King’s Lynn’s future is bright
In the midst of King's Lynn's FA Vase exit, lay the seeds of a brighter footballing future.
Coalville are worthy pretenders to Whitley Bay's crown. Wembley will be a fitting backdrop for next month's final. Alas, Lynn must look on from afar. Beaten but unbowed. Town showed heart and character to turn this second leg from a procession into a contest. The hosts were five goals adrift when Robbie Harris struck twice in two second half minutes. Ross Watson's second yellow card sealed Lynn's fate. Matt Gardener pounced for Coalville's decisive third before Watson had barely reached the dressing room door after Callum Woodward and Jerome Murdock's first half brace earlier punctured all that pre-match optimism. The funeral march replaced the sound of the trumpets.
The fact this pulsating second leg game will be remembered more for what transpired off the park is a slight on the majority in the 2,354 crowd who witnessed two of the best sides at step five in the country.
Lynn surrendered their eight month unbeaten home record to a team who can be the template for the next phase of their development. Lynn is a club on the up - so too Coalville on the evidence of both semi-final jousts. The Ravens were quicker, more powerful, more athletic, more physically imposing. More streetwise.
Town have come a long way in a short period. This time last year they had no team and no league. Now exiting the last four of the premier national cup competition at this level is portrayed as a crushing disappointment. The reality is it may not be the last before the end of the current season. But Lynn is on the right track. Coalville just served notice that road is a long one.
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'I think myself and Kevin (Boon) learned a lot about our side in these two games,' said joint boss Gary Setchell. 'We do need a bit more experience in the squad. There is a little bit to work on for next year but these players have done us proud. We've only lost four or five games this year. Hopefully this group is good enough to win us the league and we can make one or two changes in the summer.
'You have to say honestly Coalville were the best side over the two legs. They were physically stronger. I wouldn't say they worked harder than us but it was men against boys at times. To be fair to our lads maybe this was a bridge too far. We've kept the same group all season and we've been to some hard places and it was an amazing run. Maybe our luck ran out over the last two legs but I don't think in the second half anyone could question the players' desire.'
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The damage had already been done. Three goals adrift at kick off became four within five minutes when Woodward's deflected free kick wrong-footed Alex Street.
'Obviously that set us back. The lads gave it everything we had but the bottom line is we just weren't good enough,' said Setchell. 'Conceding the first goal so early put us up against the eight ball. The tie wasn't lost here. It was lost last week against a very good Coalville side. They had two lads up front who are big, strong and mobile and they always looked capable of hurting us. I thought Martin (McNeil) came in and defended well but they were a constant handful and caused us problems.
'I'd just have liked to have put them under a bit more pressure because when we did and went three up top we really caused them problems. We'd played 4-4-2 all season but couldn't get the ball to the wide men early enough. You have to credit Coalville for their exceptional work rate.'
Town's early second half fightback rocked the Ravens for perhaps the only concerted spell in the semi-final. Harris slotted from close range then reacted quickest to despatch Jamie Thurlbourne's long range missile. Belief rained down from the terraces and in the Main Stand.
'That got the place rocking and then Jack (Defty) had a header that went straight at the keeper just after and you did start to believe,' said Setchell. 'But Ross is sent off when the first yellow is never a booking. If the referee does his job then he stays on the pitch. We weren't in the tie at that stage, but if we had scored again then it was game on. Coalville did a job on us over the two legs. I went into their dressing room afterwards and wished them all the best for the final. They are a good set of lads and hopefully they will do the business at Wembley.
'Considering we lost 3-0 last week to get that sort of turn out was unreal and the noise in the ground when we scored the second goal, well, the ground was rocking, literally. You wouldn't get this in any other club in the FA Vase, not even Whitley Bay. We have to thank the fans for getting behind us and we'll need them for the rest of the season.'