King’s Lynn Town’s master tacticians hoping to get it right again in the FA Trophy
- Credit: IAN BURT
King's Lynn Town's master tacticians have been back at it again this week to try and inspire another big FA Trophy upset.
While huge praise, and rightly so, has been given to the Linnets for their Saturday exploits in this season's competition it's clear to see preparation has been key to their fairytale success.
Skipper Richard Bunting has alluded to it on plenty of occasions in the captain's column he writes for this paper (articles online). Lynn's giantkilling exploits have been as much about what's been done off the pitch as to what's been done on it.
Lynn boss Gary Setchell, his assistant Neil Fryatt and first-team coach Ross McNeil have used Thursday night training sessions to ensure every member of their squad knows what is required of them.
Five times this campaign, in non-league's biggest competition, their plan has worked. And Setchell admits they've done everything they can to ensure the same happens today when Southport arrive in Norfolk for a third-round tie.
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Setchell, a Trophy runner-up who played at Wembley for Kettering in 2000, said: 'I went to watch Southport on Tuesday as I have done all of the sides we've played.
'They've got a lot of dangermen. But it's no coincidence that whoever I spoke to at Southport on Tuesday all said Shaun Whalley was their best player. It might not have been the best game of his season but he's got good qualities and showed some brilliant moments.
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'He can run with it and floats all over the place. But we won't be putting all our eggs into one basket. They've got 10 other players who can hurt us. We need to play our game and hopefully we can stop them, and him.
'They play a funny system. A 3-4-3 which we haven't really come up against this season. So we'll have to tweak things a little bit so we can try and deal with it in certain areas of the pitch.
'Thursday night was all about them. Our lads are well drilled. They know what they have to do. We've done our homework and we're very positive.'
That belief stems from the fact that Evo-Stik Division One South Lynn – who along with Skelmersdale United are the only sides from Step Four of the non-league ladder, the lowest rung allowed in the competition, still in the Trophy – have beaten the odds in every round.
The Walks' club were not expected to beat Step Three Barwell and Carshalton Athletic. They did. They were certainly not expected to beat Step Two Eastbourne Borough. They did. And just when people thought they'd reached their limit, namely their first away tie, at Step Three Worksop Town, Setchell and his men got it spot on again.
A home tie against Step One AFC Telford United, who like this afternoon's visitors play in the Blue Square Premier, was meant to be when Lynn's dream died.
Yet a resounding 3-1 triumph, thanks to two late goals, ensured that the Linnets went marching into the last 16 with a growing expectation that they can get their name in the hat for Monday's quarter-final draw.
'It's not just the fact we've come this far, or beaten a Conference side and now got another very good one,' said Lynn's boss.
'It's the general consensus that we can win it. We're not looking to make the numbers up. I believe, the players believe, and a lot of the fans believe. It shows how far we've come that people think we can get our second Conference scalp.
'The form book suggests it's nigh on impossible but we've ripped it up so many times it's untrue. If we can produce what we did against Telford, and a little bit more, there's no reason we can't win it.
'It's important that we concentrate for the first 20 minutes because they'll be trying to put the game to bed. If we can get to the last 20 and we're still in the tie then we all know what can happen. It's happened so often at The Walks already this season.'
Lynn's strategy is likely to remain the same against an in-form Port who have lost just two of their last 12 matches.
Stick to the gameplan. Work their socks off. Keep believing. And when the chances come, such as they have done six times during their epic journey when the ball has found Steve Spriggs, bury them.
Alex Street will once again feature in goal for cup-tied number one Danny Gay as Lynn look to increase the £20,000-plus prize money they've already received as a result of their Trophy exploits.
Relatively new recruit Shane Tolley is also ineligible meaning Setchell could stick with the same 4-5-1 formation, with Sam Mulready operating from out wide, which saw off Telford. Defender Ryan Fryatt is suspended.
In arguably his biggest game as a manager, the former Wisbech Town boss, 37, will be kicking every ball from the sidelines. Yet, the ex-Football League defender admits he still finds it difficult to watch on at times as he'd rather be out there competing alongside his trusted men in yellow.
Setchell said: 'I'd much rather be in the trenches than in the doldrums as such on the sidelines. As a manager you've got no control. You set up the team, give your instructions, but when the players cross the white line it's in their hands.
'It's not easy but I'm more than happy to put my confidence in the lads. And it's been a great experience pitting my wits against some good clubs and very good managers in this competition. To face ex-England players like Andy Sinton (Telford) and come out on top has been great and I'm sure I will draw strength on the experience later in my career.
'Every game has been our biggest test yet and today is exactly the same. They're a top-half Conference side. They're in good form and beat Lincoln (4-2) in midweek. When Telford arrived they were in the middle of a terrible run.
'We just need to concentrate on our own game though and how we can stop, and hurt, Southport.'
Reformed Lynn are playing in the Trophy for the first time in their short history. But even the original club, wound up in the High Court in 2009, would struggle to remember such an unexpected and thrilling run.
Setchell said: 'We've got three local blokes in charge and a local businessman (Buster Chapman) running the club.
'There's been all those managers in the years gone by who have had extortionate budgets, and all the great sides who have played at a higher level, and we could end up taking Lynn further than they've ever been before. There's a real hometown feel about it too.
'We finished runners-up in the United Counties Premier Division last season at Step Five and we're now on the verge of making the FA Trophy quarter-finals. It's ridiculous.'