King’s Lynn on cusp of history
On fine margins history is written.
Should King's Lynn lift the FA Vase trophy at Wembley in early May the minutiae of this quite remarkable game will have long since faded in the memory.
Town keeper Alex Street would do well to consider planting a kiss on both posts forever more as part of his pre-match home routine. A coat of paint was literally all that stood between Lynn and a probable quarter-final exit. And an embarrassing one at that.
Rye's ten-men responded heroically to the early setback of losing skipper Shaun Loft after a foolish decision to trample on the grounded Jack Defty 15 minutes into an abrasive tie.
Street was beaten when Danny Ellis' pinpoint curler an hour later clipped the inside of his left-hand post only to bounce right back into his grasp.
Fast forward four minutes and the frustrated Ellis was heading for an early exit after a tangle with Luke Thurlbourne reduced Rye to nine. Town's canny management played their trump card. Robbie Harris is Lynn's FA Vase banker. Goals eight and nine in this season's competition secured their semi-final passage.
Poor they had been. Consider this the original 'get-out-of-jail' free card. Pass go, grab as much loot as you can and plonk it down on the biggest Mayfair hotel going.
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Lynn had been a pale shadow of the vibrant side that beat UCL Premier Division title rivals St Neots in the previous round. Lucky? Unquestionably. But Town also struck the woodwork three times and crucially kept their collective heads while Rye mentally disintegrated.
Two red cards ultimately sealed their fate. But the injury loss of Rye's influential playmaker Duncan McArthur tipped the balance. The ex-Brighton stalwart had run the show from midfield. Vision and touch combined with a deft flick to open the scoring.
The ten-men appeared to have all the answers in a strangely anaemic first half from the hosts in front of a season's best home crowd.
Steve Spriggs' equaliser just seconds before the break should have sparked a psychological sea change. Rye continued to press. Ellis was denied by that post late on. Danny Leach by Street after bundling his way through Town's backline for a one-on-one duel with the young keeper.
Ellis' rush of blood thrust Rye's own teenage custodian Josh Pelling firmly centre stage. Defence against attack as Lynn poured forward in wave after wave of attacks. Pelling resisted. Arms, legs, body. Woodwork. Any barrier he could put in the way of a Lynn firing squad.
Harris replaced Danny Buhlemann with the sides deadlocked at the end of normal time. It was almost cruel – fresh blood against undermanned opposition running on empty. But there was little sympathy in the Norfolk air. Only a release of tension and a crescendo of noise when Harris controlled Jamie Thurlbourne's inch-perfect pass over the top to slot past Pelling.
Harris spurned another glorious chance when he struck Pelling's body early in the second period but made no mistake on 113 minutes to poke underneath the brave teenager from close range. Chris Bacon and Dubi Ogbonna were both denied a fourth in the final seconds. A finely-balanced cup contest had become a mismatch. To Rye, plaudits for heroic failure. To Lynn, the spoils of victory.