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Accrington Stanley 2 Northwich Victoria 2

ACCRINGTON Stanley boss John Coleman could only shake his head in total disbelief after the draw with the basement club.

CLEARED AGAIN... Rory Prendergast gets in a tangle with the Vics defence.
CLEARED AGAIN... Rory Prendergast gets in a tangle with the Vics defence.

ACCRINGTON Stanley boss John Coleman could only shake his head in total disbelief after the draw with the basement club.

A month ago, things had looked so rosey with the play-offs looming, the euphoria of the FA Cup run was only just over and the Reds were making everyone sit up and take notice of them.

Now, after a run of four league games without a win, the play-off hopes are fading and the free scoring Reds are struggling to see off the lower clubs.

Perhaps the tiredness which comes with being part-timers is catching up with the players or the things which were coming off earlier in the season are just not going their way.

But the Reds chief won't let the season peter out and is determined his out-of-sorts side will get it together for the final flurry.

And this is especially in front of goal where he is struggling to come to terms with the number of times his side have failed to take their chances in the last four games - with last Saturday's match the worst.

"I couldn't believe some of the chances we missed out there. We haven't learnt from our past experiences we have had throwing away points. Somewhere along the line we have got to learn," Coleman fumed.

"I have been a goalscorer all my life and I never found it that difficult to hit the target."

"The amount of times we miss the target from close range borders on embarrassment. We have got to make the goalkeeper work."

"Perhaps we need to relax more in front of goal or perhaps we snatch at things, I just don't know."

"Take Andy Gouck, he has missed six shots from inside the box. For a player of his ability who is a good striker of the ball and is our third leading scorer, for him to miss the target six times - you just can't legislate for that."

"And the missed chances have come back to haunt us. It was one of those days, perhaps it just wasn't our day and will be ours next week."

"But it is the lowest I have felt since I have been a manager. I wish I could just crawl away and hide but I can't. I am not like that. We have got to bounce back and not let it beat us."

Basement club Northwich hadn't won in five games but came at the Reds in a confident mood and battled hard to come away with a point after Steve Garvey's late strike.

"They have rolled their sleeves up and scored a good goal," continued Coleman.

"But no disrespect to them, they are not on the same planet as us as a football team or a club. We have thrown seven points away in three games and I am sick to the stomach."

The Reds were made aware of the early threat when the lively Steve Nicholas walloped an 18 yard effort against the crossbar on seven minutes.

Rory Prendergast, after scoring two in the FA Lancashire Marsden Trophy in midweek, had a good chance to boost his league tally on 14 minutes after getting on the end of Paul Cook's ball but his shot was kept out by Vics keeper Andy Woods' legs.

And Northwich took the lead on 33 minutes when Garvey found Nicholas who charged down the left wing and played in a cross which unmarked Chris Thompson headed home.

It was a disappointing first half which only livened up at the end when Andy Gouck fired just wide and Paul Mullin was deprived by defender Mark Foran in the six yard box as he tried to get a shot in.

After the break, the Reds started to find their feet with Mullin again being marshalled by the Vics defence before he could get a shot in and Shaun Cane almost turned a Lutel James cross into his own net.

Coleman was forced to change things around on 51 minutes when left back Steve Hollis hobbled off injured and he went three at the back, pushing sub Lee McEvilly into midfield.

And it worked when McEvilly and Gouck worked a neat one-two which ended with Gouck being fouled on the edge of the area by Cane and the ref awarding the penalty.

Woods did guess the right way but James' spot kick squirmed under his body for the equaliser.

And when, four minutes later, Prendergast headed home from six yards out after flick-ons from Mullin and James it seemed a case of how many the Reds would win by.

Mullin had two good chances - both over the crossbar - before Prendergast missed an open goal after good work from James. And the striker felt he should have had a penalty when he was held with his back to goal but nothing was given.

And the misses were punished when the ref played advantage following a Steve Halford tackle on Garvey and the midfielder raced through, beat the defence and fired past Jon Kennedy from a tight angle.

Garvey fired wide later and Prendergast's header was off target as both sides looked for the winner.

And Mullin could only hold his head in his hands in the final minute as his right footed effort crashed against the crossbar.

"If you create six or seven gilt edged chances you have got to take them," added Coleman.

"I know the lads don't miss the chances on purpose but it has cost us again and you can't keep making excuses for that. The lads have done magic to get themselves back in it and then we left ourselves exposed and the back and got punished."

"They scored a good goal but we spoke about how we wanted to play in the second half and we did it to a certain extent. We missed some really good chances though."

"We are just making the wrong decisions in everything we do. If we can pick the wrong thing to do, we do and we have got to iron it out."

"It is just another kick in the teeth."


Stuart Pike
Deputy editor specialising in politics
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