King's Lynn go again as second-half fightback secures play-off final spot
PUBLISHED: 10:05 05 May 2019 | UPDATED: 15:59 05 May 2019
After a difficult week off the pitch, King's Lynn Town finally did what they do best - Chris Lakey was at The Walks to see them beat Stratford 3-1 in their Southern Premier Central play-off semi-final.
Football finally overcame bureaucracy - but the Linnets were again dragged into battle before earning their place in the play-off final.
Ian Culverhouse's men return to The Walks on Monday afternoon after an energy-sapping few days when their semi-final was subjected to the most bizarre series of rescheduling. Finally, though, a ball was put on the centre spot and the game began - Lynn coming back from a goal down at half-time and staging a superb second-half revival.
Alvechurch are next up, having overcome Stourbridge - and Culverhouse insists his team will be better this time around having acknowledged that Saturday's win “wasn't pretty”. It was, however, highly effective.
“It is all about recovery now,” he said. “We have a lot of knocks and bumps in there and we have to make sure we are clued, but you can trust this group. They are very focused. We return on Monday and we try again.
“All four teams in the play-offs are there by merit and have been up there virtually all season. Alvechurch have always been up there. They are a real hard working side so we have got to match that. But we have got to be better on the ball on Monday and we can play a lot better than we did today.
“I have so much faith in this group and every time we go out I expect us to dominate the ball and we didn't today.
“We will be better on Monday.”
Striker Michael Gash and centre-half Rory McAuley, scorer of the decisive third goal, are both struggling for the final: both epitomise the warrior spirit needed in such situations, but Culverhouse has to balance that with the fact that victory would send Lynn through to a 'super' play-off final on Saturday at Warrington, 2-1 winners over South Shields on Saturday.
Stratford had frustrated Lynn and taken a deserved lead through Michael Taylor, but the half-time break worked wonders as Culverhouse reminded his players just what was at stake. The response was three excellent goals, from sub Ryan Hawkins, skipper Michael Clunan and McAuley – while Stratford blew a big chance when they missed a penalty at 2-1.
Culverhouse didn't resort to the 'game of two halves' cliche - but it was.
“We had a little discussion after the first half,” he said. “We weren't at it today. I thought we looked a little pedestrian. We didn't move it enough, we didn't get in the right areas. Fair play to Stratford, because that is their game plan and I thought they looked sharper than us, so we will have to look at that.
“But the response second half was magnificent. We said at half-time 'it is over if we don't respond now, if we don't step up',” he said. “But you don't need to stand up in front of this group. They knew we were poor first half and they galvanised, grouped together and the response was magnificent.”
While Taylor's goal for the visitors, on 35 minutes, was soft from a Lynn point of view as he sidefooted home from close range after a cross in from the left, the response was far from it. Hawkins – who replaced Jordan Richards, groggy after taking a free-kick full in the face – had possession outside just a packed area, took a step to his right and lashed home a stunning shot which left keeper Ross Etheridge stranded.
Clunan's just after the hour mark was a sweet right-footed strike from the edge of the area – a relief for the skipper who missed the previous weekend's big win at Stourbridge because of illness.
Lynn had a huge let-off on 67 minutes when Wilson Carvalho blazed a penalty over after Ryan Fryatt fouled Kynan Isaac, then up popped McAuley, nodding home a fine pass from Ryan Jarvis to spark wild celebrations in the 1,200-plus crowd.
Culverhouse said: “A fantastic turnout for us and hopefully they will come out on Monday and support the boys again and we will try and make them proud again.
King's Lynn: Street, Barrows (Jones 69), Fryatt, McAuley, Blake-Tracy, Richards (Hawkins 42), Jarvis, Clunan, Henderson, Gash, Marriott (Mellors-Blair 85). Subs not used: Robinson, Parker. Goals: Hawkins 49, Clunan 61, McAuley 76
Stratford: Etheridge, Cox, Isaac, Sebeh-Njie (Wilson 75), Fry, Williams, Shariff, Skendi, Taylor, Grocott, Carvalho. Subs: Fisher, Williams, Fishwick, Shergill. Goal: Taylor 35.
Referee: A Wilson (Boston)