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Accrington Stanley 2 Barnet 0

STANLEY fans have seen Paul Mullin score a few good goals in his time - but he admitted his second one against Barnet ranked up there among the best of them.

GOAL GETTER. . Paul Mullin
GOAL GETTER. . Paul Mullin

STANLEY fans have seen Paul Mullin score a few good goals in his time - but he admitted his second one against Barnet ranked up there among the best of them.

The striker got the ball on the edge of the area, controlled it and chipped it over the keeper to give the Reds a vital three points in their push for a Conference play-off spot against the high-flying Bees.

"I had a look and saw the keeper was off his line, I was going to knock it to Lutel but decided to have a go," said Mullin. "It has to be one of my favourites."

The race is really hotting up between the two hitmen as, following his double on Saturday, Mullin has got 13 - 12 league and one FA Cup - with James on 12 - 11 league and one cup.

"At the end of the game, Lutel did ask me how many I had got," smiled Mullin. "But he beat me last year - it doesn't matter as long as we are both getting them."

It was another top second half show for the Reds who kept Barnet at bay with what was a new-look line up. With Peter Cavanagh, Robbie Williams and Steve Hollis out - all suspended - and Paul Cook injured, in came Paul Howarth and Gordon Armstrong into the right and left back slots and both gave no-nonsense, solid performances.

"I would single Paul Howarth out in the backline," said boss John Coleman. "It was only his second game of the season and I thought he was outstanding. We spoke about his need to concentrate more. He is a good footballer, he is still young enough to be learning and he took everything on board what we asked him to do.

"I couldn't fault him as it was a magnificent tackle in the second half to stop a certain goal from Grazioli."

In fact the Conference top scorer with 19 goals Guiliano Grazioli hardly got a sniff - as he didn't in their first encounter, the goalless draw at the Underhill Stadium.

"I bet he is glad he has finished with us!" said the Reds chief. "He hasn't scored against us and for our defenders, that is a feather in their cap to keep him quiet as he has run riot this season."

And last season's regular keeper Jamie Speare also earned his place back in goal - his first start since the opening day of the season - replacing Jon Kennedy between the sticks.

"After conceding eight goals in a week, it might have dented Jon's confidence although we can't be over-critical of his performance on Tuesday against Chester as he made some important interceptions," explained Coleman. "It might do him good to take a break.

"Jamie has been chomping at the bit for ages and he has come in and done well."

This included saving with his legs late on to deny substitute Guy Lopez. "I said to the boys I wanted to be selfish today and not miss one and not make any mistakes," said the keeper.

"It meant everything to me to keep a clean sheet but I didn't have much to do - the lads did themselves proud. Smithy and Hacker stifled out the threat of Grazioli. I hope I have given the manager a headache for tomorrow!"

There was limited goalmouth action in the first half as both sides largely cancelled each other out.

Grazioli did try and force an early chance flicking the ball on at the near post but Liam Hutch couldn't get there to convert it.

Stanley appealed for a penalty - a handball by Yakubu - after a cross from Rory Prendergast on 11 minutes but nothing was given.

Ian Hendon tried his luck from 20 yards but that was over while an Armstrong free kick was thumped across goal by the head of Jonathan Smith but there was no one there to force the ball over the line.

But in the second half, the game came to life. Prendergast's first corner after the break was somehow scrambled clear as James's effort bounced off the defender.

But the next corner caused chaos again. Smith's effort was pushed out by the keeper, it fell back to the defender and he flicked it across the goal and Mullin got his head to it to make it 1-0.

After that Prendergast caused all kinds of problems on the left wing with some superb crosses as Stanley went three up front.

"We started off with five across midfield but decided to push Rory and Lutel up front alongside Paul and see what it brought us. Luckily we got an eary goal and I think ran out worthy winners," said Coleman.

"We need to press our home advantage more and create more goalmouth action and get the fans on the edge of their seats. We weren't doing that in the first half but were in the second half."

Stanley were still forced to defend though with Prendergast clearing a Mark Rooney effort off the line at the other end. But then Mullin made is safe with his wonder goal on 61 minutes.

Barnet did have chances to get one back - Chris Plummer headed over twice from Simon King corners, James denied Grazioli, as did Haworth, and then the keeper kept out Lopez.

"Paul Mullin was outstanding," enthused Coleman. "Even if you take away his goals, he led the line brilliantly, his touch was magnificent and he held the ball up.

"We showed the importance of a strong squad - and now I have got some headaches!"

Barnet boss Martin Allen, who was treating his team to a trip to Blood Brothers in London ahead of their FA Cup second round clash with Yeovil, felt his side should have got the three points.

"We didn't take our chances - they did. When we were 2-0 down we still had six good opportunities and I thought some were harder to miss than score.

"I think if we had converted one of these we would have gone on to win the game, as strange as it may sound. I am disappointed to lose but we are happy with where we are at the halfway stage of the season."


Stuart Pike
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