FA Cup Replay
JOHN COLEMAN said someone could be in for a shock at Worcester - but he would never have guessed it would be Accrington Stanley.
After the Conference North strugglers had held the Football League hopefuls to a 1-1 draw at the Interlink on Saturday, the Reds boss predicted that: "If Worcester think they have done the hard part, they might be in for a big shock."
But the stunned, horrifed looks after 90 minutes on Monday night, belonged to the Stanley management team as their side squandered a two-goal lead and a late goal saw the £10,000 cheque and the chance of FA cup glory go to underdogs Worcester.
City's revival was led by veteran striker Andy Preece who had tormented Stanley when he played for Carlisle last season and he came off the bench to inspire his side - who have won one league game all season and sit second from bottom of their table - to a shock victory.
Stanley's Coleman, on the bench as a substitute due to the injuries ripping through his side, couldn't have such an influence from the sidelines as his team fell apart.
Tired legs could have played a part following the epic LDV Vans penalty loss at Rotherham last Tuesday but Worcester are a team of part-timers who never stopped battling for the ball - and they gave the full-time Reds the run-around.
It had looked so different as a hardy team of Stanley fans had put in late holiday requests to take Monday afternoon off work to travel to Worcester following Saturday's draw.
Then Gary Roberts had scored for the Reds with a wonder free kick but Leon Kelly had equalised to lead to the hastily-arranged replay.
And, although Worcester started with the in-your-face tactics which had worked so well at the Interlink, it was the Reds who once again got their now traditional early goal.
Leam Richardson's cross from the right found Roberts who made the goal himself but twisting and turning on the edge of the area and firing in low past the diving Danny McDonnell, who had been the City hero on Saturday. It was almost Roberts' first touch of the game.
And the travelling 50-strong fans were soon planning their trip to Southern Premier outfit Chippenham Town in the first round when an Ian Craney corner found the towering Michael Welch at the far post and he headed home with just 15 minutes gone.
Welch was one of the changes from Saturday with Danny Ventre, Paul Mullin and Romauld Boco all getting the starting nod, with the Benin international feeling he should have had a penalty not long after when he was tackled in the area - but nothing was given.
But, at 2-0 on a slippy surface and with Worcester having scored just eight goals in their 11 league games, the Reds could relax a bit - but they took it too far.
Stanley boss Coleman has repeatedly fumed that his side can't hold onto a lead - and there were a number of good City balls into the box which gave a sign of what was to come.
Then Liam McDonald launched a perfect free kick from the left deep into the box, Andy Dibble was stranded and defender Chris Smith was unmarked to loop the ball over the keeper and into the net on 30 minutes.
The goal sparked the 1331 crowd - which was nearly 400 more than were at Stanley on Saturday -into life and they atmosphere reached almost fever pitch as they got behind their team.
Stanley were well and truly rattled and the lively McDonald shook off Welch but fired high and wide just before the break while Interlink goal hero Kelly turned Welch and Ventre before doing the same just before half-time.
And it was more of the same after the break as whatever player-manager Preece said to his side at half-time had a major impact while Stanley just seemed to lack ideas with striker Paul Mullin back defending more than attacking.
Worcester were hungry for every ball with Dibble pulling off a superb one-handed save to keep out Smith.
And, from the resulting ball in, teenager Sam Wedgbury rifled home a wonder goal from 25 yards which lifted St George's Lane - but it was only temporary as, despite a minute of celebrating, the ref then spotted the assistant's flag was up for an earlier off-side and the goal was disallowed.
That then seemed to knock the stuffing out of City for a while with a Craney free kick just whistling centimetres past the far post with Anthony Barry waiting to pounce.
The Reds did get the ball in the net again on 67 minutes but Steve Jagielka's far post finish was judged off-side as decisions evened themselves out. Then came the introduction of Preece and seven minutes later, his side had the equaliser.
Des Lyttle's free kick was flicked on by the towering striker and Adam Webster slid in at the far post to slot home the equaliser.
It was a great game for the neutral and it set up a grandstand finish - with David Brown bursting through soon after but firing straight at McDonnell.
But it was Worcester who always looked the more likely to score with extra-time and penalties looming. Tom Warner curled an effort over while Welch nicked the ball away as Preece waited to pounce in the area.
Then, two minutes from time, the assistant, who had disallowed the City goal, began flagging during a home attack. The ref, Simon Snartt from Bristol, consulted him and gave a free kick on the edge of the area for an alleged elbow - which was disputed by the Reds players.
Preece rifled it in, Dibble couldn't keep hold of it and it fell nicely for the skilful Rob Warner to fire home the winner from close range.
Coleman put on Andy Mangan and Paul Cook but it was Worcester who were soon celebrating - and Coleman had his head in his hands as his favourites went out of the Cup at the first stage for the second year running and lost vital revenue.