SU­PER STAN­LEY

How Ac­cring­ton Stan­ley have turned their for­tunes around

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE: - By John Lyons

ONLY an eter­nal op­ti­mist – or man­ager John Cole­man – could have imag­ined at Christ­mas that Ac­cring­ton Stan­ley would have a shout of reach­ing the League Two play-offs.

At that time, the only way Stan­ley looked like leav­ing League Two was by the trap­door. A 2-0 de­feat at Grimsby Town on Box­ing Day left the Lan­cashire club look­ing like tur­keys.

They were 22nd in the ta­ble, just out­side the rel­e­ga­tion places by the nar­row­est of mar­gins on goal dif­fer­ence. It was the cul­mi­na­tion of a nine-match win­less run that left them in the mire.

Since then, though, they’ve gone from chumps to champs. Af­ter bag­ging 21 points from their open­ing 22 games, they’d snaf­fled 41 points from their next 21 games. It left them 11th – just two points off the play-offs – in an in­cred­i­bly tight ta­ble ahead of yes­ter­day’s crunch clash at rel­e­ga­tion-threat­ened New­port County.

If Stan­ley had shown that form all sea­son, they would br fight­ing it out with top two, Don­caster and Ply­mouth, for the ti­tle.

Ask ex­pe­ri­enced man­ager Cole­man what is the se­cret of his side’s turn­around in for­tunes and he puts it down to tak­ing their chances, mo­men­tum and a dol­lop of luck.

The 54-year-old said: “We haven’t played much dif­fer­ently, but the ball has been go­ing in the net.

“We had an horrendous run late last year when we scored two goals in nine games.

“We couldn’t seem to score, we were hit­ting the wood­work, keep­ers were mak­ing great saves and, when you don’t feel like you’ve got a goal in you, it’s very dif­fi­cult to get a 0-0. Even­tu­ally, the de­fence cracks and you con­cede a silly goal.

“The play­ers get a bit de­spon­dent. They lose con­fi­dence and be­lief and, when you get on that run, it’s hard to get out of it. The pres­sure keeps mount­ing.

“Our per­for­mances hadn’t been that bad, but some­times luck can play a big part. It’s how you re­act to luck that’s im­por­tant. We weren’t re­spond­ing too well to bad luck. You can feel sorry for your­self, but one way to try to make a change is to play the game in your op­po­nents’ half.

“If you’re play­ing in and around your box, then don’t be sur­prised if you give penal­ties away. On the other hand, if you are dom­i­nat­ing pos­ses­sion and play­ing in your op­po­nents’ last third, you give your­selves a chance.”

But did Cole­man be­lieve, af­ter that grim Box­ing Day at Grimsby, that his side could re­ally still chal­lenge at the other end of the ta­ble?

“This might sound bizarre, but even af­ter Grimsby I told the play­ers ‘if you go on a run, you can cat­a­pult your­selves up the league’.”

Stretched

A bat­tling 1-0 win at Crewe on New Year’s Eve proved the cat­a­lyst. It was the start of a run of 11 wins, eight draws and two de­feats. Be­fore the week­end, their last de­feat was a 2-0 re­verse at Portsmouth in mid-Fe­bru­ary and their un­beaten run had stretched to 15 games. “It would be a shame if we didn’t get into the play-offs now with the form we’ve shown,” he said. “We have to keep on win­ning. The frus­trat­ing thing is that Portsmouth have been pro­moted with 78 points and we got 85 last sea­son and didn’t go up.

“His­tor­i­cally, 71 points gets you in the play-offs and we have a chance to do that.

“We’ve got three big games left, but when you be­lieve and ex­pect to win it’s amaz­ing how things work for you. The play­ers are show­ing the char­ac­ter of win­ners.”

If Stan­ley are to reach the play-offs for a sec­ond suc­ces­sive sea­son, then striker Shay McCar­tan is likely to be a key man. The 22-year-old scooped the Sky Bet League Two Player of the Month award for March af­ter notch­ing six goals in seven games, in­clud­ing four free-kicks.

Cole­man added: “You won’t get any­one in the world who’s scored so many free-kicks in such a short space of time.

“I spoke to him in the early part of the sea­son when things weren’t go­ing for him and told him not to let it put him off, not to be scared to miss. I see him scor­ing ev­ery day in train­ing.

“Shay’s quick, strong, pow­er­ful, got two great feet and an eye for goal. I set him a tar­get of 13 goals when he scored his first goal in Jan­uary and now he’s got 11 – he’s well on his way.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

ALL SMILES: Ac­cring­ton Stan­ley boss John Cole­man has over­seen a stun­ning re­vival STAR MAN: Shay McCar­tan is in great form

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