Photo gallery: Evo-Stik Division One South: King’s Lynn Town 2, Sheffield 1
- Credit: Matthew Usher
Substitute Shane Tolley's close-range winner saw King's Lynn Town become Evo-Stik Division One South champions tonight.
The striker's 77th-minute winner saw the Linnets, once 17 points behind long-time leaders Coalville Town, wrap up the title with a game to spare on a memorable night at The Walks.
Sam Mulready's first-half opener was cancelled out by James Gregory as it looked like the promotion party might be spoiled. But Tolley nodded home to ensure Lynn recorded back-to-back promotions to Step Three.
The Linnets knew what was required of them to get the job done. A win was more than enough. Bettering, or equalling, Coalville's result was more than enough. Anything less, and the destination of the championship was going to be realised on Saturday.
All connected with Lynn were desperate for them to avoid a last-day title decider – and secure the reformed club's first trophy at their home Walks ground. So it was no surprise that with so much at stake the kick-off was delayed by 10 minutes due to the huge numbers of people trying to get into the stadium.
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Boss Gary Setchell was forced into making one change from the team that won 1-0 at Market Drayton Town last time out with Dan Jacob being ruled out with a hip problem. He was replaced by Mulready. Tolley also made way for Russell Dunkley.
Sheffield, the world's oldest football club, arrived in mid-table and with little to nothing riding on the outcome of the match. Unsurprisingly, they began in relaxed fashion and carved out a couple of sights of goal inside the opening few minutes.
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The lively Gregory had a shot blocked while Richard Stirrup had a header cleared by Jordan Yong yards from his own goal-line. The title-chasing hosts just needed to settle and show their class and power. Their re-selected front pair for the night soon provided it.
Top marksman Steve Spriggs' hooked ball back into the box was powerfully headed towards goal by Dunkley. The frontman, affectionately nicknamed The Beast, looked set to have beaten the back-pedalling Liam Flynn until he managed to get the slightest of fingertips onto the ball to push it just over.
The Yorkshire club's shot-stopper was powerless to prevent the next header that came his way though as Setchell's heroes went ahead. Dunkley's bonce propelled the ball across the penalty box and Mulready nodded home – despite the best attempts of the Club's number one.
It could and should have been 2-0 less than 10 minutes later when Danny Beaumont found himself with acres of space and just Flynn to beat. Dunkley used his head, again, to find a team-mate and start the move. Spriggs slotted in the goalscorer. He played in Beaumont. Yet, despite steadying himself, the former Dereham ace couldn't find the back of the net as Flynn diverted his side-footed attempt wide.
The table-toppers began to ooze class and started to fly forward at breakneck speed. A rampant Spriggs' sliced centre hit the cross bar, Beaumont had a shot expertly tipped wide, and Mulready had a goal chalked off thanks to a push during the build-up inside a crowded penalty box.
It was one-way traffic. Yet Mat Roney, and then Joel Purkiss, flashed efforts at Danny Gay, which he had to save – albeit comfortably – with his hands. At the other end, the Linnets looked equally dangerous. Especially the hard-working Mulready as he fashioned a chance through persistence. However, he couldn't fire shots past a defender in red, or Flynn. And he went close again on the stroke of half-time as he saw another attempt cleared off the line after Ryan Fryatt's header had been excellently palmed away into his path.
The Linnets went into the break knowing they were just 45 minutes from glory. If they could grab a deserved second, it would surely come.
But with the score at 1-0, the match remained on a knife-edge – especially with the visitors looking lively going forward. Purkiss left hearts in mouths when he flashed a shot just, just wide of Gay's upright. That worry turned to panic when Purkiss played in Gregory and he slotted home after rounding Lynn's keeper. Was the party over?
It looked that way for a while with Sheffield dictating play and the crowd going silent. A couple of forays forward, which saw Dunkley and Mulready go reasonably close, raised the noise levels with 15 minutes left.
And that sound reached delerium-like levels when Tolley headed home after George Thomson's long-range drive had been parried up into the air to clinch the reformed three-year-old club's first piece of silverware.
Lynn: Gay, Watson, Gulliver, Lee, Yong, Spriggs (Bunting, 90+2), Quigley (Fryatt, 32), Thomson, Beaumont (Tolley, 70), Mulready, Dunkley. Subs not used: Butt, Jepson. Goals: Mulready (10), Tolley (77). Booked: Tolley, Fryatt, Watson.
Sheffield: Flynn, Burrell, Woolley, Cooksey, Hadfield, Stirrup, Roney, Gascoigne, Muldoon, Purkiss (McKenzie, 85), Gregory (Turner, 85). Subs not used: McKenzie, Hill, Al Hakam, Turner. Goal: Gregory (63). Booked: Gascoigne, Hadfield.
Referee: G. Sprague