WHAT a night to remember! Monday's FA Cup 5-3 penalty victory over Second Division Bournemouth ranks high up there among boss John Coleman's favourite games in charge - although it wasn't his ultimate.
"I did enjoy it once we'd won," smiled the boss. "But I have to say my favourite moment in charge of Stanley is still winning the UniBond First Division title. Everyone had written us off by Christmas but it was the way we did it - winning the last five games. But Monday night was high up among the good times! It was great for everyone - the players, the club, the town - everyone involved with the club."
The excitement of being on Sky TV, the drama of the goalless 90 minutes in the icy weather, then the nail-biting extra-time without a breakthrough followed by a shock substitution and hands-over-eyes penalties. This was before Paul Howarth emerged as the hero - it had everything. And now Stanley can look forward to a home tie against Second Division Colchester for their first appearance in the third round since 1961.
"We are all still coming down to earth," said Coleman. "But we have got to do it quickly before Saturday's Conference game against Leigh. It has been a brilliant week - and it could have been even better if Andy Procter's goalbound shot hadn't hit Steve Halford in the final minutes!
"The penalties were nerve racking but I had decided to swap Jamie Speare and Jon Kennedy in goal if it got to that stage. It wasn't a slight on Jamie - it was a tactic to unnerve the opposition and it could have backfired. Luckily for us it didn't. But Jamie made the right response to it, he had played well, and Jon has got to wait for his chance again. But all the lads showed tremendous character and I never had my doubts when we started taking the penalties."
This was helped by the fact the Reds had practised penalties in training with each of them putting £10 in for the winner - Rory Prendergast won.
"We used the money to try and create a bit of tension and most of the penalties were perfect."
Everything just seems to be going Stanley's way so far this season. They are up among the play-off challengers in the Conference and the whole nation is sitting up and taking notice of the Reds. But Coleman is staying cautious.
"I think people are wary of us and now and we are getting some respect. The TV appearances have just enhanced that and we have shown less nerves every time we appear on television. But we have now got to perform more consistently in the Conference.
"I have always said in the last couple of years that we will see how good we really are when we have to respond to a bad patch - we have to make sure we aren't hospitalised. "When we had the Telford debacle, and lost 5-1, I think then everyone thought we would go through a tough patch. Since then we have drawn with Chester, beat Barnet, beat Aldershot and got the better of Bournemouth. If that is a bad patch, long may it continue!
"But the lads have been magnificent this season. I can't fault anyone of them but we don't want to get too carried away by all the publicity. We have got to get a lift from the FA Cup and make sure we take it into the league - that, as always, remains the priority. I am though enjoying it all at the moment!"
- STANLEY received £15,000 prize money for getting through the second round, £50,000 from Sky and £20,000 for extended highlights on BBC1 plus the gate receipts.