as Baldwin ran clear on goal but sliced his shot when one-on-one with the Ilson keeper in the 77th minute.
Another Gingerbreads sub, Michael Tweed had a shot on goal in the 82nd minute. Lacking power, it still somehow forced an awkward-looking save out of Ganley.
A minute later, at the other end, sub keeper Sam Andrew pulled off a spectacular block; but he was beaten in the 85th minute when the visitors managed to elude the Grantham defence long enough to allow a player to slot a shot across the face of goal and in at the far post.
The Gingerbreads' final chance to restore their three-goal cushion came in the 88th minute but Ganley smothered the ball from Atkinson's feet just as he was about to connect with the Grantham number two's squared ball into the six-yard box.
And the final kick of the game went to Ilkeston but Lavell White drove his long range effort wide of the target.
Grantham Town: Nicholson, trialist, Adelekan, Atkinson, Ward, Racchi, Baxendale, Berrett, Westcarr, Smith, trialist. Subs: Tweed, Bell-Toxtle, Bartle, Broadhead, Baldwin, Goncalves, McGovern, Andrew.