DEAN Winnard is tipping Stanley to maintain their play-off push if they can keep their current crop of players together.
The 20-year-old had his first taste of League Two football this season after being released from Blackburn Rovers in the summer.
And he admits he is loving every minute of it as the Reds enjoy their best-ever season since their return to the Football League.
Even being knocked out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Northern semi-final on Tuesday at one-time Premier giants Leeds hasn’t dampened the defender’s enthusiasm with Stanley three points off the top seven with a game in hand.
"I have never enjoyed my football so much," said the left back. "When I came to Accrington I had to get used to League Two football as it’s totally different to reserve team football where you have more time on the ball and it took a couple of games.
"But it seems to be getting better every week and we have only lost two in 13 games. It is a bit like dreamland at the moment with us doing so well in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and in the third round of the FA¿Cup and doing well in the league. I can’t be happier and I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else.
"Obviously it’s my first season here but I have talked to the lads who have been at the club a long time and they tell me it’s their best ever season and probably their strongest squad. And we want to push on now.
"If we can keep hold of all the players in January then I don’t see any reason why we can’t push on for promotion.
"January will be a massive month for us and I just hope we keep the squad together as we have a great bunch of lads here with a lot of talented players."
Winnard has been part of a firm defensive line this season and he admits it has been drilled into them.
"The gaffer and Jimmy (Bell) have been doing a lot of work with us at the back encouraging us to bond. It’s all the gaffer ever talks is clean sheets!"
And boss John Coleman will be hoping he is chatting about them tomorrow after Barnet come to the Crown Ground - a team they are familiar with having faced them twice in the last few weeks in the FA¿Cup and FA¿Cup replay.
Winnard continued: "Their manager will have them up for it after we beat them in the FA¿Cup and we know it will be tough.
"We know it will be a different Barnet side than we played in the cup but we have no reason to fear anyone in this league. It’s just a case of who puts their chances away and who makes the least mistakes. It is an open league."
It’s a busy Christmas for the Reds with rivals Morecambe on Boxing Day, the in-form team at the moment with seven wins on the spin in the league and the Shrimps are up into seventh place. "I can’t wait for that one," said Winnard. "It’s always nice to play over Christmas and it’s a local derby and obviously they have Paul Mullin there. Those are the games you want to play in."
Manager Coleman is hoping his players won’t suffer a reaction to the Leeds 2-0 defeat and can extend their league run to four successive wins against the Bees.
"Barnet will be smarting after the FA¿Cup defeat and we have not got to go into the game thinking it will be a foregone conclusion as we beat them the other week. It will be a tough game and if the lads think otherwise then they will be in for a shock."
"You can go one of two ways with a defeat. You can roll your sleeves up and we can have a smashing performance against Barnet or lick our wounds and come down to earth with a bump and hit an anti climax. I won’t let the last one happen.
"Of the two games, as regards our season as a whole, I would rather win against Barnet even though a win against Leeds would have been a big plus financially.
"If we want to be towards the top in the the league we have got to pick up points at home and we have got to take our chances."
Stanley hit the woodwork twice and missed some good chances against League One leaders Leeds and Coleman is hoping that it was just a blip.
"I thought we had turned a corner with taking our chances as it has plagued us in the past in the Football League but we were wasteful against Leeds. Hopefully that was just a bad day at the office and we can take them tomorrow."
Chris Turner and Leam Richardson are still sidelined while loan man Tom Lees returns after he could not play against parent club Leeds.