Grantham Town 4 Barwell 1 (24th March 2018)
A modern ground, based around an athletics track, located on an industrial estate…it didn’t sound too promising, but it was OK actually. I could hardly complain. It was my choice, after all, albeit on a weekend when the pickings were slim and I just didn’t fancy a drive stretching beyond three hours.
At least the route up involved little of the usual trio of boredom, the M1, M40, and the M6, instead favoring the A1, with its still visible countryside making it feel like motoring in the 1960s, apart from its quite strange collection of sex shops that line the route. Apparently they moved in after the partial collapse of the Little Chef chain, taking over the restaurant premises. The opportunity to call the new stores “Little Wanker” was there, but clearly not taken.
We arrived at the ground without ever having to venture beyond Grantham’s uninspiring outskirts, pulling into the car park behind Grantham’s main stand, all blue steel, grey bricks, and menacing rotating spikes on the fence, like The New Den’s little brother. Thankfully the locals were rather more friendly, and any club that refers to themselves as “The Gingerbreads”, with a gingerbread man as a mascot, isn’t basing their character on hostility.
The look of the foyer, and the entrance to the bar had the slight feel of an 80s hospital, and while it would be unfair to suggest the food served in the bar might put you in one, it did feel like the chips had been sat around for a very long time – being chewy and not the warmest, not one single bit of grated cheese on top showed a hint of melting. Still, at £1.50 you can’t complain. Well, not too much.
Grounds around athletics tracks are never ideal, especially at non-league level. They normally lack atmosphere, as well as anywhere decent to watch the game from. At least at Grantham they’d done their best, with some decent terracing steep down both sides, and a main stand raised up enough to give a good view, running track or not.
OK, on the downside, both ends have nothing beyond a few steps of moss-covered inadequate terracing, located so far beyond the goals that you suspect at least one end terrace must cross a county border. Many spectators opted for the large covered terrace opposite the main stand, with the roof and steep concrete terracing being enough to generate more noise than you’d expect from a portion of a crowd of 319.
The home fans had a lot the cheer about too, even if they did seem to do a lot of quite loud complaining as well. It didn’t look cheery for them for much of the first half though, with Barwell looking the stronger team. They had most possession, spent most of the half in Grantham territory, and looked most likely to open the scoring.
They didn’t though. In terms of actual shots it was pretty even, with a few long range efforts testing both keepers. Shortly before half time though, a ball wasn’t cleared, and the loose ball was hit across the keeper, into the far corner, to give the home side a slightly unexpected lead.
Barwell never really recovered, and never enjoyed the control they had in the first half hour after that. The Barwell half time talk seemed to have been “well, we’ve lost now lads, so just go through the motions in this half”, as they seemed very subdued.
They almost went 0-2 down very early, when a Grantham shot went just wide, hitting the outside the post. Not long after that, they were 0-2 down, when defender and keeper mixed up dealing with a cross between then, leaving Grantham with virtually an empty net to aim at to double the lead.
The game entered a quieter phase, before coming back to life in the last few minutes. Grantham looked to had sealed the day in the 84th minute, beating the offside trap to run on a good through ball, and knocking the ball past the advancing keeper.
With two minutes to go Barwell got a consolation goal.Chasing down a loose ball, it broke free and was poked over the line to reduce the deficit. Barwell had reasonable support at the game, but the lack of enthusiasm for the goal showed the game was up. The Barwell scorer didn’t even go for the customary picking the ball out of the net and running to the centre spot, seeming to realise it was rather pointless after gathering the ball.
There was still time for Grantham to reestablish their three goal lead, tucking in a cross from the right to make the score more emphatic than the play suggested.
So, OK, there was a running track, and zero atmosphere from either of the unoccupied ends of the ground, but it was a decent game with five goals, so I can’t moan about too much. I was a little less pleased about roadworks on the A1 meaning I had to take a diversion, but the diversion took me through a few picturesque villages, which was good. Barwell fans, especially ones looking to stop off to purchase a DVD for a “quiet night in”, might have a less enjoyable trip home.