AFTER a turbulent week at Stanley, a stirring fightback put the smiles back on the Accrington faces.
Two defeats, winger Rory Prendergast rumoured to be on the transfer-list and suspensions looming - it didn't look rosey for the trip to league leaders Chester. However, a new face in the pack in the shape of Ged Brannan, transfer lists forgotten with Prendergast on the scoresheet and a battling display got the Reds back on track.
It was a great comeback from Stanley as, at 3-1 at half-time, it did look like they were on course for their third straight defeat. But the players didn't believe that and showed it with a rousing second half display which left Chester hanging on for a point.
"We played well in the second half but we did lose our shape in the first half, we didn't stick to our game plan and we were punished," said boss John Coleman.
"I was disappointed with the goals we conceded but the players showed the belief they have, we showed our team spirit. It was good for Rory - I enjoyed his cross for the goal and his goal. And Dean Calcutt could have got the winner at the end."
New boy Brannan, who settled his contract at Wigan after being on loan at Rochdale, enjoyed his Stanley debut.
"It was a good performance. At 3-1 I did fear the worse but there is great character in this team. We all stuck together and we could have got more. We are a good side going forward but all 11 of us need to defend. I'm pleased to be here, it is a great club."
Brannan was a shock name on the team-sheet after signing in the afternoon. And Prendergast had recovered from his mild concussion to start on the left. Jon Kennedy got the nod in goal despite the errors in the 5-1 loss to Telford on Saturday while Steve Halford came in for the injured Steve Hollis at left back.
Chester, full on confidence without a loss in 16 league games, looked dangerous from the off with Shaun Carey's 20 yard effort whistling just over the bar with one minute gone. Ben Davies then did the same on 12 minutes before they took the lead. Jon Brady raced down his right wing and fired in a cross which unmarked Davies headed home.
Top scorer Darryn Stamp then missed a great chance to make it two a minute later, firing over, before Stanley went straight down the other end and got back in it. It was slightly lucky with Paul Cook's 25-yarder taking a deflection before curling into the net - but they all count!
Brannan got on the end of a Prendergast cross on 26 minutes but headed over while Cook tried his luck again from 25 yards - but there was to be no repeat of his earlier heroics.
Chester were always a threat though and, on 36 minutes, Daryl Clare hit the upright from another Brady right-wing cross as he caused early chaos. Then dangerman Clare looked like he had put Mark Wright's side on course for victory with two goals in six minutes. Kennedy came out for a cross on 39 minutes but Clare nipped in to fire the ball past him.
Then Carey's cross was chipped over Kennedy's head by Clare - even though the keeper got a hand to it - for his second on the stroke of half-time. Chester, who had been playing three at the back, went all out to defend their lead after the break playing five at the back much to the dismay of some of their fans. And that helped Stanley.
There were chances at either end before a disputed quickly taken throw by Halford sent Prendergast charging down the left wing. He played in a perfect cross which just missed the in-rushing Mullin and James got on the end of it at the far post.
James had moved up front alongside lone man Mullin as the Reds looked a greater threat after the break. However Jonathan Smith still had to be at his best to keep out a Stamp effort which had beat Kennedy but the defender was there to clear off the line on 75 minutes.
Then came the moment which put a smile on the face of every Stanley player and the fans. A free kick found the head of Paul Mullin with just nine minutes left. He flicked it on and Prendergast managed to get his head to it to force it over the line. The winger celebrated by jumping on the hoardings and putting his finger up to the Stanley fans - and his enjoyment was only marginally spoiled by the referee booking him for over celebrating!
"I was about ten yards out and I knew it was going in as soon as I hit it," said the winger. "I just ran to the crowd - it was all I could think of!"
But it wasn't over yet for Stanley as Calcutt could have given them three points at the death. He was unlucky as his 25 yard drive was inches over the Chester crossbar. And Peter Cavanagh even had time to test his luck from a free kick but keeper Wayne Brown was in the right place.
"We might have answered a few critics by the way we came back," continued Coleman. "And this will have helped the players believe in themselves again. They don't become bad players overnight. We have made silly mistakes at the back and we know we have to cut them out.
"The good thing is that we are always creating chances - but we do seem to think we have to score every time we go forward. Perhaps we need to be a bit more patient. We have players in the team who will roll their sleeves up and have a go so, even when we are trailing 3-2, I threw Dean Calcutt on as I knew we would have a chance.
"Paul Cook came off because he had a groin strain but he was adamant he wanted to start. He covered every blade of grass in the 60 minutes and got us back into the game. That was the good thing - everyone played their part and it was a good team performance.
"It now gives us confidence going into Saturday's game."