Following their dramatic wins over Newcastle Town and Stafford Rangers the next destination for Morton Titterton’s buoyant side in their 2011/12 F A Cup journey was East Anglia to face a resurgent Kings Lynn.
The Linnets had suffered from financial problems and were making their way back up the Leagues much as Hereford are doing currently, and since then both they and Town have progressed into the Southern League Premier Division.
And this was another roller coaster afternoon with Ben Mackey’s opportunism giving Town an early lead which was still intact at half time. The Linnets equalised and then went ahead after the break only for a sensational strike from Mark Faulds to level it all up again until with a replay back at the DCS looking a certainty the Linnets scrambled a late winner.
So Town’s. spectacular F A Cup run was over, but it had been great while it lasted !!
THE LINNETS SWOOP LATE TO END TOWN’S F A CUP DREAMS
King’s Lynn Town – 3 – Defty (2) 52 & 64 White 87 Stratford Town – 2 – Mackey 3 Faulds 71
Town’s record-equalling F A Cup run reached a heartbreaking finish at The Walks Stadium on Saturday when a scrappy 87th minute goal from King’s Lynn Town midfielder Danny White sent his side into the Fourth Qualifying Round.
As Morton Titterton admitted afterwards the Linnets had bossed large parts of the game, but Town had led at the interval through a Ben Mackey goal and after falling behind to a Jack Defty double had equalised with a Mark Faulds “special” and appeared on course for a replay at the DCS until White’s late decider.
King’s Lynn Town are only in their second season having been formed when the previous King’s Lynn club were wound up because of financial problems two years ago. Placed into the Premier Division of the United Counties League they operate at the same level – Step 5 – of the non-league pyramid as Town, but having retained the fan base and facilities of the old club they are in reality too big for this level, and the attendance here of 866 was the biggest that Town have played in front of for a number of years.
Town’s starting line-up showed one change from last weekend. Danny Haynes returned at right back and with Joss Holford moving into midfield in the continued absence of Sam Alsop it was Josh Blake who dropped down to the subs bench.
Quoted at an almost insulting 5/1 for this encounter by some bookmakers Town immediately belied those odds by grabbing the lead inside three minutes. Mykel Beckley and Stuart Hall jostled for a no more than hopeful long ball launched towards the Linnets penalty area with keeper Alex Street also advancing unconvincingly towards them in an attempt to intercept.
In the confusion Hall’s weak clearance was picked up by Mackey who – some 20 yards out – still had work to do. But expertly and unerringly he drilled the ball back past the stranded keeper and into the bottom of the unguarded net.
Stunned by this early setback the Linnets took some time to get going, but when they did it was clear that their pacy right winger Stephen Spriggs had the beating of Town left back Ricky Baker while on the opposite flank the impressive 18 year old Ben Coe was proving a handful for the combined efforts of Haynes and Holford.
The Linnets first shot was a rasping effort from Spriggs which was well blocked by Baker and was soon followed by a cross shot from Coe which fizzed past Town keeper Richard Morris’s left hand post.
At the other end Street saved well from Stuart Herlihy and then got down to his right to reach a Mackey shot after Andy Gregory had flicked on a Faulds free kick.
The Linnets had to make a change midway through the half when the unfortunate Hall couldn’t continue after coming off the worst in a three player collision involving Beckley and Street, and he was replaced by Dan Buhlemann.
But by now the Linnets had taken over in midfield and dominated the rest of the opening period. Spriggs and Coe sent over a stream of crosses intended for veteran striker Defty who was a prolific marksman for the old club and who was making his 375th King’s Lynn appearance in this game, and Town’s central defensive pairing of Gregory and Adam Cooper were kept at full stretch as the pressure intensified.
As half time neared the dangerous Defty went close with a couple of headers as did Spriggs with a crisp right footer, but in a rare Town breakaway Haynes had a chance with a free header from another Faulds free kick which he disappointingly put wide as Town somehow reached the break still in front.
Urged on by their vocal following the Linnets upped the tempo straight from the restart with Buhlemann going close with a header as Town failed to deal properly with a left wing corner. The equaliser looked to be just a matter of time, but when it arrived on 51 minutes it was down to a catastrophic goal kick from Morris.
Lacking power and direction it went only as far as Danny Beaumont on the right touchline and he seized the opportunity to sprint past Baker and reach the byline before squaring the ball in to Defty who predictably made no mistake from ten yards out.
The Linnets now had all the momentum. They were first to every ball with Town seeming to lose out in every 50/50 challenge, and it was no surprise when they went ahead just after the hour mark.
For once Gregory and Cooper were caught out of position as a long ball from Beaumont picked out Defty all on his own down the inside left channel. To Town’s consternation the offside flag stayed down and it was easy for Defty to lift the ball over Morris to the delight of the fans packed behind the goal.
With Town in disarray the Linnets looked set to go on to a comfortable success but that all changed in the 71st minute when Faulds put Town right back in the game with a stunning strike that has to be a certainty for Town’s Goal of the Season.
Receiving the ball in a central position all of 35 yards out and with no Linnets defender near enough to challenge the long serving midfielder looked up and instinctively let fly with a spectacular shot which rocketed past the startled Street into the top corner of the net.
Now it was anyone’s game as Town at last began to have more of the meaningful possession. Mackey went close with a shot across goal from a Faulds pass and Street then did well to reach a Haynes cross as Mackey waited to pounce, but just when it seemed that a replay was inevitable the Linnets broke Town hearts as they broke through for that cruel winner with three minutes of normal time left.
Spriggs was again involved as he threaded the ball through a tangle of legs on the edge of the penalty area and White was in the right place to toe poke it past Morris with the ball having just enough pace to creep inside the post.
Town had no option but to pile forward in the hope of repeating the miracle reprieve at Newcastle, but a Gregory header easily held by Street was the nearest they came, and with the anxious Linnets supporters pleading for the final whistle they eventually ran out of time.
But it had been a memorable run in this season’s competition beginning with the seven goal demolition of Nuneaton Griff and continuing with a narrow win over Coventry Sphinx before the two breathtaking goal extravaganzas against Newcastle Town and then the headiness of the success at Stafford Rangers.
And for Town supporters over the last couple of months the magic of the F A Cup had certainly still been vet much alive..
TOWN : Morris, Haynes, Baker, Holford, Gregory, Cooper (Thompson 90), Herlihy, Faulds, Mackey, Beckley, Murphy (Blake 62). Unused Subs – Pollard, Edgington, Brown, Fellows & Cross (GK)
KING’S LYNN : Street, Bexfield, Yong, Watson, Hall (Buhlemann 24), White, Spriggs, L Thurlbourne, Defty, Beaumont (Harris 73) , Coe (Reeve 84). Unused Subs – Fryatt & Hails (GK)
Attendance – 866
Town Man of the Match – Andy Gregory
The View From The Dug-Out – Morton Titterton concedes that King’s Lynn were deserving winners
“Obviously I’m disappointed with the result, but I accept that the better side won. We didn’t play at our best, and in particular we didn’t hold on to the ball well enough which put us under added pressure and meant that we couldn’t create the openings we needed.
Nevertheless we looked like holding on for a replay until their late winner, but in games at this level you have to keep your concentration up right to the end.”
Match Stats by Rod Abrahams
Town – GA 10 OT 6 HW 0 CW 1 FC 13 OS 4 YC 1 RC 0
K/Lynn – GA 13 OT 5 HW 0 CW 6 FC 6 OS 3 YC 0 RC 0
Town Yellow Cards – Faulds
K/Lynn Yellow Cards – None
Match Report by Bryan Hale