Piero Mingoia’s brace gave Accrington Stanley a well-deserved 2-1 win over Cambridge United.
The winger’s back post volley ten minutes before the interval, his first goal of the season, set the Reds on their way to victory and his second goal after the break turned out to be the winner.
Stanley unfortunate not to score more than twice as Sean Maguire hit the crossbar whilst a string of chances went to waste.
Michael Nelson’s half-volley from 25 yards reduced the arrears as the clock ticked into injury time but the defence held firm to claim a vital three points.
Boss John Coleman made three changes from the FA Cup victory over Notts County with attacking outlets Shay McCartan, Lee Molyneux and Marcus Carver all dropping to the bench.
Their places were taken by a trio of loanees in the form of Maguire, John O’Sullivan and Matt Crooks, who made his Stanley debut after joining on loan from Huddersfield earlier in the week.
The visitors started brightly with their top scorer Kwesi Appiah posing an early threat as he managed to find space to turn in the area and get a shot away but it hit the outside of the post and deflected wide. Michael Nelson put a free header wide from the resulting corner.
At the other end, Maguire tried to open the scoring for the Reds after being slipped in with a neat pass by Crooks but his effort was put past the post with the help of a visiting defender.
Coleman’s men were starting to get a grip on the contest and had a couple of chances from long range: a half-cleared corner fell to Mingoia, who fired wide from the edge of the area before O’Sullivan collected a pass from Crooks and let fly from 25 yards but caused no trouble to Chris Dunn in the Cambridge goal.
Mingoia tried his luck again after exchanging passes with Crooks but his low effort from 20 yards didn’t have sufficient power to truly test Dunn. However, the third time was the charm for the former Watford man as his next effort beat the goalkeeper and gave Stanley the lead.
The winger timed his run to perfection at the far post to meet an inswinging O’Sullivan cross with an impressive side-foot finish from a narrow angle.
West Ham United loanee Maguire came agonisingly close to doubling the lead later as he played a sharp one-two with Crooks before curling an effort from 25 yards that crashed back into play off the crossbar with Dunn clutching at thin air.
The goalkeeper was called into action minutes later as Mingoia, full of confidence after getting the goal, had another shot from range which took a big deflection and looked as though it was going to loop in but the goalkeeper, at full stretch, tipped the ball over the top.
Stanley began the second half as they ended the first – on top. Michael Liddle’s incisive pass gave Maguire a sight of goal but his shot rolled into the arms of Dunn.
After being recalled to the team on Tuesday night and impressing enough to keep his place, Mingoia was involved in almost every Stanley attack and he was at it again as his cross flashed across the face of goal with Maguire inches away from making a connection with a despairing dive.
The Reds had a penalty claim waved away as the ball hit the hand of Richard Tait in the area but referee Richard Clark waved away the protests before Mingoia headed tamely at Dunn from Luke Joyce’s cross.
The skipper then had a chance of his own, running onto Mingoia’s pass but his shot sailed over the goal and the away end, racing up the Coppice.
Debutant Crooks headed wide from a Dean Winnard cross and O’Sullivan saw a low shot from inside the area saved by Dunn as the home side went in search of a second goal which, despite their dominance, had eluded them.
With Stanley only holding a slender lead, the visitors remained a threat on the counter-attack but the defence did well to get in the way of Matty Blair’s shot.
Still attempting to double the Accrington advantage, Maguire’s cross-field pass found O’Sullivan, who took advantage of a slip by visiting full-back Greg Taylor to drive into the area but his shot from a narrow angle flew high and wide.
The second goal did eventually arrive with just under 20 minutes remaining and it was no surprise to see Mingoia getting himself on the scoresheet again. He cut in from the left-hand side and drove in a shot which took a deflection to beat Dunn and find the bottom corner.
Cambridge substitute Adam Cunnington curled over from range and Jack Rose did well to cut out a cross from Appiah at the end of an enterprising run by the visiting attacker.
They did eventually pull a goal back to ensure a nervy finish to the game as central defender Nelson rifled home a half-volley from 25 yards that flew into the top corner and left Rose with no chance.
Seconds afterwards the fourth official indicated five additional minutes but there were to be no more scares as Coleman’s men saw out stoppage time to secure a seventh win from their last eight home games.
Stanley: Rose; Winnard, Aldred, Atkinson, Liddle; Joyce, Procter; O’Sullivan (Molyneux 85), Maguire (McCartan 79), Mingoia; Crooks (Carver 77).
Subs not used: Simpson, Hunt, Naismith, Gray.