Evo-Stik Division One South: Northwich Victoria 0, King’s Lynn Town 1
Captain Richard Bunting grabbed his first goal for the club – and his second red card – as Lynn picked up a hard-fought win in Stafford.
The midfielder's strike in the 67th minute was enough to secure the Linnets' second 1-0 triumph over Northwich Victoria this season and strengthen the Norfolk non-league outfit's push for a play-off place.
But his afternoon turned sour about 10 minutes later when he saw red for two bookings to leave his team-mates facing a nervy end to what had already been a tight encounter.
Yet, his and boss Gary Setchell's Saturday wasn't ruined as the Linnets hung on to win the first of two matches without their manager in the technical area as he started his two-game touchline ban.
Lynn hadn't played since January 12 and were always going to be in for a tough test against an in-form Victoria side who were unbeaten in their six games played last month.
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Having played four more matches than Lynn, and run them close during a 1-0 defeat at The Walks in October, manager of the month Lee Ashcroft's outfit were likely to be sharp and full of confidence.
Vics started brightly and an early cross from Kevin Leadbetter was headed narrowly wide by Dan Quigley. The visitors' midfielder had to get a touch on it though so it proved to be a vital interception in the end.
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The hosts' pressure was hardly incessant but they were winning the first and second balls. And as a result another half-chance was created for Gary McEvatt until he was stopped in his tracks by 'keeper Danny Gay who dived bravely at his feet.
The Linnets started to find their feet as they blew away the inevitable cobwebs as Jason Lee and Quigley inspired their side with some crunching tackles. Steve Spriggs went close to putting his team in front just after the 10-minute mark as Lynn's ascendency grew but his shot fizzed across the face of goal.
Much of the next exchanges were few and far between on a pudding of a pitch. The only real touches of class were provided by Shane Tolley who caused all sorts of problems with his movement as a lone striker.
Leadbetter went close with a header which Gay tipped over excellently but an even better chance cropped up at the other end which Spriggs spurned. Jordan Yong's raking cross-field pass found Tolley, his clever slide-rule slotted in Lynn's wideman, but The Walks club's top scorer blazed horribly over.
A fantastic block from Northwich's Ricky Mercer denied George Thomson while Gay once again did his part to keep the game scoreless with a sprawling save to his left to push Danny Wisdom's well-placed effort wide.
The break came with the scores level and few could argue that it wasn't the right outcome. Both sides had huffed and puffed but not really taken control.
It was much the same at the start of the second half and Lynn went 4-4-2 to try and add some impetus to proceedings by replacing Jamie Thurlbourne with Russell Dunkley after about 10 minutes.
Setchell's men started to turn the screw and after Tolley went close with a clever effort, his skipper gave Lynn the lead.
Spriggs' corner found Bunting and he volleyed home for the first time in Lynn colours to spark great celebrations. It was a move straight off the training ground and it gave the Linnets a great chance of returning home with some points.
Bunting's dismissal for a second yellow card, which looked not as harsh as the first, left the Linnets facing the last 10 minutes with a man less than their opponents. And they almost paid for it immediately when Alex Taylor's deflected shot crashed back off the crossbar.
He was lucky to stay on the pitch for kicking out at Ross Watson in the closing stages but the Linnets were not feeling too hard done by long as they held on for a valuable three points.
Northwich: Dickinson, El-Harrati, Mooney, Duggan, Mercer, Kilford, Harries, Taylor, McEvatt (Rainford, 66), Wisdom, Leadbetter (Bunney, 66). Subs not used: Alexander, Newton. Booked: Wisdom, Mooney, Taylor.
Lynn: Gay, Watson, Gulliver, Lee, Yong, Spriggs (White, 67), Bunting, Quigley, Thomson (Beaumont, 76), Thurlbourne (Dunkley, 54), Tolley. Subs not used: Buhlemann, Biles. Booked: Quigley, Bunting, Yong, Tolley. Sent off: Bunting. Goal: Bunting (65)
Referee: L. Rashid