Grantham 0, King's Lynn 1: Ten-man Lynn grabbed pole position in the Southern League, Premier Division playoff race yesterday with a battling win at local rivals Grantham.
Grantham 0, King's Lynn 1
Ten-man Lynn grabbed pole position in the Southern League, Premier Division playoff race yesterday with a battling win at local rivals Grantham.
Skipper Sam McMahon was dismissed for a second yellow card in the final quarter of a typically fierce derby encounter after an earlier caution for dissent.
Lynn survived late pressure from Lee Glover's limited Gingerbreads outfit to claim three vital points courtesy of Matt Nolan's first half glancing header - credited to Grantham's luckless stopper Mario Ziccardi.
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Chippenham's 2-0 win at fellow play offs Bath City in front of a season's best 2,268 crowd moved Lynn two points clear of the third-placed Romans with only two games of the regular season left.
Tommy Taylor's men could tie up second spot as early as next weekend and with it guaranteed home advantage in both the play off semi final and final.
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"Grantham were poor and we were nearly as bad," admitted Taylor. "At the end of the year we'll look back and remember the win which is all that matters now. It wasn't the best of games but derbies never are.
"If we had lost I'd have been devastated. We didn't create a great deal but the only way I could see them scoring was from set plays. They were chucking the ball into the box and hoping something would break for them. Grantham certainly didn't deserve to get anything but at 1-0 you never know.
"I showed the boys an article from the Bedford boss saying he expected to be facing Bath in the playoffs just to gee them up prior to kick off. After this result, second place is in our own hands. If we win the next two matches no-one can catch us."
Taylor backed skipper McMahon over his second half dismissal.
"I think it was harsh," he said. "The lads say Sam got a touch to the ball for the second yellow card but the ref sees the player go to ground. If the first one is for dissent then it's one of those you might get away with another week. I would never stop my players standing up for themselves with officials. Really Sam's only hurt himself because he could miss a game or two now."
Taylor chose not to risk defender Grant Cooper's hamstring with a second outing in 48 hours. Danny Hammond retained his place in the starting line up alongside Mark Camm with Charlie Defty named among the substitutes.
The swirling wind caused havoc in the early exchanges - Cedric Anselin miscuing on the edge of the box before Shaun Carey needed to be alert when Camm misjudged Ziccardi's booming punt.
Matt O'Halloran's snapshot sailed wide after Jack Defty's aerial presence had unsettled Grantham's defence. Dean West then linked superbly with Anselin down the right but his dangerous cut back was hacked to safety.
John Higgs clutched Ian Robinson's speculative long range effort for the hosts before Defty edged Gingerbreads' skipper Grant Brown off the ball as he prepared to pull the trigger.
Lynn broke the deadlock on 25 minutes - Nolan diverting Adam Smith's flick goalwards only for Richard Weale's attempted clearance to smack the grounded Ziccardi on the back and fly into an unguarded net.
West's timely back post intervention preserved Lynn's lead from Weale's inswinging corner.
Ziccardi denied Nolan his second three minutes before the break after the Linnets' dangerman had fashioned some space at the near post.
Higgs took emergency action to head clear two yards outside his own box after Adam Sturgess' hopeful punt held up in the wind.
The ever alert Smith then popped up on the opposite flank, ghosting onto McMahon's perfectly weighted pass only for Michael Sneddon to clear with Nolan lurking.
Grantham pinned the visitors back with a concerted spell of pressure after the restart. Robinson's 25 yarder bobbled wide then Higgs made a smart stop low to his left to foil Sneddon.
Higgs made a brave block at Sneddon's feet before relying on some desperate defending from the men in front to eventually hammer clear Weale's vicious set piece.
Ziccardi pouched McMahon's long range effort before the skipper was yellow carded for apparently questioning a free kick awarded in the home side's favour.
Smith was a coat of paint from doubling Lynn's advantage on 68 minutes - his right foot strike clipping Ziccardi's bar after Nolan and O'Halloran had retrieved West's deep cross.
McMahon got his marching orders when a desperate lunge just inside the Lynn half to prevent Sneddon leading a Grantham break out ended in a second yellow.
Taylor responded immediately by sacrificing wide man O'Halloran and Lynn safely navigated the final quarter without too many alarms -Camm's goalbound block to deny Adam Sturgess the only real moment of drama.
Grantham: Ziccardi, Matthews, Weale, Sturgess, Julian, Brown, Smith, Robinson, Sneddon, Turner, Popple (Glover 75). Subs (not used): Burrows, Maddison, Speed, Early.
Bookings: Brown, Glover
King's Lynn: Higgs, West, Smith, McMahon, Hammond, Camm, J Defty, Anselin (Hyde 86), Nolan (Charles 75), Carey, O'Halloran (C Defty 71). Subs (not used): Peters, Harvey.
Goal: Ziccardi og (25)
Bookings: McMahon, O'Halloran
Sent off: McMahon
Referee: W McIntosh