‘We were on our knees at times’ - Culverhouse on King’s Lynn heroics
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019
It's highly unlikely there will ever be another Mick Wright – but King's Lynn Town ensured his contribution to the town and the football club would be remembered in the most fitting of ways.
A pre-match minute's silence waved goodbye to the legend, who died last week - and then the modern day heroes set about lighting up the ground he graced for 20 years, making a record 1,152 club appearances.
The current crop won't hang around that long - that's football - but days like Saturday's FA Trophy penalty shootout win over Dover Athletic are what makes heroes.
Take goalkeeper Alex Street, Lynn's longest-serving player who started the game with a fractured finger and a virus.
Or the nine others who finished the game as Lynn's meagre playing resources took hit after hit against their more illustrious opponents.
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As Ian Culverhouse spoke to the media post match he pointed to a tactics board on the wall of his office and went through each area of the pitch where he had walking wounded. Apart from Street, his defence was already missing Ryan Fryatt and Chris Smith, while Tom Ward was cup tied. Ross Barrows played 120 minutes despite also suffering with a virus. In midfield, Jordan Richards is playing with a knee injury, but Lynn lost skipper Michael Clunan after just 18 minutes and then, with three minutes of normal time remaining, Ryan Hawkins. Chris Henderson was already out, with a groin injury, and now he has Ryan Jarvis for company in the treatment room after the experienced midfielder suffered a back spasm in extra time. His exit left Lynn with the option of playing with 10 men or having to use the only other sub - assistant manager and veteran keeper Paul Bastock. All keepers fancy themselves as outfield players and Bastock was willing to "stand in front of the back four and kick whoever came my way", but the manager chose the one-short option, for the final 11 minutes.
Remarkably, Lynn could have won it, but Adam Marriott - earlier denied by a wonder save from Dover keeper Yusuf Mersin - pushed an effort wide.
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"Magnificent weren't they?" said Culverhouse. "We were on our knees at times, but to a man today we really stood up. We moved the ball when we tried to as well. We tried a different system,
In the end we finished with 10 but I still think we looked stronger.
"But it's nothing to do me with - it is having good players. It is magnificent what they are producing."
While physio Carol Holland will spend this week patching up the players, Culverhouse and Co will likely be looking to see if there is a way to bring in reinforcements: as it stands, the only addition for the trip to Gloucester next weekend is Ward.
The shoot-out had been on the cards in the opening 20 minutes when the game failed to ignite, but it was merely a slow burner as Sam Kelly put Lynn ahead and then Lynn overcame the concession of two goals in eight minutes to level with Aaron Jones' late, late free-kick to force extra-time.
Marriott, Gash and Jones scored and after two Dover misses, Sonny Carey stepped up to win it - and did so in style, capping a remarkable performance against a team a division higher and with considerably more resources to call upon.
What won't be lost on Culverhouse is that success in the Trophy has come at a cost - and that could affect league form. Lynn top the table against all odds - it might be the same if they are to stay there.
FA Trophy, first round
King's Lynn 2 Dover Athletic 2
(AET, Lynn win 4-2 on penalties)
King's Lynn Town's unlikely heroes stepped forward to earn a place in Monday's second round draw.
Sam Kelly benefited from some excellent work between Aaron Jones and Ryan Hawkins to give Lynn the lead four minutes before half-time, the former Norwich City youngster sliding the ball home after it was laid on a plate by Jones' square pass in the area.
Adam Marriott came close to connecting to Rory McAuley's header from a Kelly free-kick after the break before Michael Gash saw an effort hit the left post.
But Dover broke Lynn's resistance on 73 minutes, Jai Reeson knocking the ball home from close range after keeper Alex Street struggled with an Anthony Jeffrey cross.
Eight minutes later it was 2-1 to the visitors, Street unable to keep hold of a driven cross from the right and the excellent Kevin Lokko - a former Norwich City academy player - poked it home before Lynn could clear.
It looked like a couple of disappointing goals would end Lynn's long unbeaten home run, especially as Hawkins had to leave the field injured. But with five minutes of time added on, there was still hope and when Jones and Marriott stood over the ball at a free-kick, just outside the right corner of the area, everyone went to the other side, awaiting the cross. Jones caught them all unawares, crashing the ball into the only available spot in the bottom right corner - and The Walks went wild.
Again Lynn had to cope with adversity as sub Ryan Jarvis went off with a back injury, leaving Lynn down to 10 men in extra time, but they saw it out, forcing a penalty shootout.
Marriott, Gash and Jones scored for Lynn, while Rigg and Cumberbatch missed. The pressure was on young Sonny Carey - not that you could tell as he fired the kick which sent Lynn through.
King's Lynn Town: Street, Jones, Barrows, McAuley, Fox, Hawkins (Jarvis 87), Clunan (Payne 18), Richards, Kelly (Carey 82), Gash, Marriott. Subs not used: Bastock.
Goals: Kelly 41, Jones 90
Dover Athletic: Mersin, Passley, Bedford (Woods 85), Rigg, Lokko, De Havilland, Jeffrey, Hinchiri (Cumberbatch 105), Ratti (Reson 63), L'ghoul (Munns 63), Simpson. Subs: Rooney, Morgan.
Goals: Reson 73, Lokko 81