The Gingerbreads take their eight point lead at the top of the Evo-Stik League Division 1 South to Romulus on Saturday looking to build on last Saturday’s win over play-off chasing Sheffield.
The manner in which the Gingerbreads took all three points was put into perspective by the Dronfield based sides’ six goal midweek win against Stamford.
“We knew on Saturday what a good result it was.” Said Gingerbreads joint manager Jimmy Albans. “A win like that had been a bit overdue. Tuesday’s result at Sheffield puts the win in perspective. They have now scored 17 goals in the games around their visit to us, but they hardly got a sniff last Saturday. It also showed that we are far more than a good 11. Given that we had to change our central midfield, then one up front and one at the back as the game wore on, those who played showed how fine the line is between getting a start and being on the bench.”
The performance Grantham put in against Sheffield was made all the more satisfying by the changes Grantham had been forced to make both before and during the game. Rhys Lewis was missing with the same virus that had kept Jamie McGhee out of the midweek trip to Carlton while Martin Ball served the third game of his suspension. With injuries to Ben Saunders and Grant Brindley, Albans and Wayne Hallcro had to re-shuffle their pack, but still returned a well deserved victory and clean sheet against a high scoring Sheffield side.
“We have a huge amount of flexibility in the team.” Albans pointed out. “Many people don’t realise that Martin Ball played the whole of last season in the Premier Division at centre half! Jaffa came on and gave a good account of himself in central midfield before slotting in at the back. And the options our forwards give us are frightening. To say how well we played up front without Ben for an hour demonstrated the headaches that Wayne and me have each week! All 18 could start and are very adaptable in where we play them. The eleven who do get starting shirts must look across to the bench and know that they have got to give 100% each week or someone will have their shirt and they might not get it back.”
At least two of those four missing or injured players are expected to be available for Saturday, Lewis and Ball will be in contention for midfield slots, but Albans stresses that there are no guarantees of their return to the starting line-up.
“On Saturday, for example, Rhys and Bally are available, but given how we stifled Sheffield in the centre of the field, there is no guarantee they will get back in the starting line-up.” He said. “Ben is the same; everyone did so well against Sheffield that we need to make sure we pick the right eleven for the game against Romulus and nothing else.”
On Saturday Grantham showed why they are at the top of the Evo-Stik league Division 1 South with a performance of strength, giving Sheffield no chance to get anything from the game. Despite recently dropping points, Grantham went out against Sheffield and played as they have done in onther games earlier in the season. Albans explained how he and Hallcro lifted any pressure that may have sat on their squad ahead of the game.
“There was no reason to play with any fear against Sheffield, or anyone else.” Albans stated. “We said on Saturday that at the end of the game our league position could not be any less that when we started. We would be a minimum of five points clear, which would be a great position. As it is, we went and put in a real shift to get all three and come back eight points clear. But all of the performance against Sheffield means absolutely nothing if we don’t go out against Romulus and do the same.”
As far as Albans is concerned, the Sheffield game is now behind Grantham and they must turn exactly the same attention to Romulus on Saturday. With Ilkeston and Carlton breathing down the Gingerbreads necks, there is no opportunity for relaxation yet as far as the Gingerbreads joint managers are concerned.
“At three o’clock on Saturday, the game is no different to last week.” Said Albans. “Two sides start level and either side could win. We will approach the game against Romulus in the same way we did the one against Sheffield. As far as we are concerned, it is just as important against just as tough opponents. As we did against Sheffield, if we do the right things right, we will give ourselves a good chance of winning. The chasing sides, Carlton and Ilkeston aren’t going to give it up until it is mathematically impossible for them to win it. Their players said as much on Sunday at the Player of the Season Awards. They are concentrating on getting as many points as they can as see where that takes them. We must concentrate on making it impossible for them to catch us as soon as we can! We can only afford to relax when the season is over.”
Grantham have put together some impressive runs of results as the season has unfolded to get where they are at the moment. Albans would like to see one more from his side to end the season on a high.
“We would be so chuffed to have gone through the season only losing four games.” He said. “That would be an achievement in itself. I don’t care how we get there, the most important thing is to impose ourselves on games and play football in the same way we have done all season. We will certainly approach every game in the same way as we have done all season. We will take nothing for granted at Romulus. Football results are only earned by what you do in those 90 minutes, not what you have done before that. Romulus have good players and we must not underestimate them.”
The final decisions on starting line-up are likely to be taken late on Saturday as Albans and Hallcro give injured players the best chance to get fit, whilst also making sure they pick the right side for the day.
“Ben has got a chest infection now as well as the hamstring strain he has felt.” Albans revealed. “Hopefully he will be fit enough to perform for 90 minutes for us. We will assess that on Saturday. But if he is not, it won’t be a problem. As we saw when we played Sutton Coldfield, that surface will suit the sort of play we showed against Sheffield for the last hour. It is a positive that we have played there so recently. That will help us to feel better on the pitch and settle more quickly into the game than we did against Sutton. We got more used to it as the game went on then and started playing our normal game. We learned that we can tackle on it and can play just the same as we do on grass. We want to get on the front foot early on and dictate the pace and tempo of the game. Grant Brindley came out of the game on Saturday in some pain with a sore back but he trained OK on Tuesday night. We will have to play that one by ear until Saturday as well.”