Southern League Premier Division: King’s Lynn Town 1 Redditch United 0
- Credit: Ian Burt
Lee Stevenson scored a worldy winner and then was one of three players who got sent off as Lynn won a bad-tempered affair at The Walks.
In a game that boss Gary Setchell had described as the biggest of Lynn's season, the Linnets were not found wanting – especially keeper Alex Street who made a string of saves; two outstanding and one absolutely incredible.
The hosts' first shot on target may not have arrived until the final quarter but it mattered little as Stevenson produced a piece of magic to keep Town's play-off hopes alive. The former Sheffield Wednesday youngster shrugged off three men before unleashing a 25-yard drive that flew into the top corner.
Five minutes later more drama ensued as Stevenson, who had been wrestled to the ground by James Mutton, was undeservedly handed a second yellow card and given his marching orders for being part of an unsavoury 30-man melee.
Once the players, substitutes and management from both sides had been calmed down the replacement referee Nigel Howes produced his red card twice more to dismiss the incident's aggressor Mutton and Jazz Luckie.
With that Redditch, fifth going into the game, lost their heads and looked more likely to add extra cards, rather than any goals, to their tally as Town played out the closing minutes without a hint of trouble.
Setchell had refused to talk down the importance of the clash pre-game as his men looked to bounce back from a 4-1 defeat at title-chasing Chippenham. The Lynn boss kept faith with 10 of the side who were beaten in Wiltshire but David Bridges came in at the expense of Sam Mulready. There was no place in the squad for injured frontman Dylan Edge while Toby Hilliard passed a late fitness test to make the subs' bench.
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The Reds arrived having lost just once in 15 games and looking nailed on to improve on their excellent sixth-placed finish last term.
However, Lynn were more than a match for their highly-rated opponents from the word go with Ryan Fryatt spurning the first opening when he headed over Michael Clunan's delicious free-kick.
A slip from Kern Miller soon gifted United a sighter with Luckie the beneficiary. The frontman made light work of Matty Castellan yet just as he went to pull the trigger, left-back Jordan Yong produced an outstanding covering tackle to save the day.
His opposite full-back Fryatt was less impressive when he got caught napping by Rob Thompson-Brown. But Lynn's captain saw his blushes spared as Street made an excellent fingertip save low down to his left to push the winger's effort around the post.
As the endeavour and high-tempo continued, an advanced Lee Smith met a falling ball after Liam Hurst's centre had wreaked havoc. Unfortunately while his connection was clean, the home midfielder's volley whistled well wide.
Redditch's most dominant spell around the half-hour mark produced the best chance of the half when Castellan was outmuscled by Thompson-Brown. The wideman's cross looked almost certain to be converted by Luckie from inside the six-yard box until Street pulled off a sensational point-blank save to deny him.
Thomson-Brown then flashed the last opportunity of the opening 45 minutes wide when his header threatened to cap the only real period of difficulty for Setchell's side.
Street was it again immediately after the break when he raced off his line to block Luckie who had gambled intelligently on a flick-on.
As Lynn's threat started to diminish, Street kept it all square with another wonder save – this time high to his left – to claw out Luckie's header. From a resulting corner, George Carline stabbed wide from the edge of a goalmouth scramble.
Jamey Osborne then whipped a dangerous free-kick over the bar as the physical Reds' control continued to grow.
Their momentum was halted when referee Paul Burnham's afternoon came to a premature end through injury. A desperate plea for a qualified official to run the line was answered by fan Paul Tomlinson as assistant Howes took centre stage.
It was Stevenson who soon became the centre of attention by netting an absolute belter. He wasn't around long to celebrate though when five minutes later he was dismissed along with the visitors' Mutton and Luckie as all hell broke loose right in front of the Lynn dugout.
But when the dust finally settled it was Stevenson, and Lynn, who were left smiling as they recorded a crucial victory which keeps them within touching distance of the top five.
Lynn (4-1-4-1): Street, R Fryatt, Castellan, Miller, Yong, Clunan, Hurst (Friend, 90+3), Smith, Bridges (Hilliard, 86), Stevenson, Zielonka (Mulready, 61). Subs not used: Pearson, Gaughran. Booked: Stevenson, Clunan. Red card: Stevenson (2x yellow). Goal: Stevenson (76)
Redditch (4-4-1-1): Veiga, Cullinane-Liburd, Flanagan, Loveridge (Johnson, 87), Mutton, Richards, Thompson-Brown (Shearer, 60), Osborne, Luckie, Sammons (Hallahan, 82), Carline. Subs not used: Young, Fletcher. Booked: Sammons, Loveridge, Osborne, Carline. Red cards: Mutton, Luckie. Goal: None.
Referee: Paul Burnham
See Monday's paper for more reaction from today's game.