Grantham Town 1 Stamford 0
A SINGLE first half goal was enough for Grantham to beat Stamford in front of more than 500 fans on Boxing Day.
The biggest crowd for five years at the Meres Stadium turned up to watch top versus fourth with both sides looking for points among a crowd of teams all close together on points at the top of the table.
The Daniels travelled on the back of a good 4-0 victory against Lincoln United but faced tough opposition in the shape of a Grantham side who had dropped only seven points from their last 19 games.
Grantham started strongly with the wind behind them. Ben Saunders created their first chance after only five minutes with a cross to Paul Grimes but his shot was blocked. Two minutes later Sam Saunders delivered a free kick which went right through the Stamford defence but passed the Grantham players in the box as well.
Daniels keeper Ross Whalin showed he can move quickly for a big man, rushing out of his area to clear the ball with his head with Grimes bearing down.
It was one way traffic and a minute later Gio Carchedi headed a Lee Potts cross straight at Whalin. Then Ben Saunders wasted another good chance shooting straight at Whalin.
On the rare occasions that Stamford got the ball a wayward pass gave it straight back to Grantham and with 27 minutes gone Stamford were punished.
A pass from Luke Garton went astray and was quickly played forward to Grimes. His shot was blocked but the ball fell to Ben Saunders who chipped the ball over Whalin to give Grantham the lead.
It looked as if a 25 yard shot from Potts would double Grantham’s lead soon after but Whalin stretched to palm the ball over the bar.
With five minutes left in the half, another stinging shot from Saunders beat Whalin but came back off the bar.
The vast majority of first half play had been in the Stamford half but Grantham only led 1-0 and with the wind behind them, Stamford had a real chance to get back in the second half.
But just two minutes after the restart the Daniels were on the back foot. A poor clearance went straight to Ben Saunders and as he tried to pick his spot past Whalin his shot hit the far post.
Finally Stamford started to get into the game. Bruno Holden had a shot blocked and the follow-up turned away by Rob Murray as the Daniels searched for a leveller.
Just after the hour mark Stamford made a double substitution bringing on Jake Gibson and Andy Toyne, and almost immediately Nick Ghislanzoni had Stamford’s best chance of the game but the shot and follow-up were blocked, before Murray stuck out a leg to hook the ball away.
With ten minutes to go Grantham went down to ten men when Sam Purcicoe, already booked, kicked the ball away after Grantham conceded a free kick.
Stamford now had much more of the play and a huge clearance from Whalin was carried by the wind over the Grantham defence but Nathan Watson couldn’t control the ball and it ran through to Murray.
Stamford upped the pressure further in stoppage time with Adam Hewitt close to heading a superb Watson cross as Murray stretched to fist the ball away. And with just seconds left, Harry Deane’s header came back off the far post.
Stamford had enjoyed a lot of possession in the second half Grantham’s first half dominance was enough to extend their lead at the top. The Daniels slipped to fifth.
Stamford: Ross Whalin, Luke Garton, Adam Hewitt, Wayne Diuk, Joe Pheasant, David Staff, Nathan Watson, Alex Flett (Andy Toyne 62), Bruno Holden, Nick Ghislanzoni (Harry Deane 75), Danny Brooks (Jake Gibson 62). Subs not used: Miles Chamberlain, Mark Harvey.
l STAMFORD host New Mills at the Premier Kitchens Arena on Monday, January 2. Kick off is at 3pm.