How we use Cookies

Exeter 3 Accrington Stanley 2

THE fans obviously want Stanley to win every game - but victory against Exeter would have meant that little bit more.

SAFE... Jon Kennedy gets to the ball first.
SAFE... Jon Kennedy gets to the ball first.

THE fans obviously want Stanley to win every game - but victory against Exeter would have meant that little bit more.

Before the match, it was because it was the final game of the season; because of some resentment over cash-strapped Exeter's threat to take the Conference to court and the fact Stanley could stop City reaching the play-offs.

But during the match, it became even more vital to get one over on Exeter.

This was because City's director of Football Steve Perryman, sat near the away fans, had some lively banter with the Reds' supporters; the Stanley faithful managed to out-sing a sell-out Exeter crowd at times and deserved a reward. And, in one unsavoury incident, one Exeter fan was reported to a steward for seemingly spitting at a young Stanley fan.

It made victory a must - and the Reds should have grabbed the three points to end their season on a high and fulfil their fans' hopes.

The two goals they scored were superbly-worked with the lively Lutel James being involved in both.

A neat-interchange between Paul Cook and James left the latter putting in a perfect cross which set Andy Procter up for the equaliser on the stroke of half-time - and meant the young midfielder scored in the first and last match.

And then James on the left wing found Cook on the edge of the box and he laid the ball on for the inrushing Steve Flitcroft who thumped the ball home from 20-yards for the second leveller.

Exeter's play-off hopes should have been dead and buried but, needing to win, Barnet to lose and Aldershot to slip up, Stanley helped them keep their dream alive.

James Coppinger's 18-yard free kick went round the wall and low into the net on 11 minutes.

It was a good strike although manager John Coleman did question goalkeeper Jon Kennedy's position behind the wall.

Then it was a disaster from a Gareth Sheldon corner when the rangy Sean Canham got ahead of Jonathan Smith and powered the ball into the back of the net.

In between, there were some important challenges by the Stanley backline while, going forward, James - after missing last week's game - was a constant threat and the Reds passed the ball around well without finding the finishing touch.

But then, Exeter were gifted the winner seven minutes from time. Stanley lost the ball and Sheldon on the left wing found unmarked sub Steve Flack who's header nestled into the top corner of the net.

Coleman was livid.

"I couldn't believe their third goal. Our keeper had the ball in his hands and then we tried to rush it and gave them the ball straight back. It is the same old story of the last few games."

"It is like groundhog day as I am saying the same things every week."

"We are good enough - we have got plenty of potential and some really good players but we need to improve."

"We played Exeter off the park, passed them to death, scored two good goals and conceded three really terrible ones."

"At the end of the day we are powder puff at the back when balls come into the box. We just don't get them away and that is a recipe for disaster."

"We are not good enough to deal with the bread and butter stuff."

"One of the easiest parts to defend in football is aimless balls into the box and unfortunately we can't defend them - so we need to sort something out."

"I believe we are a better team than Exeter, we have a solid base and we are a forward looking club and I can't see a reason why we don't at least make the play-offs next season."

Coleman was forced to change his team around with four suspensions - Andy Gouck and Dean Calcutt missed their final first team match in a Reds shirt with a ban while Rory Prendergast and Robbie Williams also sat out the game.

So the boss brought in Steve Flitcroft onto the right and Andy Procter on the left with Jerome Fitzgerald back at left back, for what was to be his final match.

Coleman was sitting out the last of his two-match dug-out ban and he was frustrated with the opening as he watched from the stands as Peter Cavanagh's foul on Les Afful led to Coppinger's opener.

James looked sharp and he almost set up Paul Mullin and Jonathan Smith while Scott Hiley blocked a Procter close range effort.

At the other end, Canham's volley was blocked and Santos Gaia's downward header was easy for Kennedy. Then came Procter's equaliser.

Exeter changed things round at half-time as they were desperate for victory and, with three successive corners, Canham made the last one count.

It meant they were back in the play-offs with Barnet then drawing and the fans, including Perryman, went mad.

City kept pressing - Kennedy finger-tipped a Sheldon header over and Halford stopped Afful after he charged forward but Flitcroft then hit the equaliser to once again quieten the City support.

Coppinger had a volley blocked by Cavanagh - with appeals for handball - and the unmarked Canham had another effort wide.

Then Exeter went three-up front and Flack got his late winner but, despite the wild cheers of their fans, it was hopeless as news filtered through that Barnet had won and City's promotion hopes were gone.

And gone also were some of the Stanley player's careers at the Interlink as Coleman read the riot act after the match - and will demand a lot more next season.

  • THANK-YOU to Steve Lowe and co on the supporters coach back from Exeter.

A 70s disco, karaoke, a rendition of Unchained Melody by Jack Barratt and then a film - it made the long journey fly by - almost!


Stuart Pike
Deputy editor specialising in politics
Alex Bell
Bethany English
District reporter
Beth Abbit
Court reporter
Jon Macpherson
Kate Watkins
Reporter specialising in communities
Garth Dawson
Photographer and columnist