King's Lynn Town prove non league football is alive and kicking
PUBLISHED: 09:13 13 October 2019 | UPDATED: 09:13 13 October 2019
The problem with Non League Day, when the professionals have the afternoon off and the blood, sweat and tears boys take centre stage, is that most football fans who don't have a prawn sandwich-stained season ticket tend to take a breather.
Whether crowds at non league grounds noticeably swell because the elite are not playing is hard to tell: this game between King's Lynn Town and Chester, for example, was third against second; two teams worth watching, one of which has a substantial away following, ensuring The Walks would have a healthy old crowd (1,637 as it happens) watching, whether the pros were playing or not.
After all, when Norwich are away, do a significant number of the remaining 20,000 or so non-travelling Carrow Road regulars head to Lynn? I think not.
So teams like Lynn, and Chester, have to sell themselves hard when they get the chance... which is just what they did on Saturday.
From the first minute or so, when Adam Marriott gave Lynn the lead, to the 90th, when both teams, with a share of four goals, went hunting for a winner rather than settling for anything less, this was the perfect advertisement for non league football. Yes, that's a cliché, but stick this on a video and show some Saturday afternoon couch potatoes, and you'd soon have them back at your turnstile.
The excitement of the game almost overshadowed just how fine a performance this was from King's Lynn: a fortnight ago they'd been taught a lesson in a 3-0 defeat at leaders York City. Ian Culverhouse has spoken a lot about learning, so their approach against Chester was always going to be one to study. Chester aren't, apparently, full time - some of the players are. Which makes them sort of partly full-time.
And you can tell: strong, powerful, quick, with centre-halves who can ping 50-yard balls to a team-mate's foot without blinking. And did. Up against a Lynn side who train a couple of times a week because they have this thing called a job. When you're more cheese sarnie, you have to have something special to match the big boys. And Lynn did.
It would be easy at this juncture just to say 'Adam Marriott', but while the Lynn striker will deservedly take many of the plaudits, it's the resolve of the team, the spirit which Culverhouse can't stop himself praising after so many games, that stands them in good stead. There are some fine players in there: Michael Gash does the filthy, dirty work alongside Marriott but he was magnificent in defence too. Ross Barrows and Jordan Richards are pushed here, there and everywhere to fill the odd gap, but were superb. War horses like Rory McAuley and the perpetual motion that is Chris Henderson who only stopped running when the referee took a bizarre dislike to anything he did in the second half and, like one of Pavlov's dogs, blew his whistle whenever the midfielder went near the ball.
Roll all their bits into one and Lynn are a very good team - goodness knows what they'd be like if they trained every day.
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Lynn's perfect start - Marriott scoring within 70 seconds - lasted until around the hour mark, when Chester upped the ante and scored twice in quick succession, both from the right flank against Nathan Fox, who has had better Saturdays. Marriott popped up again with a stunning chest, swivel, volley to level it and could - should - have won it with a hat-trick goal but found only the side netting.
A draw might have been a fair result but Culverhouse admitted a part of him wanted a little more.
"There is a little bit of me thinking it is one that got away, but I have got to be so proud of the boys for what they did," he said.
Culverhouse knows a good side when he sees one and he has pitted his wits against the best in consecutive league games, which only emphasises the level of his own players' performance against Chester.
"We were excellent," he said. "I keep repeating myself really, but they keep going to a level and they had to get to that level today because they played a really good side. They will be well up there this year.
"I thought we were superb. First half I thought we moved the ball really, really well. We had to change things around because Smudge (Chris Smith) got the injury so we had to move people into wrong places. I thought Ross Barrows was superb - for an emergency centre half he was excellent in there."
Lynn will take heart from a magnificent performance: couch potatoes, take note... you don't know what you're missing.