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Bamber Bridge 1 Accrington Stanley 2

Lancashire FA Marsden Trophy Quarter-final JON Kennedy might have got his England call-up but Jamie Speare is making sure Kennedy has got a fight on his hands to be the number one keeper at Accrington Stanley.

PENALTY SAVE... Jamie Speare
PENALTY SAVE... Jamie Speare

Lancashire FA Marsden Trophy Quarter-final

JON Kennedy might have got his England call-up but Jamie Speare is making sure Kennedy has got a fight on his hands to be the number one keeper at Accrington Stanley.

After being on the bench for the last four games, Speare came back on Tuesday night in the Lancashire FA Marsden Trophy quarter-final - the cup they won two years ago.

And, as well as a penalty save, Speare kept Stanley in the game against the UniBond First Division promotion chasers.

"It was a great penalty save by Jamie." said boss John Coleman.

"He was very positive. He had one blip where he missed a ball when he came out of the area but he redeemed himself on a number of occasions."

"I think he deserves a lot of credit for that. I said to Jimmy (Bell) on the bench we are getting top performances from both our keepers and that is what we wanted."

"There is always the other one waiting in the wings and it keeps the pressure on."

It wasn't the best of performances from the Reds but playing Stanley is like a cup final for the lower league teams.

And Bridge made sure the Stanley back line - with Ged Brannan dropping back into the centre of defence alongside Robbie Williams - knew they were there.

Coleman decided to start with loan man Lee McEvilly and Paul Mullin up front with Lutel James rested on the bench while Dean Calcutt got his chance on the right wing.

Andy Gouck returned for his first 90 minutes since he gashed his leg in the goalless FA Cup clash with Colchester at the Interlink.

And he was straight into the thick of it, as Brannan set him up on the edge of the area and Gouck lined up his shot but he blasted well over on 10 minutes.

Dean Calcutt then fired over from 10 yards on 14 minutes but Bridge forwards Mark Wane and prolific non-league scorer Andy Whittaker were a handful.

Speare got his hand to a Whittaker effort and pushed it away while Whittaker's header hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced out on 21 minutes.

Wane tried to chip Speare but the keeper got his hand to it as Bridge created the better early chances.

But Stanley came back. McEvilly's downward header from a Rory Prendergast corner was scrambled away by the Bridge keeper and Prendergast put in another fierce cross which was cleared.

Then, on the one occasion Speare came out of goal and lost the ball, Steve Hollis was there to make sure Wane didn't get a clear shot in.

Bridge were awarded a penalty within three minutes of the restart when Robbie Williams was judged to have pulled Whittaker down.

It seemed harsh on Williams and the Stanley bench must have been on tenterhooks as Williams has nine bookings and another would mean a suspension. However, the referee didn't pull out any cards but awarded the spot kick.

Former Preston North End defender Jamie Squires took the penalty but Speare dived low to save it - and Whittaker, following up, amazingly blasted wide of the empty net.

Lutel James was introduced on 55 minutes and went straight up front alongside Mullin with McEvilly dropping back.

And he was an instant hit almost scoring with his first touch, forcing a save out of the Bridge keeper.

However, within a minute, Stanley took the lead.

James was fouled on the edge of the area but Gouck pounced onto the ball and turned and fired in one of his pearlers into the top of the net.

And, within a minute, Stanley were 2-0 up when a McEvilly cross found Mullin unmarked in the area and he rifled the ball into the net.

However, the Reds took their foot off the gas and Bridge came back into it.

Dave Leaver played in a great ball and sub Jamie Skeoch was unmarked and for once, got past Speare on 64 minutes.

Whittaker did everything he could to get an equaliser - testing Speare with a header and a shot which the Stanley keeper did well to push wide.

Prendergast had a chance on 86 minutes but his effort was blocked and Mullin tried his luck at the death but, from the edge of the area, he blasted inches over.

"I know we can play better and we were perhaps a little rusty after ten days without a game," continued Coleman. "I was impressed with the way we approached the game and our goals did come at the right time."

"I didn't think it was a penalty when Robbie was judged to have fouled their lad but some go for you and some go against you."

"But Goucky's was a good goal. I was worried about the tackle on Lutel before that as it could have been a serious injury but luckily he was okay. But we know Goucky is capable of doing that."

"At 2-0 up we should have been comfortable and added a few more but then we got sloppy and let them back into the game. But we have to give them their due, they are a good side and they never stopped. We relaxed a bit and it was a great finish for their goal"

Coleman continued: "I was hoping I could have introduced one or two of the younger players but it was tight at the end and I couldn't."

"We let them back in it and then missed a couple of chances at the end. We will have to work at our finishing as we need to be taking these chances."

In the semi's, Stanley could meet Radcliffe Borough, Chorley or Conference rivals Morecambe at a venue yet to be decided.

"I would like to get to the final and face Morecambe. And me and Jimmy could come on and score three goals each - that's what we want!"


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