Why Lynn had to solve that tricky goalkeeping problem
- Credit: Ian Burt
Of all the debates over players who represented King’s Lynn Town in their debut National League season, the one over who wore the number one shirt was possibly the most contentious of all.
So long had Alex Street been the undisputed first choice keeper that there has been little need of back-up. But when the club signed Archie Mair on loan from Norwich City, they dropped an angry cat among the pigeons.
Street was, quite rightly, popular among fans and players, but even though he started the first two games, there was little doubt his days were numbered. And when Mair was called up for the game at Solihull – ending Street’s run of consecutive league starts at 129, dating back to March 2017 - - it didn’t take long for both player and club to part company.
It was a risky move: Mair was promising but untried again ‘men’ - the big, bruising, cynical types who spot a young keeper a mile off.
Mair shipped goals at an alarming rate, including five on his debut, partly because a defence that had been used to Street was struggling to cope without his reassuring voice – as well as the presence of those very same blood-thirsty opponents.
The Canaries youngster and his fellow defenders gradually got to grips with things, although the financial side-effects of the pandemic which saw regular players furloughed in March, did rather queer the pitch - it’s hard to predict just where a pre-furlough Lynn would have finished in the league.
When Mair picked up an injury in training at Norwich, Lynn quickly brought in Theo Richardson, who had a blinding debut at home to Hartlepool on March 16. But there was one obvious issue: his height. Like practically every keeper at this level, he was a fine shot-stopper, but he would be a better goalkeeper if he stood six foot tall.
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So, excluding the 2-0 home win over Dover when Mair was in goal – the result was expunged from the records – this is how the keepers fared:
P Pts G GPG
Alex Street 2 4 4 2
Archie Mair 22 16 47 2.14
Theo Richardson 18 11 47 2.61
Note: P - games played; Pts - points won; G - goals conceded; GPG - average goals per game conceded
It’s not meant to be definitive at all – goals are by no means always the fault of the goalkeeper. But with 98 conceded in 42 games, it was always clear that a new keeper, one with experience and a loud voice and a physical presence, was one of the ‘must do’ items on the summer recruitment list.
Paul Jones fits the bill: 400-odd league games, 6ft 3ins tall... and having met him he’s a pretty solid unit.
He also lives locally, which helps with Lynn now heading towards the full-time model.
And he’s 34 years old – a decent age for a keeper.
"When I initially started all those years ago you always have in your head ‘I want to hit 40 and still be playing’, so I have still got that ambition and until I am told that I am not up to the required standard I am going to carry on,” he said.
Jones admits it is something of a change.
“Up until I signed for Norwich I think when I was 30 I was used to playing regularly so it was a huge adjustment for me to be a back-up keeper. It was one that I enjoyed but didn’t enjoy at the same time. So now, hopefully, I am going to get my head down, work hard and try my hardest to be playing week in and week out and I am looking forward to that.”
One of his first jobs will be to get to know his defenders – although it is highly likely there will be a shake-up among those in front of him over the summer too. Not one defender can absolve himself of blame for some pf the horror shows.
But while the season was effectively a write-off long before the final ball was kicked, there were at least a lot of lessons to be learned. The defending of set-pieces and crosses into the area was awful at times. When it comes to additions, Culverhouse will want brains with his brawn – a six and a half foot stopper with no fear and an ability to move the ball with his feet will surely be next on the list. That would mean three elements of the essential spine - keeper, centre-half and midfielder - are in. From somewhere, someone then has to find some quality strikers....