One last promotion push as Linnets head to Warrington for ‘super’ final
- Credit: Archant
Had it not been for the besuited bean counters at the FA's HQ, King's Lynn Town would still be celebrating promotion.
But such is the desire for some pen-pushing reorganisation of the non league game that the Linnets have to 'go again' as they bid to earn promotion from the Southern League Premier Central Division.
Having dismissed Stratford in the play-off semi-final, they swept aside Alvechurch in the final - a year after falling at the same final hurdle with a no show display against Slough Town.
But instead of going straight up, it 'earned' them a trip to Warrington for the 'super' final which pits Northern Premier and Southern Premier play-off winners against each other, with a place in National League North (or, very unlikely for Lynn, National League South) the prize.
Lynn head north after a play-off campaign, unnecessarily complicated by Southern League- and FA-inspired confusion over fixtures, but Culverhouse has at least had this week to gather information about Saturday's opponents.
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"We are going to have to do a lot of analysis on them so we will talk to people who have played them and try and find out their strengths and weaknesses," he said.
"But we will be ready. We will know a good deal about them come kick-off time.
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"It's a shame because in any other year we would be celebrating promotion now and we still have another to play, so again our preparation and recovery has got to be spot no.
"But we will go there and we will turn up and we will put a shift in and try and finish the job."
Culverhouse's opposite number, Paul Carden was at The Walks to watch the Linnets beat Alvechurch 3-0 on Monday - in truth, the second-half performance would have given him more food for thought than Culverhouse faces. Lynn were magnificent - an adjective often used since the manager returned to the hot seat at the beginning of November after his untimely departure at the end of last season. Culverhouse's dalliance with Grantham - and, simultaneously, Simon Clark's at Lynn - proved a minor interruption, nothing more. Lynn cut a swathe through the division and, on the final day of the regular season went to second-placed Stourbridge and won, to clinch the vital second spot in the table.
Culverhouse's management has seen him draw the very best out of very good players. The man himself doesn't do histrionics - all through the play-off palaver he was simply quick to praise the 'final four'. At kick-off he is the last man to emerge from beneath the stand to take his place in the dug-out - so late he is often in danger of missing kick-off. And at full-time, it's a quick handshake then he's back into the dressing room to greet his players. Which sort of sums up his attitude - he isn't shy: he just leaves it to his players to absorb the applause of a set of supporters who, again, are watching top quality football from their team.
Culverhouse has plenty of experience - half of the losing play-off final team of a year ago - Alex Street, Frazer Blake-Tracy, Ryan Fryatt, Ryan Jarvis, and Michael Gash - are expected to start.
Then you have the quality additions - the league's Golden Boot winner Adam Marriott, whose double on Monday took his tally to 26 goals; right back Ross Barrows, midfielder Jordan Richards, effervescent striker Chris Henderson and brave centre-half Rory McAuley.
Marriott has been the stand-out as he and Gash have formed a formidable strike-force.
"He is so sharp around that edge and he gets defenders up square and he has a quick touch and finish - and he has got a hell of a shot on him," said Culverhouse. "He has had an outstanding season and what an asset he has been for the football club."
Gash is the perfect foil - as he proved by following Marriott's brace with a trademark headed third in the Alvechurch win.
"I am so pleased he scored," said Culverhouse. "His overall play and all-round game was magnificent. He takes a battering, but centre halves must look and think, 'oh no, here it comes again. He gets us up the field and his work off the ball as well is outstanding."
Lynn need those stars to align to get what many feel is their just reward: promotion. Being in the 'super' final is good - but you know the season is incomplete without the final touch.
"I am immensely proud," said Culverhouse. "It is an honour to be here sometimes when you have got that group there, and they turn up and they train and they work - and you have to remember they are part time. They put a shift in at work then they come and put a hell of a shift in for this football club, that is for sure.
"This group of players surpass everything we ask of them anyway, they keep delivering and delivering and delivering so I wouldn't be surprised if they hit a new level because they have it in them. I have been a part of teams that are really focused, but this group is a really special group.
"I have good faith in them. It is a privilege to be a part of and as long as we go there and compete and put in a performance you can be proud of, that is all you can ask."