Grantham Town
The South Kesteven Sports Stadium

Ground No. 169
Visited - Saturday 15th November 2008
Result - Grantham Town 1-2 Willenhall Town
Competition - Northern Premier League, Division 1 South
Attendance - 217

Situated just outside Wolverhampton, Willenhall are more or less the closest non-league club to me, and despite technically not being the first non-league ground I visited, it is where I really think of my interest in football outside the 92 as having started, with a pre-season trip to Noose Lane 3 years ago. Despite that, I can’t really say that I like the ground all that much. It always seems to have a cold feel to it without much character at all really, but I do still try to get down there a few times per season and have developed a bit of a soft spot for them.

Having decided not to bother watching Wolves away at Southampton, then there really didn’t seem to be much on for the weekend, however one town I’d always wanted to visit was Grantham, although with the football club playing in an athletics stadium then it wasn’t of the greatest appeal, but seeing that Willenhall were the visitors then it made the fixture a bit more attractive. I say it was the town that I was looking forward to because whilst this site and the driving force behind my travels has always been the grounds/football, I have enjoyed taking the opportunity to see the country, with some great places visited along the way.

I’d set out a bit later than usual, nursing a slight hangover from the previous night, so wasn’t too happy to have to stand up all the way to Birmingham, and a group of half drunk, nattering 40 year old women on the train from there to Nottingham made my head feel like I’d drunk twice as much! Thankfully the final part of the journey went a bit quieter and I was in a good mood after arriving, taking the time to look around, including visiting Margaret Thatcher’s birthplace, although that was met with mixed feelings having been bought up to only mention her name in the same company as political leaders of a similar vein, the likes of Hitler, Pot, Amin.... (working class kids of the 80s unite!). Political division aside, it was a really nice little market town, also notable for being where Isaac Newton went to school, but with time getting on then I eventually made my way up to the ground. Despite having a map, my apparent natural instinct for getting lost kicked in, turning a 1 mile walk into a 3 mile trek (in the rain), before eventually finding it with 10 minutes to spare to kick-off.

Having been built in 1991 it is a council development, but despite my fears of a boring athletics venue, it really does have some character to it. The East (main) Stand looks really imposing from both inside and out, with two tiers of seating and good sized terraces flanking it either side. Each end has a few rows of uncovered terracing, whilst on the far side is another fairly large terrace which runs for about two-thirds the length of the pitch and is fully covered with a message running along the length of the roof from the council, welcoming you to the ground!

I’d barely found a place to stand when the game got started, and with my watch still saying 2:58pm (which I know was right!) the visitors had found themselves 1-0 ahead. A good move down the left had seen the ball crossed into the box where Justin Nisbett stood unmarked to tap home from close range. It was a shock to both sides, but it didn’t dent the hosts confidence and the rest of the half was played in a positive manner from both teams. Grantham had chances, but were made to pay thanks to some comedy shooting, so at the break it was still 1-0 to Willenhall.

After half time, the game resumed in a similar style, both sides looking a real credit to the NPL, putting on a committed show with some good quality, entertaining football. With the half just six minutes old, Grantham were able to make it 1-1. A shot from point blank range had been saved by Luke Tilt in the visitors goal, but he couldn’t do anything when Ben Garrick got on the rebound, smashing it home in the midst of a crowded area. Willenhall didn’t lie down at this, and on 57 minutes they were back in front, Nisbett getting his second when he did well to beat the keeper on the break. Controversy was soon to strike though and after an 18-man brawl in the middle of the pitch Willenhall were reduced to 10 men when Craig Milligan was sent off, but they managed to hold on for the last half-hour, despite two goal-line scrambles which saw a passionate Grantham crowd cursing the linesman for not flagging for a goal (despite being in line with the action but obviously unable to see as well as the home fans looking on from an angle, over the other side of a running track in the upper tier of the Main Stand!). With time drawing to a close, it did seem like they might have got an equaliser, but Tilt in the away goal was in splendid form, tipping over a free-kick in the final ten minutes to make sure the ‘Lockmen’ left with all three points.

Having left the ground, then I managed to find my way back the right way this time, and got back to the station with no problems, the trains running smoothly all the way home, getting back for 8:30pm.

Overall, it had been a pretty good day out. Other than one pedantic arse of a steward, everyone at the club had seemed pretty friendly, particularly in the clubhouse and despite my concern beforehand of it being an athletics stadium, it actually turned out to be a pretty good venue. The Main Stand offers a fantastic view from the upper tier, with the terraces either side being large and steep enough to make it seem that you aren’t so far away. It has a bit of character as well, and although my previous visits to athletics grounds (Tipton, Brighton, Rotherham) usually left me with the impression that I wouldn’t want to watch games there regularly, this was a bit different. The ground as a whole seems a lot bigger than you would expect for a Step 4 club, so all in all, I'd happily recommend a visit here. 

Welcome to Grantham Town

Main Entrance to the Ground and Clubhouse

Rear of the West Stand

The West Stand

The South End of the Ground

The East Stand

The West Stand

The North End of the Ground

The Clubshop

View from the West Stand Upper Tier

The South Kesteven Sports Stadium Panoramic

Margaret Thatcher's Birthplace


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