2013/14 was a season of highs and lows for Stanley which ended with the Reds looking forward to another campaign in the Football League. With the dust now settling on the season, the official website takes a look back at the most memorable moments.
Few gave the Reds a chance when the Capital One Cup draw handed them a long trip up to the North East to face Championship side Middlesbrough. However, Stanley would produce a sensational result to give James Beattie his first win as the club’s manager.
It looked as though the game would go as expected when Lukas Jutkiewicz put Boro ahead after just nine minutes but Marcus Carver equalised just before half-time to give hope to those that had traveled to the Riverside Stadium. Stanley would battle through the second half determined to cause an upset and Piero Mingoia’s goal nine minutes from time sealed a superb victory.
Despite that cup win, the league form was poor, with no win in the opening twelve league games leaving the club rooted to the foot of League Two on four points. However, the visit of Bristol Rovers to the Store First Stadium would transform the fortunes of Accrington Stanley for the 2013/14 campaign.
When Alex Henshall’s cross somehow found the back of the net after five minutes, it seemed that it would be a thirteenth game without a win but Beattie’s boys bounced back to pick up their first maximum of the season thanks to goals from James Gray and Kal Naismith. The relief at the final whistle was palpable and there was a sense that the season truly begun on that Friday night.
With that monkey off the club’s back, the Reds made the short trip to the Globe Arena and a Lancashire derby with Morecambe just three days later knowing that the Shrimps had never beaten Stanley in a league game since both sides became Football League clubs.
Sure enough, all three points were taken by Accrington to ensure back-to-back wins and a real gathering of momentum. Danny Webber’s penalty in the first half put the Reds in front but Jack Sampson leveled things up shortly after the break.
As the clock ticked towards injury time, the game looked destined to end all-square until the intervention of Peter Murphy, who smashed the ball into the back of net in front of a delirious away end. The pandemonium behind the goal was a fantastic sight and the celebrations between supporters and players encapsulated what Accrington Stanley is all about.
Those two wins sent Stanley on an excellent run of one defeat in 13 games that brought them out of the bottom two and into mid-table. Arguably the most impressive result of that run – and indeed of the season – came at Glanford Park as Scunthorpe were brushed aside 2-0. George Bowerman opened the scoring with a stylish finish from 18 yards and set up the second goal for Kayode Odejayi. Despite the best efforts of the hosts, they were unable to break through the Stanley rearguard.
On paper, a trip to Mansfield doesn’t sound all that exciting but this season’s game at Field Mill saw one of the most remarkable finishes to a football match. A brace from John McCombe looked like it would be decisive but Naismith completed a brace of his own to rescue a point. Only he hadn’t rescued a point at all because Gray fired home just a minute later to complete an unbelievable turnaround and spark scenes of jubilation on the sidelines with staff and substitutes running onto the pitch overcome with joy. Some way to send the fans into Christmas happy!
As previously mentioned, the home victory over Bristol Rovers in October was crucial to the club’s season, but just as vital was the trip down to the Memorial Stadium on a cold and gloomy Tuesday night at the end of January. A scrappy game with little quality was locked at 0-0 heading into added time and, once again, it was Murphy who stepped up to the plate and put the ball into the top corner with one of the last kicks of the game to steal all three points. The amount of late goals that Murphy – and the team – were getting was a testament to the attitude of the players and demonstrates the never-say-die approach that the football club has taken since its reformation.
Following the departure of former managers Paul Cook and Leam Richardson to league rivals Chesterfield, there was a desire to get one over on the pair from the fans ahead of their return to Lancashire in March and they were not disappointed.
Lee Molyneux, who had returned to the club on loan in January, was the hero, scoring a first half hat-trick to down the league leaders and 10 days later he was the architect of a 5-1 thumping of Morecambe in the derby, scoring twice along with strikes from Tom Aldred, Dean Winnard and Naismith for Stanley’s biggest ever win over their rivals.
On the penultimate weekend, needing a win to guarantee Football League safety, the Reds travelled down to Oxford, who they had never beaten, hoping to end that run and ensure that they would definitely be a part of League Two in 2014/15. Odejayi’s opener set them on the way and Gray’s deserved strike in the second half made safety a reality as a 2-1 win confirmed that Beattie’s side had accumulated enough points for mathematical safety – a remarkable achievement from all involved at the club.
Stanley closed the season with another thriller, beating AFC Wimbledon 3-2 at the Store First Stadium. Odejayi and Gray were again the scorers, with the Rotherham loanee opening the scoring and the Northern Ireland under 21 international notching either side of the half time break as Beattie’s men raced into a 3-0 lead before holding off a late onslaught from the visitors to end the campaign with all three points.