Linnets so close to glory

Paddy Davitt Gloucester 1, King's Lynn 1: Keith Webb praised his side's bottle after a stirring fight back revived the club's Southern League, Premier Division title bid.

Paddy Davitt

Gloucester 1, King's Lynn 1

Keith Webb praised his side's bottle after a stirring fight back revived the club's Southern League, Premier Division title bid.

Matt Nolan's 79th minute equaliser ensured the Linnets retain control of their own championship destiny ahead of this weekend's league finale at Merthyr.

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Alex Sykes' freak goal nudged the Tigers in front just past the hour mark. Joe Francis had missed a first half penalty for the visitors who also hit the woodwork in a dominant opening period.

Second-placed Team Bath survived their own scare to clinch a stoppage time 3-2 win at relegated Bromsgrove - leaving the long time sparring partners locked on 82 points. Keith Webb's side remain top by virtue of a vastly superior goal difference ahead of a winner-takes-all final day shoot out.

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Halesowen's title charge ended with a 1-1 home draw against Clevedon. Lynn must now match Team Bath's result at play off contenders Chippenham - win, lose or draw - to be crowned champions.

“It's still in our own hands,” said Webb. “I'd have settled for that at the start of the season. We've gone behind a few times this year but the character came through. Maybe people have labelled King's Lynn the bridesmaid in the past - getting so far and then bottling it. We didn't bottle it here. We showed grit and determination and when you marry that with the ability we've got it's hard to match.

“The other sides around us might've expected us to roll over - especially when we went behind. No chance. We got stuck in and put our foot in when we needed to - but in the right manner. We were competitive within the rules of the game.”

The Linnets' chief criticised Tigers' captain Neil Mustoe's unsavoury antics in the build up to Francis' first half penalty miss.

Mustoe nudged the ball off the penalty spot before repeatedly raking his studs over the area in an attempt to scuff up the turf.

“The miss was unfortunate but I'm a little bit aggrieved with one of their players,” said Webb. “To be honest it was an absolutely disgraceful thing to do. He's walked over when the ref has got his back turned, kicked the ball away and scuffed up the penalty spot. For a player to do that - well, he shouldn't be in the game. It was totally unsportsmanlike behaviour. I was speechless. It's the first time I've ever seen anything like that.”

Nolan's late leveller sparked jubilant scenes from Lynn's 350-strong travelling army who packed the segregated away end after a four hour cross-country trek.

“The fans were magnificent,” said Webb. “Even when we went behind they rallied the boys again. I never for one minute thought we would win the league here but for them to travel that distance was superb. I honestly feel it made the difference looking at how the boys responded. If we can get something like that again at Merthyr and we work as hard as we did here then we can give the supporters what they want.”

Webb named an unchanged starting line up from Lynn's midweek 5-0 Bashley demolition. Francis (ankle) was passed fit while John Turner (back) was named on the bench after missing the Bash romp.

Midfielder Mark Camm travelled with the squad but was again omitted after his recent bout of concussion in the goal less Team Bath draw.

Michael Frew smacked Kevin Sawyer's bar with a fizzing 20 yard free kick in a positive sign of early intent.

Mustoe bailed out his keeper to hack Francis' goalbound flick off the line after Frew had sprung the overlapping wide man.

Mustoe's sliding near post block smuggled Frew's cut back behind with Ben Sedgemore orchestrating proceedings in midfield.

Sawyer dived at Francis' feet then Marc Richards hacked clear after Francis had tormented his two Gloucester minders wide on the left.

Lynn were gifted a gilt-edged chance from the penalty spot when Nolan tumbled under Richards' challenge after latching onto Rikki Bains' hopeful punt.

Mustoe's gardening antics while Richards was being cautioned sparked a minor melee - Sedgemore Lynn's chief protester. Sawyer dropped on Francis's tame penalty when order was restored fully three minutes after the initial penalty award.

Ben Chapman escaped with a lecture as the spicy contest threatened to boil over. Nolan hooked wide from the angle of the six yard box in the closing stages after Francis harried Reid into a mistake.

Gloucester turned the tables on the restart - Jack Pitcher's glancing header triggering a spell of concerted home pressure.

Sykes' lashed over from Pitcher's persistence before bundling into an empty net on 66 minutes after Howie misjudged the flight of Pitcher's bouncing header that cannoned back off his upright.

Howie pouched Tom Webb's acrobatic half volley before a smart stop to foil Pitcher.

Crane's towering header flew behind as Lynn attempted to lift the siege. Turner's mis hit squirmed into Nolan's path to dribble home a priceless equaliser on 80 minutes.

Francis' angled strike hit Sawyer before Frew dragged the follow up wide with Lynn's massed ranks in full voice.

Sykes' dipping shot nestled on the roof of Howie's goal before Lynn's Scottish stopper grabbed Pitcher's miscued lob with the Gloucester man clean through.

Howie went full length again to clutch Ashley Thomas' glancing header. Crane's 30 free kick flew straight at Sawyer deep in stoppage time.

t Gloucester: Sawyer, Walsh, Sykes, Mustoe, Reid (Thomas 81), Richards, Rose, Webb (Bevan 87), Pitcher, Morford, Smith. Subs (not used): Harris, Sysum, Allard.

Bookings: Richards, Rose, Mustoe

Goal: Sykes (66)

t King's Lynn: Howie, West, Chapman, Bains, Crane, Fisk, Frew, Sedgemore, J Defty (Turner 74), Nolan, Francis (Melton 87). Subs: Bloomfield, C Defty, Murray.

Bookings: Defty, Sedgemore

Goal: Nolan (79)

t Referee: M Amphlett (Kidderminster)

t Attendance: 660

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