Nantwich Town eased through to the Second Qualifying Round of the Emirates FA Cup with a 2-0 win over Grantham Town at the Optimum Pay Stadium.
Before the game, there was a minutes’ applause for legendary Dabber James ‘Pat’ Smith who sadly passed away during the week, brilliantly observed by all supporters including those who’d travelled from Grantham.
The Dabbers were looking sharp from the early stages and could have taken the lead after just 12 minutes, a low shot from captain Caspar Hughes was mishandled by Grantham keeper James Pollard and Ben Harrison fired wide on the rebound with the keeper still on the ground.
But Nantwich only had to wait another four minutes for the opener, Sean Cooke finding a pocket of space on the left and squaring for Argentine Thommy Montefiori to tap in for his first FA Cup goal to follow in the footsteps of some of his countrymen like Ricky Villa and Sergio Aguero by scoring in this iconic competition.
The tempo and energy was well and truly back in the Dabbers build up play and was fantastic to watch at times, a slick move involving Caspar Hughes, Matty Devine and Cooke led to him seeing a shot deflected just wide.
Cooke could have added to the lead again, hitting the crossbar with a brilliant free kick on the half hour, Pollard may have got something on it to make it a great save.
Devine and Walsh were also linking well on the left hand side, a 1-2 between them saw Devine play it across to Joel Stair who was just offside as Pollard made a good save.
But while the lead was only one, anything could happen, and Grantham nearly pulled things level twice, Harvey Grice forcing a good Cameron Terry save with his legs, and an Adam Watson header that was cleared off the line by Luke Walsh on the stroke of half-time.
Probably the major downside to today were injuries to both Matty Devine and Prince Haywood who had to come off either side of half-time, a real shame as both have already had injury problems this season. Haywood’s withdrawal meant an early debut for Ibrahima Sy, who had only joined the club on a month’s loan from Stoke City on Friday and only met his new teammates on the morning of the game, and put in an impressive first performance considering all that.
Grantham did threaten more in the second period, especially through forward Michael Williams. In the space of a couple of minutes, he twice had Terry worried with a couple of long-range efforts, the first a low deflected drive that spun wide of the left post, and the second a clean strike from 25 yards that didn’t miss the top left corner by much.
After surviving that spell of pressure, it was Nantwich who doubled their lead just after the hour. Shaun Miller, only on the pitch for 6 minutes, was first to react to a quick Cooke free-kick, and finished calmly with the Grantham defence only watching. It was smart play once more from Cooke, who’s now up to 4 goals and 2 assists in 7 games this season, and a typically cool finish from Miller.
James Williamson headed over as Grantham tried to get back into the tie, a decent opening that might have made things interesting in the last ten minutes.
Both Cooke and Thommy nearly added a third late on, Cooke a low strike that Pollard kept out well, and Thommy trying a left foot curler that deflected out for a corner.
But the important work had already been done as Nantwich made it into the next round, with the draw coming on Monday. We don’t have to wait long to play Grantham again, as we travel to Lincolnshire on the 28th September.
Nantwich Town: Terry, J. Stair, Devine (Bourne, 52), Harrison, Langley, Hughes (C), Montefiori, Haywood (Sy, 43), Heath (Miller, 64), Cooke, Walsh
Subs not used: T. Stair, Hatton, Mwasile, Hawkins
Goals: Montefiori (16′), Miller (64′)
Grantham Town: Pollard, Williamson, Latty-Fairweather, Parkin (Modest, 70), Watson, Adelkan, Molyneux (Scrivens, 81), Grice, Lee, Williams. Kianga (Ademir, 62)
Subs not used: Coleman, Walters