Comment: How King’s Lynn Town roared past long-time leaders Coalville Town to become champions
- Credit: Ian Burt
King's Lynn writer GAVIN CANEY looks back at a remarkable season for the Linnets.
Here's a sentence I never expected to be writing in my wildest dreams: King's Lynn Town have clinched the Evo-Stik Division One South title.
I wouldn't have entertained such thoughts last August as the Linnets prepared to begin life at Step Four of the non-league ladder having secured promotion, via a runners-up finish in the United Counties Premier Division.
And I wouldn't have even thought about eventually scribbling the phrase into my notebook at the start of March. Which seems ridiculous considering that was just two months ago. At a time when Lynn were still 14 points behind runaway leaders Coalville Town.
That lead once definitely stood at a seismic 17 (yes, SEVENTEEN) points. Yet, it was an advantage that was once that significant, it may have been even larger than that at one time. Because I certainly wasn't keeping count on how far the Ravens were ahead.
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I don't think anybody was. They looked, as Lynn boss Gary Setchell would say, home and hosed. The champagne was on ice. Yet while Lynn turned up the heat, especially after a pivotal 2-1 New Year's Day home win over Stamford, the men from Leicestershire started to melt.
While Setchell's men started to fire – going on an incredible 15-match unbeaten room – the Owen Street club froze. In the biggest way possible.
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It was similar to when King's Lynn, before they went bust in 2009, burnt past Tonbridge Angels to lift the Southern League Eastern Division title in 2004 in a blaze of glory at Fisher.
Setchell's men got one sniff that the wheels on the Coalville bus were screeching to a halt. And they hit top gear.
While the main man himself would admit it hasn't always been scintillatingly pretty, it's been phenomenally effective.
A few inevitable bumps in the road have been felt during even their own run-in. But while their rivals have conked out, Lynn have staved off the threat of a breakdown.
When they deservedly got hammered 4-1 at Stamford. When they lost 1-0 at Halesowen. When they lost one of the key components of their engine room, captain and holding-midfield lynchpin Richard Bunting, through injury. Lynn kept on recovering.
Every time Setchell's men looked to have slipped out of the driving seat, Coalville have misfired. Spectacularly. Up until their game at Leek last night, they had enjoyed one win in 13. On February 26 they had 73 points. On April 27. They had 82.
Over in Norfolk, the Linnets went from 59 to 86 on the corresponding dates. While their opponents' engine has blown, leaving them yesterday facing a real threat of finishing third, Setchell kept finely tuning.
A bit of squad rotation here. A new signing (in Dan Jacob) there. A change of formation here. Another win there. He has been the masterful mechanic, supported soundly by his right-hand man Neil Fryatt, coach Ross McNeil and owner of the whole outfit, Buster Chapman.
He deserves credit for giving Setchell the tools to realise his managerial dreams. And 99 times out of 100 this season – which, let's not forget, included an immense FA Trophy giant-killing run – the Lynn manager has got it right. The players he signed in the summer have been brilliant. The players he kept have stepped up. But arguably his greatest achievement has been the ability to bounce back from two seasons of near-misses to become a winner.
Setchell has been steering the ship, alongside Kevin Boon initially, ever since the club reformed in 2010. He was a runner-up to St Neots Town first time out. Runner-up to Long Buckby last season. But now, finally, it's third time lucky.
They say disappointment makes success taste that little bit sweeter. So after two years of bitter endings, this achievement – which is as memorable as any that either the 'old' club or the three-year-old reformation have enjoyed – must taste absolutely delicious for all connected with King's Lynn Town.