Lancashire FA United Co-Op Challenge Cup
HOLDERS Accrington Stanley were Dancing on Ice as they skidded out of the Lancashire Trophy on Tuesday night.
Despite the best efforts of the Stanley groundsmen, three games in four days and the cold weather meant the pitch was rock hard for the visit of Conference rivals Southport in the semi-finals of the competition.
And John Coleman's side slipped out with their first defeat over 90 minutes since they lost to Worcester City in their FA Cup replay in October.
"We are not used to losing but we have got the priority of the league even though I would have liked to win this cup again," said Coleman
"The pitch was hard and I feel sorry for the groundstaff as they worked so hard to get the game on and I have to applaud them.
"But we went to sleep for a spell and gave three bad goals away. I am just glad we came through unscathed."
Coleman tinkered with his squad with midfielder Mark Boyd getting a start and showing some nice touches while Steve Jagielka also started his first game for a while following his knee operation.
Striker Andy Mangan got the nod up front alongside David Brown while Danny Ventre slotted into the right back slot.
And they faced two ex-Stanley players with Jamie Speare in goal for Liam Watson's side and Jerome Fitzgerald in defence.
It was the former Reds who were celebrating first when Matty McGinn's corner was flicked on by former Burnley defender Earl Davis and Neil Robinson was there to slot home past keeper Danny Alcock. The Reds' haven't conceded many early goals this season.
Speare then produced two good saves to deny Andy Todd before the Burton Albion loan winger equalised on 22 minutes. It was Gary Roberts' ball in which was back-heeled across goal by Brown and Todd came in at the far post to eventually tuck the ball home.
Former Gretna player Boyd showed that he has a strong strike by firing a fierce effort inches wide of the Speare's goal. And then Stanley got on top just two minutes after the interval with a solo effort from Mangan who raced ahead of the 'Port defence and tucked the ball past the outrushing Speare.
But the joy was short-lived as, three minutes later, a mix-up in the Stanley defence between Andy Tretton and keeper Alcock allowed Steve Daly to nip in and head home Southport's leveller.
It meant it was game on but, with extra-time and penalties beckoning in the freezing cold night, it was hoped Stanley could settle it soon.
Instead it was the bottom club who showed their finishing when they went in front again on 72 minutes. Daly ghosted past the defence and fired low past Alcock.
And three minutes later, the striker celebrated his hat-trick and put the game out of sight when Daly again got in front of the defence again to finish well.
In between, sub Paul Cook had tried to show his team-mates how to do it by twisting and turning on the edge of the area before rifling in a shot which was just wide of Speare's left hand post.
Rommy Boco came on but he could do little and Southport will play Lancaster City in the final at Leyland.
TEAM: Alcock, Ventre, Edwards, Williams, Tretton, Boyd, Jagielka (54 Cook), Todd (77 Boco); Mangan, Brown, Roberts (77 Lodge). Not used: Bell, Dibble.