Stanley captain Luke Joyce admits it was a huge surprise to learn of manager James Beattie’s departure but is determined to lead the players to victory over AFC Wimbledon tomorrow.

Beattie left the Store First Stadium by mutual consent earlier with assistant boss Paul Stephenson put in interim charge.

“Shock is the initial reaction,” said Joyce. “I just didn’t expect it whatsoever after the win last weekend and recent performances. The lads are devastated because a lot of us played with the gaffer and class him as a friend and he’s done great for us and the lads have really enjoyed playing for him.

“This happens in professional football though and we must look to tomorrow’s game. The gaffer came to see us today and said exactly the same. He told us that football doesn’t stop because he isn’t the manager any more and that we need to do it for ourselves, our families, each other and the club. I know he’s desperate for us to go out there and get three points against Wimbledon.

“Once tomorrow arrives our focus will be on putting in the best performance possible and getting those three points.

“This is a club that has always had a great team spirit and a really good togetherness. We feel strongly that we have that at the moment and in times of adversity this club thrives. We have to pull together and call on that team spirit and ensure we put in a really good performance and win the game.

“Experienced players like myself, Andy Procter and Nicky Hunt now have to step up. We have a duty to help the younger lads through because for some of them it’ll be the first time they’ve had a manager leave. We’ll help them and guide them through and be there to help Paul Stephenson and the staff too.

“Football goes on, the season goes on and we have three games this week. We can’t sit and cry and dwell on it for long. We’ll pull together for the squad, the staff and most importantly the supporters.”