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Stanley book a semi-final spot

Accrington Stanley 3 Lancaster City 1

MICHAEL Knowles tries to place an effort during Wednesday's LFA Marsden Cup win
MICHAEL Knowles tries to place an effort during Wednesday's LFA Marsden Cup win

HOLDERS Accrington Stanley eased through to the semi-finals of the LFA Marsden Trophy with a comfortable win over Unibond Premier Division neighbours Lancaster.

Prolific Stanley strike duo Lutel James and Paul Mullin put the result beyond doubt before the visitors, who curiously left their own 'goal machine' Andy Whittaker on the bench, got a late consolation after the said Whittaker's introduction.

City gave themselves even less of a chance when angelic-looking centre forward Chris Bennett, who must be older than the 13 or so he looks, was sent off just after the half-hour for aiming a kick at Jonathan Smith after the Reds defender had fouled him.

City almost caught Stanley cold in the first minute when Jamie Speare had to race from goal and head clear but it was largely one-way traffic thereafter.

Paul Mullin hesitated on an early opportunity but Dean Calcutt forced a fine Mark Thornley save with a snap effort from the edge of the box.

Mullin then outpaced Paul Haddow down the inside-right channel and got in an on-target effort from well out which again had Thornley fully extended.

The best move of the night saw James thread a pass to Mullin, whose fine flick sent Michael Knowles in for a shot which Thornley again dived to palm away.

Andy Gouck was next to try his luck set up superbly by Andy Procter.

Bennett was dismissed after his tangle with Smith near the left-hand touchline.

But Stanley had to wait until the 42nd minute to hit the front.

Calcutt played a ball to James on the edge of the box, back to goal, and the little box-of-tricks turned on a sixpence to curl a spectacular effort into the far top corner.

Gouck headed a chance just over seconds later but Lancaster had a couple of chances to get back on terms in the opening moments of the second half.

Ricky Mercer was just off target from distance but Jim Graham at last forced a save from Speare with another effort from well out.

But the visitors gifted Stanley their second on 50 minutes and also gave the crowd a classic demonstration of how not to play the offside trap.

Speare's clearance sailed over half-way as leaden-footed defenders stepped up and Mullin simply ran straight through the middle from his own half to plant past Thornley unhindered.

Credit to the big man, after missing a few chances on Saturday at Burscough he took his 20th goal of the season with considerable aplomb, as Ron Manager might say.

Thornley denied Mullin a second by saving a great header spectacularly when James crossed.

But goal number 21 wasn't long in coming for Mullin.

Knowles worked the ball out to Dean Calcutt on the right touchline and he picked out the big man with a measured cross which Mullin could hardly fail to divert past Thornley via his meaty forehead.

Gouck almost headed a City corner into his own goal but Mullin was denied a hat-trick only by the upright which he struck with venom after substitute Mark Brennan supplied him.

The visitors went right up and played Whittaker through from that, the Lancaster man springing Stanley's back line before rounding Speare to slot in for a consolation with three minutes remaining.

But there was still time for Mullin to flash another header close when Cavanagh crossed in the dying seconds.

The draw for the semi-finals will take place on Friday night and the date pencilled in for those games is the week commencing Monday 18 February.

Stanley's scheduled trip to Whitby Town for a league match on the 19 February will probably be postponed.


Stuart Pike
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