NEW YEARS DAY 2007: Stanley began the New Year with a trip to Wrexham - a team they had thumped 5-0 earlier in the campaign. The Reds were on a bad run and had plunged too close to the relegation zone for comfort, in 21st position with 23 points out of 24 games.
But it proved to be a winning start as Paul Mullin scored once and David Brown scored two late goals for the Reds to record their first win in 11 games and do the double over the Welsh side.
TEAM: Elliot, Richardson, Baines, Williams, Welch, Procter, Harris, Whalley, Todd, Mullin, Brown. Subs: Fearon, Smith, Bell, Murphy, Jacobson.
It was soon followed by what was billed as one of the biggest games of the re-formed Accrington side’s history with a trip to fellow relegation-haunted Boston. And the Reds’ bogeyman Drewe Broughton scored the winner to plunge Stanley further towards the drop zone - it was their eighth defeat in 12 league games.
Manager John Coleman tried to bolster his squad in January after losing Ian Craney and Gary Roberts permanently in January to Swansea and Ipswich respectively. He snapped up ex-Nottingham Forest defender Alan Rogers but was thwarted in his attempts to bring York striker Clayton Donaldson and Shrewsbury’s Luke Rodgers to Accrington.
Notts County inflicted another loss on the Reds but they then chalked up their second win in 14 games - and their first home win since September 30 - when they overcame Mansfield 3-2, thanks to goals from Mullin, Michael Welch and a Shaun Whalley 82nd minute winner.
Young striker Chris McGrail was signed on loan from Preston before the transer window closed and Stanley managed a battling draw at Wycombe which moved them up to 18th spot. However more activity was to follow before the end of the month, with keeper Rob Elliot recalled to Charlton and Coleman had to fight off a late swoop by Chester for striker Mullin. Instead he added to his squad, enlisting ex-Burnley midfielder Tony Grant, Bolton keeper Przemyslaw Kazimierczak, defender Mauro Almeida and striker Stuart Fleetwood on loan from Hereford.
Three of them made their debut against Chester but they lost 1-0 to move Stanley back down to 21st place. Coleman’s side, however, bounced back by beating Barnet 2-1 with a commanding show by defender Robbie Williams and they had some breathing space from the drop zone - three points.
But then the topsy turvy season continued with a 1-0 loss to Stockport, who made it eight wins on the bounce without conceding a goal. Coleman admitted he got his tactics wrong: “I have got to take responsibility, I picked the wrong formation,” he said, as he went with 3-5-2 and had to switch it - but it was too late.
On a cold Tuesday in Darlington, the North East side raced into a two goal lead in 30 minutes to take the spoils at the haunting atmosphere of the TFM Arena Stadium - with just 2790 inside the 25,000 seater stadium and it was Stanley’s 12th defeat in 19 league games.
On the upside, Benin international Rommy Boco signed a new deal to keep him at Accrington until 2009 while, with 13 games left and Stanley two points and three places away from the drop zone, Coleman targeted four wins and four draws for safety.
Late in February, the Reds came back twice to draw 2-2 with Lincoln with Andy Todd and Mullin on target. It was a nightmare debut for Liverpool keeper David Martin who lasted four minutes before hobbling off injured - and the injury jinx struck again on a Stanley keeper.
March proved a turbulent month with Stanley facing a shock charge by the Football Association for fielding two ineligible players in McGrail, who had been on work experience from Preston, and young goalkeeper Martin Fearon.
They had been involved in matches where Stanley had earned seven points and - after weeks of speculation and worry - it all came to a head at the end of the month as the Reds manager Coleman and chairman Eric Whalley attended a hearing. They breathed a sigh of relief as they avoided any points deduction but were instead given a £12,000 fine with half of it suspended.
On the field, March 3 saw Stanley’s awful show at Rochdale with a 4-2 loss. “It was the worst performance of any team I have ever had,” said Coleman. Rochdale were 3-0 up in 30 minutes and missed a penalty. It signalled the end for Grant and Rogers who were soon to move on.
Shaun Whalley got a 90th minute goal to equalise against Bristol Rovers while a 2-0 defeat at Swindon left Coleman gutted: “I have never felt so low since my mum and dad died,” he said with the Reds only out of the relegation spots on goal difference from Boston and Torquay with nine games to go.
The club then made a landmark decision after urging the town to support the club in their crucial run-in as they battled against an instant return to non league football. Chairman Eric Whalley let all fans in free for the visit of bottom club Torquay at the FES. 4004 people turned up with the Gulls nine points adrift and they had a man sent off. They hung on to a nerve racking end before Stanley captain Peter Cavanagh scored a 90th minute free kick to seal a vital three points for the Reds and send the non-paying fans home happy.
Stanley took big defender Godwin Antwi on loan from Liverpool and his first game brought a 2-0 home win over Hereford - Brown scored but was sent off in the 90th minute and Cavanagh got the other and it was another sigh of relief around the FES.
At the end of March, a 3-2 loss to promotion chasers Walsall was followed by a last gasp winner by Andy Todd against play-off chasing Peterborough as Stanley’s good home form kept them clear of the relegation zone.
Andy Mangan was sent off at Hartlepool as the Pools celebrated winning promotion thanks to a Richie Barker goal - he always seemed to score against the Reds.
Then, on April 14, came Paul Mullin’s big day as he passed the Reds’ record appearance record with 362 games against Grimsby at home. And he appropriately scored in a 4-1 thumping of the Mariners.
Stanley lost to the Shrews and then needed a win against another relegation-threatened side Macclesfield in the penultimate game of the season - the last home game - to make sure they stayed up. And they duly obliged.
Andy Procter was the goal hero with two superb goals - after John Miles had scored a double for Macc - and Procter admitted his curler into the top corner was “his best goal ever.” It confirmed that the Reds would be playing League football next season after a campaign of uncertainties.
The last game at play-off contenders MK Dons was a formality but it was a trip to a new stadium and 16-year-old winger Bobby Grant made his debut. He set up Brown for a goal - but Stanley ended on a losing side and finished 20th in League Two, something the fans would have settled for at the start of their campaign.
The summer saw Stanley’s Supporters Player of the Year Todd leave to join Rotherham and Sean Doherty, Andy Mangan, Danny Ventre and Michael Welch all also parted company with the Reds.
There were plenty of new faces, however, with Mark Roberts, Graham Branch, John Miles, Paul Carden, Roscoe Dsane and goalkeeper Kenny Arthur coming before striker Lee McEvilly made a late return to the club from Wrexham. They also tried to get Antwi back but he chose Hartlepool.
More importantly for the fans, though, was the news that work had begun on the long-awaited Clayton End roof and it was scheduled to be ready for the start of the season - it was a couple of games in but it has made a difference to the noise level and the home supporters can now enjoy a dry time behind the goal.
The fixtures came out in June leaving Coleman furious with an away day trip to Wycombe on the opening day and Grimsby away on Boxing Day with no real local derbies at crucial holiday times. And pre-season tipsters didn’t seem impressed by Coleman’s new signings - despite the manager saying his aim was for promotion - as many tipped the Reds for another relegation battle.
But they soon sat up and took notice when Stanley stunned one of the pre-season promotion favourites Wycombe with a 1-0 win courtesy of a Mullin winner in the opener - as he started the season as he meant to go on.
However, it proved a false dawn as, by the beginning of September and, after four games, they were propping up the early League Two table following defeats to Darlington, Lincoln and Peterborough. And, after losing to Leicester in the Carling Cup, it was four games without a goal - the most lean spell in Coleman’s time at the club - with McEvilly and Mullin unable to find their scoring boots.
The boss then brought new signing Dsane into the starting line up with McEvilly suspended and it all came together against Grimsby with a 4-1 win. Procter scored twice and Mullin also grabbed a double. They had scored one goal in their five games prior to that but Stanley’s longer serving players once again came up with the goods.
By September, rumours of a shock loan move for ex-star Craney began to surface and, after Stanley lost at the New Meadow to Shrewsbury, he came back late into the month after falling out of favour at Swansea. “I have come back here and I want to win games - I want to be successful,” said Craney.
His first game was at Bury but there was agony as ex-Red Mangan returned to haunt his old team-mates, coming off the bench to score one goal and make the winner much to Coleman’s fury.
But then the Reds bounced back by turning in probably their best performance of the year in front of 13,000 fans to see off former Premier League side Bradford. It was a mixture of joy and hurt as keeper Arthur was stretchered off with a broken ankle while Craney soon followed him with a hamstring injury - although the midfielder returned sooner than expected. Dsane scored his first league goals with a brace with Procter adding the other.
“In my nine years as manager, that was the most compete performance from any of my sides,” said Coleman. “I think all of them hit a nine out of ten.”
But, in a up and down season, Stanley followed up the superb win with a 2-0 loss to bottom club Wrexham on a Friday night as their home form - usually so good over the eight years of Coleman’s reign - began to become a worry.
Rommy Boco, however, was enjoying life as his country Benin qualified for the African Cup of Nations in Ghana later this month after he played his part in a 2-0 win over Seirra Leone.
And there was more to smile at on the pitch in mid October as a comfortable win at Dagenham was followed by a Friday win over Macclesfield - with Dsane celebrating the winning goal by stopping it on the line and heading it over. It was Stanley’s first back to back wins since March.
A hard-earned draw at Barnet, though, was followed by a low with a 2-0 loss to struggling Notts County at the FES. It was their first defeat in four matches with Coleman angry at a below par show.
Then came the one most of the fans were waiting for - a return to Christie Park to face Morecambe for the first ever league meeting between the two rival clubs. An Ian Craney/Ryan Cresswell own goal settled the tie in the Reds’ favour as they moved up to 10th in the League Two table in November. “It was definitely my goal,” said Craney. And the Stanley fans got the Lancashire bragging rights.
The Reds took a break from the league to focus on the FA Cup in early November and there was the hope this could be their year for a run. But it was heartbreak for Stanley against League One side Huddersfield Town. Cavanagh and Mullin put Stanley 2-0 up with hopes of finally making progress - and money - in the competition after years of not getting past the first hurdle. But Huddersfield came back and sub Luke Beckett made sure they got a measure of revenge for losing to the non league Reds in 2003.
A 1-0 loss to Rotherham was another home defeat - their third loss on the trot at the FES - and fortress Accrington had been well and truly invaded. By November, McEvilly had moved onto Rochdale while Stanley signed Sunderland winger Billy Dennehy on loan deadline day.
More disappointment was to follow when Stanley lost to 10-men Rochdale to make it four successive home losses - and a hard defeat with Coleman singling out players and threatening big changes in the transfer window.
After that came the Reds heaviest defeat of the League Two life at league leaders MK Dons when they were outclassed by Paul Ince’s side and were thumped 5-0.
However a late, late goal by Dsane sealed a win against Chesterfield in mid-December to break the bad run at home although the crowds of just 1400 was a worry for the Reds.
It was hoped they could finally put their home hoodoo firmly to bed against Shrewsbury, especially when Mullin put them ahead. But Gary Peters’ side came from behind to inflict another defeat at home although the Reds maintained a mid-table spot.
Their away form has been strong this season though and it was Stanley saviours Mullin and Procter who made sure they celebrated a win at Grimsby on Boxing Day, after coming from behind.
And they followed it up to end the year on a high with a Mullin/Procter show in the 2-1 win over Mansfield to end the year in 12th spot - seven points off the play-offs.
TEAM: Dunbavin, Richardson, Roberts, Procter, Harris, Dsane, Mullin, Miles, Edwards, Webb, Craney. Subs: Fearon, Williams, Brown, McGivern, Dennehy