King’s Lynn Town 1 Banbury United 1
An injury time equaliser from Toby Hilliard ensured the Linnets a share of the spoils in a tough encounter against Banbury United at The Walks.
For the third time this season, a four figure crowd turned out to cheer on Lynn, who had not had a first team game for 11 days.
Ian Culverhouse named an unchanged starting 11 from the 7-1 victory at Gosport that seemed so long ago, with the returning Leon Mettam joining the subs bench.
Lynn started the game fast, as early as the second minute Frazer Blake-Tracy whipped a low ball across the Banbury 6-yard box, with Dion Frary just failing to get enough on the ball to hit the target.
Simon Lappin came close soon after, good work from Ryan Jarvis and Craig Parker finding the wideman in space down the left, but his shot fizzed across the face of goal.
Banbury fashioned their first real chance of the game after 20 minutes, Jordy Ngathe burst down the left hand side and swung in a cross that visiting Captain Ricky Johnson headed just wide of Alex Street’s right hand post.
In the next attack Lynn came closer still, Craig Parker’s looping header from Lappin’s cross hitting the visitors’ bar with Jack Harding beaten.
Both teams were trying to play flowing passing football, but the pitch was still showing signs of the conditions it was left in after last Saturday’s reserve game and lots of passes were going astray. Banbury broke from one such misplaced pass and Michael Clunan was forced to concede a free kick to break up a Banbury counter attack and became the first name in Abi Marriott’s notebook.
Shortly afterwards Banbury’s Luke Carnell also entered the book after a strong challenge on Ryan Hawkins.
The first half ended with a flashpoint. Banbury won a free kick on the edge of the Lynn box. They opted to make a substitution, replacing Sam Humphreys with Tom Winters. Winters took the resulting free kick, blasting it into the wall. As he ran in to strike the rebound, he was beaten to the ball by Ryan Hawkins, leaving a boot in on the Linnets frontman. The result was a booking for Winters and Hawkins left on the deck receiving treatment as the half time whistle went.
The second half began at the same frantic pace as the first had ended. Less than 20 seconds were on the clock when a snap shot from Winters stung the hands of Street. Lynn then broke up the other end, good work from Michael Gash released Cameron Norman, but his strike ended up in the Seven Sisters car park.
Shortly afterwards Leon Mettam entered the fray for Ryan Fryatt, the Lynn defender having picked up a knock in the first half.
Mettam’s first action saw him put through by Gash, but Harding showed great courage to deny the Linnets marksman, both players colliding and requiring treatment before continuing.
Parker then failed to connect with a dangerous looking Norman cross before Mettam set Ryan Hawkins away only to see him force another good save from Harding.
Hilliard replaced Parker as Lynn continued to throw bodies forward looking for the all important opening goal, but they looked vulnerable at the back against Banbury’s three-pronged counter attack, and in the 72nd minute they were hit with the sucker punch. Substitute Leam Howards found Jack Self in space and he found the back of the net despite a touch from Street to give the Puritans the lead.
Lynn’s attacks became more desperate as Banbury’s defence began to show why they have one of the best away records in the division this season. Ryan Jarvis was booked for Lynn before a controversial moment. Leon Mettam was brought down on the edge of the Banbury box, most in the ground and subsequent photos suggesting contact was inside the box. However the referee awarded a free kick to Lynn almost on the 18-yard line.
From the free kick, Harding pulled off another excellent low save to his left to deny Gash.
A minute later Gash came close again, the ball flying wide of Harding’s post. Gash was booked for dissent as he protested for a corner.
With the minutes ticking down Eoin McQuaid replaced Ryan Hawkins for Lynn’s final change. A mixture of strong defending and lengthy stoppages for injuries looked to be preserving Banbury’s clean sheet and a first win at The Walks since 1988.
But Lynn weren’t done. Ms Marriott had made it clear that the stoppages in play were being added on, so it was no surprise when she signalled to the benches there would be a minimum of 5 minutes added time.
Banbury won a corner, from which Lynn broke upfield. Mettam burst into the Banbury box before back-heeling the ball into the path of Toby Hilliard to blast into the net.
Linnets manager Ian Culverhouse spoke after the game and had this to say.
“It was a tough game played on what can only be described as a bog of a pitch, Both teams only really created one real chance each and both where scored, so that tells you the story.
“Our play in the final third of the pitch today wasn’t good enough we need to get back to being more clinical in front of goal, The service especially from down the flanks wasn’t good.
“We are batting well above our average, To be in the mix in the top 2-3 positions of the table is a credit to all the players in my dressing room they are working their socks off.
Culverhouse also gave an update on the injury that saw the early withdrawal of Ryan Fryatt, “He’s rolled his ankle, Luckily we’ve got another break between games, We will monitor the the situation during the week but playing Saturday to Saturday will help him rest.
The club would also like to mention that a minutes silence will take play before the next home game against Basingstoke in respect to life long Linnets supporter Dave Bone who tragically lost his life this week.