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By GAVIN CANEY, Sports Reporter
Saturday, April 14, 2012
Ten-man Long Buckby kept the United Counties Premier Division title race alive by beating table-topping King’s Lynn Town 2-1 this afternoon.
Jason Turner’s first-half strike had given the Linnets the lead but goals from Russell Dunkley and Greg Ling - for a Buckby outfit who were reduced to 10 men in the second half following a brawl - gave the hosts a famous win that their performance perhaps eventually deserved.
The UCL’s top-two sides went into the game knowing it was a title decider with Linnets boss Gary Setchell admitting it was “all or nothing” for his team while Buckby boss Glen Botterill conceded his outfit had to win the game.
A victory for the King’s Lynn would leave them needing just a point to definitely win the league while driving the deepest of nails into their nearest rivals’ challenge in the process.
A draw would leave the destiny of the UCL title in Lynn’s hands but a win for Botterill’s Northamptonshire outfit would keep their slim dreams alive.
Lynn’s travelling support – which made up at least 95pc of the crowd and exceeded 500 – were in noisy form as Setchell’s side started well.
Table-topping Lynn spent almost all of the opening 10 minutes in their opponent’s half but it was Buckby who had the first meaningful shot on target. Central-midfielder Richard Bunting found himself in acres of space but his well-hit effort was parried by Alex Street.
And a couple of minutes later a slip by Stuart Wall allowed Dan Quigley through but his attempt was saved comfortably by the Linnets’ impressive number one.
However, in the 17th minute the noisy travelling hordes were in raptures as their side deservedly took the lead at Station Road.
Jamie Thurlbourne’s cross from the left was nodded down by Jack Defty and the prolific Turner tapped home from close range.
However, those cheers went silent just minutes later when Ashley Deeney – who had started excellently – headed inexplicably across his own box and Dunkley slotted home from inside the six-yard box.
The hosts were buoyed by the goal they were gifted and confidence began to pour into their play. Whereas earlier the Linnets picked up every second ball, Buckby, started to collect every loose ball and get a larger share of the possession.
With Lynn nerves frayed, an element of panic set in, with the usually impressive pair of Jordan Yong and Jamie Thurlbourne uncharacteristically wasteful in possession.
Full-of-confidence marksmen Dunkley continued to give Wall and Ross Watson a torrid time with both of Lynn’s centre-backs looking less imposing than usual.
Their cause was hardly helped by referee Paul Evans who seemed intent on giving everything against Lynn. The man in the middle seemed desperate to make the title showdown all about him.
Buckby certainly deserved to be level at the break as they grew into the game and they were. Despite Lynn looking edgy after conceding they had started excellently and a 1-1 score at half-time was just about fair.
Little happened in the opening exchanges of the second period, apart from Watson and Wall getting on top of Buckby front pair Dunkley and Michael Byrne.
Just before the hour mark the referee’s inability to control the game spilled over as a melee erupted involving most of the players on the pitch.
In the scuffle, it appeared that Mark Hewitt threw a punch, and Buckby’s centre-back was soon given his marching orders.
A handful of yellow cards were dished out as a result of the coming together but it left Buckby facing 25 minutes with just 10 men.
With the chances continuing to be few and far between you wondered if a piece of magic, or another mistake, would make the difference.
But it was the wind that was the crucial element as Ling’s wind-assisted in-swinging corner whipped straight over Street and into Lynn’s goal to give 10-man Buckby a 2-1 lead with little more than 10 minutes left.
Poor delivery and wastefulness in possession barely helped Lynn in their quest but it was their inability to collect second balls the cost them dearly as the game continued.
Bunting should have sealed his outfit’s win by adding a third in the closing stages but he shot wide when he should have squared.
However, he and his team mates were celebrating a famous win shortly afterwards, as Buckby kept their UCL title hopes alive thanks to a performance full of energy and heart in the final 20 minutes to get them over the line.
Long Buckby: Watts, Wilkinson, Kelly, Smeathers, Hewitt, Quigley, Koriya (O’Brien, 78), Bunting, Ling, Dunkley, Byrne (Davis, 66)
Subs not used: Foster, Glass, Ashton
Booked: Byrne, Ling, Quigley, O’Brien
Sent off: Hewitt
Goal: Dunkley (20), Ling (77)
King’s Lynn: Street, Deeney (Harris, 78), Watson, Wall, Yong, Davies, L.Thurlbourne, White (Hughes, 80), J.Thurlbourne (Beaumont, 78), Defty, Turner
Subs not used: Hails, Fryatt
Goal: Turner (17)
Booked: Deeney, L.Thurlbourne, Yong
Ref: P. Evans