Evo-Stik Division One South: Stamford 4, King’s Lynn Town 1
Lynn's sensational 15-game unbeaten run came crashing to an end after a poor display at Kettering Road.
The title-chasing Linnets deservedly lost their first league match of 2013 against a Stamford side who needed to win to keep their slim championship hopes alive.
Goals from Liam Richardson, Andy Hall, Jordan Hempenstall and Ricky Miller were enough to inflict an Evo-Stik defeat on Lynn, now eight points ahead of the Daniels, for the first time since Boxing Day 2012.
The only solace for The Walks club was that league leaders Coalville Town slipped up again, 1-1 at home to Gresley, to ensure they remained just two points off the top-of-the-table – although they have still played a game more than the Ravens.
In-form Lynn went into the game in high spirits. However, they were handed a huge blow when captain Richard Bunting, looking to return after missing the last two games with a groin and hernia problem, failed a late fitness test. And to make things worse, his central midfielder partner in crime, Dan Quigley, was also ruled out with illness.
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Gary Setchell therefore made four changes to the team that hammered Mickleover Sports 7-0 at the weekend. Out went Ryan Fryatt, Quigley, Danny Beaumont and Sam Mulready. In came Phil Gulliver, James Jepson, Steve Spriggs and Shane Tolley.
The Linnets boss has recently praised the strength of his squad and today was always going to prove to be another big test against the Daniels.
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That said, the Lincolnshire club have slipped below The Walks outfit in the last few weeks, down to fourth in the table, having lost three of their last four matches.
It was all set up to be an Evo-Stik Division One South classic between two sides who have occupied the top five for a large part of the season.
As expected, it was typically blood and thunder in the opening minutes with the ball fizzing from end to end and Tolley operating just off lone striker Dunkley before dropping back into midfield when the Linnets lost the ball.
Unsurprisingly, there was no quarter given and it wasn't until the 11th minute that either 'keeper had to make a save. Lynn's number one Danny Gay was alert mind, to Tom Byrne's in-swinging centre and tipped his wind-assisted delivery around the post.
The first genuine chance fell to the Daniels' Richardson. And he made no mistake. Hempenstall released Miller and the striker's cross found one of his side's midfielders at the back post. He took a touch before smashing the ball into the roof of the net with his left foot.
Setchell's men responded well to the set back and carved out the first excellent chance of their own. Dan Jacob played in Tolley, but his curling effort bent just, just, wide of the top corner.
The action revolved around the middle of the park, where George Thomson and Jepson especially were struggling to take control of the scrappy dogfight, until Tolley played in his side's top goalscorer. Unfortunately, Spriggs' shot was closer to the nearby church than it was the opposition's goal as he slashed his shot miserably wide.
A flurry of bookings, and niggly fouls, continued to ensure the match remained scrappy. And just as it looked destined to remain 1-0 until the break, Stamford doubled their advantage with a breakaway goal.
It was terrible from Lynn as they were caught short from their own free-kick and a combination of Jepson and Jordan Yong failed to stem a quick attack.
The ball eventually ended up at left-winger Hall's feet and he calmly slotted past Gay from inside the box to the delight of the home faithful. It was a criminal goal to concede and left the Linnets facing an uphill struggle after the break to prolong their sensational streak this year.
Jacob nearly halved the hosts advantage but it wasn't long before the men from Norfolk were in even more trouble. Jepson got bypassed in midfield far too easily by Richardson, who played in Hempenstall. And Stamford's number 10 finished expertly into the top corner to virtually wrap up the points for his team.
He nearly made it 4-0 minutes later, after darting in from the left flank, but his well-hit drive whistled inches past Gay's far post.
Setchell's men did improve, but rarely looked like getting back into the game. Thomson and Jacob saw efforts comfortably saved by Matt Finlay. And the hosts' shot-stopper did well to tip over a Beaumont corner. From the resulting set-piece, Tolley went even closer to giving the Linnets hope. However, he headed against the post from yards out, albeit from a tight angle.
And after that slight bit of territorial advantage reaped no rewards, you could just sense the belief drained out of everybody in Lynn colours – especially from the travelling masses.
An offside flag spared Hempenstall's blushes as he hit the post from about a yard out. But the same couldn't save Miller after he raced through only to pull his attempt miserably wide when one-on-one with Gay.
Yet Lynn's shot-stopper wasn't so lucky with about 10 minutes left when his poor punch was punished and the hooked ball back into the box was swept home by Miller.
A late red card for Tom Richardson, for his second bookable offence, failed to take the gloss off a fine display from the Kettering Road club on what was all in all a miserable afternoon for Setchell's high-fliers.
Dunkley netted a late consolation from an indirect free-kick, but even that failed to raise a smile among those connected with the Linnets.
Stamford: Finlay, Rose, Saunders, Batchelor, Jones, Richardson, Hall, Brooks, Miller, Hempenstall (Saunders, 87), Byrne (Richards, 70). Subs not used: Maddox, Watkins, Swales. Booked: Batchelor, Saunders, Rose. Sent off: Batchelor. Goals: Richardson (19), Hall (41), Hempenstall (49), Miller (82)
Lynn: Gay, Watson, Gulliver, Lee, Yong, Spriggs (Beaumont, 57), Thomson, Jepson (Mulready, 57), Jacob, Tolley, Dunkley. Subs not used: Butt, Fryatt. Booked: Jepson, Yong, Thomson, Watson, Jacob. Goal: Dunkley (90+4)
Referee: S. Feerick