Evo-Stik Premier Division: King’s Lynn Town 2, Nantwich Town 1
- Credit: Matthew Usher
Lynn got back to winning ways as Henry Eze enjoyed an impressive and victorious start to life at The Walks.
The centre-back was a rock at the back alongside Ross Watson as the Linnets ended their run of three matches without a win – a spell which had threatened to undo an initial nine points from nine at the start of the new Evo-Stik Premier Division season.
Yet a fortunate goal from Jackson Ramm, which was meant as a cross, and George Thomson's fourth strike of the term put the hosts in control. And although Aaron Burns pulled one back as the Dabbers upped the ante after the break, Lynn held on to triumph on non-league day.
They now head to Ilkeston on Monday in higher spirits as they look to cement their early-campaign position at the top end of the standings during their second term at Step Three of the semi-professional pyramid.
Boss Gary Setchell was not pleased with the defensive aspect of his side's 3-3 draw at Belper in midweek and set about toughening up his backline almost immediately ahead of this afternoon's fixture. Out went Sam Brooks and Jason Lee – the latter with a heavy heart given his popularity at The Walks – and in came man-mountain Eze.
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The signing of the Kettering Town giant was completed prior to kick-off and he was handed a debut at the heart of Lynn's defence alongside Watson against the Dabbers, a team Lynn failed to beat last term.
The new-boy's first major moment was an impressive one as he cleared off his own line to deny Vinnie Mukendi a certain goal after his shot had whipped past Alex Street from the left-hand side of the area. The Nigerian's promising opening in a blue and gold shirt continued with a couple of towering headers as the Linnets looked to edge towards a desired shut-out.
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An excellent covering tackle from left-back Jordan Yong helped slow the visitors' early pressure with close marking forcing Burns to pull an acrobatic effort wide.
As expected, the hosts started to grow into proceedings as they tried to put a mini slump of sorts behind them. David Bell's set piece was flapped at by keeper Terry Smith and only Sam Wilson's goal-saving intervention denied Thomson an opener on the rebound.
Right-back Ramm had everyone off their feet 10 minutes later when he let fly from 30 yards. However, his half volley whistled just over the top corner. And Yong's play had the same effect at the half-way point of the opening period when he covered round and cleared Burns' centre after Watson and Eze had been pulled out of position.
The pair weren't the only players getting caught out – as keeper Smith found out to his cost when Ramm gave the Linnets the lead their momentum deserved. The right-back's cross from out on the touchline under the main stand darted like an arrow into the top corner as Smith – who had started to move off the line to collect where he thought the centre would arrive – failed to stop it going into his net.
Four minutes later the man wearing the number 22 was beaten again and this time there was nothing lucky about it. The red-hot Thomson cut back onto his left foot and drilled across the away side's goalie into the bottom corner to double his troops' advantage.
With their tails up, the hosts saw the rest of the half out more than comfortably with only an off-target header from Adam Jones making Street earn his corn.
Lynn looked bright again from the re-start as Jake Jones tricked his way into an inviting area but opted to square to skipper Bell. He slipped it sideways to Thomson but his shot, from a similar position as his goal, was deflected wide. During the aftermath of the resulting corner, Eze strode forward and crossed like a winger rather than a strapping defender. His sweet chip couldn't evade Smith mind as he claimed the ball at the second time of asking with Michael Frew waiting to pounce at the back stick.
If Setchell's side needed a warning they got one in the 54th minute when Alex Meaney surged forward but made a mess of his drive. Given the central position of his sighter he should have done far better than he did. Eze was soon quick to avert trouble when he cut out a dangerous ball that looked set to land at the feet of the lurking Burns.
Frew's ambitious effort from miles out perhaps showed the growing frustrating as the Dabbers started to turn the screw. And they got what they had been threatening when a pull back from Andy White was turned home by hot-shot Burns to finish an incisive move.
The pressure continued to build as Lynn went deeper and deeper, and long and longer when they regained possession. The first time they did string a few passes together for a while, with a quarter-of-an-hour to go, Thomson stung the palms of the clearly injured Smith – hurt thanks to a clattering tackle in the first half which earned Frew a yellow card.
A succession of late set pieces from threatening areas increased the nerves of the home fans as they hoped their heroes didn't blow a lead like they had in midweek. And those worries were not helped when Thomson robbed White of the ball but could only sidefoot a weak effort straight at the keeper when he had a great chance to wrap things up.
David Bridges bent one wide while at the other end Mark Jones blazed horribly over as both teams searched for the all-important fourth goal of a pulsating match. Thankfully for the home club, it never came – in their own goal at least.
Lynn (4-2-3-1): Street, Ramm, Yong, Watson, Eze, Quigley, Bell, Bridges, Frew (Mulready, 77), Thomson (Ward, 90+1), Jones (Spriggs, 66). Subs not used: None. Booked: Frew, Quigley. Goals: Ramm (28), Thomson (32).
Nantwich (4-3-3): Smith, Lycett, White, M. Jones, A. Jones, Wilson, Mukendi (S. Jones, 46), Meaney (Johnson, 69), Burns, Blake, Bramall (Clayton, 76). Subs not used: Dowling, Callaghan. Booked: A. Jones. Goal: Burns (59).
Ref: N. Guest