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Steve ends Reds' away hoodoo

Burscough 0 Accrington Stanley 1

STEVE Halford scores the winner
STEVE Halford scores the winner

A GOAL as early as the 17th minute headed in by Steve Halford decided a Lancashire derby which could prove a pivotal moment in Stanley's season.

It wasn't the most spectacular goal and the match, the proverbial game of two halves if ever there was one, could well have slipped from Reds' grasp.

But after four-and-a-half months without a win away from home of any kind, the relief was tangible and the celebrations prolonged at the sound of the final whistle.

Make no mistake, Stanley need to continue picking up points on the road if they are to sustain their healthy lead atop the table.

Not that you would have thought that there was any crisis of confidence the way they set about their business at Victoria Park.

After snuffing out the home side's early enthusiasm, they took an unsurprising lead when Halford rose unchallenged to thump home Prendergast's corner from the right.

Linnets player-manager Shaun Teale had to head a superb Russell Payne cross out from under the bar.

Then Paul Mullin, who had an off-day in front of goal, hesitated fatally in a one-on-one with goalkeeper Matthew Taylor after being sent clear by Lutel James.

Mullin again looked certain to score when Jonathan Smith headed Prendergast's corner down but ex-Red Paul Burns scrambled off the line.

Then when Mullin had another effort blocked, James blazed the rebound over the bar.

Another melee saw the twin strikers and Andy Procter all have goal-bound efforts charged down.

When another corner was weakly defended - Burscough's work at the back at times resembling that of the Keystone Cops - Russell Payne was only able to hit the foot of the post with a follow-up effort.

And either Burscough's good fortune or Stanley's profligacy continued right until the end of the half when James seized upon Joe Taylor's weak back pass, rounded the keeper and slipped the ball inside to Mullin, whose miserable fortune on the day saw him crowded out before he could convert yet another chance.

If the first-half was one-way traffic, Stanley found the gale from the Irish Sea almost as difficult to cope with as their hosts after the turn round.

Smith spared Halford's blushes with a saving tackle as substiute Kris McHale beat him to John Lawless's through ball.

And on 65 minutes came the stroke of good fortune which may just have confirmed that Stanley are steering their season back in the right direction.

McHale flickeda ball through for Drew Hyland to comfortably spring Reds' offside trap, but though he lobbed Jamie Speare expertly, the ball came back into play off the top of the crossbar and was booted away from the danger area.

Stanley's forays forward were as rare as they had been regular in the first half but Mullin had another opportunity, lobbing over after Mike Marsh slipped a quickly-takedn free-kick through to him.

Speare had to punch a dangerous-looking cross off the end of Hyland's toes as Burscough vainly sought an equaliser and Stanley had to be vigilant even in injury time when Hyland shot rather tamely widefrom a good position.


Stuart Pike
Deputy editor specialising in politics
Alex Bell
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