JOHN Miles’ winning goal against Gillingham might have been worth £100,000 to Accrington Stanley but to the winger it was priceless.
The Reds got a bumper £67,000 prize money for seeing off the League One side in the FA¿Cup third round on Tuesday and will now look forward to a further cash boost with the crowd and television highlights money when they take on Premier League Fulham at home tomorrow.
But the Stanley wideman admitted that goal meant more to him than cash as he looked to boost his Reds career after a hit and miss season.
The goal came in the 81st minute as he latched onto Billy Kee’s knockdown and hit it low into the net for his first goal of the season, and one that sent Stanley into the fourth round for only the fourth time in their history.
"It’s my first goal for 10 months and I needed it," said the 27-year-old, who won back his place in the starting line-up with Luke Joyce suspended.
"I have been getting a lot of stick because they were saying there is only me, Tom Lees, Peter Murphy and Sean McConville who haven’t scored this season and then Sean went and scored against Bury so I got all the stick!
"I know it was worth a lot of money to the club and I will get a goal bonus – at last – and a win bonus but I don’t think it will quite be £100,000!
"It’s odd to think that that amount is probably a couple of weeks’ wages for the Fulham player. But it is a huge game for us now – and a big game for me and I hope I can keep my place in the team.
"Last season I was one of the certainties really on the team sheet then I got sent off this season and the team have been doing well and I have struggled to get back into the side, which is understandable.
"I want to get back into the situation where it’s difficult for the manager not to pick me and that’s why the goal was so important."
Miles took his shot well and admits it was dream land for him.
"I was made up when it hit the back of the net. I have had a lot of stick with not getting power behind my shots and this time I think I caught the keeper out by hitting it early and it sneaked into the bottom of the net.
"This is the furthest I think any of the team have been in the FA¿Cup and we fancy our chances of a surprise tomorrow."
John Coleman echoed this after seeing his play-off chasers brush aside the League One team and take charge of the twice-postponed third round clash.
Gillingham have not won on their travels since they beat Shrewsbury at Wembley in May to get into League One and they rarely tested Stanley loan keeper Dean Bouzanis.
"We know it won’t be a cake walk against Fulham," said the Reds boss.
"They have done well in the league and in Europe but the way we are playing at the moment, we would relish taking on Real Madrid!
"The average age here is 21 but they have bags of enthusiasm, they keep putting out big performances and their desire will take them a long way."
And hopefully it will be into the fifth round for the first time in the club’s long history.
They certainly didn’t look out of place against Gillingham with Stanley up for it from the off.
This was despite the low squad numbers with Johnny Flynn cup-tied, Joyce serving a one-match ban and Gary King and Murphy not allowed to play because their new six-month deals meant they weren’t registered for the original cup-tie and thus couldn’t play after the delays.
Coleman was limited to four on the bench but he has been frugal with his substitions this season, so it was never going to be a problem.
And, despite last playing on December 28, Stanley hadn’t lost any of their sharpness.
Young striker Bobby Grant, with a host of scouts watching, was impressive and had three good chances. His first was in the first minute when he struck a 25-yard effort just wide, another close-range shot was deflected off-target while, in injury time, keeper Alan Julian denied him.
Sean McConville also came close and Michael Symes forced a good save out of Julian as Stanley ran the show against a Gills side who looked nervous with their wretched travel record.
Their front pairing of Dennis Oli and Simeon Jackson – so dangerous in the Gills’ charge to promotion last season – weren’t given a sniff by the Reds defence.
In fact, the visitors’ only real effort of note came just after the break when winger Mark Bentley raced through one-on-one but Liverpool loan stopper Bouzanis pulled off a superb save to keep him out.
The game was on a knife edge but the introduction of Leicester loan man Billy Kee on 73 minutes made a difference as a dreaded trip to Kent for a replay loomed.
Kee was a handful and helped the Reds press forward with Symes again kept out by Julian and Kee failing to find the back of the net when the keeper dropped the ball at his feet.
But finally Miles did the business to put the Stanley fans out of their misery and, after the lows of a winding-up order and the demise of the club a mere moments away in November, the highs are more appreciated – and seem to keep coming.
"We have never played a Premier club here in my reign and I would like to think we can get a full house," said Coleman.
"The lads have given their all this season, through the good times and the bad times, even when the club and their employment were under threat.
"They have been magnificent and deserved the win and their chance to take on Fulham."
And Miles wouldn’t mind being a double Stanley hero. "I don’t want to wait 10 months for another goal so hopefully I can do it again tomorrow!"