Football: FA Cup Countdown: Linnets hoping for a merry day out at Millmoor

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The Independent Online
A trip to Rotherham may not seem like a glamorous day out, but for one Norfolk non-League club it is something to savour. Rupert Metcalf explains.

The last time King's Lynn beat a Football League club in the FA Cup, the directors of their vanquished Third Division opponents were so distressed by the experience that they sacked their manager.

Being beaten 2-1 on home ground in November 1961 by the Linnets, as King's Lynn are known, was the end of the road at Coventry City for Billy Frith. He was replaced by Jimmy Hill, and the Sky Blue Revolution was underway.

As the Linnets' own club history states: "Had it not been for Lynn's Cup exploits, it can be claimed that Jimmy Hill might never have become the household name he is today. KLFC have much to answer for!"

On Saturday, at Millmoor, the Norfolk club will be seeking their first share of the FA Cup headlines since those long-gone days of the early 60s. Their second-round opponents, Rotherham United, have been in impressive form in recent weeks, so a loss to the Linnets is unlikely to lead to the departure of their manager, Ronnie Moore, but it would certainly heap embarrassment and humiliation upon the South Yorkshire club.

This is because Lynn are by no means big fish in the non-League pond. They have never played in the GM Vauxhall Conference and, although they are currently riding high in the Dr Martens (Southern) League Premier Division, within the last 10 years they have nearly slipped out of the Southern into a local league.

The Walks, their spacious stadium, was passed fit for the Conference earlier this year, so there are high hopes at the 118-year-old club that they might join the non-League elite in the not too distant future. The Walks' crowd record was set in 1951, when 12,937 saw Lynn removed from the FA Cup by Exeter. They first entered the Cup in 1900, and five seasons later they reached the first round for the first time. They lost 11-0 at Aston Villa - still their record defeat in the competition.

The Linnets did not defeat a Football League club in the Cup until 1959, when they overcame Aldershot 3-1 at The Walks. They have reached the third round once, in 1962, when their win at Coventry earned them a trip to Everton. Lynn were then, not for the first or the last time, in financial difficulties, and their share of a 44,916 gate at Goodison was welcome. A 4-0 defeat did not embarrass them, either.

Before their 1-0 home win over Bromsgrove Rovers in the first round last month, their last win in the Cup proper was in 1973, when Wimbledon were beaten 1-0 at The Walks. That was not the shock result it would be today, though, for the Dons were then, as Bromsgrove are now, rival members of the Southern League.

Although the Linnets have stayed firmly out of the Cup limelight for years, their manager has not. Peter Morris steered Kettering Town to the fourth round in 1989, they beat Bristol Rovers and Halifax Town before losing to Charlton Athletic. They also just missed out on a place in the Football League, finishing second to Maidstone United in the Conference that season.

"We're not that good yet," Morris said this week when asked if his current team could emulate the feats of that Kettering side, "and we've got a very stiff task at Rotherham."

Morris is one of the most experienced managers in the non-League game. As a player he was a determined midfielder with Mansfield, Ipswich and Norwich. He began his managerial career in 1976 at Mansfield and has also been in charge of Peterborough, Crewe and Southend and, outside the League, Nuneaton and Boston United as well as Kettering and now the Linnets.

At The Walks Morris has built a side that displays the same honest, hard- working qualities that he showed as a player. His only player with substantial League experience is Tony Spearing, a left-back formerly with Norwich, Leicester, Plymouth and Peterborough, but several other players were rejected by League clubs and may feel they have something to prove: One is the former Ipswich goalkeeper James Hollman, who could be the busiest man on the pitch at Rotherham.

For Hollman and most of his team-mates, tomorrow's trip to Millmoor will be the biggest match of their careers to date. Along with a live television audience, Morris was highly impressed by Rotherham when he travelled to Turf Moor to watch them thrash Burnley 3-0 in a first-round replay - but, as Morris said: "There's always one shock result, and it could be us."