Colchester United 0 Accrington Stanley 1: Carl Marston’s Talking Points
PUBLISHED: 16:00 08 April 2018
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Accrington Stanley, and Billy Kee in particular, demonstrated to hosts Colchester United what needs to be done to become a promotion-winning team at this level.
Stanley continued their relentless surge towards League One with a very impressive 1-0 away win at the Weston Homes Community Stadium on Saturday, thanks to goal-poacher Kee’s 22nd goal of the campaign.
The U’s, just that little bit too far off the play-off pace to mount a strong promotion challenge, matched their table-topping visitors for large parts of an absorbing League Two encounter.
But Stanley took their chance, and then defended strongly and in a well-organised manner, to shut out the U’s and so record an amazing 15th win from their last 17 matches.
In fact, John Coleman’s men will wrap up promotion to the third tier, if they can beat fourth-placed Exeter City at the Crown Ground next Saturday.
As for the U’s, they will probably have to content themselves with trying to upset the promotion hopes of other clubs, starting at home to fifth-placed Notts County on Saturday.
They remain four points adrift of the top-seven, although that will stretch to five if either Mansfield or Swindon win their game in hand tomorrow evening.
A poacher’s instinct
You can argue that there was a slice of fortune about Accrington’s winning goal, which arrived in the 63rd minute via the dependable Billy Kee.
Sam Walker managed to parry winger Jordan Clark’s fiercely struck cross-cum-shot, but the rebound ricocheted off the lurking Kee and rolled into an unguarded net. Kee knew very little about it, but once again his goal-poaching instincts bore fruit in the six-yard box.
The fact was – he was both wise and brave to be sniffing in and around the six-yard box, waiting to feed off any scraps.
It’s certainly no coincidence that Kee, who has a natural goal-scoring instinct, tops the League Two goal-charts with 22 goals.
He has been backed up superbly by fellow striker Kayden Jackson (14 goals), who could have scored two or three himself on Saturday.
The U’s do not have a Billy Kee equivalent in their side. Mikael Mandron works hard all over the pitch, and has bagged 10 goals, while Sammie Szmodics has blown hot-and-cold with his 13 goals, but Kee is the classic selfish striker.
The 27-year-old might not contribute much, in other areas of the pitch, but he can usually been relied on to score a goal.
So near and yet so far
Once again the U’s defended well, but once again they lacked the creativity in the final third, and the killer instinct in the box, to enter the play-off race.
John McGreal’s men have now not conceded two goals in a game for 10 weeks, stretching to 12 fixtures, a proud record.
Tom Eastman and Luke Prosser are one of the best defensive partnerships in the division, while Brandon Comley has been effective covering the back four in recent matches.
And Sam Walker once again proved why he is regarded as one of the best keepers from the bottom two divisions, with a number of excellent saves during the final quarter of the game.
No wonder, then, that the U’s have the sixth best defensive record in League Two.
However, the hosts rarely looked like scoring at the other end.
Stanley keeper, Aaron Chapman, did not have a serious save to make in the first half, and was only really troubled by Drey Wright’s 51st minute shot that was diverted wide of the far post.
Otherwise, he had a very quiet afternoon.
It was easy to see why the U’s have only the joint 15th best scoring record in the division, and the joint poorest in the top half of the table.
McGreal’s men have found goals very difficult to come by this season, unlike 12 months ago when the likes of Brennan Dickenson, Kurtis Guthrie and Chris Porter were scoring for fun.
The Essex club have not managed to score three goals in a match since early December, proof that they are not a naturally attacking, free-flowing side.
A news story doing the national rounds last week was Accrington owner Andy Holt’s revelation that he buys burgers for his players, after victories, which raised a few eyebrows at the HQ of the English Football League.
The EFL has since agreed that this does not represent a bonus in breach of their own regulations, so Holt was all set to buy more fast-food fare for his team on Saturday night.