King's Lynn 2, Bedford 1

Table-topping Linnets' boss Keith Webb sounded a new year note of caution after Lynn cashed in on surprise slip-ups from their main Southern League, Premier Division title rivals.

King's Lynn 2, Bedford 1

Table-topping Linnets' boss Keith Webb sounded a new year note of caution after Lynn cashed in on surprise slip-ups from their main Southern League, Premier Division title rivals.

Heavy away defeats for Chippenham and Team Bath capped Lynn's winning end to an unbeaten festive spell for Webb's men.

Dan Buhlemann and Joe Francis' second half penalty were enough to wear down a plucky Bedford outfit - Craig Grieve heading a stoppage time consolation.

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Lynn now turn for home at half way two points clear of their nearest challengers Halesowen - with three games in hand on the West Midlanders.

“You get nothing for that in January,” said Webb. “We've had 21 games - we've got 21 to go. Bath won it with 90 odd last season, but they ended up 10 or 15 points clear. I expect lots of ups and downs. We need to keep our foot on the pedal. It's no time for counting chickens. We ain't won nothing yet.”

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Webb praised his players' fight rather than finesse after passing their final gruelling festive test.

“We looked lethargic,” he admitted. “Four games in 12 days had a lot to do with that. You look at the programme, the demands on the lads and it's understandable. I'd have settled for eight points in that spell because the players have given everything they can and you can't ask any more.

“We played well at the weekend and only got a draw so this was winning ugly. You have to do that to win championships.”

Webb was forced to shuffle his pack with Mark Warren (hamstring) and Michael Frew (thigh) left out of the squad. Mark Camm was re-deployed alongside stand in skipper Greg Crane at the heart of central defence. Buhlemann marked his return to the starting line-up with a tidy opener and pivotal role in the challenge that earned Lynn a second from the spot.

“I was pleased for him,” said Webb. “He was probably our best midfield player in the first half and it was great to see him get on the end of the goal because I don't think we were really at the races.

“We didn't create as many chances as we have done lately. The penalty is one of those that maybe goes for you when you're at the top but we'll take what we're given.

“Bedford were quite lively although they didn't look like hurting us until the last five minutes.”

Bedford stopper Andrew Stevens denied Danny Bloomfield with a stunning one handed point blank save after the predator had latched onto Crane's knockdown.

Stevens was bravely out seconds later to foil Francis before Buhlemann despatched Francis' vicious deep cross to break the deadlock on 19 minutes.

Scott Howie plucked Grieve's header out of the air from Derwaynne Stupple's hanging corner before James Hatch glanced wide.

Grieve deflected Crane's volley clear from another inswinging Francis centre.

Jonathan Woolf crashed a 20-yard free kick against the underside of Howie's bar in the closing stages of a half in which Bedford's eye catching yellow-booted midfielder had been cast in the pantomime villain role for another big home holiday crowd.

Steve Melton lobbed off target from Bloomfield's cushioned knockdown in first half stoppage time.

Stevens beat away Jack Defty's close range stab on the restart before Melton fired over the rebound.

Camm headed Woolf's teasing centre away from inside his own six yard box as Bedford probed for a lifeline. Defty's quickly taken free-kick teed up Buhlemann but his skimming drive slammed the outside of Stevens' left hand upright.

Stevens' went full length to claw out Francis' rasping angled strike as Lynn pressed for a second.

Francis was inches away with a shot from Buhlemann's weighted pass after a prolonged lull in the action.

Woolf skied another free kick into the small pocket of visiting fans - a finish failing to match his Cristiano Ronaldo-style run up.

Referee Feerick pointed to the spot on 75 minutes after Buhlemann tumbled under Grieve's near post challenge - Francis composing himself to fire underneath Stevens.

The big Bedford defender went some way to making amends when he arrived unmarked six yards out to power home Rob Miller's corner deep into stoppage time to set up a nervy finale.

King's Lynn: Howie, West, Chapman, Camm, Crane, Sedgemore, Buhlemann (Fisk 83), Melton, J Defty (Turner 59), Bloomfield (Nolan 67), Francis. Subs (not used): C Defty, Murray. Goals: Buhlemann (19), Francis (75)

Bedford: Stevens, Miller, Lawley, Grieve, Gentle, Farrell, Woolf, Stupple, Hatch (Phillips 60), Lynon (Draycott 78), Sinclair. Subs (not used): Knight, Brown, Amagebe. Bookings: Woolf, Miller. Goal: Grieve (90)

Referee: S Ferrick (Peterborough)

Attendance: 1,132

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