Cleethorpes Town 3 - 1 Grantham Town
A frustrating night for the Gingerbreads was not helped by a team of officials who failed to punish serious foul play by the home side, then missed a clear handball for the third Cleethorpes goal.
Despite the lack of action by officials that upset Grantham manager Matt Chatfield, it was difficult to argue that there should have been a different outcome to the game.
“The handball for the third goal is the most blatant you will see in football,” said Chatfield.. “For that to stand is embarrassing and killed the game.
"Dan Cocks was kneed in the head in the first half, the linesman has seen it and said that’s for the referee to deal with. Another push in the face that the referee hasn’t dealt with has affected the game. Two deflections for goals and the handball for the third haven’t helped us at all.”
For the first half hour of the match there was very little to choose between the two sides. Cleethorpes’ Tom Jamieson whipped over an early cross that Dan Haystead had to turn behind for a corner, whilst Lee Shaw got on the end of a pass over the home defence, but overhit his first touch as both sides tested each other out.
The Gingerbreads had the best early chances. On 12 minutes, Ashton Hall brought the ball a long way out of defence. Hall played in Shaw on the left wing before continuing his run into the Cleethorpes penalty area. He got on the end of Shaw’s cross but headed wide of the goal.
Four minutes later, Joe Stacey’s long throw almost undid the home side. It was flicked on at the near post, but James McKeown grabbed it on his line.
Home striker Dec Howe began to cause the Grantham defence problems with his pace. With 20 minutes played, he found space wide and passed the ball on for Jamieson. Another good cross from the full back found Will Annan. Annan controlled the ball and shot but lifted his effort too high.
A minute later, Howe looked to get in behind the Grantham defence, but good work from Jake Wright denied him a chance to shoot.
Just before the half hour mark, the home side went in front. Howe took on the Grantham defence again and laid the ball back for Curtis Bateson. His shot took a deflection that left Haystead stranded as the ball nestled in the back of the Grantham net.
Eight minutes before the break, referee Mr Boult began to upset the Gingerbreads. In an off the ball incident in front of his assistant, Cocks appeared to be deliberately hit in the head by a defender. The assistant did not draw the referee’s attention to what happened right in front of him and Cleethorpes got away with it.
Still with 11 men on the pitch, Cleethorpes went close again late in the first half. A free kick taken by Alex Flett caused the Gingerbreads problems again and Haystead was called into action to keep the scoreline close at half time.
Another slice of luck gave Cleethorpes a second goal three minutes after the break. Flett delivered a cross to the edge of the Grantham penalty area. The Gingerbreads seemed to clear their lines, but the ball hit a blue shirt and dropped perfectly for Jamieson to fire a shot past Haystead.
The Gingerbreads goalkeeper kept Grantham in the game on 51 minutes with the save of the match. Cleethorpes worked the ball across the Gingerbreads defence to Jon Oglesby. His curling effort came at Haystead from behind defenders, but the Grantham goalkeeper reacted superbly to turn the shot round the post.
Grantham had been forced to reorganise at the back due to a first half injury to Hall and the home side tried to press hard down the visitors' right hand side early in the second half.
However, the controversial third goal came from the other side of the pitch in the 72nd minute. A free kick delivered into the Grantham penalty area was clearly punched into the net by Howe, but Mr Boult and his assistants were the only people in the ground not to see the handball. Despite lengthy protests for the Gingerbreads, the goal was allowed to stand.
With the game seemingly over as a contest, the home side dominated proceedings. Bateson had a great chance on 79 minutes but fired wildly over the Grantham crossbar. Three minutes from time, he played a ball over the top of the Grantham defence for Howe, but it was just too long for the striker to reach.
In the second minute of added time at the end of the game, Grantham scored a consolation goal. Kieran Hayes was tripped as he went past a defender inside the penalty area and Nathan Tyson stepped up to give the Gingerbreads some but little comfort.