It’s no shoe-in as Stanley hold on

James Gray scores for Stanley on Saturday

James Gray scores for Stanley on Saturday

First published in Sport

In a week where footwear was to the fore at Accrington Stanley the Reds started on the front foot against Luton Town and took their first step up the league table with a hard earned point.

A break in at the Store First Stadium deprived James Beattie’s players of their boots but the intervention of a national betting company brought them new ones and two goals in 16 minutes showed there was little need to break them in.

A Stanley side showing four changes from that hammered at Shrewsbury started in fine style and were in front inside ten minutes thanks to James Gray.

Piero Mingoia was the creator, bursting down the left an delivering precisely into the penalty box for the Northern Ireland Under 21 to convert from the edge of the six yard box and open the scoring.

The visitors were on their heels and the Reds capitalised with a spell of concerted pressure that brought a second goal.

Again Mingoia was key, with his left wing corner only partially cleared to the edge of the area and Luke Joyce.

The Stanley skipper is an infrequent scorer but put his head in where it hurt, getting clattered in the process and tumbling to the turf unable to see the ball bounce back off the post and over the line to make it 2-0.

Beattie had acknowledged the wisdom of his counterpart John Still in the build up and an early substitution by the Luton boss seemed to change the game with Luke Guttridge’s introduction seeming to turn the tide.

The Hatters pulled one back on 31 when Luke Rooney cut in from the left and curled a shot past everyone into the bottom corner but Stanley were denied the immediate restoration of their lead when Mark Tyler saved superbly from George Bowerman.

It proved to be a telling stop as Luton soon levelled; Tom Aldred was penalised for a tackle on Mark Cullen inside the D and a low, drilled free kick from Luke Howells took a wicked deflection to beat Jay Lynch and make the half time score 2-2.

If anything the second period was more frenetic, with Paul Benson heading wide at one end and Mingoia denied by a super tackle from Howells after a terrific one two with Bowerman.

On his first Football League start Lynch was showing all his shot stopping ability in the Stanley goal and pushed out a strike from Guttridge to prove the point. He soon repeated the trick to keep out Rooney.

Stanley weathered a storm and despite Luke Wilkinson having a header ruled out for a foul finished strongest.

Sub Josh Windass twice shot wide when well placed and Tyler turned a Gray shot from a tight angle over as the Reds pushed for a winner.

When four minutes of stoppage time arrived they thought they had that goal. Gray latched onto an incisive through ball from Kal Naismith and saw his shot ripple the net and the celebrations begin – prematurely as Tyler had turned the ball into the side netting.

Undeterred Mingoia swung over another corner and Rob Atkinson rose highest to head the ball on target and see it cleared off the line.

The full time whistle soon sounded to deny Stanley the great stride forward they wanted but a point is a step in the right direction.

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