IF anything proves that John Coleman and Accrington Stanley just go together, it was Saturday.
Coleman and his assistant Jimmy Bell took charge of the Reds for the second time last week and they could barely have had a tougher first game than at money-bags Northampton, riding high in League Two.
However, Coleman simply just has the golden touch when it comes to all things Stanley as his side were the ones people were talking about after winning a nine-goal thriller.
They even got mentioned on BBC Sport as one of the outstanding performances of the day, alongside Arsenal and Newcastle – heady heights indeed for the Reds to be recognised in.
Coleman was quick to play down the impact of his return saying it was down to the players. And all the team did shine, including two outstanding shows from loan signings John O’Sullivan and Sean Maguire, who were both signed on Friday and had dream debuts.
However, Coleman admitted he did give his ‘new’ side an impassioned plea before the game to make sure they know what being at Accrington is all about – and he certainly knows after being involved with the Reds since their non-league days in 1999 before leaving in 2012 for Rochdale.
“I told the lads that I was tired of hearing about us being ‘Little Accy’,” he said. “We’re in League Two and we’re here on merit and we have got fantastic players here who are as good as anyone in this league.
“You do need some luck but we also have a high work-rate which can take you anywhere. Two teams go down and seven play for the chance to go up – we have got as much right as anyone to be in any of those positions and we need to earn the right to not be in the bottom two and we need to do that through hard work.”
Hard work indeed was the theme as his team certainly put him through the emotions on his first day back in the Stanley dug-out.
The Reds boss had promised that he would let the players express themselves but a nine-goal thriller – with Stanley holding on at the end when they should have been out of sight – was not good for his health.
“Our former chairman Eric Whalley will be looking down and smiling as he bought into my philosophy that the aim is to score more goals than the opposition,” said Coleman. “But we can’t be having to score five every game to win!”
There was no sign of what was to come as Chris Wilder’s side took control from the off and Stanley struggled to get out of their own half in the opening 10 minutes.
However, once the Reds got a foothold in the game, they never looked back and there was always a feeling that this had to be Coleman’s day.
On their first real attack on 21 minutes, Stanley were patient around the box before Kal Naismith crossed to defender Rob Atkinson, who headed home the opener– his first Stanley goal.
“I was a bit shocked,” admitted the defender. “I think everyone was as they all jumped on top of me!”
Stanley, though, have thrown away leads this season and they were only ahead for three minutes when former Accrington player Joel Byrom played in a corner to the far post and Marc Richards was left unmarked to head home – an easy goal for one of the league’s leading strikers.
That was an entertaining few minutes and it was just the sign of things to come.
Blackburn loan midfielder O’Sullivan was something of an unknown quantity to the Reds but not to Coleman, who had him on loan at Southport last season.
And the 21-year-old then showed what he could do as he raced free of the Cobblers defence on 28 minutes. He still had a lot to do but he kept his composure to fire past keeper Jordan Archer and put Stanley back in front and celebrate his first Football League goal.
From that point on, there was never any fear of Stanley losing their lead – until stoppage time, at least.
They grew in confidence with O’Sullivan and Maguire helping to make sure the home fans grew increasingly restless.
And they were certainly frustrated when Coleman’s battlers went 3-1 up on 37 minutes. A cross from O’Sullivan found Atkinson, whose header hit the post and bounced back off the keeper into the goal.
Atkinson admitted he hadn’t scored two goals in a game since he was 17 playing for Halifax, although the second may yet go down as an own goal.
With his side 3-1 down at half-time, the expectations were that Wilder would give his side a rollocking and Stanley would have to defend for their lives in the second half.
But instead the neat passing and quick breakaways continued from the visitors and there was a superb solo effort from the impressive O’Sullivan for number four.
He ran into the left side of the box and was at a tight angle, surrounded by defenders, but he somehow managed to find the roof of the net – scintillating stuff and the 68 Stanley fans were certainly dancing.
Then you couldn’t look away - Northampton substitute Ivan Toney scrambled the ball home from close range on 78 minutes to make it 4-2.
It was straight down the other end and this time Maguire, who is on loan from West Ham and was with Coleman at Sligo,
enjoyed his own dream debut by getting on the end of a ball into the box and his persistence resulted in him grabbing Stanley’s fifth.
When Toney scored another with his head to make it 5-3 with almost 90 minutes on the clock there seemed no need to worry.
But in stoppage time Darren Carter hooked home to make it 5-4 and then all of a sudden the nerves were jangling. However, Stanley held out, although Coleman looked shell-shocked after his first game back at the helm.
“We never do things the easy way do we?” he said, shaking his head. “It was like we had never been away.”
Let the rollercoaster ride begin – again.
STANLEY: Lumley 6; Hunt 6, Aldred 6, Atkinson 7, Winnard 6; Joyce 7, Procter 7; O’Sullivan 8 (Hatfield 81); Maguire 8 (McCartan 90), Naismith 7, Carver 6 (Windass 70, 7). Subs: Bowerman, Buxton, Mingoia, Simpson. Attendance: 4,731 (68 away).