ACCRINGTON Stanley and cup luck have never gone together in recent years.
Apart from the FA Cup run of 2003, you have to go back to the days of the Marsden Trophy, the UniBond Challenge Cup and the Peter Swailes Charity Shield to remember strong, solid cup runs which ended with silverware.
But this year, things seem to have changed.
The Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, while not high on many manager’s list of priorities, has suddenly become exciting with the Reds just three games away from Wembley - a semi-final, a two-legged Northern final and then the final on the hallowed turf on March 28.
There is still a long way to go especially with League One sides Leeds and Carlisle still in the competition alongside well-supported Bradford City from League Two.
But the fact Stanley have got to the last four in a competition they usually have an early-ish exit from means that some of the fans are starting to dream and it’s got interesting.
It seems an age ago when a sparse crowd watched Phil Edwards score the winner against Oldham in the first round.
Shrewsbury followed and were seen off at the Crown Ground and now the Reds have knocked out Bury in the quarter-finals to get to the business end of the competition.
And boss John Coleman showed he wasn’t taking it lightly, playing his strongest squad available on Tuesday night.
But Stanley never make things easy and, after an early Michael Symes double, they did squander a two-goal lead but Bobby Grant’s late winner means there should be a bumper crowd and more much-needed money in the Reds’ bank account after the semi-final clash.
Coleman said: "We have been banging the drum about trying to improve our set-plays and in the last two games they have improved no end.
"Then to go 2-0 up and surrender a two-goal cushion so quickly is disappointing and both goals were avoidable. But we have got to try and keep the positives as every goal we concede is down to a mistake and that’s the same for every team in the world.
"If you look at positives, we look like we have got goals in us which is something we possibly didn’t have last year.
"I thought at 2-2 the next goal was going to win the game – and luckily it was for us.
"Bobby could possibly have had a hat-trick again so it was nice for him to get the winner.
"We approach every game as though it’s a league game - it doesn’t make any difference.
"We want to win and the confidence is high in the squad and they all know when they fall below their own standards."
Confidence was certainly there at the opening as Stanley made it three goals from three corners.
John Miles again played the perfect delivery with just 50 seconds gone and Symes was there to head home his seventh goal of the campaign.
Stanley could have gone 2-0 up when Paul Scott lost the ball in midfield and Grant ran forward to set up Luke Joyce but Shakers keeper Cameron Belford finger-tipped the ball away.
The visitors, with Ryan Lowe as the lone striker as Alan Knill battles with an injury-plagued squad, were enjoying spells of possession without testing keeper Ian Dunbavin with Scott and Stephen Dawson both firing well over.
Chances were limited with both sides guilty of losing the ball but the game suddenly burst into life on 40 minutes when Phil Edwards went on a mazy run out of defence. He played the ball to Grant on the right-hand side of the area with the Bury defence appealing for offside.
But no flag went up and Grant slid in a cross and Symes had the easiest of tasks to tap home the second - and his eighth of the season - from six yards out.
However it’s never simple with Stanley and they took their eye off the ball immediately.
They failed to clear their lines as the ball pin-balled around the area and Danny Racchi latched onto it on the edge of the box and curled in a shot which Dunbavin could only watch tuck into the bottom corner of the net.
And they almost got an equaliser just before half-time but the Reds stopper pulled off a first class save to keep out Dawson’s volley.
Coleman would have said to keep it tight during the half-time interval but, within three minutes of the re-start, Stanley were undone again when Racchi found Dawson down the left who set up Mike Jones and he blasted the ball home.
It was game on then and Bury were bossing things without really testing Dunbavin. However, the Reds were still dangerous on the break and Grant forced a superb save out of Belford on 66 minutes.
Shakers sub Andy Morrell glanced a header just wide as the numerous Bury fans got behind their side.
It looked like penalties were looming and, with Stanley’s history of taking spot-kicks in recent years, it didn’t look good.
But then, on 82 minutes, Jimmy Ryan’s ball in was rifled home by Grant for the decider to allow Stanley to perhaps start dreaming of Wembley.