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Stevenage Borough 2 Accrington Stanley 1

HARRY Potter star Ron Weasley was shouting on Stanley from the stands at Stevenage - but he didn't see the magic of an away win for the Reds.

HARRY Potter star Ron Weasley was shouting on Stanley from the stands at Stevenage - but he didn't see the magic of an away win for the Reds.

The actor, Rupert Grint, has been following the fortunes of the Reds thanks to his former tutor, and huge Stanley fan, Stan Holden who hails from Oswaldtwistle. Rupert turned up at Stevenage hoping his presence would spur Stanley on to a spell-binding victory - but unfortunately it wasn't to be.

Anthony Elding did the damage with two magical strikes in the fifth and 45th minute as the Reds slipped to only their second loss in 16 games. "I couldn't believe how many Stanley fans there were," said Rupert who aims to cheer Stanley to victory on his next trip to see them.

Elding and former Burnley FC Ethnic Community Officer Dino Maamria did run the Stanley defence ragged in the early stages but the Reds had chances to grab a late equaliser especially when Coleman threw four strikers onto the pitch.

"It doesn't help when, just a few minutes into the game, you concede a goal away from home. You need to silence the crowd but the early goal got their backs up," said Coleman as Stevenage chalked up their fifth successive win and leapfrogged the Reds in the Conference table.

"For 20 minutes they were good value and showed what a good side they are. We were disjointed. But we have quality strikers and we had a couple of chances. Both Paul (Mullin) and Lutel (James) had chances in the second half and it was disappointing we didn't score one of them. Some days they go in, other days they don't."

At one point Mullin, James, sub John Durnin and striker Justin Jackson were on the pitch at the same time but none of them could pass Boro keeper Lionel Perez. "I went for it at the end as you might as well lose 3-1 than 2-1," said Coleman. "We had to try and get back into the game and on another day we might have done it."

Stevenage, who like Accrington claimed a league scalp in the FA Cup when they beat Stockport, set off all guns blazing. Despite Coleman sticking with the same side which beat then Conference leaders Hereford in midweek, the players did look out of sorts early on as they tackled their third game in six days. And skipper Peter Cavanagh was walking a tightrope early on when he was booked with just 90 seconds gone for obstruction on Jamie Cook.

Before the Reds had time to settle down, Jon Kennedy was picking the ball out of the back of the net. A cross from the left fell to the hitman Elding and, from around 14 yards out, he unleashed an unstoppable shot which rifled into the back of the net on five minutes.

And it got worse for Stanley when winger Rory Prendergast and Steve Watson leapt for a high ball on the left wing on eight minutes.

Prendergast's eyes rolled to the back of his head as he fell and there was a long delay before the winger was put in a neck brace, stretchered off and taken to hospital with concussion. Watson was booked and a furious Jackson was yellow carded on the bench for complaining at the referee D McDermid's decision.

Reds boss Coleman was aggrieved that Boro didn't receive harsher punishment especially as the Reds received bookings later in the game for a lot less.

"I think the referee did well decision-wise but I think some of the bookings defied belief - and he didn't deal with the big one. It was an outrageous tackle on Rory - the worst challenge of the game.

"The lad smacked him in the back of the neck but he just gave their lad a booking and Justin Jackson got booked on the bench for complaining. If that is fair, if those two crimes warrant the same punishment, then football becomes a laughing stock."

Jackson then entered the fray but it continued to be Stevenage causing the problems. Former Leigh forward Maamria - a one-time target of Coleman's - got the better of the Stanley defence and raced through unmarked on 20 minutes. His shot was goalbound but he hadn't hit it hard enough and Cavanagh got back to clear the ball off the line.

Stanley's first real attack came on 25 minutes when James got in front of the Boro defence but his powerful shot was pushed out by Perez. Then Kennedy was called into action as he kept out Elding with his legs and then raced back to his line where his legs again prevented Simon Travis hammering the rebound into the back of the net.

But, as they often do, the Reds battled back on 32 minutes. It was a set-piece routine with a Cavanagh free kick on the right finding the head of Jonathan Smith at the far post and he headed back across the goal and Paul Mullin was there to score his 10th goal of the season.

The signs were hopeful for Stanley then but Boro remained a threat especially when the ever-dangerous Elding got his head to a cross and beat Kennedy on 37 minutes - but the crossbar saved the Reds.

The visitors could have coped with it being 1-1 at half-time but then conceded a goal in injury time. Michael Warner's cross was only pushed out by Kennedy and Elding was there to pick up the pieces.

"It was a bad time to concede," said Coleman. "But our keeper got a hand to the cross and then got a knock in the ribs. Usually this decision goes for the keeper but occasionally it doesn't and unfortunately for us, this time it didn't."

Stanley came out pressing after the break and a Paul Cook cross landed just behind Mullin and he was unable to get a shot on target. But, at the other end, Jamie Gould's corner was touched over by Kennedy as the game went from end to end. Then it seemed Stanley had got the equaliser on 50 minutes. Jackson found Mullin almost on the goalline and he stuck out his foot to push the ball over the line but Perez and Barry Laker somehow managed to scramble the ball clear. Mullin then had a shot blocked by Perez and it just didn't fall well for the incoming James.

The game got increasingly niggly with the referee continually going in his pocket for his notebook with six Stanley names being noted. It was stop-start but there were still chances at either end at the death. James broke through at the near post but Perez kept out his blistering strike while Cook cleared a late Gary Holloway effort off the line as Elding waited to pounce.

"I'm deflated with the bookings that is what has really upset me," said the Reds chief. "Despite having three games in a week and them being full-time, I felt we matched them fitness wise and they were hanging on in the last five minutes. We didn't play well in the first half but we rolled up our sleeves and had a go."


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