United Counties Premier Division: AFC Kempston Rovers 0, King’s Lynn Town 1
A Sam Brown own-goal kept King's Lynn Town's title hopes alive as they snuck a vital victory at AFC Kempston Rovers today.
The Linnets looked destined to drop two vital points as Kempston spurned great opportunities and defended superbly all afternoon. But with just four minutes left Brown turned Steve Spriggs' cross into his own net to spark wild scenes from Lynn fans - especially with expected news filtering through that title rivals Long Buckby had won comfortably at home to Thrapston Town.
Gary Setchell was forced to make one change from the side that beat Cogenhoe United 5-1 on Tuesday with Jordan Yong (calf) being replaced by Spriggs. The soon-to-be ex Linnet started on the left-hand side of midfield with usual winger Jamie Thurlbourne slotting into left back - just like he did last Saturday at Northampton Spencer.
That aside, it was as you were for Setchell's title-chasing troops, who knew they were in for a difficult afternoon against a young and energetic Walnut Boys' outfit that have surprised plenty of sides since earning promotion.
The league's top scorer, Danny Watson, looked lively with right-footed Sam McCrae impressing from the left with some fine interplay. But it was Lynn who had the first effort when a full-of-confidence Danny Beaumont fired just over with a speculative volley in the early stages.
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Kempston continued to move the ball around excellently as they and Lynn slugged it out to gain supremacy in the opening 20 minutes. Rovers' right-back Craig Grieve's overhead kicked forced a comfortable save out of Alex Street but that attempt aside both keepers were rarely tested as the game continued to be played around the half-way line.
Big Jack Defty nearly put Setchell's side in front when he connected powerfully with a Jamie Thurlbourne cross only to see his header cleared off the line by Sam Brown. And from the resulting corner Jason Turner headed just over, courtesy of a deflection.
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Striker Watson continued to excel for Kempston with his knowledgeable movement as he drifted out wide but Lynn coped with the threat by holding a fine line to catch the confident marksman offside on a couple of occasions. Centre-back duo Ross Watson and Stuart Wall continued to snuff out many of the host's threats who despite their slight territorial dominance struggled to work Street.
The Bedfordshire outfit's high tempo forced Lynn to go too direct often to Defty as they hustled and harried but used the ball wisely when the had it to tire the travelling troops.
Setchell's outfit's first bit of real quality of the afternoon came just before half time when left-footer Thurlbourne crashed a free-kick against Martin Conway's crossbar from the edge of the box. Minutes later title-chasing Lynn went close again when Beaumont pulled a half-volley just wide following good work from Danny White.
However, the scores remained deadlocked at the break and few travelling fans could argue that Kempston didn't deserve to be at least level at half-time after some easy-on-the-eye play.
Dave Randall's outfit were lucky not to concede a penalty in the 53rd minute when Spriggs was brought down by Mike Cox on the edge of the area. The foul looked like it had taken place inside the box but the ref decided to ignore Lynn's appeals and decide the offence had been committed outside the 18-yard box.
Jamie Thurlbourne's free-kick struck the wall but Setchell's men continued to press for a goal as their superiority began to show.
And with Lynn pouring the forward Spriggs should have given his side the lead but spooned wide from close range after Defty had won another flick-on. The Swedish-bound wideman swapped over to the right after Setchell took Beaumont off and was denied by a fantastic last-ditch Jordan Jarrell tackle as he raced onto Luke Thurlbourne's through ball.
Moments later Watson missed an even better chance when he raced clear of Ashley Deeney and his namesake in the Linnets' defence but side footed his effort from close range wide.
Setchell urged his men forward and took a gamble by going 3-4-3 after Robbie Harris replaced Deeney but they only remained in the game after Drew Phillips pulled a sitter wide.
Kempston had missed two golden opportunities to end Lynn's title dream and continued to defend valiantly as namely Cox and Jarrell put their bodies in the line to stop Setchell's side.
And after defending so brilliantly all afternoon it was a cruel twise of fate that contrived to give Lynn the lead when centre-back Brown skewed Spriggs' cross into his own goal.
There was still more time for drama after Phillips was sent off for allegedly stamping on a grounded Luke Thurlbourne, despite the host's protests that the Lynn midfielder had cheated.
• King's Lynn: Street, Deeney (Harris, 75), Watson, Wall, J.Thurlbourne, Beaumont (Buhlemann, 66), L.Thurlbourne, White (Hughes, 72), Spriggs, Defty and Turner.
Subs not used: Hails and Fryatt
• Goal: Brown o.g (86)
• Kempston: Conway, Grieve, Jarrell, Brown, Cox, McGregor, Farmer (Mould,66), McCrae, Clark, Watson and Phillips
Subs not used: Stafford, Smith and Hall
• Sent off: Phillips (88)
• Referee: D.Pywell
• Attendance: 198