Rain delay may well be a timely tonic for the Linnets

Ian Culverhouse

Ian Culverhouse takes his King's Lynn Town team to Hartlepool in midweek - Credit: Ian Burt

Head of sport Chris Lakey on the advantages of a blank weekend for King's Lynn Town, and the state of the Linnets nation...

Ian Culverhouse won’t welcome a rearranged midweek trip to Altrincham – but the postponement of Saturday’s game at Moss Lane did have a touch of the ‘blessing in disguise’ about it. 

Rory McAuley Picture: Ian Burt

Rory McAuley has been suffering with a back injury - Credit: Ian Burt

The Linnets boss had concerns over the fitness of two of his defenders, Rory McAuley and Kyle Callan-McFadden, so the extra rest and lack of physical contact might well stand them in better stead for another arduous journey, to Hartlepool, on Tuesday night. 

The chances of right back Aaron Jones making a comeback after injury will also have increased. 

Aaron Jones

Aaron Jones - Credit: Ian Burt

All ifs, buts and maybes, but Culverhouse is working with limited resources, albeit generous compared to the last two or three seasons, so every little advantage helps. 

The fact that Lynn can look at a fixture list which reads: Hartlepool (a), Torquay (h), Notts County (h), Chesterfield (a), Notts County (a), Halifax (h), Dagenham & Redbridge (a), Stockport (h), Wrexham (h) tells you all you need to know about the sudden – meteoric actually - rise of King’s Lynn Town FC. 

Michael Gash

Michael Gash in action during the FA Cup tie at Portsmouth - Credit: Ian Burt

This wasn’t in the actual masterplan, only in the one that said ‘wishful thinking’. In reality, no one thought Lynn would be rubbing shoulders with such big names from the lower league/upper non-league levels. It has meant they have had to adapt a lot faster than they might have hoped. 

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These are very different times to the day Culverhouse got into conversation with owner Stephen Cleeve who casually dropped a suggestion that the former Norwich City player and assistant manager might like a return to Norfolk to take charge at The Walks. 

When Culverhouse said yes, Lynn got more than they bargained for: his first game in charge was at Hitchin, where they were thrashed 5-0 in February 2017. That season sorted, he went about his work. Now, instead of Kettering, St Ives and Biggleswade, it’s a host of full-time, ambitious, former league clubs, who are presenting Lynn with the biggest tests their history. 

That the results are a mixed bag should be expected, but the calibre of opposition should not be under-estimated. King’s Lynn Town has often been a big fish in a smaller pond: now it is swimming with sharks. And it’s dangerous waters. 

Alex Brown

A tough landing for Alex Brown - Credit: Ian Burt

But fans get accustomed to new surroundings quite quickly so the expectation of partisanship suddenly forgets the sudden elevation in class. Realism mustn’t be allowed to escape: Lynn are punching way above their weight and if they end up 16th in the table, as they are now, someone should be hosting an open topped bus parade around the streets of the town to celebrate. 

And those who question the manager ought to think twice. Culverhouse has led Lynn to consecutive promotions. A third is not going to happen. Many of us said before the season started they’d be worth a bet... that was loose thinking on payday. If Lynn go up, Cleeve will be sitting next to Gary Lineker presenting Match of the Day. 

What has Culverhouse got to play with? A playing squad of 20 for a matchday squad of 16, plus maybe a couple of spares. That doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room, it’s bare minimum, which is why the weekend break may well have done more good than harm. 

What may well have been harmful has been the lack of fans at The Walks – a situation beyond anyone’s control. 

The last time fans saw their team play was on March 14 when they lost at home to Guiseley in front of a crowd of 1,432, just a little above the season’s average, which was twice as big as the previous season. What would this season’s attendances have been had Covid not happened? And what influence would they have? It’s fair to say The Walks can be a hostile environment for visiting teams and undoubtedly an advantage has been lost, especially for a team not used to the rarefied atmosphere of the National League. 

Stephen Cleeve & (L) Mark Hearle watching on Picture: Ian Burt

Linnets owner Stephen Cleeve - Credit: Ian Burt

Cleeve has taken some stick in recent days because of the pricing policy adopted for next weekend’s home game against Torquay when, with some restrictions lifted, it has been decreed by the local authority that The Walks can host a crowd of 1,400. 

Cleeve has decided fans will pay £25 for seating and £22 for terrace tickets, with no concessions or children’s tickets. When capacity goes to 2,000, prices will drop to those announced before the start of the season. Members gets first dibs on tickets. 

“We are aware that some supporters are unhappy with our ticketing price structures, especially in relation to children’s packages... we have had to make and will continue to make, some difficult decisions.”  

It’s easy to say when you don’t have to pay to attend/work, but the combination of Covid’s huge financial impact on football clubs, Lynn’s financial commitments to players and the fact that putting on a match for 1,400 fans isn’t exactly going to swell the coffers to bursting point once the bills have been paid, are all factors that need to be taken into account. As well as the fact that it is for one match only. Against the league leaders. If you think £22/£25 is too steep, then there is an easy solution. 

This isn’t February 2017. This is a different league altogether.