Taylor still defiant
King's Lynn 1, Salisbury 3: Defiant Linnets boss Tommy Taylor refused to concede the Southern League, Premier Division title last night after Salisbury broke Lynn hearts in front of the biggest league crowd of the season.
KING'S LYNN 1, SALISBURY 3
Defiant Linnets boss Tommy Taylor refused to concede the Southern League, Premier Division title last night after Salisbury broke Lynn hearts in front of the biggest league crowd of the season.
The Whites turned in a turbo-charged display that had champions-elect stamped all over it to end Lynn's impressive eight-match unbeaten run.
Wayne Turk's clinical brace and a powerful header from Swindon Town's on-loan striker Ashan Holgate helped Salisbury complete a league double - Matt Nolan's fifth goal in four games proving to be mere consolation.
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Salisbury's win moved them three points clear of nearest rivals Bath - with Lynn a further point adrift in third - and a game in hand on both their distant title challengers.
The big-spending visitors remained on the pitch at the final whistle to salute their travelling support, but Linnets chief Taylor cautioned that the champagne should remain on ice for the time being.
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“No - I don't believe the title has gone,” he said. “It's a missed opportunity for us, but there's no way we are going to throw in the towel. We've still got five games to go and if they do suffer a hiccup we have to be in a position to pounce.
“If we go up then it will be the hard way. We didn't play to our full potential, but I'm not going to moan at the lads. They have been excellent for 15 games and I don't expect to see any heads go down. We'll only know if there's a hangover when we play Merthyr on Saturday.”
Taylor paid tribute to the 1,800 supporters who packed The Walks and appealed for their continued backing over the crucial run-in.
“They were magnificent and we let them down,” he said. “If we do miss out on the title we'll need them to get behind us again in the play-offs. I know if we do finish second and get home advantage we'll have 2,000 plus here for those games.
“Fair dues to Salisbury. They were big and quick and I felt we got dragged into playing their type of game. They did plenty of homework on us and I was disappointed to really conceded off the back of three set-plays.”
Taylor was forced to change the starting line-up that had served Lynn so well in the previous six matches after Grant Cooper (hamstring) failed a late fitness test.
Stephen Harvey slotted in at right-back, with Dean West partnering Mark Camm in the centre. Salisbury took full advantage of some early defensive uncertainty when Turk pounced on Shaun Carey's weak clearance to lash a right-footer past Arron Benstead with just five minutes gone.
Lynn were gifted a reprieve when Salisbury stopper Kevin Sawyer patted Nolan's hanging cross into his own net under pressure from Jack Defty.
Benstead was alert to foil Holgate, before Sawyer again flapped at Matt O'Halloran's inswinger only for Simon Browne to bail out his rattled keeper.
Whites' skipper Aaron Cook climbed highest at the back post, but his powerful header from Scott Bartlett's hanging cross sailed into the Hospital End.
Salisbury's top gun, Paul Sales, swivelled wide from the edge of the box after quick feet from the ever-dangerous Holgate as Lynn continued to struggle for a foothold in the early exchanges.
Defty was inches from connecting with West's driven ball on 20 minutes, but Cook had sensed the danger to head behind before Lynn's big frontman became embroiled in a mini shoving match with Browne as tempers frayed.
Salisbury nudged back in front just shy of the half-hour mark - the towering Holgate rising through a forest of players to bury Luke Prince's left-wing corner from point blank range.
Taylor responded by introducing Danny Hammond to cope with the visitors frightening aerial dominance - with West switching to his more accustomed right-back berth.
Lynn appeared to draw strength from the setback - perhaps knowing it was win or bust - and Taylor's men finally began to put the visitors under a sustained spell of pressure.
Hammond's cute flick almost diverted Adam Smith's bobbling effort home, before Timothy Bond bravely blocked Sam McMahon's piledriver, and then Bartlett threw himself at O'Halloran's deep cross.
Nolan looked set to pull the trigger at the back post, only for the ball to stick under his feet. Salisbury survived a penalty claim in the dying seconds when Cedric Anselin's header appeared to smack Widdrington before being hacked clear.
The Frenchmen spurned a golden chance to draw Lynn level within seconds of the restart, racing into the box only for Sawyer to block his attempted far-post curler before the rebound was hooked wide.
It was to prove a costly miss - Turk displaying his versatility to ride a couple of weak challenges before drilling a left-footed angled drive from 16 yards into the bottom corner.
Lynn manfully battled on, but the belief had drained from Taylor's men. Nolan's glancing header rolled wide from West's deep cross on 67 minutes before the hitman's half-volley flew over. Sawyer denied Defty with a sprawling spot, but the flag was already up for offside.
Salisbury substitute Robert Matthews almost put the seal on the visitors' night when he galloped clear, only to strike the side netting in stoppage time, before Lee Hyde headed straight at Sawyer.
King's Lynn: Benstead, West, Smith, McMahon, Harvey (Hammond 30), Camm, Defty, Anselin (Peters 77), Nolan, Carey, O'Halloran (Hyde 64). Subs (not used): Charles, Higgs. Goal: Nolan (8). Booking: O'Halloran.
Salisbury: Sawyer, Bartlett, Browne, Cook, Bond, Widdrington, Turk, Prince, Sales, Holgate (Matthews 75), Haddow. Subs (not used): Regis, Ferrett, Davis, Arthur. Goals: Turk (5, 54), Holgate (27). Booking: Bartlett, Brown
Referee: G Hambling (Norfolk)