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Accrington Stanley 1 Morecambe 0

LUTEL James admitted it was a relief to end his five game goal drought. But the Stanley hitman reckons he would never have had it if he had been playing up front.

LUTEL James admitted it was a relief to end his five game goal drought. But the Stanley hitman reckons he would never have had it if he had been playing up front.

James has been playing on the wing as John Coleman employs the 4-5-1 formation. He knows he can't complain as the tactic has paid off with the Reds on a seven-game unbeaten run and up there challenging for a play-off spot in their debut season in the Conference.

But James enjoyed his goal - the winner and his 13th of the season - against local rivals Morecambe and now wants to be back up front alongside his strike partner Paul Mullin.

"It was a big relief to score. Everyone knows I don't like playing out on the wing but I know it is a team game and I have to do what is best for the team. But I know I am capable of scoring more goals if I play up front. On the wing, I just feel like a work-horse. But Coley knows what is best for the team and I understand that.

"It shows though, that I did go up front for a while and within 15 minutes, Paul had got hold of the ball and flicked it inside for me. He knew I was there as we still have the same partnership up front as we had last season. We don't get a chance to show it because of the formation.

"But John knows what he is doing, you can't knock it and he has two wingers, he knows Paul Mullin will always score goals and it is an attacking formation. I know I haven't been playing well in the last few games but it was a relief to see the ball hit the back of the net and now we can continue to go forward."

Reds' chief Coleman enjoyed the win - but took no extra pleasure from the fact he had defeated his former club. Shrimps legend Coleman scored 122 goals in the Northern Premier League and in 1994/5 scored a record-breaking 45 goals in a season at Christie Park.

"It didn't matter that it was Morecambe," he said. "I have a lot of friends there and it was probably the best time of my playing career. What is important is that we beat a good side. They did well last year and but for a couple of chances in the play-offs, could be in the Football League. They are prime candidates for the play-offs as far as I am concerned.

"They perhaps lacked a bit of cutting edge today but I think it was our biggest test so far. We can play better, we can attack better and I am just made up we have defeated a really good side."

The winning goal came in the 33rd minute. Rory Prendergast had been a constant threat on the left wing but this time he sent Ged Brannan racing down the flank. Brannan played in a perfect cross which Paul Mullin flicked on for James and he turned in the area and blasted the ball into the back of the net from around 10 yards out.

"I don't think they are one of the best sides we have played this season," said James. "But I haven't seen anything in this league which is anything special. What we do fear is ourselves. We got battered against Telford but that was because of mistakes throughout the entire team so we have got to make sure we don't do that again.

"From what I can see, we are getting stronger every game - me included. And what we have got to do is show the same passion week in week out and not switch it on and off. All the lads individually did their jobs against Morecambe, we were not world beaters, but we did what we had to and got a win.

"It was always safety first this season and now we have got to keep ticking over and see how many points we can get and see where it takes us."

Morecambe did look dangerous early on with Peter Cavanagh clearing a Dean Howell effort and the left back blocked a Garry Thompson strike. Prendergast tested former Burnley shot-stopper Craig Mawson with an 18-yard effort but the Shrimps keeper was able to save it.

Andy Procter and James almost created an effort with a neat one-two but Procter's chip was too close to Mawson with James running in. Brannan headed a Prendergast corner over on 22 minutes before James got the ball with his back to goal and set up Mullin minutes later but he blasted over from 10 yards.

James then found the back of the net before Stanley almost made it two just before half time when a Paul Cook ball out of defence sent Prendergast racing free. He made space, outwitting Keiran Walmsley on the edge of the area, but he strike was straight at Mawson.

Morecambe changed the two frontmen in the second half as top scorer Danny Carlton and Terry McFlynn had hardly had a sniff on goal. On came first Ryan Sugden and then Nick Rogan but they made little difference.

And it got worse for Sugden when he saw red just 27 minutes after entering the fray. His challenge on Paul Howarth could have got a red card alone but he survived with a yellow. But then, once he hacked down Cavanagh, there was no doubt that he would be sent for an early bath.

Brannan had an effort cleared off the line and Mullin could have settled it late on when clean through but Mawson produced a wonder save to keep out the effort. There were a few nervy moments as the referee held up five minutes of extra time and there was always a fear the Shrimps would snatch an undeserved equaliser.

However the Reds held on to win round one - with round two on New Year's Day.

"It was a great goal by Lutel - a lovely move and a good touch by Paul Mullin," said Coleman. "It was good for Lutel to score as you don't want him to doubt his own confidence and ability. We played Lutel in a number of different positions and he coped with them all and did well.

"Lutel is a bubbly character and when he is not scoring it might affect him so it was good that he got on the scoresheet."

The Reds chief continued: "It was difficult out there especially with the conditions, a swirling wind. Morecambe played a lot of good balls into the box but we dealt with them quite well. There was good approach play and it was good football when both sides got the ball down.

"Paul Mullin wasn't as dominant as he can be especially aerially but what we do need to do is to get our wingers into the game a bit more. When Rory is on the ball he is frightening and we have got to get him involved more, especially at Christie Park where they will come at us."


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