FOOTBALL: Injury-hit King’s Lynn Town knocked out higher-level Dover Athletic to move into the second round of the FA Trophy at The Walks.
Their reward is a trip to National League strugglers Ebbsfleet United on Saturday January 11, with £5,250 prize money up for grabs.
But victory came at a cost with manager Ian Culverhouse having to coax every last ounce of effort from his battered and bruised troops.
Ahead of a hectic festive fixture programme in the National League’ North Division, Culverhouse was counting the cost at training this week after losing three key players to injury during the match.
Michael Clunan (Achilles) Ryan Hawkins (knee) and Ryan Jarvis (back) all had to be substituted in a tie the Linnets took to the wire, scoring a late equaliser before seeing off their visitors in a penalty shoot-out.
Culverhouse said: “As well as Hawkins, we lost Clunan to a knock on his Achilles in the first half and Ryan Jarvis came on and off again when his back went into spasm. The game has come at a cost.
“We’re very thin on the ground as it is and that’s knocked us down to 11 fit players. There’s no depth in the squad due to the injuries we have.
“The next 10 games are crucial as we need to keep tabs on the teams at the top.”
The Linnets face a long trek across country to Gloucester City tomorrow before welcoming Boston United to The Walks for the first leg of their festive local derby on Boxing Day. Next Saturday’s trip to Alfreton Town is followed on New Year’s Day by the return against Boston.
Lynn drew 2-2 with National League big-guns Dover, forcing a penalty decider thanks to Aaron Jones’ 95th-minute leveller.
Michael Gash thought he had given Lynn the lead after 35 minutes but, after protests from the Dover players and a long discussion between referee and linesman, the strike was ruled out.
However, six minutes later, Lynn did take the lead. Some good link-up play down the right between Hawkins and Jones ended with the ball being laid on a plate for Sam Kelly to fire home.
Dover turned it around in the second half and goals from Jai Reason and the impressive Kevin Lokko looked to have put them through.
But, five minutes into stoppage time, with most people heading for the exits, Lynn were awarded a free-kick on the right-hand side of the penalty area and Jones curled the ball past Yusuf Mersin and into the net to spark wild celebrations between players and supporters.
In the 30 minutes of extra-time that followed, Lynn should have wrapped up the win. Adam Marriott saw a couple of chances come and go and Gash hit a post with a strong strike.
The game was eventually settled from the penalty spot. Jack Munns and Marriott scored the openers but Steve Rigg missed for the Kent side, allowing Gash to give Lynn a 2-1 advantage when his spot-kick went in via the woodwork.
Kurtis Cumberbatch missed the next Dover penalty but Jones emphatically scored to make it 3-1. Anthony Jeffrey pulled one back but Carey slammed in his penalty to put Lynn through.
An elated Culverhouse said: “We were magnificent today. We were on our knees at times but, to a man, we really stood up and tried to move the ball when we could and tried a different system.
“We finished the game with 10 men but I still think we looked strong on the counter attack. Going into extra time we looked strong and fit and that’s a credit to the boys.”