As Paul Cook looks towards next season, he has admitted that Will Hatfield will be a piece of his jigsaw in his first full season as Reds boss.
But whether it’s as a sub or a starter remains to be seen as the former Leeds United man’s impact off the bench has proved valuable under Cook’s 11 games in charge – meaning he may stay there.
Prior to Saturday, the ‘supersub’ had scored two goals without starting. There is a buzz every time Hatfield comes on and even he admits he expects himself to score.
He keeps doing it, with the winner against AFC Wimbledon on Saturday giving Cook only the second three points of the new manager’s reign.
Cook hailed his super sub, admitting: "Will gets in areas to score goals and his finish was superb on Saturday.
"We want him at the club next season as he has been terrific.
"He is a threat and you have to have people on the bench like Will who can come on and influence games.
"Managers make substitutions and sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t but Will is also a terrific kid with a good attitude and I like that."
Cook admitted that Hatfield’s cool finish 10 minutes from time, where he took a couple of touches before firing the ball past keeper Seb Brown, was down to work on the training ground the previous week.
"We had snatched at a couple of efforts in recent games and we worked on relaxing more and working the keeper and Will did that – his finish was top class," said Cook.
It’s a credit to the players at the Crown Ground that a makeshift team is carving out wins at this level.
The injury list is frightening with only left-back Kevin McIntyre a regular starter this season in the Stanley backline.
Dons boss Terry Brown admitted his aim was for his experienced strikeforce to exploit Stanley’s young and inexperienced defenders.
But Peter Murphy has been a revelation in all positions in this campaign and he and Michael Liddle looked like they have worked together all season at centre-half and not just two games while usual forward Craig Lindfield has grown into the right-back role, winning headers and putting in tackles.
Brown said he expected his strikers to get five or six goals on Saturday, so the battling Reds deserve every plaudit for limiting Wimbledon.
They did have a bit of luck with the post saving the Reds once – but Stanley deserved the victory for their never-say-die attitude and putting their bodies on the line.
Cook admits that his side’s play will never be based on defensive shows due to the personnel at the club.
Instead he has flair players like Bobby Grant, Jamie Devitt and Padraig Amond who he wants to go out and express themselves and entertain while Charlie Barnett impressed, especially in the second half on Saturday.
The Reds did survive an early scare with Ian Dunbavin, in for loan stopper Lee Nicholls, denying winger Luke Moore and Lindfield blocking Rashid Yussuff’s follow-up.
If they had gone in, it might have been different story but instead Grant’s fourth-minute free kick was fumbled by Brown and Luke Joyce was on hand to slot home his third goal of the season.
The Reds were a threat with their wideman but the Dons gradually began to get into the match with Christian Jolley firing over and then a quick break down the left ended with Yussuff passing for Moore to rifle into the top of the net from close range on the half hour.
Moore just couldn’t connect with the ball from six yards out while Grant headed over just before half-time – as the crowd were entertained when the sprinklers came on just before the end of the half. Maybe this was to stop what Brown saw as a ‘bobbly bouncy pitch’ as he called it an ‘ugly game’ but both teams did try to play, get the ball down and pass it and it was end to end stuff.
After the break, the Dons pressed with Jolley hitting the foot of the post with a curler and Dunbavin denying the visitors’ top scorer Jack Midson before the striker also headed wide.
The Reds as an attacking force were limited but, once again, Cook’s substitutions paid off with Hatfield’s goal – although he usually leaves it until later than 80 minutes.
Still, there were no real scares for the Reds who saw the game out for a welcome three points.
Cook admitted: "I think from very early on in the game it was apparent that it would be end to end. We certainly don’t have the personnel to set up to be hard to beat so we’ve got to attack teams and try to score more goals than them.
"In my opinion it was a deserved win. We played well against Oxford and should have got points at Dagenham but at the end of the week we’ve dug out a really good win. I’m delighted for everyone.
"We never wilted and kept going. Winning puts a smile on everyone’s face – mine, the players and the fans. It makes a big difference."
Hatfield was certainly smiling after the game.