Stourbridge 1 Grantham Town 1
The Glassboys were held to a draw by a battling Grantham side in a game that neither team really did enough to win.
There were two changes from the team that began Saturday’s FA Cup tie against Dunkirk. Chris Knight was unavailable for personal reasons, and Drew Canavan was rested, with Louis Harris and Justin Richards returning in their places.
Grantham came into the game on the back of their first win of the season against Matlock Town at the weekend, and started with plenty of confidence, recent signing Greg Smith firing straight at Lewis Solly in the first minute. However, the Glassboys were quickly into their stride and should have been ahead within just three minutes played. Chris Lait saw his shot very well saved by Jake Turner, and the keeper then did even better to beat away Richards’ under-hit follow up strike.
Undeterred, Richards did have his name on the scoresheet just three minutes later. Karl Hawley allowed a through ball to run past him and the former Sutton Coldfield striker latched on to it and drilled a shot beyond Turner and low into the far corner.
Much like Saturday’s early goal against Dunkirk, though, it failed to spark the Glassboys into dominance, and the Gingerbreads gradually asserted themselves once more. Solly was fortunate to escape punishment on 10 minutes when his air-kick gave Lee Shaw a glimpse of goal, but the Glassboys keeper was able to recover and gather at the second or third attempt.
Danny Meadows then flashed an effort across the face of goal on the volley just a minute later, but thereafter the half deteriorated into something of a stalemate for a period, with neither side producing much in the final third.
The half hour brought some activity to stir the crowd, as first Richards cleverly back-headed a Tom Tonks throw-in goalwards and Turner had to be alert to tip the ball wide for a corner, before at the other end Solly dealt comfortably with Ben Saunders’ shot from distance, and then Dan Scarr came agonisingly close to doubling Stourbridge’s lead as his header from Leon Broadhurst’s corner crashed down off the underside of the crossbar but was judged not to have crossed the line.
The remainder of the half saw little more than half-chances at either end. Tonks thundered a shot straight into the arms of Turner, a looping header from Smith dropped just wide of Solly’s upright, and then Hawley nicked the ball past Turner only for a covering defender to clear.
The second half assumed much the same pattern initially. Hawley saw an effort on the turn deflected wide for a corner with 52 minutes played, and then Meadows almost caught Solly unawares with a lob from out wide that the Stour keeper got back to gather with no great alarm, whilst Smith tried an audacious shot from near the corner flag that took Solly by surprise and flashed past the far post.
In truth it was the visitors who were looking more likely to create openings against a strangely tentative and uncertain looking home side. The Glassboys were finding it hard to break down a tenacious Grantham defence who were winning more than their fair share of what should have been 50/50 balls.
And when a chance did present itself, almost out of nothing, Hawley couldn’t capitalise. The striker ran onto a 63rd minute through ball that was missed by Brad McGowan, but as he seemed set to shoot he opted for a pass across goal to Richards who was probably not expecting the ball at his feet and could not connect.
That squandered opportunity was to bit the Glassboys on the backside just three minutes later. Smith, who had won numerous headers throughout the evening, rose at the far post to nod a deep cross back across goal where Saunders was waiting unmarked, with simplest of tasks to nod home. It was no more than Grantham deserved.
Grantham continued to ask questions of the home defence but could not produce a final ball often enough to trouble Solly, although he had to be alert more than once to grab the ball from lurking attackers as defenders hesitated.
The final ten minutes saw Stourbridge begin to exert more pressure. First Richards saw his shot deflected narrowly wide from Matt Dodd’s cross, and then substitute Brian Smikle’s header from a ball in by Kristian Green flew wide too.
And the Glassboys then hit the woodwork twice more in the space of a minute as first Dodd’s downward header from Ben Billingham’s cross bounced up and, with Turner beaten, smacked against the crossbar, and then Billingham, also on as a substitute, produced another tantalising ball in from the left that was diverted onto a post and out for a corner by a Grantham defender.
Ultimately, having hit the frame of the goal three times, Stourbridge might feel aggrieved not to have won the game, but the visitors’ efforts were worthy of at least a point.
The result sees Stourbridge move up to fifth in the Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division table ahead of Tuesday night’s fixtures.