A horrendous start to 2013/14 had Accrington Stanley down as everybody’s firm favourites for relegation, but James Beattie managed to rescue the club from the drop thanks to a drastic upturn in form.
Losing eight of their first ten, with no wins, had Stanley rooted to the foot of the table in a position that looked to be insurmountable. However, their form took a sharp about-turn, and they won five out of six between October 22nd and November 26th.
From that point they looked a credible outfit, winning their last two fixtures to fend off any possibility of relegation, and they finished 15th.
The summer so far
Experienced striker Danny Webber was one of four players released from Stanley at the start of the summer, the others being Laurence Wilson, Luke Clark and George Miller.
Striker James Gray provided James Beattie with a boost when he signed a new contract, and it wasn’t long before Dean Winnard, Will Hatfield, Josh Windass, George Bowerman and Michael Liddle followed suit.
There was a sad moment this summer as the man credited with saving the club in 1995, Eric Whalley, passed away aged 74.
Accrington Stanley player-manager JamesBeattie broke two club’s transfer records when he signed for them in his Premier League heyday. Everton paid £6 million to Southampton for his services in 2005, while Sheffield United signed him from the Toffees for £4 million in 2007. That figure remains the Blades’ transfer record to this day.
Beattie was a Scottish Premier League winner with Rangers in 2011, and played in the 2003 FA Cup final with Southampton, as Robert Pirès scored in a 1-0 win for Arsenal at the Millennium Stadium.
He kept Stanley in the Football League in his first season as a manager last season.
Ones to watch
20-year-old Accrington Stanley midfielder Josh Windass is the son of Football League legend Dean Windass. His father is perhaps most famous for his Wembley goal which won the Championship play-off final for Hull City at the expense of Bristol City, the Tigers reaching the Premier League for the first time in their history.
Defender Nicky Hunt enjoyed a lengthy tenure in the Premier League with Bolton Wanderers, where he played over one hundred times. He has since played for Birmingham, Derby, Bristol City, Preston and Rotherham.
Exeter City have won the majority of the nine fixtures between the sides, dating back to an FA Cup win for Stanley in 1927. City have won five of the last seven, though Stanley won at St James Park in March in the most recent meeting.
Exeter City wins: 5
Accrington Stanley wins: 4
Arthur Chadwick transferred from Accrington Stanley to Exeter City over a century ago, in 1908. The Lancashire-born centre-half earned two caps for England and would lend his experience to managing the Grecians on his arrival until 1922. Harold Riley is another blast from the past to have played for both: an inside-forward, Riley was a Stanley player in 1930/31 and a Grecian from 1938 until 1945, a spell heavily interrupted by the Second World War. Andy McGuigan also played for both in the early 20th century.
More recently, Matthew Whichelow was loaned to both clubs by Watford between 2011 and 2012.
Accrington Stanley 2-3, Store First Stadium, Saturday 14th December 20143
Exeter City got back to winning ways at the Crown Ground with an entertaining 3-2 win against Accrington Stanley.
City had to survive a fight-back from their hosts, who showed resilience after going three goals behind. But Exeter also showed their mettle to ensure all three points would travel back to the south.
Tom Nichols, on his first start of the season, had the Grecians 2-0 up within 11 minutes before Alan Gow added another during the first half.
Goals either side of the interval by Peter Murphy and Kal Naismith for Accrington had City on the back-foot, and Gow’s missed penalty after a foul on Nichols in the area made things look precarious. However, City showed defensive solidity and quality to see out a much-needed win.
Accrington Stanley are 66/1 outsiders to win League 2 this season with Sky Bet. Their odds of promotion are 14/1, while they are relegation favourites at 5/1.
They meet Southend United at the Crown Ground on opening day, with Stanley 15/8 to win that one. The Shrimpers are rated at 11/8, and the draw is 21/10.