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A relegation created last summer: The story of King's Lynn Town's relegation from the National League

The pain was visible on manager Tommy Widdrington's face as he reflected on the club's exit from the National League.

Brought in to save them from the drop, he just failed to mastermind the Great Escape as Lynn went down fighting in the final few months of the campaign.

In the end, the task of staying up proved too great for Lynn who became an aggressive little fish in a big pond.

Linnets manager Tommy Widdrington remonstrates with the fourth official. (55423126)
Linnets manager Tommy Widdrington remonstrates with the fourth official. (55423126)

But in a season where the Linnets just had to get it right, they were caught sleeping long before a ball was first kicked back in August.

This was a relegation created last summer and Lynn – given a second opportunity thanks to the Covid-hit season of before – simply didn't get their house in order until it was too late.

Ultimately, they paid the price for some extremely poor recruitment, fitness/selection issues (Cameron King and only two substitutes at Torquay), silly suspensions (Junior Morias on opening day against Southend) and some baffling managerial thinking in the early months of the campaign.

But when the dust finally settles on a topsy-turvy campaign, Lynn should take great satisfaction from the brilliant achievement of going toe-to-toe with some huge clubs and expensively assembled rivals.

Make no mistake about it, being promoted from the National League North or South to the top flight is comparable to clubs making the jump from the Championship to the Premier League.

Relegation is not the end of the world - it just feels that way at this moment in time - but little old Lynn can take great strength from the steps they made in reaching this level of football in the first place.

The damage was done early on and chairman Stephen Cleeve, who will be hurting more than anyone, will be all too aware of where it all went wrong.

Despite excellent wins on the road at both Yeovil and Maidenhead, Lynn's dismal home form under the previous management team, who refused to change their footballing philosophies, left the club with a proverbial mountain to climb going into the new year.

A distinct lack of goals and without a home win until just before Christmas, maintaining their league status was always going to be a tall order.

Other than a fourth qualifying round FA Cup tie at home to Peterborough Sports in October, Lynn couldn't buy a victory on their own patch until Widdrington came through the doors in December.

From that moment on they began to salvage some pride. They were miles better in the second half of the campaign as the new manager instilled some much-needed belief into his players.

The signing of Josh Coulson helped alleviate their defensive issues with the former Football League giant adding some much-needed experience and steel at the back.

Even in the defeats at FC Halifax, Chesterfield and Wrexham and the draws at both Solihull and Grimsby Town, the Linnets showed they could mix it with the best this league has to offer.

A huge win came on the road at Aldershot, while both FC Halifax and Bromley were beaten at The Walks as Widdrington's battle-hardened troops reduced a once 15-point deficit on the former to just a handful.

Ultimately, two dropped points in the 1-1 draw at Dover Athletic proved costly, while stoppage time goals at home to Yeovil and away to Dagenham and Redbridge in April robbed battling Lynn of two huge wins as the team fought for their lives until the bitter end.

Lynn have nothing but pride to play for in their final two matches and their manager will already have one eye on next season.

Going forward, the Linnets will need to clear the decks to give Widdrington – if he chooses to remain in the hot seat – the best chance of helping the club continue their recent improvements on the pitch.

Players such as Coulson, Paul Jones, Michael Clunan, Cameron Hargreaves and Ross Barrows – five of Lynn's most consistent performers in a tough league – need to be persuaded to stay along with defender Olly Scott and Josh Barrett, but only if the midfielder – who has the ability to unlock defences on his own - can finally get himself fully fit.

It will then be a case of the manager trying to shape his own team with recruitment over the close season crucial, but with so many of the current squad still on contracts there is much work to be done.

As painful as relegation will be for everyone, the club will be confident of rebuilding, but lessons need to be learned, and quickly, if they are to bounce back at the first attempt.

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