Southern League Premier Division: King’s Lynn Town 2 Stratford Town 1

John Sands found the net for Lynn at The Walks. Picture: MATTHEW USHER

John Sands found the net for Lynn at The Walks. Picture: MATTHEW USHER

John Sands' brace helped reformed Lynn record a final-day win to secure their best-ever Step Three points return.

The loan hitman netted in either half to take his personal account to six goals in 10 appearances as the Linnets ended their campaign on a high.

A ninth-placed finish had been secured prior to this afternoon's season-closing clash but Gary Setchell's troops knew they needed to win to beat the 68-point haul of 2013/14.

And even though they faded in the closing stages after Richard Gregory had pulled a goal back, they picked up the win which took their tally to 70 for a campaign which has mainly been packed with positives – especially after last term's post-Christmas collapse.

The bobbly surface made things difficult early doors with Jacek Zielonka ballooning over after the ball had nipped up a tad.

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Sands couldn't blame the pitch when he made a mess of a speculative overhead effort. Neither could Zielonka when he broke through again, this time a poor first touch making a tough chance even more difficult as Lynn continued to make the reasonably early running.

Their pressure, of sorts, paid off when visiting keeper James Cutts failed to deal with a looping ball in the box. Lee Stevenson's deflected shot spun into the air and after he'd challenged the Stratford shot-stopper to win it, Sands smashed home spectacularly on the half volley from close range.

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Sands and Michael Clunan fired wide as Lynn pressed for a second while Stratford showed their first intent when Dior Angus' tempting delivery from wide on the right flashed across the hosts' six-yard box.

To their credit, the Linnets still tried to get the ball down and a clever move involving Sands, Clunan and Stevenson saw the latter blaze over from distance.

Stratford finally created a chance with five minutes of the half to go but it was a moment to forget for Tyrone Fagan. As Lynn's back four failed to play offside, despite Sam Gaughran's arm-raising protestations, the whites' number nine was allowed to freely race onto Aaron Moses-Garvey's through ball.

Fagan had all the time in the world – perhaps too long – as he streaked towards Alex Street's goal. However after one touch too many he blasted the ball into the car park behind the goal.

There was still time for Lynn to miss a cracking chance of their own when Sands set Toby Hilliard and his cracking centre picked out David Bridges. Unfortunately for the Lynn player-coach his unmarked header from inside the six-yard box went the wrong side of the post.

Stratford made the brighter start after the interval with Angus' curling effort from the left being deflected wide. A brief moment of confusion between Matty Castellan and Street almost caused a scare until Fagan failed to connect with his attempt.

Their good work was undone though by more poor goalkeeping. Cutts lost Stevenson's deep deep cross and Sands nodded home his second from almost on the goal-line.

Lynn switched off six minutes later and were punished when Carl Adams' men gave themselves a lifeline. Ryan Fryatt was caught out by Simeon Tulloch's ball out to the left, Jamie Sheldon streaked clear and his cross left Gregory with a tap-in.

Another decent sighter was wasted as a couple of Stratford players, including Fagan, dallied instead of pulling the trigger. Sheldon did have a go and drew a decent save from Street after Gaughran had made an absolute hash of dealing with a long ball by heading fresh air.

Setchell's side steadied themselves in the closing stages though and nearly added a third when substitute Sam Mulready worked Cutts.

Lynn (4-4-2): Street, R Fryatt (L Fryatt, 74), Gaughran, Castellan, Yong, Hilliard, Clunan, Bridges, Zielonka (Edge, 60), Sands (Mulready, 80), Stevenson. Subs not used: Miller, Friend. Booked: Hilliard, Clunan. Goals: Sands (19, 63)

Stratford (4-1-3-2): Cutts, Moses-Garvey, Stringfellow, Simpson, Francis, Roberts, Tulloch, Magee (McGrath, 46), Fagan, Gregory, Angus (Sheldon, 66). Subs not used: Moran, Delfouneso. Booked: Roberts. Goal: Gregory (69)

Referee: O Morris-Sanders

Attendance: 466

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