SUBSTITUTE Robbie Harris was the match winner for the second successive round as King’s Lynn stormed into the quarter-finals of the FA Vase.
Harris came off the bench to slot home a 65th minute and maintain his remarkable scoring record as the Linnets broke St Neots’ hearts for the second time in a space of week. More than 1,600 fans erupted in jubilation as Town’s management team congratulated their players at the final whistle after the Linnets completed a memorable league and cup double over their UCL title rivals.
Harris, back for his second spell with the club, has enjoyed a real purple patch in this season’s competition.
He has netted in five of the seven rounds Lynn have negotiated and, more importantly, has registered the winner in three of the rounds.
Speaking to the Lynn News, Harris said: "I’ve never played in a competition where I’ve scored so freely. Before this season the best I’d ever done in the FA Vase was reaching the last 32 with Dereham.
"I’ve just happened to be in the right place at the right time for a lot of my goals but it has been very satisfying. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter who scores the goals as long as the team keep winning. "We’ve got a small squad but there is such a togetherness and everyone is prepared to work so hard for each other. All of the players are good mates and the dressing room is really buzzing."
Despite their march into the last eight, Harris has warned his team-
mates that they need to remain focused in their bid to win the United Counties League title.
"We’ve got to play a lot of games in such a short period of time but sometimes that isn’t a bad thing when you have the winning mentality like we have at the minute:
"Winning the league is our priority this season but getting to a Wembley final really would be the icing on the cake."
Lynn’s winner came after Lewis Webb’s debatable penalty had cancelled out Jack Defty’s 33rd strike of the season early in the second half. Joint Linnets boss Gary Setchell said: "The players have shown an unbelievable belief and desire to win a football match against a St Neots team who are a very good side.
"I’m elated, especially to beat one of the favourites. We’ve beaten a lot of things in the second half and hopefully we can go from strength-to-strength after this.
"As a young manager coming through this result ranks at the very top for me."
On emergency right back Luke Thurlbourne, who came in for the injured Jamie Alsop, Setchell said: "Luke Thurlbourne at right-back was a risk, as was playing Kieran Doherty in central midfield, but they were both immense."
There was little to chose between the two sides in a cagey first half, which St Neots just about shaded after some late pressure.
A Jack Defty header and a Jamie Thurlbourne free-kick was the closest Lynn came to breaking the deadlock, while at the other end both Dan Jacob and Shane Tolley had half- chances for the visitors.
Six minutes after the restart Defty poked home after some sizzling work from Chris Bacon, whose persistence saw him nick the ball from Will Fordham on the touchline.
Defty was inches away from a second after Jamie Thurlbourne cruised down the left to deliver a delightful cross.
St Neots were handed a lifeline when the unlucky Ross Watson was deemed to have fouled Jacob in the box and former Linnet Lewis Webb made no mistake with the resulting spot kick.
The inconsistent referee then waved away home appeals for a penalty when Defty lost his balance in an aerial challenge with Fordham. Harris bundled home on 65 minutes after St Neots goalkeeper Tim Trebes could only flap at a Jamie Thurlbourne corner.
The closest St Neots came to finding a second equaliser was when Saints’ substitute Roy Essendoh’s point-blank finish was smothered on the line by Luke Thurlbourne and scrambled to safety.
Town were still required to see out a nervous eight minutes but they kept their cool, without too many scares, to book their place in Monday’s draw.
|King’s Lynn: Street, Bexfield, Doherty. L. Thurlbourne, Buhlemann, Watson, Spriggs (Harris 62), White, Defty, Bacon (Moreira 86), J. Thurlbourne. Subs (not used): McNeil, White. Hails.
Booking: L. Thurlbourne. Goals: Defty (52). Harris (65).
St Neots: Trebes, D. Moore, Davis, Webb, Fuff, Fordham, Hilliard (Skully 57), Hyem (Essendoh 81), S. Moore, Tolley (Kanudu 74), Jacob. Subs (not used): Gent, McShane. Booking: Hyem. Goal: Webb (61).
Referee: A. Degnarain (London). Attendance: 1,612.