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Saturday 21st April 2018 ko 15.00

Northern Premier League-Premier Division


ALTRINCHAM 2 (Merrie 50 Johnston 78)

Att 689

Entry £10

Programme £2

In my working life, knowledge of the geography of the UK is useful. There’s a large map on the wall behind me, to help work out how long it takes to get from place to place, but being an inveterate groundhopper usually makes it redundant. After all, simply having driven to most of the towns helps, but the glaring exception was Grantham.

I’ve no idea why, it is after all the birthplace of Margaret Thatcher and the home of a unique type of Gingerbread . It was invented as is so many great ideas, by accident. Grantham was on the stagecoach route and a market for a flat, hard biscuit called a “Whetstone” grew up in the early 1700’s to feed the passers-by. Now I’m sure over 200 years later the young Margaret Roberts would have approved, because when in 1740 local baker John Egglestone accidentally added ginger he created something better than what he’d attempted to make!

The delicacy gives the football club it’s nickname and it was a regret that none was available to buy at the South Kesteven Stadium. The club moved to the newly-built council-owned athletics stadium in 1991 after leaving their London Road home. The stadium is built on the site of the Meres playing fields and the best of 20 years later you still hear the ground referred to as “The Meres.”

But as I put these words together I can hear the groundhoppers muttering “A lousy athletics stadium” and while generally I’m no fan of the genre, there are some glorious exceptions, the Olympic Stadium, Stockholm being one, this version isn’t a bad place to watch a football match. As usual there is no view from behind the goal, but the saving grace is the elevation of the stands along the touchlines. While it’ll never be as good a football-only venue it’s more than adequate for the Gingerbreads’ needs.

Of course opponents Altrincham have an iconic home of their own, Moss Lane. I have to say I was shocked to see them playing at the 3rd step of non-league, I see them as one of the most famous non-league clubs. Going into this game they needed a win to pip Warrington Town to both the title and automatic promotion. With Grantham neatly ensconced in a play-off spot it was never going to be easy for the visitors.

It took time and I’m sure nerves played a part, but Chris Merrie’s shot eased the tension and in the end it was only the brilliance of Keiran Preston in the home goal that stopped Altrincham adding to John Johnston’s further strike.

Mobile phones were nervously checked, but the even those who didn’t know, saw the truth at the final whistle. The away end erupted in celebration, while the hosts plotted a subsequently unsuccessful play-off tilt.

It was a far better game and ground than I’d expected, perhaps we all enjoy things more if there little or no weight of expectation. Grantham were and are a welcoming, friendly club to visit. Just try and ignore that running track!!