AFTER torrential rain and a fine effort by the Stanley groundsman and volunteers to get the game on, Accrington’s League Two clash with Plymouth Argyle proved to be anything but a damp squib.
One of only two matches in League Two that went ahead proved to be incident packed and entertaining as the Reds ended a three match losing run with a point – but deserved to take all three.
Striker James Beattie cancelled out Onismor Bhasera’s goal to make it 1-1 but it was the home side left wondering what might have been at the final whistle despite ending the game with 10 men.
The first half took a familiar form for Leam Richardson’s side, who created early chances only to find themselves behind.
After Paul Rachubka saved from Luke Young early on it was all Stanley, with visiting goalkeeper Rene Gilmartin forced to shovel out Lee Molyneux’s quick free kick before denying Rommy Boco.
The Benin international was given the ball by Beattie following a strong run by the former Everton man and Boco’s chip left Gilmartin scrambling back to get a finger tip to the ball.
Craig Lindfield’s follow up was then deflected over the bar.
Only one team looked like scoring when the unthinkable happened; Peter Murphy was somewhat harshly penalised for clipping Rhys Griffiths and Robbie Williams produced a sensational free kick from over 25 yards that beat Rachubka and clattered back off the post. Bhasera reacted quickest to tap home from close range and give the Pilgrims an unlikely lead.
Stanley heads didn’t go down in front of a bumper 2,012 – boosted by Brighton fans who had already arrived in East Lancashire when their game at Blackburn was postponed – strong crowd with centre back Dean Winnard driving a shot straight at the inspired Gilmartin as they looked to respond immediately.
The goalkeeper was in imperious form and the visitors were again thankful to him on the stroke of half time.
George Miller’s pass split the Argyle defence and from a tight angle on the right Lindfield got a low shot in only for Gilmartin to spread himself well and save to ensure that the Reds trailed 1-0 at the break.
After the interval Bhasera flashed a shot wide after winning a foot race with Toto Nsiala but it was an isolated foray as Stanley again took control.
And they were rewarded after 52 minutes when Lindfield’s cross from the right provoked a calamitous clearance from a defender which dropped straight to Beattie.
The ex-England man made no mistake, picking out the bottom left corner to net his fourth Stanley goal.
Now only one team looked like winning the game with Gilmartin pawing away a Luke Joyce free kick before Nsiala and Lindfield both saw shots blocked inside the area, Beattie volleyed wide and Joyce shot over the top.
But with 13 minutes left the visitors had the chance to retake the lead when Michael Liddle brought down Paris Cowan-Hall inside the box and referee Mick Russell pointed to the spot.
Substitute Warren Feeney took responsibility but Rachubka saved his penalty expertly and Stanley cleared.
Not to be outdone, Gilmartin took centre stage again, this time with an eye catching save to keep out a curling free kick from Joyce that was destined for the top corner of the net.
And there was still more drama to come when Darren Purse’s header from Young’s corner came back off the bar before the Reds saw themselves reduced to 10 men in controversial circumstances.
As stoppage time loomed Rachubka was caught late inside his box by Nick Chadwick and having been subject to the same treatment earlier in the game took exception to the striker’s conduct.
The two players went head to head in front of the Plymouth fans and with the slightest hint of contact from the Stanley keeper Chadwick collapsed to the floor.
Russell showed a yellow card to the striker and a straight red to Rachubka but amid scenes of complete confusion nobody quite knew what had happened.
It was an unedifying end to a fine spectacle but those who had braved the conditions certainly got value for money.
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