The Stanley management have told their side to ‘man-up’ after another disappointing show dragged the Reds into the relegation battle.
Leam Richardson’s side needed to show plenty of fight and spirit in Saturday’s six-pointer at Aldershot but it ended up being a damp squib for the visitors.
Stanley, after a few decent forays in the opening 10 minutes, never got into the game and it was like Dagenham all over again as fellow relegation battlers Aldershot ran out comfortable winners.
Shots boss Dean Holdsworth admitted he used two strikers to expose what he saw as the ‘weaknesses’ in the Reds backline – and it paid off for his side who are hitting a spell of form. And once again Stanley failed to muster much in the way of an attacking threat to make it a frightening one win in 12 games.
The stats certainly don’t make good reading for Accrington. In 14 League Two clashes, the Reds have picked up just 10 points and lie just four points off the bottom two – with some of the teams below having games in hand.
And, to add insult to injury, most of the teams below the Reds are grinding out results to mean there are now a lot of nervous glances over the Stanley side’s shoulders.
The management admit that their young team are desperately low on confidence with finances limiting their transfer movement for more experienced heads. But something needs to be done quickly to stop a return to non-league circles after seven seasons back in the Football League.
Former Newcastle midfielder Paul Stephenson, who has been assisting Richardson for the last couple of months, was honest in his assessment of a frustrating Shots’ show.
“We are a young side but the players have got to man-up,” he said after the game. “I remember when I made my debut at 17 and you have got to become a man very quickly in football.
“You have got to really stand up and be counted.
“It has been difficult in terms of how much money Leam has got to strengthen the squad, there’s not a lot there.
“And it’s trying to balance that and get in the players that can affect and improve rather than just bringing bodies in that are going to clog up places for other people.
“Leam is trying his utmost – all of us are out at games regularly, watching lower league teams to see if there’s someone there who can step up and improve us and again with our contacts we’re trying to get one or two players in on loan with a bit more quality and experience.
“But we have made it clear to them (the current players) that we are in a battle, there’s no bones about it because of the run we’re on.
“We have got to really roll up our sleeves and fight.
“I’ve played myself for 19 years and that’s a prerequisite, that’s just a given that you fight anyway and the quality that you have got should shine through.”
He continued: “We came here with big expectations.
“We were looking for three points and we’re just disappointed with the way we conceded.
“It’s a really familiar story isn’t it? Starting brightly, getting that setback of conceding a goal and then we were chasing all the way.”
What’s worrying for the Reds is that, in the last nine games, they have conceded a goal in the first 30 minutes in eight of them and lost seven of those.
The only positives have been the New Year’s Day victory over Chesterfield and a draw with Plymouth in December. And, like Stephenson said, Saturday was a repeat of a number of those other games.
Stanley – with the more experienced heads of Nicky Hunt and Laurie Wilson in defence – started well with Lee Molyneux lively in the opening minutes with a dangerous cross and a free kick into the arms of keeper Jame Young.
But they didn’t capitalise and once again they were caught out early on – this time on 12 minutes.
A corner was only half-cleared back to Kieron Cadogan and he steered in a cross to which Troy Brown got the final touch.
Once that went in, heads seemed to drop and it could have been more by half-time but for loan keeper Cameron Belford who fingertipped over Ben Herd and Cadogan free kicks.
The 52 travelling fans were hoping a rousing half-time team talk would wake the Reds out of their malaise as there was only one goal in it.
But, although Stanley looked more up for the fight after the break, they still couldn’t make any real inroads as the Shots continued to apply most of the pressure.
James Beattie had a couple of half-chances but the service to him and Rommy Boco was limited as the home team forced the Reds on the backfoot.
Molyneux cleared Sonny Bradley’s effort off the line, there were loud appeals for a penalty when Peter Murphy tackled Craig Reid in the area and Belford pulled off a superb double save to keep out Reid and Dani Lopez.
Stanley’s afternoon was summed up in two incidents – one when a good breakaway move looked like they could catch out the Shots but Molyneux’s looping cross went out for a goa kick.
The second came Stanley won three corners on the bounce. Molyneux took two and Wilson the other – and none cleared the first man.
With nine minutes left, the Shots sealed a much-needed three points for them when a Cadogan free kick found the head of Lopez, who looped the ball home. And they should have had a third at the end but sub Wilko Risser missed a sitter.
Richardson was understandably dejected with Stephenson trying to remain upbeat and keep the young players motivated and believing in themselves.
“We have quite a young group and I think that they’re quite fragile in terms of their mentality.
“But I think, if we go one up when we’re on top, then we can go on and win games like we did against Chesterfield.
“But at the moment, when we go behind, there’s one or two dropping their heads and really we need people who are going to roll their sleeves up and fight.
“The manager has told them that and they understand that they’ve all got to stand up and be counted now and show some real fight.”