Grantham Town 2 - 1 Clitheroe
Clitheroe go down fighting
Clitheroe shrugged off the effects of a three hour coach journey and went toe to toe with a very good Grantham side, who harbour their own play off hopes in the league higher. Whilst it was the home side which prevailed and progress to the final, Clitheroe left the pitch to an ovation from the travelling fans and can hold their heads high.
At Grantham's cavernous stadium, the visitors took time to adjust to the speed and regular bounce of the excellent surface, and with balls bouncing shoulder high, it was no surprise that the first five minutes were dominated by the home team, whose tactics were all based on speed on the flanks and anticipation of overlapping wingers. A succession of whipped in corners were well defended by the Blues but it was no surprise on 11 minutes when Chris Churchman was outpaced by a home forward and as he cut into the box, he dissolved slightly too easily to ground and a penalty was awarded.
Chris Thompson is no stranger to spot kicks and he again pulled off the first of many excellent saves for the evening. It took a good 20 minutes before Clitheroe settled to their task. On 26 minutes, good work on the right saw Dimitri Tuanzebe picked out on the opposite flank and his shot was turned for a corner. Other Clitheroe half chances came, but the visitors were always aware of the Grantham threat at the other end. On 34 minutes, Clitheroe went behind as a bouncing ball contrived to bounce off a forward's knee under pressure from Danny Brady, and it leapt over the stranded Thompson. The lead could have been doubled before the break when a left wing burst saw a shot flash across the face of goal.
Clitheroe had the worst possible start to the second half as they first conceded a corner and then shortly after, a shot cum cross from the left threaded its way through a forest of players and buried itself in the net. Thompson was called upon to make another great save low down on 52 minutes, but two minutes later, a deep cross from the Clitheroe right, picked out Kurt Willoughby on the left hand edge of the box, and his turn and shot were from the top drawer.
Clitheroe should have been level on 68 minutes when substitute Aidan Kirby burst down the left and as he scudded in a cross, Tuanzebe blind sided the keeper who was shaping to field the ball but just could not steer the ball home. As Clitheroe sought the equaliser and Simon Haworth threw on an extra striker in Adam Bolton, chances came at both ends, but Thompson was the busier of the two keepers, as he made a string of trademark brave stops. On 83 minutes, Willoughby forced his way down the right and his pin point cross picked out Bolton who could only find the keeper. Two further saves from Thompson then saw extra time and as the clock ticked down, makeshift striker Danny Brady could not get over a bouncing ball and he put it over.
The right team won on the night to take their place in the league cup final, but this was an excellent performance by the Blues, who will be looking to secure a play off place to cap an excellent season.
Team : Chris Thompson, Jacob Davies, Gareth Roberts, Ian Rowlands, Danny Brady (c), Charlie Russell, Joe Mitchell (Adam Bolton), Chris Churchman, Kurt Willoughby, Alex Newby (Aidan Kirby), Dimitri Tuanzebe. Subs - Aidan Kirby, Adam Bolton. Not used - Ryan Cattermole, Robbie Bromley.