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Forty steps to glory

OUR game-by-game guide to the matches that won Stanley promotion

FANS go wild as Stanley go up
FANS go wild as Stanley go up

Stanley 2 (Payne, Mullin) Runcorn 1: Stanley's season is off to a flyer as Russell Payne opens their account with a goal after just two minutes. Mullin adds a second but the Reds find themselves hanging after Williams is sent off.

Colwyn Bay 1 Stanley 2 (Mullin, Carden): Stanley have to wait until the last 11 minutes before grabbing two goals after the home side had taken the lead in the first half. Our reporter said it was just the sort of game the Reds would have lost the previous season.

Marine 0 Stanley 3 (Williams, Smith, James): Stanley already look a sleek title-chasing unit as the home side are completely outclassed. Jonathan Smith makes his first appearance of the season and scores with a bullet header.

Stanley 2 (Calcutt 2) Frickley 1: It's four out of four as Dean Calcutt gets in on the scoring act with a brace in front of a Crown ground crowd of 936. Lutel James was outstanding but the performance was described as disjointed.

Harrogate Town 0 Stanley 2 (Mullin, Smith): It's the best start to a season in memory as the Reds start a run of testing fixtures against fancied teams with a comfortable away win. The defence, which has conceded just three goals in five games, is outstanding.

Stanley 2 (James 2) Vauxhall Motors 1: Unstoppable Stanley make it six straight wins, four of them with a 2-1 scoreline, thanks to a Lutel James' brace. They are already five points clear at the top.

Stalybridge Celtic 1 Stanley 4 (Cavanagh 2, Williams, Mullin): Stalybridge, just relegated from the Conference, could not stop the Stanley bandwagon in the best performance of the season so far. They were by no means flattered by the scoreline after reducing a fancied team to a shapeless rabble.

Stanley 2 (Mullin, Carden) Barrow 1: "Stanley in Dreamland'' screamed our headline as an eighth straight win rewrote the record books. They came from behind to beat Barrow, who were themselves previously unbeaten, before more than 1,300 spectators, the Reds' best-ever crowd for a midweek game. It was flowing and fluent football played with a swagger.

Stanley 2 (Carden, James, pen) Droylsden 1: Stanley raced into a two-goal lead through a Carden half-volley and a James penalty but found themselves under the cosh towards the end as the visitors staged a spirited fight back. The defence took the honours.

Stanley 1 (James, pen) Wakefield and Emley 1: The Reds failed to make it a perfect 10 and dropped their first points of the saeason as a disputed late penalty cost them dear. Barry Shuttleworth was adjudged to have handled a header on the line, and was sent off, but insisted he never touched the ball.

Ashton United 2 Stanley 2 (Mullin 2): Stanley's air of invincibility took another chipping as Ashton came back from the dead to take a point Mullin had put the Reds in control with two terrific pieces of opportunism in four minutes but the gallant home side pegged them back.

Stanley 4 (Carden 3, Calcutt) Burscough 2 : It's back to top form and winning ways as Stanley take the points thanks to a superbly-taken hat-trick from Simon Carden. A breathtaking game was watched by 1,488 fans, a new midweek record. Off the field, Stanley are reported to be chasing ex-Burnley midfield hardman Kevin Ball.

Bradford PA 1 Stanley 1 (Mullin): A headed equaliser from Paul Mullin 13 minutes from time preserved Stanley's unbeaten record but it was becoming apparent that opponents were playing above themselves in a bid to knock the Reds off their perch.

Stanley 2 (Sampson, Mullin) Colwyn Bay 0: This win against the bottom side was less routine than might have been expected. Lutel James was sent off for an alleged head butt and Stanley had to play the whole of the second half with 10 men. But despite the visitors having plenty of possession the Reds' rearguard held out.

Stanley 1 (Calcutt) Worksop Town 1: After losing in the cup to Harrogate Stanley were going their first slightly tricky patch. Worksop were the best side they had faced so far and after an end-to-end game a draw was a fair result.

Frickley 2 Stanley 1 (Cavanagh): Stanley's unbeaten league run ended at last in their 16th game and in controversial circumstances. Manager John Coleman pledged to tighten up discipline in the squad as, with the suspended Lutel James sitting it out, Mark Sertori was sent off in the 60th minute for a second bookable offence. Stanley pushed everyone forward towards the end but could not grab an equaliser.

Barrow 1 Stanley 0: Stanley's air of invincibility was disappearing as they failed to score for the first time. Key men were missing and the Reds went down to an 18th minute goal in a needle match. The Reds' lead at the top had been whittled down to just four points.

Stanley 2 (Cavanagh, Sertori) Gateshead 1: Normal service resumed as Stanley grabbed their first win in six league and cup outings. They went two up in the first half but couldn't kill the game off and were made to sweat towards the end.

Stanley 4 (James 2, Mullin, Knowles) Stalybridge Celtic 1: Defeat here could have seen Stanley knocked off the top of the table. But they turned on the style with a rip-roaring win after the visitors had opened the scoring to dispel fears that they had peaked too soon.

Stanley 2 (Cavanagh, Mullin) Hucknall 0: The third home win in a row cemented Stanley's grip at the top, the 20th game of the season ending in a fairly routine victory. But a subsequent cup defeat by Barrow had manager Coleman fuming.

Hyde United 3 Stanley 3 (James, 2, 1 pen, Mullin): A last-minute penalty by James saved Stanley the embarrassment of defeat at rock-bottom Hyde. Manager John Coleman was left furious by a sub-standard performance in which the Reds looked uncharacteristically shaky at the back.

Stanley 4 (James 2, 1 pen, Gouck, Procter) Ashton United 1: Stanley marked the half-way point of the season with an emphatic win featuring a debut goal by one-time Blackpool skipper Andy Gouck and a superb penalty save by Speare. Stanley had bagged 50 points and were 10 points clear at the top.

Wakefield and Emley 0 Stanley 0: A rare goalless draw as Stanley found away wins difficult to come by. The Reds marginally had the best of a game with plenty of muscle but little shape. Emley had now taken points off Stanley in both encounters. A cautionary tale - Emley had gathered 100 points two seasons previously and had still not gone up!

Stanley 3 (James 2, 1 pen, Mullin) Bradford PA 1: Lutel James grabbed a brace for the third time in four games, half of them penalties, as Stanley's irresistible home form continued. But they had to come from behind after losing a goal inside 42 seconds.

Hucknall Town 2 Stanley 1 (Mullin): The Reds' away form was now causing serious concern with just four points from the last seven games on the road. It was a very ordinary display as Stanley went down to a side playing with 10 men for the last 25 minutes and raised voices rang out from the dressing room afterwards.

Accrington Stanley 3 (Mullin 2, James) Gainsborough 0: Some late Christmas cheer after their Boxing Day game at Whitby had been called off because of a waterlogged pitch. The two strikers were the main difference between the sides and £7,000 winger Rory Prendergast was impressive on his debut.

Gateshead 5 Stanley 1 (James): The away day blues reached new heights with the biggest defeat, and worst performance, of the season, raising doubts about Stanley's ability to last the course. Defensive howlers and the first-half sending off of Robbie Williams did nothing to help the cause.

Stanley 5 (James 2, 1 pen, Procter 2, Smith) Marine 0: Jekyll and Hyde Stanley looked a different team back on their home turf as they went nap, scoring four times in a blistering first-half display. A goal at the death completed the rout.

Burscough 0 Stanley 1 (Halford): At last! Stanley's first away win on 25 January was their first since the far-off days of September. A 17th minute header by Steve Halford proved decisive and there was a feeling it was a pivotal moment of the season. The game was unspectacular but the three points were everything.

Runcorn 0 Stanley 2 (James, 2 pens): And so it proved! After nearly five months without an away win Stanley had grabbed two in a week, brushing Runcorn aside courtesy of two Lutel James penalties. The prolific striker went on to miss a third spot-kick.

Stanley 3 (Payne, Smith, Mullin) Harrogate Town 2: Stanley were given a mighty scare in this Roses thriller. Harrogate were 2-1 ahead at the interval but a rousing second-half onslaught showed why few sides had left the Crown ground with any points.

Worksop Town 1 Stanley 4 (James 2, 1 pen, Mullin 2): The finishing line was coming in sight as Stanley chalked up their third away victory on the run to go 11 points clear at the end of February. Strikers James and Mullin, with a brace each, were in terrific form and just too hot to handle.

Stanley 3 (James, Procter, Mullin) Blyth Spartans 2: The second uncomfortable home win in a row as Blyth made a good fight of it in the second-half. But Stanley were manifestly superior and manager Coleman said he had not been biting his nails.

Altrincham 1 Stanley 1 (Prendergast): A six-match wining run came to an end thanks to a late Altrincham equaliser. Prendergast had scored his first goal for the club with a swerving 25-yard shot and numerous other chances went begging before Stanley were made to pay for their profligacy.

Lancaster City 1 Stanley 2 (James, pen, Mullin): Another giant step towards Conference football with a hard-fought win. Stanley's promotion rivals all dropped points leaving the Reds 14 points clear with nine games to go. The points were sealed by a stunning Mullin volley worthy of winning any game.

Stanley 1 (Smith) Whitby Town 1: A curiously lethargic performance to disappoint a large and expectant crowd of 1,355. "Some people will say we're feeling the pressure'', said manager Coleman, "but we've done well to be in the position we're in.''

Blyth Spartans 0 Stanley 3 (Mullin, Prendergast, Procter): No nerves this time as a massive win left Stanley just three wins away from promotion. An early strike by Mullin put the Reds in control and victory was sealed by two goals in the last 14 minutes.

Droylsden 2 Stanley 2 (James 2): In the first game of a unique weekend double-header Stanley were saved by a controversial 96th minute James equaliser amid claims for handball. The game barely kicked off again and Stanley had gained a vital point.

Whitby Town 0 Stanley 3 (James 2, Mullin): The players celebrated with a mass embrace inside the centre circle and the 200 travelling fans went wild after this comprehensive win. The only disappointment was that Barrow's win the previous day meant that the title was one more victory away.

Stanley 3 Altrincham 1 (James 2, 1 pen, Halford): An historic day as Stanley's win, combined with Barrow's dropped point, saw the rampant Reds promoted to the Conference. The game was watched by 2,263 fans and the Football League is now just one more promotion away.


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