Saturday, 16 December 2017

Grantham Town 0 v Buxton 1 - EvoStik NPL Prem

Saturday 16th December 2017
EvoStik Northern Premier League - Premier Division
at the Meres/South Kesteven Stadium
Grantham Town (0) 0
Buxton FC (1) 1
Liam Hardy 10
Admission £10. Programme £2. Attendance 297
Link to more photos from this afternoon HERE
Amidst the numerous social media and website announcements this morning, telling of numerous fixtures falling foul to the overnight frost, a beacon of hope caught my eye via the @granthamtownfc twitter feed just after 10AM: "PITCH UPDATE! #thegingerbreads Chairman Roger Booth and Secretary Pat Nixon have been up The Meres this morning, the pitch is hard at moment but sun is on it so all should be perfect for 3pm"... and my mind made up in an instant regarding where I'd be heading presently.
I suspect that some clubs (but by no means all of them) might have regretted calling their games off a tad early this morning, given how the midday temperatures 'soared' to around 3 degrees; but there are a lot of factors that need to be taken into consideration when taking these sort of decisions, so I'm not saying this by way of any kind of criticism. But kudos to Grantham Town for taking a common sense approach, while (of course) giving due consideration to how far their opponents would be travelling this afternoon, from up there in 'dem der snow bound hills.
It's a straight thirty five minute straight run down the A1 from my house to Grantham's ground, unless you get stuck behind a couple of those dickhead lorry drivers, who decide to drive side by side making silly faces at each other while laughing at the ever growing queue of cars that they can see building up in their wing mirrors. 
If I ever get invited to invent a car, like Homer did in that episode of the Simpsons, when they were still funny; the first thing I would have installed, would be an atomising gamma ray cannon, to wipe these road hogs off of the face of the earth at the press of a button. 
Seriously though, if you are not travelling to watch a football match, get off the freakin' roads of a weekend and stop clogging the highways up for those of us who have important stuff to do.
So the scene was set, the home side have climbed up the EvoStik NPL table courtesy of a seven match unbeaten run in the league and if the Gingerbreads beat the Bucks this afternoon, just like they had done at Silverlands a month ago, courtesy of a Lee Shaw hat trick, then if other results went their way too, Adam Stevens' side would move up from second in the table to claim top spot.
In the event, there was only one other NPL Premer Division result to take into consideration, with Shaw Lane drawing 1-1 against witton Albion to sneak into second place and Grantham finished the day in third place, as the visitors took all three points home with them, after winning by the slenderest of margins, while withstanding a barrage of pressure in the closing stages of the game.
As a consequence of this win Martin McIntosh's team moved up to eighth in the table, eight points behind their hosts, as the season approaches the halfway stage.
Buxton applied the early pressure and as early as the third minute, Kiearan Preston was called into action, making a brave and timely point blank save from Ant Wilson, as the Bucks striker pounced simultaneously with Luke Hinsley inside a crowded six yard box.
Having survived an early scare, Grantham pushed forward on the left, through Lee Shaw and Curtis Burrows, but the visitors closed ranks and snuffed out their attacking intentions.
In the tenth minute Liam Hardy scored what proved to be the only goal of the game, when he won the ball thirty yards from the Gingerbreads goal and exchanged passes with Andy McWilliams before taking the ball round Preston who had advanced out of his area and finding the target from out wide on the left flank. It was Hardy's twenty first goal of the season.
Buxton looked solid at the back right up until the break, with Grantham seeing plenty of the ball inside the visitors half without quite managing to provide an end product.
Danny Meadows free kickwas blocked by the Bucks wall, Ollie Luto played a short free kick to Burrows who rolled the ball into the path of Andy Wright, who drilled a long range shot just past the top right hand corner of the Buxton goal, and Jan Budtz punched Luto's delivery into his six yard box away to safety.
Jack Broadhead's right wing cross skimmed wide of the goal off of Wilson's head from two yards out.  Hardy broke free on the left but have reached the dead ball line he miscued his cross onto the roof of Preston's net.
Right on the stroke of half time, Buxton conceded a free kick a matter of inches outside their penalty area, from which Lee Shaw threaded the ball to Jordan Hempenstall, who was a fraction away from finding the net to level things up moments before the whistle sounded for the interval.
HT: Gingerbreads 0 v Buxton 1
Preston was in the thick of things again at the start of the second half, keeping Wilson and Hardy at bay with an impressive array of saves, but as the game picked up momentum again, the home side grew in stature and put their Derbyshire visitors on the back foot for a while, with both Shaw and Rhys Lewis cursing their luck as they went close to finding an equaliser.
The Bucks were looking like a formidable unit at the back and the more pressure that they soaked up, the more they pushed Grantham into committing men forward and running the risk of being hit on the counter attack, which they were evidently adept at.
Hardy, the Bucks goalscorer, was sent off for a second yellow card offence fifteen minutes before the end of the game, and as a consequence Buxton's goalmouth was subject to a one way bombardment in the closing stages, as the chances rained in on them from all angles.
Shaw looked odds on to score, but his shot whistled past the wrong side of the post, while both Lewis and Stefan Galanski, who had pushed forward to bolster Grantham's attacking options.
Budtz was called into action twice late in the game, but the visitors held out, to claim a win that owed as much to their battling defensive qualities, where they had kept things really tight at the back, as it did the improvised finish of Hardy in the tenth minute. A real team effort then all told.
For the record, as the afternoon wore on, it became bitterly cold across the wide open expanse of the Meres, but the pitch was still in fine fettle come ninety minutes, justifying the call to play the game 100%
FT: Grantham Town 0 v Buxton 1
Next Saturday Grantham are at home against Ashton United, before heading out on the road the Shaw Lane on Boxing Day and whitby Town the following Saturday.
While Buxton face Stafford Rangers at Silverlands next weekend, before travelling to local rivals Matlock Town on Boxing Day and Halesowen Town the Saturday after.
Of course, the weather might yet have the final say in such matters.