Bank Holiday Monday 2nd April 2018 15.00
Grantham Town 3 Shaw Lane 1 HT: 0-1 Att: 484 Ent: £10 Prog £2 Coffee £1
Shaw 58, 73, Hempenstall 84 : Lugsden 12
from South Kesteven Sports Centre or The Meres
This was another matchday where the most frequent scoreline was P-P. I know Bank Holidays are famously ridiculed for being wash-outs, but this one took the piss. My original intention was to complete my fourth ground in 10 days where the home team began with the letters C-O – Coventry Alvis- it would also complete my Coventrys. When Alvis was P-P (Alvis didn’t even enter the building, let alone leave it), my 2nd through 7th choices all fell by the wayside – including Studley, Nuneaton Griff and Colne (also starting with C-O). A few leagues had a full set of PPs including the East Midlands League and the North West Counties League.
I looked at the Evostik, where there were four survivors left, one of which was Grantham. I’d never considered Grantham before, based on distance and unfavourable reviews from groundhoppers. Every person I know who’d been there had described an anodyne, stark running track ground. On Google Mapping to find it nearer than I expected, I headed East along the A50, unreasonably irked that it was a G-R club and not my fourth consecutive C-O club. It was either than or Ludlow, to see groundsharers Shawbury United. However, Shawbury’s twitter reply on asking if it was definitely on was ‘ifs, buts and maybes’. A disappointing response but refreshingly correct on grammar, resisting the temptation to apostophise each term.
Grantham Town date back to 1874 and for such an old club have only had two names. They started out as Grantham FC, adding the Town suffix in 1987. They have played at the South Kesteven Sports Ground since 1991, which was built on a site called ‘The Meres’ – the alternative ground name. They are famous for their gingerbreads biscuits and are thus nicknamed the gingerbreads (like Market Drayton Town). Margaret Thatcher, destroyer of industry and production, came from Grantham. South Kesteven, by the way, is a completely made up name, like Sefton in Merseyside.
Before the game I killed half an hour in the town in a wonderful establishment called Beerheadz. It sold a good half dozen cask ales and nitro ones. A serendipitous find.
The Stadium is huge, much bigger than I expected – the main stand seats 750 and there is cover for 1,950. The total capacity is 7,500. My first impressions were good, more so for the dire warnings I’d heard.
I picked up the last programme going, luckily, as a huge 484 spectators turned up, maybe due to nothing else being on. Even Notts Forest was postponed.
I thought the ground was a cracker from the off, huge two-decker main stand with two substantial ears of terracing with a huge covered terrace opposite, that was quite full.
Grantham were third in the table, still hopeful of catching Altrincham at the top, for a place in the Conference North, a play-off place pretty certain. Shaw Lane, who have rocketed through the league pyramid in recent seasons, were doing well, comfortably in the top five, before losing four on the bounce. They halted this decline by beating Sutton Coldfield Town 3-1 in their last encounter, but were now outside the play-off spots.
The first half was poor, with Shaw Lane looking the classier. Some crisp passing play and a good move put them one u[ on 12 minutes when a cross was fired in to the back post for Lugsden to slot home. It was no less than they deserved, and they should have put the tie beyond reach with another couple of good chances in the first period. I was a bit shocked at how bad Grantham were. Had I had no knowledge of the league table I would’ve guessed relegation fodder, without hesitation. Unforced errors and a lack of clarity in play seemed to suggest a team lacking in confidence, not one clinging on to hopes of promotion.
The Gingerbreads improved in the second half and started to dominate possession but there was still no suggestion of a fightback. It all looked a bit flat. The up stepped Shaw Lane’s nemesis, the aptly named Shaw! From nowhere a one-on-one with the keeper ricocheted off the keeper’s legs to Shaw, who controlled it and calmly slotted by two defenders.
15 minutes later Shaw again completely a scrambled by side footing home from three yards into the corner.
Six minutes from time a shot from the edge of the box was only parried by the keeper for Hempenstall to fire in from the six yard box – 3-1. Grantham had made this victory look effortless, ultimately, which is always a sign of a good team – the ability to get results even when the performance isn’t great. They could even have had more. Shaw Lane’s lack of recent confidence showed in the end. This was a game they should’ve got points from but were pick-pocketed of wallet, change everything, even the lining of their pockets.
Great atmsophere in the ground for 2-1 and 3-1 – I’m a bit bemused as to the negativity from other hoppers about this fine ground. Great BHM for me – thanks for the staff at Grantham for getting them game on in a sea of postponements.