Written by Jasper Nagra
Accrington Stanley’s misfortune seems to be growing having missing out on automatic promotion on the last day of the season to Bristol Rovers due to goal difference and then falling short to a determined AFC Wimbledon team in a cagey battle that could have gone either way. However the 14th of May has proved to be fortuitous day for Wimbledon as it marked the 28th anniversary of the 1-0 victory over Liverpool to win the FA Cup in 1988.
The first leg on Saturday saw two well prepared and organised teams battle head-to-head for much of the game with tensions flaring, a coming together of heads in the 56th minute which saw both Sean Rigg and Billy Kee with head injuries that needed bandages. It was this incident that would guarantee the stoppage time which enabled Tom Beere (21) to score his first goal for the professional team in remarkable fashion. The notorious Adebayo Akinfenwa did well to shield the ball from two Accrington players just before he pulled the ball back to set up Tom’s first shot which was rebounded and landed kindly to his right foot for a second attempt that found itself on the better side of the post in the 93rd minute. A penalty appeal in the 85th minute which saw an arm prevent Bayo from pouncing on the ball was waved away by the referee.
The Stanley’s then had two chances in extra time to bring the score level. Kelle Roos pulled out a wonder save from a strong header minutes after the Dons took the lead to keep the net undisturbed. The second, another header, was a chance that resulted from a free-kick from the right wing, Tom Davis saw his headed attempt graze the side-netting for the last kick of the game.
The second leg is on Wednesday 18th May 19:45 GMT. Lyle Taylor will be disappointed in himself as he had a chance in the 5th minute where his driven shot skimmed past the post. Evidently frustrated with himself upon his substitution, Taylor will be looking for redemption as he aims to push the Dons through to the Play-Off Final against Plymouth Argyle on Monday the 30th May.
The tie is far from won
Wombles boss Neil Ardley told DonsPlayer “I will be looking to the boys who have gone through the play-offs before. I will be looking at them to influence the others, just as much as the staff can. There is no blame culture here and we are fighting hard for each other. We will make sure that mentally they are in the right place and that’s when their characters will come out. Hopefully, they will do the job. We can only do the best that we can and if we go in with that attitude we can take the pressure off ourselves.”
Ardley knows what he needs to get out of his players tonight and he is hoping that the inclusion of some experienced players will give the dons the edge needed to get over the hurdle on the night. This is the highest finish ever for both of the low-budget League 2 clubs and both sets of supporters will be yearning for their team to progress through to the final. Accrington Stanley have had a terrific season with their forward Kee netting a total of 17 goals. Another offensive threat Accrington will be hoping to unleash is 22 year old, Central Midfielder, Josh Windass (16 Goals) one last time before his transfer to Scottish club Rangers who will also be swooping Matt Crooks, 22 (8 Goals) from their grasp. The latter of the two being versatile enough to play as a defender or a midfielder, many Accrington Stanley fans, as well as the manager John Coleman are not too pleased at how the two prospects signed pre-contracts with Rangers which will leave the club short changed as they move on to Glasgow. Despite this, the Stanleys will be looking at these three men to make the difference tomorrow night. Neil Ardley also mentioned that he is aware of the talents his opponents have and what his side will have to do to come out on top. ‘1-0 has probably put the onus on them to come and have a pop at us and they’re very good going forward, so we’ve got to be ready for it.’
Lyle Taylor, 26, has been the Dons go-to man with 20 goals this season, I think if given the chance tomorrow, his partnership with Akinfenwa will be the turning point for the Dons as both players need a few seconds to create chances and their individual playing styles compliment each other. Elliott and Azeez also bring an option for pace when required which gives Ardley a plethora of offensive options which will be invaluable as the rhythm of the game pans out.
Ardley remains optimistic without being blind to the mammoth task ahead on Wednesday evening. ‘…Anyone who wants to talk about Wembley at the moment, they’re miles off the mark. It’s a really really tight game and we’ve got to earn the right to get there and at the moment we’ve had a reasonably good start to it, we’ve just managed to nose ourselves in front but we’re a long way away from there yet,’
What are your predictions for this key play-off match? Let us know in the comments below!