FOOTBALL: I suspect that even the most ardent and supportive Linnets fans are planning for life out of the National League following the latest two defeats, writes Mark Hearle.
A St David’s Day defeat in Wales always looked on the cards at a Wrexham team on an upwardly streak of momentum following a large injection of Hollywood cash.
However, Saturday’s loss to Maidenhead was probably more than enough to extinguish any lingering hopes that a ‘great escape’ of monumental proportions could be achieved.
It is still not impossible that the Linnets can preserve their status, competing with the big boy’s of non-League football, but the stark fact is that they need five wins from their remaining 15 league games to just draw level with Aldershot, who currently sit in the table’s last ‘safe spot’ – and that is assuming the Shots collect no points in the meantime.
Factor in that Lynn have collected just 11 wins in 71 National League games since their promotion in season 2019/20 and you can see why many can only see one conclusion being confirmed over the next few weeks.
That has all left some people asking what club chairman Stephen Cleeve will be planning for next season in National League North. If you cast your mind back two years, the club was on the crest of a wave, having achieved promotion via a ‘super play off’ victory at Warrington in May 2019, which then saw them take step two football by surprise, gaining promotion in a Covid-truncated season on a points per game method the following year.
What has followed since then has been a harsh introduction to life in a league that is probably the toughest in the country. It is full of former Football League clubs that are desperate to climb back up to where they believe they should still be.
These teams are paying wages from budgets that the Lynn chairman can only dream of in stadiums that are mostly light years away from The Walks.
It’s been a wretched two seasons for the club with far too many negative vibes circling around the place. Covid rendered last season an almost write-off with crowds unable to attend due to restrictions.
That did save the Linnets from relegation but it looks as if this was only a temporary stay of execution, looking at the club’s current plight.
It looks as if nothing will be able to save them this time.
The second season has proved just as miserable result-wise and there has been little to cheer for those who have supported Lynn through what has been mainly thin fare.
Some have said to me that the rebuild of the squad last summer has been the main reason for the failure this time but I cannot agree with that.
Changes had to be made in attempting to improve results of the previous season with the likes of Adam Marriott and Michael Gash moving on to pastures new. I know that met with disapproval in some quarters but since leaving The Walks neither has been in prolific scoring form.
What has hit Lynn hard is that, apart from a few exceptions, most of the replacements just haven’t been able to cut the mustard at this level.
Questions must be asked about the recruitment policy because it hasn’t been good enough, as results have shown.
The club’s status as a full-time outfit will also need addressing. Can it really be sustained (or warranted) at a lower standard?
For me though, the club needs to find its identity again. Supporters need to know what the idea and aims of the club are for now and the future.
I maintain my view that, at best, the Linnets are a step two club. If anyone doubts that, then just look at the last two painful seasons, where more often than not the club have come up short – on and off the pitch.
While I admire the chairman for his aims of Football League status and all that goes with that, I cannot agree that it is either workable or sustainable.
Unlike the likes of Nottingham, Stockport and Wrexham, Lynn is not a football hotbed, despite us all wanting it to be so.
I’ve always applauded the fan base, taking between 70 and a 100 fans to most away games this term is a tremendous effort. However, that pales into insignificance as seen when the likes of Southend and Chesterfield visited Lynn.
Yes, that is what we have been competing against. That’s why it may not be the worst thing returning back to level two, spending a few seasons consolidating and then make another concerted move for promotion if the club feels they are ready to do so.
The club has to find a level where it can compete and gain results at a much more regular interval than it has for the past 20-or-so months, as well as a level that it can comfortably afford to sustain on and off the pitch.
If this can be found, and put together as quickly as possible, the next positive chapter for the club will not be far away.
The Linnets certainly need to strengthen if they wish to hold their own at even one level lower. I’d settle now for a few seasons of
Time of course, will tell.
λ Who will stay and who should leave The Walks?
See Caney’s Corner, Page 77.