Nantwich Town and Grantham Town played out a thrilling 1-1 draw as the 2 promotion chasers came head to head at the Weaver Stadium.
Grantham started the better of the 2 teams and should have gone ahead early as Felipe Barcelos and Luke Shaw both saw opportunities go begging. They did forge ahead on 8 minutes after top scorer Lee Shaw picked up the ball and curled clinically into the bottom corner, giving the Gingerbreads the lead. Harry Clifton then forced Dan Gyollai into a fingertip save to keep it at 0-1.
The Dabbers had to stick with the high pressing of their opponents and managed to grab an equaliser when Joe Mwasile fed John Johnston, and he made it 2 in 2 with a bending finish into the far corner. The game calmed down somewhat, although both teams were giving it their all.
In the 2nd half, Tom Peers and Lee Shaw both had good chances, but they went over and onto the post respectively. Neither side could find a winner and the points were eventually shared. It left the Dabbers sitting 3rd with 12 games left to play.
Phil Parkinson made one enforced change from the side that had started the last 2 games, as Andy White dropped out with an injury he picked up against Warrington on Tuesday. Joel Stair came into the team in his place, whilst Sean Cooke returned on the bench after completing a 3 match ban.
The game began at a breakneck pace, with Grantham starting the brighter of the 2 teams. They forced the Dabbers back line into mistakes, as Ben Harrison was dispossessed and Barcelos advanced on goal. Curtis Jones read the danger well and made a vital block. From another mistake, Luke Shaw picked up the ball with just Gyollai to beat. The big keeper was out quickly to save at his feet.
Grantham were well on top and took a deserved lead on 8 minutes, as danger man Lee Shaw picked up the ball just inside the penalty area and curled past Gyollai. It was no more than the Gingerbreads deserved. The Dabbers struggled to respond as the visitors pressured them at every opportunity. Mwasile had the first half chance for the home side as he turned and shot, but it was straight at Preston in the Grantham goal.
Grantham suffered a blow on 20 minutes as Michael Hollinsworth caught Ibou Touray and went into the book. He injured himself in the process and had to be stretchered off. He was replaced by Curtis Burrows. They should have doubled their lead on 25 minutes when Harry Clifton got the ball in space in the box. His shot was superbly saved by Gyollai to keep the score at 0-1.
From the resulting corner, the Dabbers broke on the away side and punished them. Mwasile ran at the Grantham defence and played in Johnston. He steadied himself before lifting a superb curling effort past Preston to bring the scores level. It was a little harsh on the visitors after what had been a strong start from them.
Grantham kept pressing and Lee Shaw had a weak effort from range saved by Gyollai. At the other end though, Mwasile and Johnston were causing all sorts of problems. Ellis Storey went into the book for a cynical tug on Johnston. Johnston then cut inside and shot straight at Preston from 20 yards. The Dabbers finished the half strongly, with Joel Stair and Matt Bell both having half chances.
Barcelos had the first chance of the 2nd half as he shot straight at Gyollai. Phil Parkinson made an early enforced change, as he brought off Sam Hall and sent on Cooke. Touray showed some great skill to beat 3 Grantham defenders and was felled just outside the box. Cooke stepped up and curled over the wall, but Preston was across to make a comfortable save.
Mwasile and Johnston were continuing to pose problems, as Mwasile won a free kick and Johnston nut mugged Luther Wildin before winning a corner. Matt Bell then almost picked out a team mate after persistent work down the right. The Dabbers were on top and should have gone ahead when a ball into the box found a wide open Tom Peers. He could only direct his header over the bar.
Wayne Riley picked up a yellow for a late lunge and Joe Mwasile was also booked after getting in the way of a Preston clearance. Grantham went close to going ahead on the hour mark as Barcelos clipped into the box and Lee Shaw headed onto the post. It was a let off for the Dabbers.
Mwasile came off with a knock, with Abadaki coming on to replace him. The Dabbers were working hard at both ends of the pitch, as Touray blocked 2 goal bound shots and Matt Bell tracked back to stop a Grantham attack with a well timed tackle.
Cooke found some space at the other end, but his shot was straight at Preston. Abadaki then did the same as he cut in from the left. The Dabbers made their final change, bringing on Ryan Brooke for Peers. Ben Harrison had to be alert as a ball over the top almost set Lee Shaw away, but the big defender blocked the attempted shot.
The final chance of the game came when the Dabbers broke up the pitch and Cooke fed Johnston on the right. The on loan Salford man stabbed on goal, with the ball whistling just wide of the far post. Despite what had been an excellent game of football with chances at both ends, the game finished level as both teams had to settle for a draw.
Nantwich Town: Dan Gyollai, Joel Stair, Ibou Touray, Curtis Jones, Ben Harrison, Sam Hall(c)(Sean Cooke, 48), John Johnston, Wayne Riley, Tom Peers(Ryan Brooke, 81), Matt Bell, Joe Mwasile(Osebi Abadaki, 64)
Unused subs: Steve Jones, Joe Howell
Bookings: Mwasile, Riley
Grantham Town: Kieran Preston, Luther Wildin, Ellis Storey(Sam Prucicoe, 90), Michael Hollinsworth( Curtis Burrows, 23), Stefan Galinski(c), Danny Meadows, Harry Clifton, Rhys Lewis, Felipe Barcelos(Jeremiah Dasaolu, 81), Lee Shaw, Luke Shaw
Unused subs: Tom Curtis, Harry Gibbons
Bookings: Hollinsworth, Storey, Meadows
Goalscorer: Lee Shaw(8)
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