Holbeach 1, King’s Lynn 3
Town joint boss Gary Setchell admitted the Linnets now have no margin for error after tonight's late, late UCL Premier Division show at Holbeach.
Lynn moved within seven points of leaders St Neots with a game in hand but needed two goals in a minute from skipper Jack Defty and Steve Spriggs after Omar Joof had dragged the struggling hosts level on 74 minutes.
Spriggs' third minute opener looked to have set Town on the way but the Linnets looked leg weary after the weekend's gruelling FA Vase win on Teeside.
'It was hard work,' said Setchell. 'I said to the lads we needed to show urgency. That's how we played at Beckenham in the second half, how we played on Saturday for the majority of the game but after the first ten minutes we seemed to canter through the game. We only showed that urgency again in the last 15 minutes.
'To be fair we could still have scored four or five on the night if we could have put them to the sword earlier. It's been a big two weeks and we just have to get through this period until we don't have a midweek game. You could see one or two looked a bit weary but they'll recharge the batteries and we'll go again Saturday.'
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Setchell conceded Lynn's title rivals have upped the stakes.
'I've told the lads they have to treat every game like it's our last because we are playing cup style football every week now,' he said. 'In the league the relentlessness of St Neots and Newport Pagnell means we really have to win every game. So going 1-1 here, there was really no point settling for a draw. We had to pull our fingers out and go for the three points and we showed plenty of heart again. They tried to get in our faces and everyone knows about us now. We are going well in the league, we've had an excellent result in the FA Vase but it was a long old trip and fair play to them they mixed it with us early on.
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'But we are standing up those tests now. If teams want to mix it with us, we can. If teams want to play football with us, we can do that as well. We're a good side and we believe in ourselves but we can do the ugly side if they want to go toe-to-toe.'
Spriggs was the shining light with the former FA Vase finalist unlucky not to get a hat-trick after a sparkling display on the right flank.
'Outstanding,' said Setchell, 'I've said him in the changing room he deserved a hat-trick. We left him out on Saturday and it was tough for him to take, He understood the reasons why and he showed a great attitude. He came back in here and was first class. It wasn't just his two goals but his work rate. We've got him and Jamie working how I want them too. They are doing the ugly side before they do the better side and its no coincidence the results away from home have improved.'
Spriggs was one of three changes to the starting line up from Saturday's cup win at Norton & Stockton. Danny White was restored to the centre of midfield alongside Kieran Doherty with Martin McNeil partnering Ross Watson at centre half. Chris Bacon replaced Ancients' matchwinner Robbie Harris alongside Defty.
Spriggs calmly slotted past Richard Lovelace on three minutes after reacting quickest to Defty's towering knockdown. Watson required treatment after colliding with the home keeper inside the Holbeach penalty area. Doherty glanced Pat Bexfield's driven cross off target after sharp interplay with Defty had freed the overlapping full back. Spriggs then fired over from six yards out after latching onto Bacon's instant cutback in an early onslaught from the visitors. Defty rose above two Holbeach defenders but misdirected Doherty's hanging cross.
Simon Mowbray escaped Town's backline but slammed into the side netting in the first real moment of alarm for the visitors before Street grasped Joof's free kick with Holbeach growing in confidence. Doherty latched onto Bacon's touch but fired wide on the run from the edge. Street had to back pedal to claw out Luke Kennedy's hanging lob from fully 30 yards before Mowbray drilled at the keeper with Holbeach establishing a foothold in the Lynn half.
Shaun Baker took emergency action to head Bexfield's cross from under his own bar as Bacon lurked at the far post. Jamie Thurlbourne swivelled in midfield before clipping a perfectly weight ball over the top for Bacon whose angled strike swung wide. Street then saved Jonathan Allen's shot with his legs after Mark Courtley's clip left Lynn appealing in vain for offside in the closing stages of the half.
Spriggs lashed over on restart and Jamie Thurlbournes strike was deflected wide with Lynn probing for a decisive second. Defty and Spriggs harried Courtley into a rushed clearance but Defty drilled at Lovelace from 10 yards. Holbeach's keeper punched off Defty's head from Jamie Thurlbourne's looping header before second half arrival Danny Buhlemann dragged wide at the near post.
Spriggs cut in off his right flank but drilled a left footer off target with Lovelace beaten. Jaaf stabbed home from close range on 74 minutes when Town were punished for failing to clear a Holbeach free kick. White was inches from sidefooting Jamie Thurlbourne's floated centre past Lovelace then livewire Spriggs clipped the base of Lovelace's post but Defty was on hand to apply a finishing touch when the keeper spilled Jamie Alsop's cross back in.
The effervescent Spriggs then settled the game a minute later with a powerful side foot 16 yards out from Harris' cut back and was denied his personal milestone when Lovelace pushed his weak right-footer around the post in the dying seconds.
Holbeach: Lovelace, Thompson, Courtley, Kennedy, Baker, Warfield, Allen, Joof, Smith (Keeble 84), Mowbray, Newton (Gordon 69). Subs (not used): Elston, Slater, Mason.
Bookings: Joof, Kennedy
Goal: Joof (74)
King's Lynn: Street, Bexfield, Alsop, McNeil (Buhlemann 64), Doherty (L Thurlbourne 70), Watson, Spriggs, White, Defty, Bacon (Harris 62), J Thurlbourne. Subs (not used): Moriera, Fryatt.
Bookings: Doherty, Watson
Goals: Spriggs (3, 83), Defty (82)
Referee: S Gray