Linnets star man ready for title decider
Paddy Davitt King's Lynn's player-of-the-year Joe Francis is braced for the biggest game of his career in tomorrow's Southern League, Premier Division title decider at Merthyr.
King's Lynn's player-of-the-year Joe Francis is braced for the biggest game of his career in tomorrow's Southern League, Premier Division title decider at Merthyr.
Lynn's top scorer insists Keith Webb's table toppers are in the mood to complete their final day championship mission.
The Linnets know victory over the Martyrs will end second-placed rivals Team Bath's title challenge - irrespective of the Students' result at play-off contenders Chippenham.
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“The lads are really up for it,” said Francis. “We had a great training session the other night. Everyone was buzzing, laughing and joking. It's the biggest game of my career by a long stretch but I'm not nervous. I'm looking forward to it.
“I expect Merthyr to fancy it because no club wants another team to come and win the title at their ground. We're not even thinking about what Team Bath do. If we win the game we win the league.”
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Francis notched a brace in Lynn's 5-1 romp at The Walks in December - but the flyer is adamant the Welsh hosts deserve respect.
“It's always hard for teams to come to our place with our fans,” he said. “They looked all right on the day but we got two or three ahead and they crumbled a little bit. An early goal would be the ideal situation for us just to calm everyone down and settle any nerves.”
Francis missed from the penalty spot in the 1-1 draw at Gloucester last weekend - an incident notable for Tigers' skipper Neil Mustoe's unsavoury gamesmanship in raking the penalty spot prior to Francis' miss.
Lynn's young wing wizard is ready to make amends if the situation arises again at Penydarren Park.
“I'll definitely be putting my name forward,” he said. “If Ronaldo can miss then anyone can.
“I'd never seen anything like that before. If I was that player I'd be embarrassed. I'm sure if the ref had seen it he might've had to go.
“It didn't really put me off though. I placed it the same side I've put all the other penalties I'd scored this season. The keeper just guessed right and made a good save.”
Francis' 23 goals in 46 appearances have helped propel Lynn to the brink of Conference level football after a close season transfer from Ridgeons League Premier Division side Woodbridge Town.
“I set myself a goals target of five to ten so it's been a massive surprise,” he admitted. “It's great that we've got goals coming from all areas. Matty Nolan had a few warnings along the way but he is playing so well now and has really taken his chance.
“I always thought I could handle the step up. I was confident in my own ability but the difference is unbelievable - phenomenal. I went and watched a couple of Ridgeons games and I couldn't believe how much slower it is. When you are playing with better players it makes the step up a lot easier.”
Francis' eye-catching displays saw him sweep the board at the club's recent end of year player awards.
“That was fantastic,” he said. “I really wasn't expecting it. I thought I might be in the running but it still came as a complete shock to be honest. I'll have to get my dad to put up an extra shelf at home now.”