Chapman typifies Linnets' spirit

Paddy Davitt Merthyr 0, King's Lynn 2: Take a bow Ben Chapman. Perhaps fittingly Lynn's human wrecking ball of a defender thrust himself forward as the most bruising Southern League, Premier Division title race for many a year reached a pulsating climax.

Paddy Davitt

Merthyr 0, King's Lynn 2

Take a bow Ben Chapman.

Perhaps fittingly Lynn's human wrecking ball of a defender thrust himself forward as the most bruising Southern League, Premier Division title race for many a year reached a pulsating climax.

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Joe Francis' artistry, Matt Nolan's late burst of goals, Greg Crane's growing maturity as skipper all drew praise over the tense title run-in.

Rightly so, but it was the uncompromising Chapman who featured in the defining act at Penydarren Park.

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Lynn's pocket battleship - a man who has struck terror into opposition wide players all season - appeared from a different postcode to hack Craig Stein's goalbound shot off Scott Howie's line.

Chapman's sinew-straining efforts kicked a huge dust cloud up from the bone-dry penalty box.

By the time gravity pulled the particles back to earth, Lynn had taken a decisive step closer to their first ever Southern Premier title.

Jack Defty's slaloming run doubled the visitors' lead - courtesy of Nolan's simple first half tap in - minutes after Chapman's heroics at the start of the second period.

Chapman's attacking burst earned a golden chance to add a late third from the penalty spot.

Francis bravely elbowed aside the elder statesman but dragged off target - a second consecutive miss from 12 yards after his tame effort at Gloucester.

No matter. Lynn kept their cool to play out time. Merthyr's Steve Williams lost his - the Martyrs' defender rightly red carded for throwing a punch at Michael Frew in a late flare-up.

It was tense. It was nervy. It was King's Lynn. But ask the diehard fans who flooded onto the pitch if it was worth it.

Lynn's players, backroom staff, supporters young and old, merged into one human blue and gold wave to watch Crane and club captain Mark Warren lift the championship shield.

The Linnets rode their luck at times in the Valleys, but luck alone doesn't win you championships.

Keith Webb's side completed their campaign with the meanest defence, best attack, best goal difference and crucially most points - two clear of Team Bath after the Students were held 1-1 at Chippenham.

Stats never lie. Webb and his players emulate the club's 1954 Eastern Counties' title winning side and the 2004 Eastern Division champions. But the imposing shield deposited in The Walks trophy cabinet comes attached with a golden ticket to the Conference set-up.

Lynn possess the ground, the fans and now the passport to the upper echelons of the non league game.

Three sides of Penydarren Park acclaimed Crane's men as they emerged from the sanctuary of the away dressing room into the brilliant Welsh sunshine.

Nolan's attempted cut-back rolled invitingly across Merthyr's six yard box in the early sparring.

Howie's fine one-handed reaction stop foiled dangerman Steins after the Martyrs' top scorer had raced through.

Defty's hooked shot from the edge of the area almost embarrassed Ashley Morris from Chapman's raking diagonal pass.

Morris tipped Rikki Bains' close range header over but Crane had been flagged offside from Francis' free kick.

Nolan's close range tap-in punctured the growing tension in the away ranks - Defty fighting off his own skipper to slide across the box with the Martyrs' defence dozing.

Frew sidefooted over from 12 yards after Nolan had wriggled free at yet another Francis set piece.

Lynn escaped when Mike Jones scuffed wide from point blank range after Howie spilled Shane Dawe's vicious dipping free kick.

Bains' headed clearance grazed Howie's far upright from Williams' long throw as the Lynn goal continued to lead a charmed life.

Chapman's acrobatics defied Steins seconds after the restart before Matthew Harris dragged the follow up wide.

Top scorer Francis latched onto Nolan's glancing header but blazed high into the away support - Webb and assistant Lee Glover throwing their arms skywards in the technical area.

Defty's skimming strike underneath Morris from the edge of the box sparked wild celebrations behind the home goal.

Chapman was cautioned after poleaxing Martyrs' keeper Morris in a full blooded aerial challenge.

Merthyr were reduced to 10 men on 72 minutes when Williams took the law into his own hands - rashly cuffing Frew around the head after the blond wideman's muscular challenge.

Bains was yellow carded in the aftermath following a minor shoving match with the red card culprit.

Lee Hartshorn upended the bucaneering Chapman as the champions-elect looked to finish in style - but Francis' spot kick flew off target.

Francis' free-kick clipped Merthyr's four-man wall after Frew was hauled back on the edge of the area.

Webb saluted the away support as strains of 'champions' echoed around the Welsh enclave in the final minutes before Lynn's manager embraced Glover as the massed ranks invaded the pitch to celebrate with their heroes.

t Merthyr Tydfil: Morris, William, Glassey (M Griffiths 53), Thomas, D Griffiths, Hartshorn, Harris, Clarke, Jones, Steins, Dawe. Subs (not used): Evans, Shephard, Watkins, Porter.

Booking: Thomas

Sending off: Williams

t King's Lynn: Howie, West, Chapman, Bains, Crane, Fisk (Camm 90), Frew (Bloomfield 90), Sedgemore, Defty, Nolan (Turner 80), Francis. Subs (not used): Murray, Melton.

Bookings: West, Chapman, Bains

Goals: Nolan (29), Defty (55)

t Referee: T Lawrence (Bridgend)

t Attendance: 912

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