VIDEO and PICTURE GALLERY: United Counties Premier Division: King’s Lynn Town 5, Thrapston Town 1
Midfielder Luke Thurlbourne's controversial goal sparked chaotic scenes at The Walks as King's Lynn Town continued their United Counties Premier Division title charge with a 5-1 drubbing of Thrapston Town.
Gary Setchell's side were comfortable winners thanks to two goals from Rob Hughes, one from Thurlbourne and Jack Defty and an own goal from Danny Mortimer. However, it was Thurlbourne's goal that will remain the talking point for weeks to come.
Lynn's tiny midfielder offered to kick the ball back to visiting keeper Dan Waters after the ref had stopped the play for a Thrapston injury. He did, but his sporting gesture backfired, when it caught Waters off his line and sailed into an empty net.
Chaos ensued with Thrapston players surrounding the referee to vent their obvious anger at the decision. The ref had acted by the letter of the law but ill feeling continued to simmer after Setchell and his side offered no alternative to the goal being given - namely letting Thrapston score.
That exploded at half-time with visiting players and management surrounding Lynn's number eight causing a melee - mainly involving handbags - to spill into the tunnel. Few could question the response of Thurlbourne's team-mates who tried to protect their player, or the evident feeling of being hard done by from the Northamptonshire outfit.
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Table-topping Lynn welcomed second-from-bottom Thrapston to The Walks having beaten James Alger's side 4-0 in the corresponding United Counties Premier Division fixture less than a fortnight ago.
However, following title rivals Long Buckby's shock 1-0 defeat to Yaxley last weekend, Setchell had warned his players not to be complacent in the build-up to the game.
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The Linnets boss promised to rotate his squad and he was true to his word by bringing in Ryan Fryatt, Hughes, Danny Beaumont and Robbie Harris. They replaced Stuart Wall, Danny White, Steve Spriggs and Defty who all returned to the bench after starting their side's fine 2-0 win at Newport Pagnell Town last Saturday.
Title-chasing Lynn, unbeaten in 19 league games going into the match, started slower than they did at Chancery Lane where Jamie Thurlbourne gave the Linnets the lead inside a minute.
However, with midfield schemer Hughes starting to pull the strings, Setchell's troops began to get a foothold in the game and took the lead in the sixth minute.
Ross Watson - who scored two goals for Lynn during their last game at The Walks - caused chaos from a corner and Hughes fired home from the edge of the box, albeit with a huge deflection courtesy of a despairing dive from a visiting defender.
The shot was goalbound and the strike was credited to Hughes, his first goal in Lynn colours since he bagged a brace against Yaxley in December.
Beamount, playing wide right in place of Spriggs, nearly doubled Lynn's advantage six minutes later but he was blocked following a fine one-two with Harris.
Thrapston, who were lucky not to be handed an absolute hiding by Setchell's side less than a fortnight ago, looked far more compact than they had when the two sides last met.
They also managed to keep the ball better in open play than they had done that Tuesday night in Northamptonshire with a good move resulting in an opening for Charlie Fowler.
His shot from the edge of the box drifted harmlessly wide, thanks in large to a Watson's diving block which diverted the ball, but at least Alger's side were making a fist of the game this time round.
The Linnets, who at times looked a tad laborious in their approach play, showed flashes of brilliance in a quiet opening 25 minutes but nearly grabbed a second from another vicious in-swinging corner from Jamie Thurlbourne. Beaumont beat his man to get on the end of the set piece at the near post and toe-poked a shot which struck the visitors' upright.
Left-winger Thurlbourne then went close with a deflected free-kick while from his resulting corner Fryatt headed harmlessly wide. It was certainly harder work for the Linnets than it was at Thrapston but you could sense if the hosts upped it a gear they could overpower a side who were yet to win an away league game this season.
Centre-back Fryatt had the home fans on their feet just after the half-hour mark when he powered forward from inside his own half to set up Harris. The ball was behind Lynn's number nine and his mis-struck shot dribbled wide - and the Linnets quickly paid the price when against the run of play, Thraspston equalised.
Ben Morgan took advantage of the home side's high defensive line and latched onto Matty Harris' through ball to make it 1-1. But Lynn regained the lead within two minutes - in the most controversial circumstance possible thanks to Thurlbourne's goal.
Thrapston, perhaps understandably, lost their heads and Morgan and James Le Masurier were quickly booked before a half-time melee spilled into the tunnel in front of Lynn's main stand.
Thankfully, all 22 players appeared out on the pitch at the start of the second half and it seemed some of the ill-feeling had calmed thanks to a 15-minute interval.
Setchell made a double-change early in the second-half replacing Harris and Beaumont with Spriggs and Defty and it was Lynn's top goalscorer who went close twice to extending the Linnets' lead with two half-chances within minutes of coming on.
Hughes soon put Lynn 3-1 in front just after the hour mark when he fired home a stunning 25-yard effort to grab his second goal of the game. A fourth nearly followed when excellent play involving Defty and goalscorer Thurlbourne put Spriggs through but his attempt was cleared off the line by Ben Ekins.
Jamie Thurlbourne hit the bar with an over-hit cross as Setchell's side - who appeared to have more cutting edge following the arrival of Defty and Spriggs - poured forward in search of a fourth.
It came courtesy of Thrapston substitute Mortimer who turned Jordan Yong's cross into his own net. And the impressive Defty, who was superb after coming on, made it five in the 76th minute when he headed home Jason Turner's cross from close range.
• King's Lynn: Street, Deeney, Fryatt, Watson (Buhlemann 74), Yong, Beaumont (Spriggs 53), L. Thurlbourne, Hughes, J.Thurlbourne, Turner and Harris (Defty 53)
Subs not used: Wall and White
Goals: Hughes (6 and 62), L.Thurlbourne (38), Mortimer (O.G 72) and Defty (76)
• Thrapston: Waters, Melling, Le Masurier (Mortimer 67), Ekins, Gotch, Harris, Cirelli, Fowler (Pender 73) , Morgan (Chubb 77), Mitchell and Ollerenshaw
Goals: Morgan (36)
Bookings: Le Masurier, Morgan and Harris
• Referee: C.Ford
• Attendance: 642
• Video highlights provided by King's Lynn Town Football Club.