Former Premier League striker Danny Webber was the biggest name on view as Stanley kicked off their pre-season campaign with a double header against Nelson and AFC Darwen.

Several trialists have been training with the Reds and featured in the friendlies, including Webber, a team-mate of James Beattie’s at Sheffield United from 2007-2009.

But James Gray stole the show against Nelson on Saturday, while Will Hatfield and Peter Murphy were also on the scoresheet.

Nelson went close early on but after dragging a shot wide moments earlier, Gray made amends by latching onto a loose pass to convert a 17th-minute opener.

And just a minute later the Northern Ireland Under-21 striker doubled Stanley’s lead, firing home after Webber had put the home defence under pressure.

Reds centre-back Tom Aldred then diverted a cross past Andrew Dawber and into his own net, and after Beattie made nine changes at the break, ex-Red Nat Taylor fired Nelson level.

But on 62 minutes Murphy headed home from a Laurence Wilson cross before Hatfield finished after racing onto a through ball.

Trialist Josh Windass, son of Dean, struck a post late on.

 

Webber and Windass, a midfielder released by Huddersfield last year, were among seven trialists who played in each game.

The others were centre-backs Ryan Schofield and Carl Watson, along with midfield trio Jacob Gibson, Ed Savitt and Nicky Travis.

Kal Naismith and Ritchie Jones came in to start against Darwen.

Jones last turned out for Rochdale under Keith Hill while 21-year-old striker Naismith made 17 league appearances for Rangers, scoring once, but is now surplus to requirements.

His strike partner Shay McCartan gave Stanley an early lead at Darwen, though, while Gibson, Windass and Savitt also struck.

McCartan’s opener came in just the second minute as a hopeful ball forward caught the home defence napping, allowing the new Stanley striker to round the keeper and slot in his first goal in an Accy shirt.

Naismith then fired into the side-netting while Luke Clark’s crossfield ball picked out Gibson, who chested it down before volleying home.

Beattie again made nine half-time changes, with the substitutes including ex-Bury and Leeds United utility man Seb Carole, as well as striker Brett Williams.

Reading paid £50,000 to sign Williams from non-league in January 2011 but the 25-year-old was released this summer after spending last season on loan with Woking.

He and Webber combined well up front in a ‘little and large’ partnership, with Webber poking the ball just wide from a Williams flick.

Webber showed good footwork to create another opening, only to slice his shot well wide, before Windass curled in the Reds’ third after good build-up play outside the box.

Webber, 31, was on non-contract terms with Doncaster Rovers last term but hasn’t made a first-team appearance since April 2012 with Leeds United.

Windass then delivered a fine inswinging free-kick from the left which was parried by the keeper under pressure from Webber, with Savitt slamming in the loose ball from close range.

Like Williams, Savitt has made a name for himself in non-league as a goalscoring midfielder with Leatherhead.

Playmaker Travis, 26, has played in Australia and Italy since being released by Sheffield United in 2009.

 

STANLEY have set up a partnership with the Blackburn Hawks ice hockey team to work together in the new season.

The two clubs plan to launch a series of initiatives, including ticket promotions, youth link-ups and promotional activity.

The new Football League season begins on August 3 while the English National Ice Hockey League resumes in September.

“We were delighted to see them lift a trophy last season and hopefully both clubs can have success in the campaign to come,” said Stanley’s managing director Rob Heys.

“We’ll be looking closely at initiatives we can collaborate on in the future to benefit both clubs, including encouraging the next generation of football and hockey fans to come and watch live sport here in Lancashire.”