Accy Accy 1-2-3 What we needed to do after Sunday’s disappointment was to win, and win well – which we did, with Stanley looking a mile off the pace in a game which we dominated all but about ten second-half minutes of, looked likely to blow them off the park, and just about did. McGeady, Grigg, and Sterling applied the finishing touches as we cruised home and made the most of game in hand number one.
The weather was always in the back of our minds, with some of still waiting for clothes to dry from our last visit, and as other reports of snow and rain came in our route took us through the sunny part of the Yorkshire Dales and into Colne in time for tea. Don’t tell me ma, though. After some great chat in the Tapster’s Promise with a bloke who seemed to have played guitar alongside all of the bands your dad liked (if your dad liked the music of the late 60’s), and more football chat next door in Boyce’s Barrel, it was time for the off. Scarily, the temperature dropped faster than a Mag near a dropped pasty between the pub and the bus, and the sun went in to be replaced by some naughty looking clouds. The short journey to Stanley was livened by local radio, which sounded very much like a Victoria Wood takeover mixed with a bit of Peter Kay. It even had the temerity to start snowing/hailing/raining as we entered the ground, a bit confused by the new layout – they’d finished the building work, the toilets were there, the bus bar had been replaced by a proper bar, there were shelters from the weather, the live music was still there, and – best of all – it was “ £2 to you, mate!” a pint for proper beer. Could it get any better? Well, after a few minutes of the rain threatening to replicate the conditions of our last, abortive, visit, we wrapped up warm, took our places, and watched the Lads line up:
O’Nien Bladwin Flanagan Hume
Gooch Power McGeouch McGeady
Thank the Lord! 4-4-2 still lives! As we went from 85,000 to 3,802, things could hardly have been more different from Sunday’s showpiece, but it was still a game of football, and while we’d expected changes, I’m not sure many of us expected five. Understandable, given the number of games we’ve got in the next month and the size of our squad – if you’ve got them, use them, and not many League One clubs have players of the quality of Power, McGeouch, and Morgan as back-up.
The goalmouths were both a bit clarty, as they say at FIFA HQ, but the rest of the pitch looked fairly verdant as McGeouch started proceedings with us kicking towards the far end. There were several pairs of gleaming white boots on show, and it was captain McGeady’s which showed first, doing their usual dance down the left and around his marker. It took about half a minute to establish that McGeouch was running the show by carrying the ball out of danger and into good positions, while Power was hitting the longer passes. We hadn’t even been going four minutes when Flanagan fired a good ball out to Aiden on the wing, and our favourite Scottish Irishman cut across his marker towards the edge of the box and fired a right-footer inside the keeper’s right-hand post. A beauty, put past the keeper who was involved in Wyke’s injury in our home game with Burton, so a bit of sweet revenge there – and another reason for celebrating on the terraces like there was no tomorrow.
That was the match won, basically, but as we all know that football is a funny old game (copyright J.Greaves, early 1990s) a second was what we wanted, especially after what happened on Sunday, what with our not killing the game off when in total control.
Wyke’s presence up front meant a lot less chasing around for Grigg, and Honeyman’s absence from the Honeyman Hole behind the striker was compensated for by Gooch cutting in or Grigg dropping a bit deeper. It also meant that there was a lot less time for Stanley’s defenders to play the ball out. Grigg nearly got that vital second when he put a shot over the keeper, but a defender managed to get onto the line and in the way, then Power set himself up for a decent shot that the keeper saved. We maintained control, with a Grigg header and a left-footer from McGeady that was just wide of the post, for most of the half but the home side did have a little spell of possession and pressure. Fortunately for us, their end product was pretty woeful. O’Nien was booked for knocking their lad over on the edge of the box as he was breaking goalwards, but the taker was McConville and not McGeady - meaning that the shot was closer to me than McLaughlin, and I was four rows from the back. They had an even better chance a few minutes later when some decent passing saw our central defence unable to cut out a pass in to Hughes, but his knock-down only saw Kee put his shot over the bar, over the stand, and through the kitchen window of Mrs Eckerslike at number 22 Walton Street, scaring the life out of Gladstone the cat, who’d been sleeping by the coal bucket.
So we took a deep breath and decided to stop letting them create chances. McGeady spun around two Accy men on halfway and played a beauty of a ball between the defenders to set Gooch away down the inside left channel, but his shot across the goal hit the far post and we wondered if the second would ever come. We needn’t really have worried, as a single goal was enough to win this one, but you never know…
Anyhow, three added minutes were announced, and as we entered what seemed like the fifth of them, McLaughlin launched a straightforward clearance down the field, the home defence, for all their height, just looked at it as a fascinated child might look at a passing butterfly, and Grigg nipped past them, took it down, then popped it, left-footed, past the keeper. Boom, that really was game over and we wondered if those back few steps in the open end could take much more bouncing. Mr Brooks blew his whistle to end the half, and we headed for a celebratory bevvy and a catch-up with the chatty barman.
No McGeady for the second half, which was no surprise as he’d done the damage in the first, and he deserved a lie down and to prepare for his birthday. Power became captain, and Morgan was a straightforward replacement, with the youngster straight into the action – but it was Baldwin who had to make the first telling contribution of the half, doing really well to get in the way of an effort from McConville. Hume and Morgan reprised the full-back and winger combo of the first half, going forward well, but Hume got caught out on one occasion and we were glad to see Sousa shoot well wide after he got past young Denver. In their eagerness to get something back, Stanley pushed forward more, which gave us an easier time when we went on the offensive. Morgan wriggled down the left and put in a cross which Big Chas rose to meet, but his flicked header went just beyond the far post, then our number nine broke into the box and got his shot away just as a defender climbed on his shoulder, meaning that he was leaning back and the effort went over the top. That sort of challenge would have sparked an hour-long debate on MOTD, probably ending in cries for a penalty, but Mr Brooks was having none of it. That came as no surprise, as he’s been pretty generous with yellows while ignoring a couple of comically obvious pushes on McGeouch.
With 20 to go, Grigg took a well-earned rest (no point putting more pressure on that dodgy ankle) to be replaced by Sterling - all gloves, mini-dreads, and over-the-knee socks – and the Spurs loanee did exactly what we wanted, running across the front line and picking up on what Chas held up for him. Eight minutes after coming on, he ran into the perfect position as Morgan ran up the middle of the pitch, through a couple of challenges, and rolled the ball into his path in the box. A lovely, crisp finish followed for Kazaiah’s first senior goal, and the rest of the team joined in celebrating as if he’d just won the FA Cup – another example of the togetherness in our squad. It would have been easy, and usual, for the defenders to simply acknowledge the third goal in a 3-0 win, but they wanted to show that they appreciated what the Lad had just achieved on a personal level as well as for the team.
The rest of the game was well-managed, as they like to say nowadays, by our Lads, and on 87 Wyke received a deserved and appreciative round of applause as he was replaced by Leadbitter. Grant had three minutes, plus an added four, to hold onto the ball and ensure it didn’t do anywhere dangerous, which he did. Then the whistle went, and the ghosts of Wembley were on their way to being exorcised. As the players celebrated in front of the celebrating fans, the home crowd kept up their noise, as they had after the abandonment of the previous attempt. If you’ve read any of my stuff before, you might have noticed that I’m not keen on drums at football games, but you have to give a bit of credit to the Accy fans when they base one of their drum-backed songs on Anarchy In The UK. The whole set-up at the Wham Stadium seemed glad to see us there, even if defeat was likely, and some of their fans even stayed back to applaud our fans out of the ground. Weird, but appreciated.
Man of the Match? McGeady would probably have got it had he been risked for the full game, and Wyke produced some great hold-up play despite missing a couple of decent chances, but for me McGeouch was the man. Where Catts wins the ball and gives it to Leadbitter to produce the pass, Dylan intercepts, weaves into space, and either gives it to Power to produce the pass, or plays it forwards or out wide himself. A lovely performance which bodes well for the remaining games.
Now for Rochdale, who are two points worse off than Accy and with only Bradford below them in the table. Keep it going, Lads.