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Shaun Tuck comes off the bench to score decisive goal for Witton Albion against King's Lynn Town
IT had to be him.
Witton Albion were meandering towards a draw, probably a result that reflected what had been played out on the pitch, when Shaun Tuck trotted onto the pitch as a substitute.
He had not played, barely trained even, since the final game of last term.
Yet one of his kicks, a slammed shot with the left boot after Lynn goalkeeper Danny Gay had blocked an initial attempt, was decisive in settling the outcome with three minutes left.
Even the 27-year-old, released from prison less than a fortnight ago after serving half of a three-month sentence as punishment for sending malicious messages on the Internet, struggled to take it all in.
The front man, Witton’s leading scorer in the previous campaign, may yet be banned by the Football Association for the attention his remarks, written on a social networking website in the hours following Drummer Lee Rigby’s murder in London in May, drew to the game.
Even if he is charged by the governing body, that swish of his left leg may already have kick-started Albion’s season.
Brian Pritchard’s men, beaten in each of their first three matches, have won two since.
This latest one was against capable opponents in King’s Lynn.
Had Witton custodian Matt Cooper not made two stunning stops before the break to thwart the Linnets’ in-form attacker Dan Jacob, both times when the pair came face-to-face, then Tuck’s part in the tale might have been as an extra.
The visitors had returned to Norfolk without a goal after each of their previous visits to play Witton in the Northern Premier League, but they were more likely scorers in the first half.
Before Jacob had found himself one-on-one with Cooper, defender Phil Gulliver had steered off target when well-placed.
Ben Harrison stopped too another goal-bound header from a corner.
Albion were not without attacking threat; Josh Hancock’s driven attempt kissed a post, then Kyle Wilson headed high from close range after darting between back-markers to meet Anthony Gardner’s centre.
Returning Michael Powell was unable to control his headed finish, again from a Gardner assist, as half time approached.
Witton applied pressure after the interval, going close to a breakthrough when Danny Andrews’ deflected shot forced Gay to tip over.
When the hosts sent on new recruit Neville Thompson to form an attacking tandem with Wilson, they kept the ball better – and for longer – in Linnets’ half of the pitch.
A clear chance did not follow, mind.
Instead, Lynn full back Jordan Yong tried his luck from way out and sent Cooper sprawling to his left to parry.
It proved a diversion, for when Witton next attacked Tuck sped into a space behind the visitors’ defence after a lofted through-ball was sent there.
Gay appeared to have averted the danger when he rushed out to save, but the striker made his the loose ball.
He did not hurry his next move, stepping past the prone custodian before blasting it past a back-marker on the goal-line.
Witton Star Man: Matt Cooper. It would be easy to pick Shaun Tuck, but his match-clinching goal would have meant far less in the final reckoning had Albion’s custodian not thwarted King’s Lynn danger man Dan Jacob with two superb saves in the first half.
Witton (4-5-1) Cooper (GK), Gardner, Harrison, Joseph, Moyo, Andrews, James, Platt (Thompson 60), Powell, Hancock, Wilson (Tuck 72) Subs not used Grocott, Dawson, Sheehan Goal Tuck 87 Booked James (foul), Powell (kicking the ball away)
King’s Lynn (4-3-3) Gay (GK), Clarke, Lee, Gulliver, Yong, Quigley, Bunting, Thomson (Mulready 78), Hall (Spriggs 58), Tolley (Mills 58), Jacob Subs not used Watson, Fryatt Booked Lee (foul)
Referee Michael Denton (Todmorden)
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