Stanley’s Stephenson keen to pull Reds clear

James Beattie

James Beattie

First published in Sport This Is Lancashire: Photograph of the Author by , Sports reporter

PAUL Stephenson is in no hurry to go through the stress of last season’s relegation battle all over again, but the Accrington Stanley assistant manager believes the pressure is on other teams at the bottom this year.

Stanley slipped to third bottom of the League Two table after Tuesday’s 1-0 loss at Portsmouth but they still sit five points clear of second bottom Northampton, and are also only five points behind ninth place.

This time last year the Reds were having to battle their way out of the bottom two, a struggle that took its toll on Stephenson and then manager Leam Richardson – but eventually ended happily with a game to spare at the end of the season.

Stanley’s form has been promising since their nightmare start to the current campaign but Stephenson thinks that other clubs at the bottom have more reason to be worried this time around.

“It was very stressful last year,” he admitted.

“But we know that we’ve been on a pretty decent run, certainly for a club of our standing.

“You look at other teams and they’re on a pretty bad run so I think some of other teams might be equally if not more worried than us.

“I’m not really worried about them, the most important thing is that we manage the lads’ energy as much as anything at this stage of the season.

“If you look at March we’ve got eight matches. That’s a lot of games.”

Stanley’s loss at Portsmouth came three days after a 1-0 victory at bottom club Torquay.

The Reds face their third away game in a row when they travel to promotion-chasing Burton today.

“We always try to draw positives, we’ve been down to the south coast for two big games against our rivals, we could have drawn both games and got two points but we won one and got three,” Stephenson said.

“You don’t ever want to lose against a rival but at the same time we’ve put a decent gap between ourselves and Torquay.

“Northampton are on a good run but they only need to lose one and we win one and it’s a bigger gap again and the pressure’s back on them.

“They’re going to have to keep winning every week to ease the pressure whereas the teams above them can win one out of every two and stay ahead of them.

“We’ve still got them to come here too so it’s going to be very interesting.

“The league’s a bit mental. Everybody’s in it at the moment, even teams like Dagenham and Redbridge and Morecambe.

“We stress to the lads on a regular basis that you’re never out of it, never really. You can never rest on your laurels if you have a couple of good results.

“We still believe that if we can go on and win the games that we’re capable of winning, there’s still no reason why we couldn’t sneak into a really high position in the division, which is what we’re capable of.

“By the other token a couple of teams like Wycombe have had a couple of wins and all of a sudden we’re third bottom.

“But we have got games in hand on teams, which we’ll have to win.”

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