King’s Lynn Town 3 Whitby Town 0 (5th October 2013)
After returning from China, I didn’t think I’d be back in the far east so quick, although “far east” in this sense referred to northern East Anglia, with a trip to King’s Lynn, up at the top of Norfolk.
I’d heard King’s Lynn was a bit of a dive, but actually, in the Autumn sun, it seemed quite a decent little place. While not quite shortbread-tin and twee in looks, the town centre certainly possessed a fair share of older buildings hinting at prosperity a couple of hundred years ago. OK, the fringes were a little rough round the edges and lived in, and gave off the impression of being an area within 50 yards of a tattoo parlour or sex shop, but had we not been delayed on the journey up by the A47 being shut by the police, it might have been a decent place to stroll round before the game.
As it was we had just enough to stop for a bite to eat in Lulu’s chip shop/restaurant (clearly the royalties from “Shout” don’t last forever) before a brisker than we’d have liked stroll back through the park to the ground.
King’s Lynn’s ground is one I fancied going to for a while, mainly due to the vast, by non-league standards, main stand. It only holds 1200, but looks much larger, and wouldn’t look out of place in England’s third tier. Mind you, there are very few of these old style stands existing even in the League any more, which adds to the appeal.
It may be old, but unlike a few other examples which look a little sorry for themselves, it’s been well maintained, and still looks very tidy. The bars underneath the seats have been modernised, and the stand is liberally decked in enough blue and yellow to make it hard to forget who the home team are. Such is the positive result of the modernisation of the stand that it almost comes as a shock to find wooden floorboards under the blue tip-up seats.
It’s not perfect. The two central supporting pillars for the roof are thick enough to render the views from a large number of the seats as at best irksome. You’d spend the game leaning left and right like a rider on a bobsleigh team, depending on where it blocks you view of the goal. The shortness of the stand, stopping a good 20 yards or so short of each end of the pitch, means that the obstructed views from the corners would be even less popular.
Ignore that, and you should usually be able to do so with enough vacant free seats to go round, and the view is terrific. Well worth paying an extra £1 to transfer, even for just one half. Well I thought so anyway. They two others I went with stayed on the terracing.
Opposite was a covered terrace, again big enough to look more like lower league than non-league, albeit with enough supporting pillars to be reminiscent of walking through a bamboo plantation. At least these were thin, so not quite as annoying. King’s Lynn’s more vocal element seemed to opt for this side. Walking through the park, singing was heard, which is pretty unusual at this level, and I assume it came from here. These two sides in particular made it not feel like your typical 7th tier match.
The ends weren’t quite as impressive, but weren’t bad. One had four deep 6-inch steps of terrace with a crush barrier at the front, made a little more attractive by a backdrop of attractive gabled Victorian houses on Tennyson Road, behind.
The other had four shallow steps of asphalt terracing, edged with kerbstones, but you still need to be Peter Crouch height to see much over the heads of people at the front, even from the back.
It was from here though, from the front, that I chose to watch the first half. It was the end Whitby were attacking, and they gave a good account of themselves for much of the half, but the game turned on a send-off halfway through. King’s Lynn hadn’t been hugely composed in front of goal, so maybe bundling over an attacker in the box wasn’t the best option, particularly as it put Whitby down to 10 men. The penalty was missed, being of a softness and predictability normally reserved for the last England player in a quarter-final shoot-out exit.
Despite the miss, the man advantage gave the home side a lot of confidence. A long range shot was tipped over the bar before they eventually took the lead. A touch of composure in the box saw a chance put on a plate to be side-footed in from six yards out.
Before the break it was 2-0, with the goal of the game, and perhaps of King’s Lynn’s season, with a 25 yard shot flying across the keeper and pinging in off the far post.
Whitby did come close to pulling one back, but a effort curling for the far post didn’t curl enough, and it stayed at 2-0.
I do have a slight soft spot for Whitby. Many years ago, playing Championship Manager, I steered them (though managerial genius obviously, not because the game was a bit too easy, oh no) from being playerless Conference debutantes to the premier league title. However, despite that, goal greed – the chance to possibly see a right hammering – found me wanting to see King’s Lynn rather go for it.
I’d seen a similar situation in Beijing three weeks earlier, which had resulted in the away team being hammered 6-0, but one crucial difference is that Whitby weren’t playing badly, and didn’t deserve to be on the end of a lop-sided score.
King’s Lynn did add a third, just before the hour. A shot from the edge of the box was drilled in low, and again hit the post before hitting the back of the net. That was to be the end of the scoring though.
In fact the best chance afterwards went to Whitby. A handled back-pass deep into injury time gave Whitby an indirect free-kick in the box, about 8 yards out. After a real struggle to persuade the King’s Lynn team to take up positions on the goal line, as required for kicks that close in, it all came to nothing. The ball was teed up for a shot, but the shot was miscued and went harmlessly wide.
For the players and fans of Whitby, yes a few did make the 175 mile trip down, it’d be a very long four hour trip on the A-roads home. I faced a three hour trip myself, but it’s fair to say I enjoyed the day rather more.