Grantham Town draw with Ashington in the Northern Premier League
Grantham had to come from behind twice to rescue a point at home to Ashington on a dark and damp afternoon at the Meres on Saturday.
Both goals were virtually gifted to the visitors, but the Gingerbreads dug deep to avoid a third consecutive home defeat in the Northern Premier League East Division, writes Graham Cowell.
"It's always nice to get a point, no matter where you are in the season," said Grantham manager Paul Rawden.
"It wasn’t a great start, but we got back to working hard, playing percentage football and we missed some great chances, got into dangerous areas and it was a pleasing afternoon in the end to get a point."
The game was only four minutes old when Grantham fell behind.
Gregg Smith put in a challenge his manager described as 'rash' just inside the penalty area and brought down his man.
Referee Mr Cliffe immediately pointed to the spot and Connor Thompson sent Curtis Hall the wrong way to open the scoring.
Grantham bounced back from the setback and put the visitors under pressure without troubling their goal as the game became end-to-end without a final product.
The Gingerbreads started to look dangerous every time they got the ball to Clinton Morrison on the left as the Ashington defence looked hesitant against hm and he began to deliver telling crosses.
After 19 minutes, Morrison hit a cross-shot that Ashington goalkeeper Karl Dryden did well to gather. A minute later, from a Sam Muggleton long throw, Grantham went close again. Smith headed the ball on and Chris Salt hit a drive goalward, but the visitors defence got a block in to clear the danger.
Ashington could have doubled their lead midway through the first half. Craig Spooned had two chances, but found Hall with his first effort, then fired wide of the target.
The best chance fell to the goalscorer Thompson after 25 minutes. A pass was threaded through the Grantham defence for Spooner who fired a low cross into the six-yard box. Thompson was unmarked four yards out, but thankfully for the Gingerbreads managed to lift his shot over the crossbar.
The two Grantham threats both went close to setting up an equaliser before half-time.
Morrison took on the Ashington defence again 10 minutes before the break and delivered a perfect low cross into the six-yard box, but no-one in a black and white shirt could get a touch on the cross.
As the first half moved into injury time, another Muggleton long throw found Smith’s head, but he headed over the crossbar.
Both sides made a vibrant start to the second half as goals began to rain in.
Muggleton’s throws again caused the visitors defence problems and, on 50 minutes, one glanced off a defender and fell to Luke Hinsley. He controlled the ball well on his chest before firing high into the net to level scores.
Parity only lasted a minute as Ashington exposed the Grantham defence straight away.
Poor defending from Grantham after a low cross came in for the right-hand side and was heading for an unmarked Spooner at the far post until Muggleton turned it into his own net to put Ashington in front once again.
A wild challenge on Brad Munns by Paul Van-Zandvliet saw the Ashington midfielder shown a straight red card to leave the visitors with 10 men for the last half hour of the game.
However, they almost doubled their lead straight away. A through ball for Wilson Kneeshaw saw him initially take the ball round Hall, but the Grantham goalkeeper recovered well enough to block Kneehsaw’s shot and keep his side in the game.
On 65 minutes, Morrison robbed the ball from the Ashington defence and delivered a great cross. Hinsley thought he had levelled the game again, but an offside flag ruled his effort out.
Two minutes later, Smith got Grantham level again. Iffy Ofuegbo had two shots blocked and the second dropped to Smith who turned and placed his shot into the bottom corner past Dryden.
Grantham were on top of the game and almost added a third in quick time. Smith won a header from a corner and, in the ensuing melee, Morrison poked the ball goalward only to see it smuggled away from the foot of the post.
The ten men of Ashington got behind the ball and made it difficult for Grantham to create too many opportunities.
Muggleton and Morrison set up another good chance with a quarter of an hour to go. Morrison turned Muggleton’s throw to Hinsley, but this time, Dryden was well positioned to gather the shot.
A rare Ashington attack as time ran out saw a shot from Cameron Gascoigne deflected wide for a corner while the Gingerbreads only went close in added time.
It was Muggleton again involved, this time with a shot that the visitors again did well to block and see out a share of the points.