Morecambe be warned – Stanley have found their shooting boots and they’re ready to fire themselves up the League Two table.
That’s the message the Reds sent out on Tuesday night as they finally chalked up their first league win of the season – at the 13th time of asking.
Manager James Beattie stressed there is much more work to be done for Stanley to haul themselves out of the bottom two, beginning with Saturday’s Lancashire derby at Morecambe.
But with James Gray and Kal Naismith having found some form, the Reds now carry a genuine attacking threat.
Both scored with clinical strikes as Stanley came from behind to beat Bristol Rovers, Gray scoring his third goal in six games for the Reds to become top scorer.
And including his recent trip with Northern Ireland’s Under-21s, Gray has now scored four in eight – the hottest streak in his blossoming career.
The 21-year-old didn’t even make the bench for Stanley’s opening-day defeat at Newport but is now reaping the benefits from biding his time.
“I remember at the Newport game, he was very disappointed not to be involved,” said Beattie, a former England striker.
“It’s hard to keep everybody happy, but that’s my job.
“James has come to me for a lot of advice. We’re trying to develop the physical side of his game and I’m trying to make him enjoy it because that was one of the elements that I enjoyed.
“I think he’s brought that into his game, he’s got a great physique, and that makes him more of a threat. He’s worked tremendously hard.
“I had a glowing report from his Under-21 manager last week, who said he was outstanding in both games, and he’s come back and continued in that vein.”
Gray missed the draw at AFC Wimbledon as Northern Ireland’s U21s played against Belgium the previous day.
They then travelled to play Serbia last Tuesday, when Gray scored his second goal in nine U21 appearances.
The former Middlesbrough striker returned to Stanley’s starting line-up for Saturday’s 0-0 draw at home to Oxford and after scoring against Bristol Rovers on Tuesday night, he’s set his sights on earning a senior call-up.
”When I came back from the last international break I scored at Hartlepool and I’ve done it again,” said Gray.
”I have missed games for Accrington when I go away but when your country comes calling it’s a massive honour. They’ve done a lot for me and I think I’ve repaid them by going away.
“The senior manager’s seen me play and he does like me. He said that if I keep playing the way I am, there’s not a big pool to pick from.
”So if I get my head down and keep scoring for club and country, hopefully I can get called up, which would be a massive thing for me.”
Naismith was a regular after arriving from Rangers in August but for all his attacking intent, he struggled to deliver an end product. The 21-year-old, who tends to play wide right, then had a heart-to-heart with Beattie and is now beginning to fulfil his potential, breaking his Stanley duck in midweek.
“He was left out of the side and his reaction’s been first class, which is exactly the reaction you want as a manager,” said the Reds’ boss.
“I’m delighted for Kal because he’s a very talented player. I spoke to him the other day for about an hour and we got some stuff out on the table. He said ‘what can I do to get in the side?’ That’s an excellent approach for a young footballer.
”He’s got himself back in the side and scored a goal, and I think you could see in his performance that it lifted a weight off his shoulders. Hopefully now he can kick on and be a massive threat for us, as he was on Tuesday night.”
Stanley’s difficult start to the season has been a steep learning curve for Beattie as well as his young forwards.
From a roller-coaster first week to dealing with injuries, suspensions and transfer targets, the last 11 weeks have served as a crash-course in football management for the rookie boss.
”Wow, what haven’t I learnt in the last few weeks!” he laughed.
“I think the biggest thing is to convey to the lads how confident I am in them. I believe that if I’m confident, that will eventually filter through, and that showed on Tuesday night.
“Nobody’s going to get carried away, we’ve won one game. But you can see the difference it’s made,” added Beattie.
“It was such a relief for the lads and I let them enjoy it, but now we’ve got a huge game on Saturday.
“Fortunately the games don’t stop coming.”
Morecambe suffered their first defeat in 10 games in midweek, losing 3-0 at Cheltenham to leave them sixth in the table.
But the Reds are yet to lose in 12 League Two games against the Shrimps. Former Stanley striker Padraig Amond has scored four goals in 12 league starts since joining Morecambe in the summer.