Stanley miss shot at a replay
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.”
CRUNCH: Patrick Bamford is tackled by Accrington Stanley’s Seamus Connelly, and Stewart Downing celebrates his winner, inset