Grantham Town lose the battle in five-goal thriller
Northern Premier League East
Grantham Town 2
Sheffield FC 3
Grantham Town handed all three points to the oldest club in the world in a game that saw both sides battling tooth and nail – on occasions literally – for the game's entirety, cruelly robbed of a point by a final Sheffield goal in the 90th minute.
Played at a damp and drizzly Meres, the game's opening 10 minutes produced two goals alone.
The visitors went in front in the seventh minute after Nathan Modest broke away down the right. Marc Newsham benefited from a lucky rebound and, with Town goalkeeper Dan Haystead prone, slotted into the empty net.
However, Sheffield were not in the lead long as Grantham equalised two minutes later from Harry Wood's 20-yard free kick which he curled over the wall and into the top left corner of the net.
Celebration turned to commiseration seven minutes later when Wood was carried off the pitch by team-mates after his hamstring popped, replaced by Mitchell Tait.
Unfazed, the Gingerbreads then took the lead on 21 minutes after Lee Shaw connected with Joe Stacey's long throw into the box.
From then on, the game became a truly end-to-end affair with a scoring chance or two apiece at either end.
With three minutes remaining of the opening 45, Sheffield gained a real half time fillip with an equaliser. Facing a long kick from Sheffield keeper Jordan Pierrepont, some indecision between keeper Haystead and his defence allowed Connor Cutts to slot home.
Another hamstring casualty for Grantham saw skipper Jake Wright replaced by Dan Cocks at half time.
Town's first opportunity of the second period saw Tait's shot charged down in the box in the 49th minute, as the game continued to flow this way and that with good open play.
Five minutes later, Sheffield's Cutts was allowed the chance of a close range shot but his effort lacked enough pace to trouble Haystead who caught comfortably. A minute later, at the other end, Matt Tootle blasted his shot over the visitors' bar.
Shaw won a corner kick for Town in the 59th minute; taken by Stacey, it was headed over by Jonathan Wafula. Four minutes later, Shaw had his shot saved by Pierrepont.
Sheffield could have regained the lead in the 66th minute if Basille Zottos had not sent his 20-yard attempt over the target.
And Grantham too could have gone in front again four minutes later when Ashton Hall's cross-cum-shot had Pierrepont beaten, but Cocks at the far post was just unable to get a touch to the ball.
A midfield melée ensued following a foul and the incident left three Gingerbreads flat on their backs from a couple of pushes and what looked like a punch to the mouth.
Referee Mr Hartley and his assistants put their heads together and the result was a yellow card for two players, surprisingly one being a Grantham player; obviously, all's fair in love and war in Mr Hartley's book.
The next scoring opportunity following the skirmish saw Sheffield's Newsham head over the bar in the 78th minute.
Shaw blasted the ball into the Sheffield net in the 86th minute but Mr Hartley had already blown for a foul on Pierrepont.
Sheffield continued to pressure for a winner as the clock ran down. Their captain Stephen Brogan was on target with his 88th minute 35-yard free kick. Haystead attempted a save but fumbled the ball; luckily for him, the loose ball was fired wide of the post.
However, two minutes later, the visitors did have the decisive goal when Modest fired in following a good run and set-up by Zottos.
A little like the first half, and a lot like what has become the World Cup norm, the referee added a minimum of five minutes extra to the game, but alas it was not enough for the Gingerbreads to even salvage a point.
Grantham Town: Haystead, Hall, Stacey, McCrory, Wright (Cox 45), Barker, Tootle, Wafula, Shaw, Wood (Tait 19 [Tuntulwana 90+1]), Tyson. Subs not used: Jemson, Munns. Att: 216.