ACCRINGTON’S dreams of a Wembley showdown disappeared with one piece of quality at Tranmere Rovers.
There wasn’t a lot between the League One side and the Reds with chances limited for both teams on a drizzly night at Prenton Park.
But Edrissa Sonko unleashed a fierce shot into the top of Kenny Arthur’s goal four minutes after the restart to end any dreams of a Wembley trip for the Reds.
While Coleman was disappointed he took the positives from a new look line-up.
David Worrall made his Stanley starting debut on the right, Fola Onibjue got the nod up front with Jamie Clarke and Peter Murphy and Robbie Williams made rare starts.
"I thought we played smashing," said Coleman, "They are a top side who are doing well in the league above us and, in themain, we defended really well.
"I thought we deserved to get at least a draw out of it if not go on to win the game.
"I was delighted with the energy and fitness we showed and our work rate. We tried to get forward and commit more.
"It was a great team performance and we had a couple of half chances and on another night, they go in and theirs doesn’t and it goes to penalties and we maybe nick it."
But it wasn’t to be in a game overshadowed by a late challenge on Ian Dunbavin which ended with the keeper being stretchered off with a huge gash on his knee on 24 minutes.
Rovers, fielding a strong team, tested Dunbavin - who was also given his first start of the season - early on.
Their forward line of Craig Curran, Bas Savage, Chris Shuker and Sonko made it a lively opening for the home side, in a muted atmosphere at a sparsely populated Prenton Park.
But a short back pass caused problems with Dunbavin racing out to collect the ball and Curran going in for what was a late challenge on a slippy surface.
He caught the knee of the Reds’ keeper with his studs and the players around signalled immediately that it was game over for Dunbavin who was stretchered off.
"Their lad had no chance of getting the ball and it is unfortunate," said Coleman.
"He hasn’t meant to hurt Bavs but it is a blow for him as he has waited for his chance and was doing okay."
Stopper Arthur came on to replace him but didn’t have a lot to do in the first half as the game was largely played out in midfield.
John Mullin - against his old club - and Peter Cavanagh were the engine room for Stanley in midfield and both tried to get the Reds going forward but no one was able to provide the killer touch.
Stanley’s best chance was on the stroke of half-time when Cavanagh had a first time shot from a John Miles corner which was on target but took a deflection at the near post.
But, while Stanley struggled up front, Tranmere didn’t pepper the Reds goal and on the occasions they came forward, Williams pulled off a last ditch tackle to deny dangerman Sonko while Steve Jennings got a free header from a corner but steered it wide.
The deciding goal, however, came soon after the break when Phil Edwards waited for a ball to go out and Curran nipped in and crossed for Sonko to blast home.
"Phil let the lad in and he finished well. He was caught out that way on Saturday and the disappointing thing is that he hasn’t learnt from that. He won’t get caught like that again," said Coleman.
Coleman changed it around going to 4-3-3 with Paul Mullin on and they did continue to pass the ball around well but didn’t trouble keeper Danny Coyne.
Meanwhile, Tranmere’s Luke Waterfall should have done better with a free header but it was straight into Arthur’s arms.
The keeper kept out a Shuker shot ten minutes from time and Stanley hunted for the equaliser late on with Clarke making a run and John Mullin heading wide, but they could not find a way through.
"The pleasing thing for us is that Tranmere didn’t take this lightly," added Coleman. "And it is a compliment to us that they made a sub two minutes in injury time to kill the game off."