St Ives Town saw their best-ever run in the FA Trophy come to an end yesterday after being beaten in a game of two real chances.
The Saints went down to a solitary King’s Lynn goal as the two Southern League Premier Division sides battled out a third qualifying round tie in Norfolk.
And it really was a battle with little between two teams who went into the contest in fine form (Saints having won their last four games, Lynn having reeled off five triumphs in a row), but who served up a largely forgettable spectacle.
That was probably due in part to the significance of the occasion (£4,000 in prize money and a place in the first round proper are not to be sniffed at) and almost certainly due in part to a treacherous surface (parts of The Walks pitch were soggier than a cheap takeaway pizza).
The decisive moment arrived early on as Michael Clunan, the classiest individual performer on show by some distance, finished smartly on the volley after Saints goalkeeper Tim Trebes had mis-judged his attempt to punch a right-wing cross from former St Neots Town man, Ryan Hawkins.
The ball struck the head of defender Harry O’Malley and fell perfectly into the path of the Lynn goalscorer, who made no mistake from the edge of the box.
Saints boss Ricky Marheineke and number two Jack Cassidy were adamant a clear foul on Josh Dawkin went unpunished during the build-up to the goal. It was, perhaps, a case of referee Matt Law failing to correctly apply the law.
It certainly wasn’t the only occasion that Dawkin was a key figure in the game.
He couldn’t react quickly enough when Lynn goalkeeper Alex Street spilled a cross at his feet moments later and then tested the home number one from a tight angle early in the second period.
And Saints’ big opportunity to level – and take the tie to a replay that their overall display merited - also fell to him with 10 minutes remaining.
He was sent clear by a fine pass from substitute Jack Higgs, but with home goalkeeper Alex Street dashing from his line, Dawkin could only guide his effort wide.
“I’m obviously disappointed with the result, but far from disappointed with the performance we produced,” said Marheineke.
“We came to Lynn with a gameplan and we almost executed it to perfection.
“I’m not quite sure how the referee managed to miss the foul in the build-up to the Lynn goal. It was an absolute no-brainer and it had a big impact on the game.
“But we knew we would get a good chance as long as we didn’t get frustrated and unfortunately we couldn’t take it when it arrived.
“I see Josh tuck opportunities like that away time and time again, but sadly he steered his shot the wrong side of the post.
“It just wasn’t to be for us, but the lads were able walk out of the ground with their heads held high and knowing they all gave absolutely everything.”
The FA Trophy exit means Saints are in Premier Division action on Tuesday night, when they entertain Chesham at ProEdge Westwood Road.
Saints now find themselves just one place and one point above the relegation zone after a week without a league fixture.
* St Neots Town have slipped back into the Premier Division relegation zone after also being out of action in the past week.