Linnets in good shape for FA Cup trip to Portsmouth
- Credit: Tony Thrussell
Ian Culverhouse will invoke the spirit of Port Vale when his players step out at Fratton Park on Saturday.
The Linnets boss was the architect of one of the shocks of the first round when Lynn beat the League Two side on their own turf three weeks ago - now everyone has to step up a gear against Kenny Jackett’s Pompey, who are fourth in League One.
It is an almighty task – but no one knows his players like Culverhouse. It’s a mix of youth and experience, one which goes into the game of the back of consecutive wins – and clean sheets – in the National League and with the memory of some excellent game management in the previous round.
“It is going to be much the same, backs against the wall,” said Culverhouse as he spoke to the growing ranks of media on Tuesday.
“They are going to have a lot of possession of the ball. We watched them against a really good Crewe side and they demolished them so we are under no illusions as to the task on front of us - it is going to be every hand to the pump and we need to be resolute in our defending.
"We are not going to have a lot of the ball so the times we do have it we have to cause them some sort of problem and release the pressure a little bit. It will be really important that organisation, that the distances between each unit are really tight and we don’t give them too many little pockets to play in.
"The first 15 minutes is going to be massive for us, but again we will be looking to break down the game into parts and see if we will still be in it and make sure we are tight and work our way in it, it is how we start – we are not going to have a lot of the ball possession wise so we have got to be resolute in what we are doing and our structure and organisation has to be top notch because this is a real real high calibre of team we are playing. "
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Those clean sheets against Barnet and Dover Athletic will provide a timely confidence boost for a defence that has seen some excellent leadership performances from Rory McAuley – and the addition at the weekend of Kyle Callan-McFadden.
“I think our defenders are looking forward to the challenge, they are in good spirits,” said Culverhouse. “We have some good experience in that department as well.
“That was Kyle’s first game for a couple of months – before he left Sligo he was injured so he missed a couple. He said he felt his legs, the first 15, 20 minutes was a bit of a blow but then he got his second breath and built himself up. You can see the quality he has got, he is very composed on the ball, looks comfortable and he is a defender first and foremost and that is what we need.
“We have had two good training sessions to be fair and the boys as you can imagine after the last couple of results, are in good spirits, so we are really looking forward to the challenge.
“I think they are all really looking forward to it and it is up to us now to really go down there and try to do ourselves justice and make sure we put on a performance.”
A realistic view suggests Lynn will be watching the third round draw with envy rather than anticipation, but Culverhouse has players who tend to rise to the big occasion - and that’s where some of his senior ‘heads’ will play a vital role. For every Sonny Carey or Alex Brown, there’s a Ryan Jarvis or Rory McAuley, players who have worn more T-shirts for being there than most.
"We have some young ones for whom this will be new,” said the Lynn boss.
“They can lean on the likes of Mazz (Adam Marriott) , Jarvs (Ryan Jarvis) and Gashy (Michael Gash) as well. They are experienced players for us and their experience will help settle them down and just enjoy the occasion.
“We thought it might be too much for them going to Port Vale but this – and this is no disrespect to Port Vale - is another step up and if we get the same reaction as we did at Port Vale then they will do themselves justice that’s for sure.
“They will revel in it, I can just see them going out there and taking in the atmosphere. The pitch is magnificent and they will revel in it they really will. It is going to be a hell of an experience for some of the boys, for all of us. It is just a shame we can’t take a crowd down there because they would have enjoyed the day as well.
“And it is a massive achievement for this football club, it shows how far we have come in a short period of time.
“It has been a quick rise; the last two or three years the players have been superb. I have always said that we have got a really good group here and this is a good reward for them playing at such a prestigious football club as Portsmouth.”