Evo-Stik Division One South: Belper Town 0, King’s Lynn Town 3
- Credit: Archant
Striker Shane Tolley was the hat-trick hero as the champions ended their league campaign in style.
The Linnets put on a champagne performance – after being welcomed on to the pitch by a guard of honour from the Derbyshire club's players and management – to end Belper's 23-game unbeaten run thanks to Tolley's 30-minute first-half hat-trick.
The frontman, who clinched the title on Tuesday with a late header against Sheffield, bagged his eighth, ninth and 10th goals in just 24 appearances to wrap up Lynn's 28th victory in 42 Evo-Stik Division One South matches.
It was the perfect end to a perfect season for Gary Setchell's men who can now look forward to starting next term at Step Three of the non-league ladder as a result of recording back-to-back promotions – once they've hosted Division One North champions Skelmersdale United in the Peter Swales Challenge Shield final on Monday.
Both managers made changes to their sides with next to nothing riding on this afternoon's game. The Linnets wrapped up the title in midweek while the Nailers, third, were already guaranteed of home advantage in Monday's play-off semi-finals.
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Mathematically the hosts could still finish second but that looked highly unlikely with fallen long-time leaders Coalville Town's vastly superior goal difference.
And that looked even more unrealistic when Tolley found the net twice early on to continue the party atmosphere among the travelling faithful.
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First, an outrageous step-over from Danny Beaumont saw him beat Greg Wright and fire a cross into the box, which Tolley thumped home once the ball had found him. Then, five minutes later, it was the same pair who linked up again to double Lynn's advantage. Beaumont's inch-perfect corner was headed home powerfully by the frontman, nicknamed Custard, from almost 18 yards.
Jordan Yong and Steve Spriggs drew comfortable stops from David Ratcliffe as the shackles came off the champions. The ball was being sprayed out delightfully by the relaxed title-winners in blue for the day. It felt like an end-of-season game, although Sam Mulready was keen to impress and hurt himself twice by challenging for balls with 'keeper Ratcliffe.
Belper almost pulled one back when Michael Simpkins had a decent header turned off his own line by Yong. And minutes later, Tolley made him pay for it by completing his quick-fire treble.
Ross Watson played a fine one-two before driving a shot goalwards. It deflected straight into the path of the former St Neots Town hitman and he made no mistake home by slotting home to secure the destination of the match ball in half an hour.
Mark Ward headed over Danny Gay's goal as the Christchurch Meadow team tried to restore some pride. It took a fine block from Ryan Fryatt to deny Ward when he got a sight of goal for a second time. Chris Adam carved out an opening with a fine individual run, but his shot lacked the quality of his own build-up.
Going in 3-0 down at the break, Belper needed something special to get back into the game. A cross from Darryll Thomas nearly provided it but Ward fizzed over.
Thomas soon found himself in a goalscoring position but Lynn's number one Gay rushed off his line quickly to make a save with his legs.
Sam Vickers should have forced Setchell's 'keeper into another save when he cut in from the left. But Belper's reserve-team youngster failed to keep his composure and blazed over horribly.
At the other end, Lynn – who seemed to have taken their foot off the pedal, but who could blame them – finally saw a sight of goal when Mulready got onto Tolley's dinked ball but couldn't flick it home. It was a decent effort.
And that was about it, apart from Belper boss Peter Duffield being sent to the stands for seemingly something he said, as Lynn cruised to a comfortable victory on a very relaxed afternoon.
Belper: Ratcliffe, Wright, Rushbury, Graves, Roulston, Simpkins, Adam (Harrison, 66), Leonard, Ward, Thomas (Godber, 86), Vickers (Owen, 71). Subs not used: Tuton, Cotton.
Lynn: Gay, Watson, Fryatt, Gulliver, Yong (Lee, 80), Spriggs (Butt, 53), Jepson, Thomson (Stocker, 65), Beaumont, Tolley, Mulready. Subs not used: Street, Dunkley. Goals: Tolley (7, 12, 29). Booked: Lee.
Referee: T. Harty