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7.5 C

Match Report: Carlton Town 2 – 1 Grantham Town

Mark Harvey and Tommy Brookbanks made two changes to the side which had won at league leaders Stockton two days earlier.


NPL First Division East – 1 April 2024

Goals from Niall Hylton and Nat Watson saw Carlton Town keep up their playoff challenge with a hard-fought 2-1 win at home to Grantham Town.

The Gingerbreads belied their position in the relegation zone with a dogged display but the Millers matched them for effort and in the end were just that little bit sharper in front of goal.

With a backlog of fixtures to get through and the threat of being made to play their April home fixtures at alternative venues hanging over the club, Carlton knew they had to ensure that, despite the weekend rain, the Stoke Lane pitch was playable.  That meant a 9am start for groundsman Kris and a large number of volunteer supporters (including at one point Grantham’s own groundsman) and four hours work on the most problematic area of the pitch paid off as the match referee passed the pitch as playable at 1.30pm.

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Mark Harvey and Tommy Brookbanks made two changes to the side which had won at league leaders Stockton two days earlier with Watson and Hylton back in the starting line up in place of Alex Hardwick and Alex Howes.

Grantham were backed by a large and noisy travelling support including a group of fans who had walked all the way from the South Kesteven stadium for charity.

Carlton started the sharper and Mamado Sylla-Diallo had the ball in the net on five minutes only for the strike to be ruled out for a push.  It took the Millers just three more minutes to score when Watson got the better of Sam Muggleton and Connor Peters before crossing to an unmarked Hylton who volleyed home from close range.

Visiting goalkeeper Curtis Hall then made a fine save from an angled drive from Lamin Manneh as Carlton threatened to run away with it.  But Grantham dug in and started to cause Carlton problems, particularly with Muggleton’s excocet missile of a long throw.

The Gingerbreads’ first real chance came midway through the half when Harry Wood crossed to Curtis Morrison whose shot drew a superb save from Felix Annan.  Back came Carlton and when Manneh fed the impressive Hylton, Muggleton did well to block his cross with Watson waiting to score.

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Grantham’s long throws were being well dealt with by the Carlton defence, with Dean Freeman winning virtually all of the headers, but they changed tactic on the stroke of half time when Muggleton played a short throw to Sisa Tuntulwana, picked up the return pass and then hit a screamer that drew another excellent save from Annan.

Early in the second half Watson sent Hylton away, only for the wide man to be denied by a fine Osakpolor Solomon tackle.  Soon afterwards Niall Davie headed over the bar from a good position after a Manneh corner was only half cleared.

Carlton were not to be denied and on 57 minutes they doubled their lead.  Hylton went on a fine run down the right into the area.  Whilst prostrate on the floor he managed to cross to Watson who fired home from eight yards.

Watson himself then went on a 50 yard run but with Hylton waiting to tap in, Watson elected to shoot and his effort went wide.

Khyle Sargent was booked on the hour and committed a foul from the resultant free kick.  He was perhaps fortunate not to receive a second yellow card and was almost immediately replaced by Greg Tempest.

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Grantham never stopped trying and Freeman and Dan Brown had to be alert all game to the threat through the middle, with David Adegbola and Lewis Durow likewise having to cover the flanks.  In general terms the Carlton defenders won the battles against their opponents but Annan was in action once more when he did well to save a cross-shot by Tuntulwana.

Hall went down with what looked like a pre-planned injury break with 15 minutes remaining which allowed the Grantham manager to deliver some instructions to his team.  The delay contributed to the eight minutes of injury time that were added on at the end of the half.

Before that though a lovely pass by substitute Michael Ford sent Adegbola away on the right.  He raced past Muggleton, drew Hall and fired past him only to see his shot strike the post and rebound into Hall’s grateful arms.

Durow and Watson then combined with a couple of quick one-twos before Watson’s shot was stopped by the outstretched arm of Brad Munns.  The referee waved away Carlton’s claims of a penalty and when the ball was played back into Hardwick, his shot was saved by Hall.

The Millers continued to hold firm at the back albeit Grantham had a penalty shout of their own turned down.  Carlton should have wrapped up the game in the third minute of added time when Davie fed Hardwick on the right.  His excellent cross was completely missed by Hylton almost on the goal line.

Grantham responded and pulled a goal back a minute later.  Annan, who dealt superbly with a series of crosses all afternoon, misjudged a corner and failed to claim it cleanly.  The loose ball was fed to Ryan Rushen who prodded home from inside the six yard box.

Grantham smelt blood and threw everything forward to try and get an equaliser but Carlton held firm, and Muggleton was sent off in the final minute of added time for a second yellow card after a crude foul on Durow.

The players and coaching staff had contributed generously to a bar tab for the pitch volunteers, but the repayment the supporters really wanted was the three points and the final whistle confirmed that the players had indeed delivered.  Both sets of players received well-merited applause from the decent bank holiday crowd.

Carlton Town: F Annan, D Adegbola, L Durow, D Brown, D Freeman, M Sylla-Diallo (M Ford 72), N Watson, K Sargent (G Tempest 65), L Manneh (A Hardwick 71), N Davie, N Hylton.  Unused subs: P Dearle, M Jebbison

Goals: N Hylton 8, N Watson 57; Ryan Rushen 90+4

Carlton Town Supporters Club MOTM: Niall Hylton

Att: 240

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