Stan­ley miss shot at a re­play

The Football League Paper - - FA CUP FOURTH ROUND - By Joe Thomas

AC­CRING­TON had their chances but in the end Premier League class told as Ste­wart Down­ing’s won­der goal saw Mid­dles­brough into the fifth round of the FA Cup.

Stan­ley could eas­ily have earned a re­play in the clos­ing stages when they had three good chances. Lively pair Sean McConville and Billy Kee both found space in the area and threat­ened to level, which no­body of a Teesside per­sua­sion wanted.

Ac­cring­ton could ar­gue they de­served that re­play but there never seemed much dan­ger of a re­peat of Stan­ley’s vic­tory in Au­gust 2013, when the two met at the River­side in the League Cup.

But de­spite the gap in league po­si­tion be­tween the sides – some 72 places – Ac­cring­ton boss John Cole­man was not happy to ac­cept a nar­row loss.

He said: “I’m dis­ap­pointed we got beat, you should al­ways be an­noyed. We re­alised it would be dif­fi­cult. We’re un­for­tu­nate that out of all Premier League teams play­ing this week, Boro picked the strong­est side.

“We can’t ex­pect them to play young kids. Our task was dif­fi­cult, to go down to won­der-goal is tes­ta­ment to the way our lads played.

“We made three or four good chances. We didn’t come here to park the bus, that’s not our style. We will never be a Premier League team but the style of foot­ball – quite ex­pan­sive – suits the way we play. We will al­ways look good but it was a great goal that beat us.

“We haven’t em­bar­rassed our­selves. A re­play would have meant a lot more. It was prob­a­bly the last thing Boro needed but it would have been a god­send for us.

“The fi­nances of a big game like that, it would have prob­a­bly been on TV and that would have set us up for next sea­son. These games have a big im­pact on clubs like us, long-term.”

Ac­cring­ton might have had the lead in the first half had Dimi Kon­stan­topou­los not thwarted Sean Clare as he ran through on goal. Still, it was the home side who had the bet­ter of the chances, even if they couldn’t find a way through be­fore half-time.

Boro did con­trol the game like a Premier League side would be ex­pected to. Pa­trick Bam­ford and Rudy Gest­ede – the com­bined £12m men – also made first starts, and looked like they lacked sharp­ness in front of goal.

But in the end it was an old­timer who made the dif­fer­ence, Down­ing’s strike with 21 min­utes left was an ex­am­ple of why Sam Al­lardyce is keen to take him to Crys­tal Palace be­fore Tues­day’s trans­fer dead­line.

There was still time for more chances at ei­ther end with McConville head­ing wide on 83 min­utes with Stan­ley’s best op­por­tu­nity.

Cristhian Stu­ani could have wrapped up the tie as he blasted over af­ter beat­ing the keeper in stop­page time, but it mat­tered lit­tle in the end to Ai­tor Karanka’s side.

He said: “We were good. It was a dif­fi­cult game to play and ev­ery­one thinks it is go­ing to be easy.

“Look at the num­ber of good teams who have lost, Premier League teams and top of Cham­pi­onship. The big thing was to win the game.

“Down­ing was good. I said at half-time he was one of the best play­ers on the pitch. He showed he wants to play and is ready to play. He is al­ways in my thoughts.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

CRUNCH: Pa­trick Bam­ford is tack­led by Ac­cring­ton Stan­ley’s Sea­mus Con­nelly, and Ste­wart Down­ing cel­e­brates his win­ner, in­set

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