Can Clunan be Lynn's driving force at Notts County - again?

King's Lynn Town skipper Michael Clunan put his effort wide of the Notts County goal

Michael Clunan in action during a fine individual performance at Notts County last season - Credit: Ian Burt

Michael Clunan is expected to make his 300th appearance as a King’s Lynn Town player on Good Friday – at the scene of arguably one of his finest performances. 

The 28-year-old has led Lynn by example this season - amid the struggles of National League survival, he has started 31 games and come off the bench in another five. And he’s chipped in with six league goals – only injured striker Malachi Linton, with eight, has more. 

Clunan’s last was a sublime piece of work in the home draw with Yeovil last week when he picked up a pinpoint pass from Brett McGavin, sent one defender out to breakfast, before clipping it from close range over the keeper. 

It was a reminder of what Clunan did to Notts County back in March last year, in their first match since Lynn had put their first players, strikers Adam Marriott and Dayle Southwell, on furlough as the effect of the pandemic began to bite. An early Sonny Carey goal gave Lynn a shock lead before the hosts took control with two goals in six minutes before half-time. It looked like they’d be rampant as they came out for the second half, but Clunan was inspired. He ran the show, refused to let any blue-shirted player rest – and Lynn got their reward with a last-minute equaliser by Kairo Mitchell. 

Lynn will need that sort of performance today against a County side still smarting from a 5-1 thumping at Torquay on Saturday. 

Manager Tommy Widdrington knows what may be in store. 

“That (result) just shows you the lunacy of the league,” he said. “I think nobody would have predicted that scoreline, but they are a wounded animal now and they’re going to get their teeth stuck into us.  

“So from that point of view we have got to go there and understand it will be a different mindset from us than it has for the last couple of home games, because we have totally tried to be front-footed, positive, aggressive in all things, passing, running, all of that. 

“We will still be all of those things but we have got to have probably a little more of an eye on what they can do.” 

Widdrington has the evidence to support that approach: Lynn were leading County at The Walks in February before a Callum Roberts hat-trick inside 14 second-half minutes turned the game on its head as the visitors ran out 4-2 winners

Most Read

“For 15 minutes here it was the best 15 minutes I saw since I’ve been the manager here, when we were winning 1-0 and all of a sudden we were 3-1 down,” said Widdrington. “They switched gears.”  

The manager will want to see the sort of play that led to Clunan’s goal, especially from McGavin, who, as a player, has changed his style as much as anyone since the managerial transition last December. 

“H is a great slide rule passer of the ball,” said Widdrington. “I think he has come on a hell of a lot since Ive come in the building. I think he has got fitter, more mobile - for the lad the size of him I didn’t think he affected the game when we don’t have the ball for the first few games when I came, so we worked on that with him and I think he’s becoming a really good asset for us hopefully.” 

County head coach Ian Burchnall fielded more questions about Roberts' continued absence from his team than the Torquay drubbing - but had a warning ahead of today's game.

"We can’t only talk about Cal, this isn’t the Cal show," he said. "There are other players - Ed Francis, Kairo Mitchell, Joel Taylor - who are not involved but have done very well throughout the season.

“We now need a reaction in training and a reaction on Friday, because we face a team in King’s Lynn who are fighting for their lives. If we think they are just going to turn up and let us have it our way we have to realise that won’t happen.”