Despite the injury absences of Densmore, Poole, Jones, Harrison, Deasy and Peers, a strong second-half performance from Altrincham secured the league title and promotion back to the Vanarama North.
After a goalless first half played in a swirling wind, Altrincham dominated the second half. Loanee midfielder Chris Merrie put Alty ahead with a measured shot in the 51st minute and John Johnston beat keeper Preston in a one on one to double the lead (79 mins). But for Preston, the margin of victory would have been much greater for Altrincham.
REFEREE: Mr M Howes
Altrincham were without the injured Densmore, Poole, Jones, Harrison, Deasy and Peers, so left-back Connor Hampson remained at centre-back, whilst Simon Richman replaced Shaun Densmore at right-back. Theo Bailey-Jones started his first league game for Alty and for Chris Merrie it was only his second start. Youth and reserves' graduates Harry Sheridan and Rhain Davis joined the bench.
GRANTHAM TOWN (Black & white striped shirts, black shorts and socks) 1. Kieran Preston 2. Tom Potts. 3. Ollie Luto 4. Rhys Lewis 5. Tom Batchelor 6. Jack Meadows, 7. Danny Meadows 8. Michael Hollingsworth 9. Jordan Hempenstall, 10 Lee Shaw 11. Sam Osbourne. Subs: 12. Andy Wright 14. Curtis Burrows 15. Harry Vince 16. Jack McMenemy 17. Ryley Thompson.
ALTRINCHAM (All purple) 1. Tony THOMPSON, 2. Simon RICHMAN, 3. Connor HAMPSON, 4. Tom HANNIGAN, 5. Andy WHITE, 6. Jake MOULT (c), 7. John JOHNSTON, 8. Chris MERRIE, 9. Jordan HULME, 10. Theo BAILEY-JONES, 11. Josh HANCOCK, Subs: 12. Max HARROP, 14. Rhain DAVIS, 15. Sam HEATHCOTE, 16. Harry SHERIDAN 20. Andrew JONES
After changing ends, Grantham kicked off on a bright but breezy afternoon, with the gusty wind behind Alty. The first attack of note saw McGovern fire over the bar for the hosts (2 mins).
The Gingerbreads threatened again as Osbourne's one-two got him into the box but he miskicked the ball to Thompson (4 mins). However, the game's first corner went to the visitors, following a freekick for a foul on Merrie (7 mins).
When Merrie the committed a foul on Meadows, the teenage midfielder on loan from Wigan Athletic was booked (9 mins). It was not long before the referee got out his notebook again, this time to book Meadows for a foul on Richman (12 mins).
The gusty wind was making it difficult for the players as was the bobbly pitch. Next, Alty threatened when Hulme found Johnston, whose low cross cum shot rolled across the goalmouth and out for a corner (16 mins).
When Alty soon won another corner, on the left, Hulme took it quickly as he had spotted the keeper off his line but he just missed the target as he tried to curl the ball home (19 mins).
Fouls on Bailey-Jones and Hannigan followed, but the game's next corner arrived when Johnston covered back near his own byline and conceded the flag-kick, which Meadows headed to Thompson. Alty responded with Johnston's chip to keeper Preston at the other end (23 mins).
The game had been fairly even so far with Hannigan particularly impressive at the back for Altrincham.
Altrincham survived a triple scare as Osbourne got free, left of goal, but rather than trying to find the net from an acute angle, he crossed the ball strongly. A Grantham player got the ball beyond the back post and forced Thompson to beat out his shot. The ball then came to another home player whose strong shot was also beaten out by Thompson before yet another shot landed on the roof of the Alty net (30 mins).
Having survived that pressure, a Richman tackle on Osbourne conceded a corner which Meadows headed over the bar (33 mins). But then Alty had a fine chance to score when Bailey-Jones got free in the box and laid the ball back to Hancock. He tried to place his shot but did not get enough power on his effort to beat Preston, who pushed the ball away for a corner (34 mins).
Luto's error, and then a foul on Bailey-Jones, gave Alty a freekick thirty yards out soon afterwards but Johnston hammered the dead-ball over the bar (36 mins).
When Merrie, already booked, was penalised against McGovern the ref had a word with him and his captain, Moult but when, two minutes later, the booked Meadows fouled White, no further warning was given (40 mins). However, the referee generally had a good game.
As half-time neared, an Alty corner was won from a Thompson kick. Johnston's corner was just too high for Hampson and went for a goalkick (44 mins). Next, a Batchelor error allowed Hulme to win another corner on the right. This was punched out before Grantham were offside in their counter-attack.
The first half had not been a classic but conditions were difficult with the gusty wind and bobbly pitch.
|Half-Time: GRANTHAM TOWN 0
After the sides had each won a couple of throws, a Merrie ball led to a weak Grantham back pass which Johnston almost reached, but a goalkick to Town resulted.
Next, Hulme beat a man in the box but poked his shot at the keeper, but then the ball came across from Richman on the right of the box and Merrie slotted his shot inside the post to make it one-nil to Alty and prompt celebrations on the away terraces (51 mins).
Grantham now took off Batchelor and brought on Wright. After this, Hancock was fouled 30 yards out and he then almost got his head to Johnston's floated freekick (53 mins). At the other end, a wild shot over the bar by Potts followed, after Meadows had done well.
A fine run by Richman now got him to the byline and his cross went for a corner on the left (55 mins). After that, Moult turned smartly in the goalmouth and his well struck shot had to be tipped over the bar by Preston, for another corner as Alty now dominated (56 mins)
Thompson now started timewasting before Johnston took the ball off the Grantham right back and raced at goal but keeper Preston again did well as he blocked the shot before a Hulme chance went begging (58 mins).
When Moult was flattened after the ball had gone, Hollingsworth was booked (59 mins). Thompson continued to walk a thin line on timewasting before Johnston won his side another corner, on the left (64 mins).
Preston again excelled as he pushed away a Hulme shot for a corner after Hancock had fed the Alty top scorer. Grantham brought on Burrows for Hollingsworth at the midway point of the half. Two minutes later, Bailey-Jones went off and Harrop came on for Alty.
Alty continued to dominate as Hancock missed a good chance by allowing the keeper the opportunity to save his effort from six yards (74 mins). Next, Harrop fed Hulme who beat a defender but keeper Preston blocked well yet again.
Alty now withdrew Hancock and on came Rhain Davis (76 mins). Altrincham finally secured the game with a second goal when Johnston ran with the ball into the box and this time Preston was unable to stop the ball entering the net to make it 2-0 (79 mins).
To a chorus of "championes" from the Alty fans, the visitors almost scored again when Davis was played into the box but his shot was blocked and a corner resulted (83 mins).
The hosts now brought on McMenemy for Shaw (84 mins) before Hulme blasted a shot at the hard worked Grantham keeper who beat the ball out for another corner. He was to be a well-deserved home-team Man of the Match.
Town mounted a late flurry of attacks but the Alty defence stood firm. At the other end, a Hulme 40 yarder went just wide after a defender's error, after which Heathcote came on for Johnston (90+1 mins).
Alty saw out the remaining two minutes before the final whistle cued prolonged celebrations by the team with their strong travelling support. It had been an impressive second-half showing, especially so given the absence of so many first-choice players. But their replacements and those other players operating out of position all rose to the challenge.
Altrincham's first championship since 1999 means that they return to the second tier of non-League football for 2018-19 season after a one-year absence.
|Full-Time: GRANTHAM TOWN 0