Tuesday, 27 December 2011

You Have to Be a Linnet to Win It

Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Monday 26 December 2011 at The Walks Stadium
King’s Lynn Town 1 Holbeach United 0
United Counties Premier League (Step 5)
Venue #441 on the lifetime list, and the second part of a Boxing Day double following the morning ko at Norwich United.
This match in one sentence
King’s Lynn Town just about came out on top in this hard-fought clash of 1st v 2nd in the league in front of an amazing crowd of 1040.
So what?
The title for this division may now be decided – the harsh reality is that this was a must-win match for Holbeach.  They are now 7 points behind and have played three games more.  Only King’s Lynn’s own complacency or some sort of self-destruct process (see below) could mess this season up, it appears, unless Long Buckby can sustain a challenge by winning all or most of their games in hand from their present third place.
The drama unfolds
The home side tried to impose themselves on the game from the start, and my scene-setter clip is from about 15 minutes into the game.  Holbeach were by no means overawed by their opponents or the occasion and posed threats of their own.

Really clear chances were relatively few as both defences did their jobs, and there were no goals in the first 45 minutes.  Holbeach had a penalty appeal turned down, and I was too far away to give my own opinion.  The second clip is also from the first half.  0-0 at half-time

The second half opened with Town pressing for a goal, but Holbeach confirming their continued presence with a disallowed goal (for offside) and a good shot (blocked by the keeper) in quick succession.  Here’s a clip from early in the half, followed by one from the 65-minute mark.

The decisive goal is captured at the end of this final clip.  It came after 70 minutes and the scorer is Stuart Wall.  1-0

Holbeach continued to press but this left spaces at the back and the next really good chances fell to the home side.  Town seemed comfortable enough in holding on for the win, and perhaps the chairman will be happier this evening.  Final score 1-0
For an important goal, possibly season-defining, and a big part in a clean sheet: King’s Lynn Town’s Stuart Wall.
A snippet from the programme
It’s a double programme for this fixture and the forthcoming game against Newport Pagnell Town.  Neither chairman nor manager mince their words following a 3-2 WIN over Yaxley.  Note, that’s WIN, i.e. NOT LOSE, when you score more goals than the other team.  Here’s the former, in scary mode:

“It is frustrating that in such an enjoyable time of the year I have to start with criticism, but unfortunately that is what the team deserves after their embarrassing performance against Yaxley.  While Yaxley raised their game and showed 100% commitment we seemed to do the exact opposite.  Thankfully luck saved us from a last-minute equaliser and somehow we clung on to all three points.  After the game I spoke to (the manager) and made it clear I was not going to tolerate players in the team who were not showing 100% commitment but feel it is their given right to be here … Gary now has three games to sort out the attitudes of these players and if I see no change then the club will have to take some action.”

I saw the corresponding fixture last season, a 6-0 win for the Linnets.  Click on either team’s name in the tag cloud on the right to jump to the report.
What I learned today
The Walks is a good place for Scooby-Doo style scary trees, but apart from that all similarities to other step 5 venues end.  Having arrived at the ground, I bought my ticket at the separate four-lane ticket office and entered along with 1039 others.  1040!!  What kind of crowd is that for a step 5 game, albeit between the top two teams in the division?

I watched the first two minutes of the match on the CCTV widescreen in what other clubs would call the “Refreshment Hut” but here it is Café Verde, complete with sofas under the main stand.  I contemplated a temporary change to my hopper observation rules, but quickly dismissed the idea and went in search of some old-school terracing.

King’s Lynn Town in this incarnation have only been in existence briefly, as a phoenix club at the same ground as their predecessor.  The previous club had been playing at step 2, but for the same geographical reasons that hit Bishop’s Stortford this season, had ended up in Conference North having been promoted from a southern step 3 league.  Financial issues led to them folding, and the new club was placed in step 5.  They lost out to St Neots Town last year but are now well-placed to make a step up at the end of this season.  Teams in this league have faced St Neots Town and King’s Lynn Town in successive seasons and they may be quietly looking forward to a more level playing field next time round.  Farsley, coming out of the wreckage of Farsley Celtic, and Chester from Chester City, have all been forced by the FA leagues committee to spend time at step 5 in recent years.  There may well be other examples that I am overlooking.  The step 5 to step 4 promotion/relegation is one that does not work quite as well as the other levels, with six step 4 leagues somehow having to interact with fourteen at step 5.  There isn't an easy solution - England is a funny shape and not built on a grid of roundabouts like Milton Keynes - and communities that have seen a football club fold through no fault of their own deserve to have another chance somewhere and somehow.
What Next?
An urgent scan of the fixture lists to see if I can sneak in a Tuesday night hop alongside other commitments.

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