Teething problems at The Walks ... or do King’s Lynn Town have bigger issues?
- Credit: Archant
Ian Culverhouse will need broad shoulders unless King’s Lynn Town win on Saturday – Chris Lakey looks at some of the issues facing the manager
Ian Culverhouse has been known to drop a bombshell or two during his time in charge of King’s Lynn Town.
A surprise resignation, an equally surprising return. And this week, while not on quite the same scale, the admission that he has to up his game.
Things are not going well for Culverhouse or his team. On Saturday they step out at home to Woking trying to avoid a fifth consecutive National League defeat.
That’s the sort of form that is hurting Culverhouse. Consider his previous at Lynn: he took over in February 2017 – too late to do much that season. His worst run of form was three defeats in a row.
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The 2017-18 season is when it really started and which was all his own work – and not once did he lose more than one game in a row. After a brief exit at the end of the season he returned in November 2018 – and again, he didn’t lose more than a game in a row.
Last season he suffered his worst run, right at the very end when things started to get a little nervy – L-L-D-W-L-L. And eventually, after the coronavirus pandemic forced the authorities to dust off their abacus, Lynn were declared champions.
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All of which is why four defeats on the bounce stings a little.
You wouldn’t have budgeted for points at Solihull Moors then at home to Boreham Wood, but Weymouth away and Wealdstone at home would have come under the ‘three points’ category, given that, like Lynn, both teams are National League newcomers.
The fact is Lynn should have won at Weymouth and at least drawn at home to Wealdstone. Which is probably why Culverhouse felt compelled to offer up the post-match analysis that he did. In a nutshell: “I’m letting the team down. I have to up my game.”
Whether he was simply deflecting attention and blame away from his players or whether he truly believes he has lost his mojo is open to interpretation.
No excuses, but perhaps it’s worth considering a few of the facts: two of his back four were out on Tuesday. He started the season with his main strikers, who have caused defences so much grief in the last year or two, out. One – Michael Gash – won’t play until the turn of the year.
Those are unplanned. What will be down to him and him only is team selection and in that he has made one hugely significant move. He changed goalkeepers - opting for Norwich City loanee Archie Mair over Alex Street, who consequently left the club this week. Their records are: Street – win and a draw, four goals conceded; Mair – four defeats, 13 goals conceded.
But one big factor may be something neither he nor his players have experienced before – playing football behind closed doors.
The Walks is near-enough empty for home games – the ground that hosted the biggest attendance in the National League North last season, is eerily quiet on match days.
The #Letsfansin campaign would be tailor-made for clubs like King’s Lynn Town. No excuses, they’re struggling on the pitch, but the unknown is the crowd factor.
Last season attendances doubled to around the 1,400 mark. How many would have come through the turnstiles this season?
Yes, the FA Cup clash against Notts County had to be scrapped because of the very reason we have locked turnstiles – Covid-19 – but that would have bust the 4,000 mark no problem. But the support for a team that needs it more than most is nowhere, save for a few car horns as people drive past.
It’s not sought as an excuse and it is not proffered, but Culverhouse is clearly as puzzled as many others that while two miles away a stock car stadium can be full of spectators, The Walks remain barren.
“Especially this place because we have been so good here and the crowd play a massive part it,” he said. “But that isn’t an excuse - we just have to get on with it.
But his parting line sort of sums up the prevailing mood around behind-closed-doors football: “1,000 people in here - they wouldn’t touch each other.”
The FA Cup first round game at Port Vale is a week away but it might as well be another lifetime.
“It’s a tough one, but we have a game here on Saturday to concentrate on first,” said Culverhouse. “That is our main priority and we will give it a right good go again.”
Central defender Rory McAuley is available after his one-match suspension, while midfielder Cameron King, who missed the Wealdstone game, was due to have a scan on thigh cramps.
“It’s another massive test for us,” added Culverhouse. “A big strong side, did ever so well last year, came up obviously the year before, but a real good hard test for us – we have just got to be a lot better than we are at the moment.”