Remember what Lynn manager Len Richley said before Saturday's FA Cup second round tie at Coventry? "We'll make them fight all the way", was his comment. On the pitch at Highfield Road on Saturday afternoon Lynn players said in effect: "We'll give them a goal and still beat them". And who, in the large contingent among the 12,080 crowd will easily forget how a scintillating Lynn display turned the tables so completely that it was the Third Division side who were made to fight all the way to avoid a heavier defeat.
This was Lynn's finest FA Cup victory. It made cup history for the club, taking them into the third round for the first time. It was certainly no fluke. It was thoroughly deserved, and so undeniably convincing that everyone who made the long trip for the game felt proud to be a Linnet.
Against a League club one might reasonably have expected Lynn to be just that little bit less sharp in their play - a yard slower, perhaps - but for ninety minutes they were every bit as fast as Coventry and for quite a lot of the time, faster.
They played football from start to finish. There was none of the "big boot and hope for the best" attitude against supposedly superior opposition.
Lynn led the way in skill, style, ideas and above all ability. They scored all three goals and won, which makes their success even more praiseworthy than had they ought back to win against a goal scored BY Coventry.
While Coventry fought to make moves Lynn clicked into gear with penetrating raids. Bobby Lumley, who stamped himself as the best inside forward on the field, foraged and schemed brilliantly. He moved about the field tirelessly, gathering passes here, there and everywhere to launch attack after attack.
Mick Wright surprised the Coventry defence time and time again with his fast controlled runs; Ronnie Bacon used his speed to great effect on the right: Ray Dixon, despite an early knee injury, which slowed him down, gave Coventry pivot Curtis no respite; and Mick Johnson after settling down in the unusual role of a forward, played forcefully and justified his inclusion with a finely taken equalising goal.
Skipper Gerry Mackey was the star performer of an extremely competent defence in which every man deserves the highest praise. I have never seen Lynn mark and cover so splendidly and in this respect each and every forward played his part, too.
Wing halves Alan Dunn and John Sanchez, and pivot Dave Hindle marked and tackled so resolutely that very little was seen of the Coventry inside trio. The City's most dangerous forward was Imiach on the left wing, but with Mackey playing so well his successes were cut to the minimum. On the other flank John Wilson ha a fine game, and occasionally found time to become a dangerous attacker.
One of the best tributes I think I can pay to the Lynn players and the defence in particular, is that Mick Manning had comparatively little to worry him.
The best Coventry shot of the match came near the end when centre-forward centre-forward Dixon got a glimpse of the Lynn goal and sent in a screaming shot which rose and flashed a full yard over the bar and up into the crowded terrace.
A few minutes before the kick-off one of the best kept secrets came out. Bobby Brennan was ill with influenza and his place, it was announced would be taken by Mick Johnson.
In the opening stages it seemed that Lynn might be up against it, for Johnson, wearing the No. 10 shirt virtually became another inside forward with Mick Wright.
But soon they sorted themselves out and Lynn began to force the pace. Dixon had a good header pulled down from under the bar by Lightening; Wright sent a hard drive at the goalkeeper and very shortly afterwards Wright teed up the ball for Lumley whose first time shot flashed just wide of the goal.
Coventry relied on their left wing for their opening attacks and it was on this flank that they forced the first corner of the match. This was cleared, but a sliced kick by Hindle put Imlach in possession again the danger being averted when the winger centred into the side netting.
Their early raids put Lynn in confident mood, and Coventry, looking anything but convincing, had their attacking moves nipped in the bud by Lynn's shrewd tackling and covering.
Dixon lost a chance when he stumbled after receiving a perfect pass from Lumley, but after 15 minutes looked certain to score when he cleverly beat Curtis on the turn and raced for goal unchallenged.
However, the ball ran just too far ahead of him and as Lightening dropped on to it Dixon fell over the goalkeeper and injured his left knee. He resumed after treatment but was obviously handicapped.
Nevertheless, Lynn continued to carry the play into the Coventry half of the field with Wilson once racing right to the edge of the penalty area, beating two men in the process.
Then came a blow to Lynn. The game was 28 minutes old when Dunn challenged Peter Hill for a loose ball near the goal area. Manning moved out to gather it, but it was forced across the open goalmouth. Hindle, covering well, quickly kicked the ball away, but unfortunately it struck Manning as he turned to cover his goal and was deflected into the net.
An own goal away to a League club in such a match might well have taken the sting out of most teams. But it had the reverse effect upon the fighting Linnets.
They hit back with even greater determination and only five minutes later brought their supporters to their feet, cheering and shouting, twirling their rattles and throwing streamers.
Wright and Dixon combined in a quick move, with Dixon chipping the ball over the fullback Bennett's head to Johnson who rammed the ball in for a great equaliser.
Three minutes later the ground again echoed to the cheers, whistles and rattles of Lynn supporters as Lynn forged ahead in magnificent fashion. Bacon in midfield tried to find a gap in the Coventry defence for a through pass, but the ball was cleared. He gathered the ball again to the right and sent over a well-placed centre which Wright jumped to head in off the underside of the bar.
Nicholas and Imlach tried desperately to get some cohesion into Coventry's play but Lynn held a firm grip on the proceedings and the Midlanders had very little opportunity to score. Occasionally they threatened to level matters, but their finishing was hopelessly wide of the mark.
Their best chance came just before half time after Manning had pushed away a low drive by Nicholas. Before the goalkeeper could recover Brian Hill pounced on to the ball but from barely six yards fired high over the top.
If any Coventry supporters thought that Lynn could not maintain their fast pace and high standard of play in the second half, they were sadly disillusioned. There was a brief spell when Lynn changed their style to a more open game, but they quickly reverted to their polished ways and continued to hold the upper hand to the end.
A little more was seen of the Coventry forwards in this half but Lynn continued to mark them so closely that Manning had little more difficult things to do than leap to cleanly hold centres.
At the other end Dixon missed a chance close in and the ball was cleared out to Bacon whose fierce return shot was turned away for a corner.
Lynn had an escape when Mackey headed away from the goalmouth a header by Curtis who had moved up for a corner and Manning relieved the tension by punching the ball to safety.
This incident and a rousing shot by Coventry leader, Dixon, were about the only things the home side had to get excited about, because Lynn continued to be much more the impressive.
Lumley cleverly beat three men on the left to give Johnson a chance and Lightening did well to hold the Lynn man's hard cross drive. And then right near the end Dixon went very close to scoring Lynn's third goal, his lob over the advancing goalkeeper's head just skimming the bar and rolling down the roof of the net.
|Coventry: Lightening; Bennett, Kletmenbauer; Nicholas, Curtis, Austin; Hill P, Hewitt, Dixon, Hill B, Imlach.
Lynn: Manning; Mackey, Wilson; Dunn, Hindle, Sanchez; Bacon, Lumley, Dixon, Johnson, Wright.