Evo-Stik Division One South: King’s Lynn Town 1, Belper Town 2

16:51 17 November 2012

Russell Dunkley scored for King

Russell Dunkley scored for King's Lynn Town on Saturday but it wasn't enough to prevent them from slipping to their first home defeat in the league this season. Picture: Ian Burt.

Archant © 2012

Two moments of brilliance ended Lynn’s proud unbeaten home league record this afternoon.

Sensational first-half strikes from Mark Ward and Shaun Tuton helped the Linnets lose at home for the first time this season in their ninth Evo-Stik Division One South match at The Walks.

The loss - which Lynn looked close to turning around after an improved second-half display saw Russell Dunkley pull a goal back and his side hit the bar twice - was also the first time the men in yellow have suffered back-to-back defeats this term.

Gary Setchell’s men had been looking to bounce back from their midweek reverse at Sutton Coldfield which ended the Linnets’ fine 14-match unbeaten run.

Sent-off duo on the night Phil Gulliver and Richard Bunting were available with their suspensions not yet enforced. However loan striker Sam Mulready missed out after injuring himself during the 3-1 loss. He was replaced by new arrival, midfielder George Thomson, who signed on loan from Histon on Thursday. Dunkley, rested on Tuesday due to ankle-based fears about playing on Coldfield’s 3G surface, came in for Jason Turner.

Belper arrived at The Walks in seventh but on a high after recording their highest-ever Northern League win on Tuesday by thrashing Romulus 9-0.

The visitors in white started relatively brightly, which was perhaps no surprise, without bossing the game. They zipped the ball around in a confident manner - much like Eastbourne had done at The Walks the previous week.

Yet, Belper’s early possession didn’t fluster Lynn who started to grow into the game and enjoyed the first attempt on target of the afternoon just before the 15-minute mark.

Jamie Thurlbourne’s fine in-swinging cross was powerfully headed by Dunkley. However the Derbyshire side’s ‘keeper David Ratcliffe backpedalled to make a fine save and tip his effort over the bar. Goal-machine Steve Spriggs then went close as Lynn started to turn the screw.

At the other end, Richard Stirrup had Danny Gay beaten all ends up but his ferocious drive just whistled past the post. And minutes later it took an even better effort to put the visitors in front.

Tuton latched onto a long clearance before smashing a half-volley past Lynn’s despairing number one from the right-hand side of the box. His strike partner Ward stunned Lynn’s fans three minutes later when he also found the net with an equally impressive shot to double his side’s lead.

Belper’s number nine capitalised on Ryan Fryatt’s misjudged clearance and gloriously dinked the ball over Gay from about 20 yards. You’d be lying if you said you could have seen it coming.

For a little while after that Setchell’s charges struggled to regroup. They looked, perhaps fairly, shell-shocked at the fact they were 2-0 behind. And it would have been three had defender Karl Colley not screwed his sidefoot effort wide with Gay caught out of position.

With Ward and Tuton causing all sorts of problems with their fine link-up play and movement, you sensed Lynn needed half-time to recover - something they’ve done outstandingly this season. That fear only grew when Simon Harrison lashed a half-volley inches wide when left unmarked at the back post and Tuton went close once more. Since the goals, Belper had been outstanding.

Lynn’s Thomson, who himself had faded after a bright start, tried to reduce the deficit with a well-hit 30-yard drive but Ratcliffe was equal to it again.

The half-time whistle soon blew with Lynn staring down the barrel of their first home league defeat of the season. It was going to take a massive 45 minutes - similar to the Gresley comeback last month - to preserve their proud record.

The Norfolk outfit started the second period well with Thomson and Bunting dictating the pace of the play. The former nearly made it 2-1 but his thunderous shot clipped the top of Ratcliffe’s crossbar.

The more the visitors dropped deeper, the more Lynn surged forward. Some sweeping moves put Belper on the back foot and only late blocks prevented Setchell’s side from pulling one back. Dunkley flashed a header over but you could sense belief was pouring through the Linnets’ veins again.

Bunting went down in the box - but penalty peals were waved away - before Ross Watson’s shot was stopped by Belper’s fine goalkeeper Ratcliffe. The pressure was growing.

Belper found a foothold in the half to slow wave after wave of attack but Dunkley still found time to show his brilliance by testing Ratcliffe after a fine shot and turn. It was a shame his effort wasn’t as good as his approach play.

On the counter, Tuton went close to bagging a second but his shot was easily stopped by Gay - who had been a virtual bystander since the start of the second half. His opposite number Ratcliffe then could only watch as substitute Turner’s effort flew by him - unfortunately for Lynn it went the wrong side of the post.

Dunkley’s ferocious drive a few minutes later did beat the Belper shot-stopper as he drilled home an outstanding shot, after a quick turn on a sixpence, from about 25 yards. Could Lynn get another?

But despite some late pressure, of sorts - which saw right-back Watson smash a screamer against the bar and Dunkley head over at the death - that goal never game.

Lynn: Gay, Watson, Gulliver, Fryatt, Yong, Spriggs, Bunting (Turner, 62), Quigley, Thurlbourne (White, 80), Thomson, Dunkley. Subs not used: Street, Buhlemann, Bexfield. Goal: Dunkley (77) Booked: Gulliver, Watson.

Belper: Ratcliffe, Pride, Rushbury, Marrison, Roulston, Colley, Harrison, Warne, Ward (Stephens, 46), Tuton (Froggatt, 76), Stirrup. Subs not used: Chapman, Deakin, Goals: Tuton (21), Ward (24).

Referee: R. Townsend

Attendance: 585

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