LINNETS suffered their second successive semi-final heartache on Tuesday after goalkeeper Chuck Martini gave Crawley their place in the final.
The Moroccan, at fault for several goals this season, was once again the villain as brave Lynn crashed out to an agonising extra-time winner from Crawley’s Dean Wordsworth.
Manager Tony Spearing was inconsolable after the defeat and blasted the eccentric shotstopper when he said: "The tie was there for the taking, but Chuck gave them two goals before the break and the buck has to stop with him.
"We were in the driving seat at 1-0, but in the space of five minutes Chuck came for two crosses and missed them both. I can’t defend him as that’s what he is paid for.
"I’m hurting, and I am so gutted for the players, supporters and everyone connected with the club as we gave it absolutely everything," ended Spearing, whose only crumb of comfort came when his side forced the game into an extra 30 minutes.
"The players were deflated at half-time, but I never once doubted that we could get back into it and we did.
"We were magnificent in the second half and thereafter and still haven’t been beaten over 90 minutes in twelve games and ’that’s a tremendous achievement," he said.
Martini’s failings with crosses were cruelly exposed by an impressive Crawley outfit, who could hardly believe their luck in taking a 2-1 lead into the break.
Still smarting from January’s league defeat at The Walks, the hosts were well on top in the opening exchanges, as they piled forward in search of an early advantage.
Lynn displayed their renowned fighting spirit and soaked up the pressure until the 36th minute, when recent signing Zeke Rowe opened his Lynn account by scoring off his knee, after his initial header had been well saved by the home keeper.
Three minutes later, Crawley’s Danny Carroll delivered a cross from the right, which Martini failed to deal with, and Dave Powell was left with the easiest of scoring opportunities to fire the ball into the net.
In the 42nd minute, Lynn defenders were again shaking their heads in disbelief, when Martini clumsily dropped a routine Wordsworth centre and Carroll pounced to score.
Inspired by midfielder Paul Raynor, Lynn dominated possession after the interval.
Chances were limited, but their patience was rewarded when the ball stayed in play off the corner flag, and substitute Tommy Wright crossed for Dave Robinson to stab the ball home.
Both Palmer and Wright had half chances to clinch a winner for Lynn in normal time, but eight minutes into extra time, Wordsworth was on hand to drive home an unstoppable volley on the edge of the box.
Gallant Lynn then went for broke, by replacing defender Craig Clark with an extra striker in Kristian Jones.
Backed by a large band of vocal travelling support, the Linnets camped in the Crawley half for the remainder of the game, but despite their efforts, they were unable to force the contest into the drama of a penalty shoot-out.
Crawley: A. Little, S. Holmes, D. Wackett, J, Gamble, M. Pullan, J. Ugbah, D. Carroll (G. Hurdle 91), L. Anderson, D. Wordsworth, M. Hynes, D. Powell. Subs not used: L. Huggins, I. Payne.
Lynn: Martini, Dakin, Clark (Jones 103), Robinson, Fuff, Raynor, Anderson (Wright 74), Hayes, Rowe, Rowland, Palmer. Not used: Spearing.
Bookings: Lynn - Palmer (19, foul), Fuff (44, foul), Dakin (68, dissent),Martini (118, foul)
Crawley - Wordsworth (34, foul), Ugbah (53, handball)
Man-of-the-Match: Paul Raynor