FA Cup second qualifying round: King’s Lynn Town 1 Witham Town 0
Midfielder Michael Clunan's first-half penalty edged Lynn into the next round of the FA Cup.
The playmaker's spot kick on the quarter-hour mark – after Tom Cocklin had been caught on his blind side and upended Sam Mulready while trying to clear the ball – was the difference against lower-level Witham who failed to score for the first time this season.
The shut-out was all the more impressive given the fact one half of the heart of the hosts' rearguard contained makeshift defender David Bridges. Thankfully the midfielder was outstanding in his unusual role as Lynn, in truth, routinely sealed their passage into Monday's draw for the third qualifying stage and pocketed £4,500 in prize money.
Gary Setchell was handed a huge boost going into the clash with hamstring injury victims Clunan and Kern Miller passing late fitness tests. The latter's inclusion was even more important given the unavailabilty of fellow centre-backs Sam Gaughran (injured) and Matty Castellan (cup tied) – who were at the heart of the hosts' back four during Tuesday's Southern League Premier Division success against Histon.
Witham arrived for their second trip to Norfolk this week off the back of a 2-2 Ryman League North draw at Dereham Town. Since relegation to Step Four of the semi-professional pyramid, one tier below Lynn, in the summer Garry Kimble's troops have struggled outside of the famous knockout competition.
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Yet the men from Essex looked far from troubled early on as they went toe-to-toe with Setchell's inconsistent charges. Simeon Adebale challenged home keeper Alex Street to a loose ball and almost profited as he fired just wide on the turn after a worrying spillage. Ryan Charles then tested Miller's fitess with a rapid burst but drove straight at Lynn's number one.
Witham's reasonable start was undone on the 15-minute mark though when Lee Stevenson's surge and cross culminated in right-back Cocklin fouling Mulready. The always cool Clunan stroked the ball home and from then the Linnets' ascendency grew.
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Liam Hurst saw two shots blocked, Miller fired over from 18 yards and a beautiful sweeping move involving Stevenson and a delightful Ryan Fryatt backheel was only halted by Lewis Down manfully picking a high ball off Mulready's head.
Cocklin redeemed himself as the first period wore on by hooking the man he fouled for the penalty's attempt off of his own goal line. Down then produced a wonder save to claw out team-mate Adelale's deflection to ensure it was only a one-goal advantage that was taken into the break by The Walks outfit.
Lynn's early momentum after the interval was slowed when they suffered another defensive injury setback. Jordan Yong took a hefty whack from Charles and trudged off to be replaced by attacking talent Jack Friend. A reshuffle saw Conor Marshall drop out of midfield and slot in at left back.
Minutes later that patched-up back four was split when Scott Kemp released Daniel Emmanuel. The wideman blitzed Fryatt in the foot race to win the ball but was sent away from goal by the on-rushing Street. A clever cut back took the keeper out of the equation but Kemp could only smash against the post while the covering Miller tried to protect the unguarded net.
The returning centre-back – who was rested in midweek – grew in stature as Witham pressed for an equaliser. His countless headers helped relieve a few nerves while Stevenson could and should have extinguished them completely but he shot straight at Down when well placed.
Toby Hilliard, and then Stevenson, missed great opportunities from excellent Friend centres. Yet their wastefulness didn't come at a price as Lynn saw the tie out comfortably.
Lynn (4-2-3-1): Street, R Fryatt, Bridges, Miller, Yong (Friend, 51), Marshall, Clunan, Hurst, Stevenson, Mulready (Zielonka, 66), Hilliard (Frohawk, 89). Subs not used: Bird, Simpson, L Fryatt, Speight. Booked: Clunan. Goal: Clunan (15)
Witham (4-1-4-1): Down, T Cocklin, Hayes (T Kemp, 41), Lemard, Akins, White, Emmanuel, Watson (Osei, 69), Adebale (S Kemp, 46), Godbold, Charles. Subs not used: G Cocklin, Emery. Booked: None. Goal: None.
Referee: E Clark