You know how it goes…”Acccccrington Stanley, who are they?”…”Exacccctly”
Who’d have thought that those two little lads supping milk would be quoted in years to come not as the slur as was originally intended but ironically instead as the aforementioned club rose to prominence back in the Football League.
It’s not bad playing for Stanley these days and the joke may be on us now because we really need them to continue their emergence as promotion candidates by beating Barnet at the Crown Ground on Saturday afternoon.
It would be a dream finale to the season for John Coleman, who is the modern day Mr Accrington having joined the club way back in 1999 when the club were battling it out in the Northern Premier League. Three promotions later and Stanley had turned into a club quoted more for their football rather than for an 80’s advertisement. Coleman’s form didn’t drop either and he impressively led the club to safety in his first season before ever increasingly finishing in higher league positions each season since their elevation to League Two in 2006.
Lat season’s fifteenth was the best they’ve done but this time around there’s been an improvement that not even the most optimistic Stanley fan could have predicted.
Defeat at the hands of Saturday’s opponents Barnet back December 11th left the club in eighteenth and expectant of just another season trying to improve league form. But the winter break, enforced by the weather, seemed to rejuvenate the side and on their return on New Year’s Day came an astounding turn around. It started with an away win at Morecambe but it was at home where momentum began to pick up.
An eleven game unbeaten run at the Crown Ground is still not over and the 0-0 at Shrewsbury last weekend even kept faint automatic promotion hopes alive. But realistically it’s the playoffs that Stanley are chasing and who would bet against them going all the way with the form they’re in going into the final knockings of the season. A fourth promotion under Coleman would be the biggest of them all.
Barnet have gone the other way in the seasons since they themselves rejoined the Football League in 2005 following a four year hiatus in the Conference. After two mid-table finishes, the club narrowly avoided relegation in the last couple of years and were only safe last season thanks to a 1-0 win over Rochdale on the final day.
They may well need another great escape this time around and with the Cobblers and Lincoln wobbling above them there has been no better time for them to hit form. Martin Allen’s three game reign saw momentum pick up and the failings above them have given them belief that they can do it again.
Allen’s acrimonious departure threatened to knock them off course but last weekend saw them end Gillingham’s long unbeaten run before claiming another points at home to Oxford.
Ending another unbeaten sequence on Saturday would go a long way in setting up yet more last day drama for a club that just does not want to say die.
This weekend’s other games…
Chesterfield will be chomping at the bit to get back to winning ways on Friday night as they travel to Torquay hoping to earn the three points needed to force Bury into a must win situation on Saturday in the title race. The Spireites were promoted thanks to United’s draw with Wycombe last week and can go a long way to sealing the top spot if they put a dent into the Gulls’ playoff hopes. They sit just outside the top seven at the moment and have a chance of piling on the pressure for those around them by earning an early three points.
Bury are looking for Torquay to do them a favour before they host Wycombe on Saturday at Gigg Lane. After that thrilling contest on Monday that saw the gap at the top close to two points, they have a chance to take the battle to the last day. Wycombe are in their own promotion dual with Shrewsbury, who they overtook with a 2-0 home win against Crewe on Monday.
That looks like another contest that’s going to the wire and Shrewsbury are at Cheltenham hoping to turn the tide back in their favour once more. The Robins alleviated any relegation fears with victory at Lincoln and go into the game with most of the pressure on their visitors.
The playoff issues will look a lot clearer after this penultimate weekend of the season and it looks like one from four to join Shrewsbury or Wycombe. That means Gillingham can afford no mistakes in their home game with Macclesfield. In fact, should Torquay lose on Friday, all of the others will be playing for a confirmed pace in the top seven going into their own games on Saturday.
Rotherham and Port Vale are hoping for mass slip ups above them but they first have to win their games at Aldershot and at home to Morecambe respectively.
Stockport’s relegation should be confirmed on Saturday and unless they pull off something of a miraculous score line in both of their final two games then they’ll be gone. They go to Crewe in their final away game knowing that by the end of the day their demotion could well be complete.
Lincoln are shaking and no wins in nine means that they’ve been dragged right back into the race. They need to get something at Oxford to avoid still being involved on the last day of the season, particularly with their dismal goal difference, the second worst in the league after Stockport.
Hereford should still be safe despite only picking up one point from nine ahead of their final home game of the season against Bradford who finally passed the fifty point mark with Monday’s 2-1 win over Aldershot. And Burton have a chance to put their fears well and truly behind them as they go to Southend.