Linnets battle back to claim place in play-off final
- Credit: Archant
King's Lynn Town produced a stunning second-half comeback to book their place in the Southern Premier Central play-off final after beating Stratford Town 3-1.
The Linnets had trailed at the break, but goals by Ryan Hawkins, Michael Clunan and Rory McAuley sealed their place in Monday's final at home to Alvechuch, who beat Stourbridge 2-1.
It was a battle royal as Lynn survived a missed Stratford penalty but the final whistle shook The Walks to the rafters, to the delight of 1,253 supporters, and was the perfect way to end a frustrating week following the hectic reshuffling of the play-off schedule.
Players had to get used to the windy conditions at The Walks, but when Lynn had it on the floor they looked good.
McAuley was off balance when he got his head to Clunan's corner on six minutes and his effort looped over.
Stratford full-backs were taking far too much time over throw-ins and with less than a quarter of an hour ago had prompted the ref to order them to speed things up.
While the wind was causing issues, Ryan Fryatt got his timing right but headed not far over from Frazer Blake-Tracy's free-kick on 13 minutes.
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It was Lynn who were putting on most of the early pressure, playing good football, the visitors content to frustrate.
But the first effort on target came from the visitors on 24 minutes when Stratford skipper James Fry sidefooted one from the edge of the area - but Alex Street saved comfortably to his left.
Lynn were becoming increasingly frustrated at the visitors' time-wasting - and the fact the official was letting it go.
If they needed any more frustration it came when a free-kick pole-axed Jordan Richards - and the ref didn't immediately stop play immediately.
Curiously, that incident began a spell of good pressure by the visitors but they initially failed to take advantage of a free-kick on the edge of the area and then a corner which Nabil Shariff headed over when unmarked.
But on 35 minutes they made the most of their superiority when Wilson Carvalho teased the Lynn defence, pulled it out of position and then knocked the ball back to Kynan Isaac whose first time cross from the left was sidefooted past Street by Michael Taylor from six yards for the simplest of goals.
Just before half-time Lynn's problems deepened when Richards, possibly still feeling the effects of that ball in the face, was replaced by Ryan Hawkins.
Lynn started the second half on the front foot and on 49 minutes it was all square as Hawkins picked up the ball from a corner, took a step to the right and then hit a stunning right-footer from 25 yards which flew into the top right corner... the keeper didn't even move.
It was Lynn's first effort on target - and just the lift they needed as they gradually got back on top.
And their pressure told on 61 minutes when Hawkins and Ryan Fryatt combined well down the right, the ball was knocked into the box and eventually fell to captain Clunan on the edge of the area and with deadly accuracy he fired one into the bottom right corner.
Lynn had a huge let-off on 67 minutes Carvalho blazed a penalty over after Fryatt fouled Isaac. Taylor then put the ball in the net minutes later but an offside flag halted his celebrations.
Stratford still had plenty of life in them and were in no mood to give up the fight.
Marriott forced keeper Ross Etheridge to turn aside a shot from 20 yards and on 77 minutes Lynn moved 3-1 ahead, Ryan Jarvis doing really well on the edge of the area, finding space and chipping in a perfect pass for McAuley to nod home from close range.
King's Lynn: Street, Barrows (Jones 69), Fryatt, McAuley, Blake-Tracy, Richards (Hawkins 42), Jarvis, Clunan, Henderson, Gash, Marriott (Mellors-Blair 85). Subs not used: Robinson, Parker.
Stratford: Etheridge, Cox, Isaac, Sebeh-Njie (Wilson 75), Fry, Williams, Shariff, Skendi, Taylor, Grocott, Carvalho. Subs: Fisher, Williams, Fishwick, Shergill.