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Accrington Stanley 3 Gravesend 3

STANLEY'S first season in the Nationwide Conference has been a marathon - and double hero John Durnin knows all about that!

STANLEY'S first season in the Nationwide Conference has been a marathon - and double hero John Durnin knows all about that!

The 37-year-old scored the two quick-fire goals to finish the Reds' home campaign with a draw against in-form Gravesend.

And while he enjoyed his double, Durnin is aiming literally to do the marathon next year. While he hopes to continue at Stanley, he also wants to pound the streets of London like 32,000 did on Sunday.

The former Liverpool, West Brom and Portsmouth player has done three marathons in the past - with a best time of 2 hrs 35 minutes when he completed the Liverpool Marathon aged just 20.

He hopes he has another season left in him playing football before he tackles the long run again but, if he does end up finishing at Stanley this season, he is glad he signed off in style.

"It was just my day," said Durnin, who has got four league goals for the Reds this season.

"I have been in football long enough to know that some days they go in for you and others, they don't. But I always enjoy scoring and to get three goals in three games at the end of the season is nice.

"I have always known I have the ability and if I thought I couldn't do it, I would be the first to hold my hands up. I have been disappointed that I haven't played more games this season but it is good to be involved. I am enjoying my time here - they are a great bunch of lads, it is a good set up and a good club.

"I don't know what will happen next season. I know I can play another season but I have got my coaching badges so I will just see what happens. I haven't spoken about next season yet. I did hope to do the London Marathon this year but it just hasn't worked out - so the aim is to have a go next year."

Durnin, who signed last summer, has been in and out of the Stanley team but, with Lutel James sidelined with flu, he got his chance when youngster Damien Hindle - who has returned from a spell at Rossendale - was substituted on 61 minutes.

On came Durnin and within five minutes, the Reds had clawed their way from 3-1 down to get back on level terms.

"I think if we had held on to our lead for 15 or 20 minutes before half-time, it would have been different," continued Durnin.

"But our heads went down when we went 3-1 down and I was told to go on and try and get us back in it. The lads were better after the break, we started in their face and then things just happened."

It looked like the Reds were raring to go in their final home game when Rory Prendergast gave them an early lead. Ged Brannan did well to find the winger whose strike took a deflection off Lee Shearer in the seventh minute for his sixth league goal of the campaign.

But then they surrendered as Gravesend stormed back with three goals in 15 minutes.

Roy Essandoh side-footed home the equaliser after some poor defending by the Reds before midfielder Steve Perkins caught the Stanley backline off their guard with a 25-yard effort which sailed into the top corner of the net.

And worse was to come when the lively Essandoh won a corner three minutes before the break. Ben Surey's flag-kick was headed beyond Jamie Speare into the back of the net by striker Essandoh and it looked game over.

However boss John Coleman - watching from the stands following his two match ban by the Football Association - gave his team a stern half-time talking to and they came out battling after the break. But it was assistant boss Jimmy Bell who made an inspired substition from the dug-out - enter Durnin.

Minutes later, he broke down the middle and, in a one-on-one with Charlie Mitton - as he did against Forest Green - he kept his composure to slot the ball home.

The fans were still celebrating that when, a minute later, Paul Mullin knocked the ball down for Durnin following a Prendergast cross and his nifty footwork left the ball once more in the back of the net. And the striker could have had a hat-trick but Mitten did well to keep out a powerful shot in the 75th minute.

Not to be outdone, strike partner Mullin did almost steal the show in the final minute but a spectacular save denied the hitman.

Gravesend did have their chances - Speare keeping out James Pinnock and Moussa Sidibe - but boss Andy Ford knew his side had thrown the game away.

"We are not happy and could have done better," moaned Ford. "We got ourselves into a great position and should have taken advantage of it."


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