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Monday, 30 January 2012

The View Outside The Premier League: The Onward March of Crawley Town And Accrington's New Era


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Sqf hugh larkin

This weekend saw a mixed programme with a virtually full fixture list in League Two and reduced numbers for the Championship and League One as clubs tried to reach the Fifth Round of the FA Cup. In the cup the standout result was Crawley's win at Hull City.

Steve Evans's side reached the last 16 last year as a non-league outfit and have glided smoothly through the draw again as a League club. Hull were just the latest side to find out about the standard being delivered by the Sussex newcomers.

Inevitably, Matt Tubbs registered the winning goal - his 18th of a productive campaign. He's the star man but Crawley have quality in all positions and it seems only a run of injuries (or maybe a lengthy cup run) can prevent them following Stevenage in winning back to back promotions from Blue Square To League One.

The cash Crawley had to throw at the job didn't win them many friends in non-league and Evans is an abrasive presence, albeit a serially successful manager in lower league football. Many haven't forgotten what happened at Boston United just after the Millennium but Evans gives the impression of being impressively thick-skinned. He can certainly motivate players and set up a team to play good football.

The most worrying thing about Crawley - for their opponents - is the matter-of-fact way that they have achieved success over the past two years. No-one at the club appears surprised to be where they are, or fazed by the challenges ahead. Stoke will not relish their visit to Crawley in the next round.

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Accrington Stanley went into a game without John Coleman's guidance for the first time in 12 years. The Merseysider took over the reins at the Hyndburn club way back on May 1, 1999, and in the process led them into the Football League from the Unibond League, playing some excellent passing football.

With the low crowds at Stanley, it's been a struggle just staying in League Two but Coleman and assistant Jimmy Bell have left for Rochdale with the club in a reasonable position, just below the play-off berths. Long-serving player Leam Richardson has been appointed as interim boss and the players responded strongly to see off Gillingham 4-3 in a seven-goal thriller.

Coleman's tenure is an astonishingly long one in modern football. At the time he departed, only Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger had been at their clubs longer in English senior football. As a player he was a regular on the North-West non-league circuit and he and Bell have extensive contacts in the game.

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While most the Championship clubs were either in cup action or sitting the weekend out, Portsmouth were able to notch an immensely valuable three points on the road at Peterborough. This was a good time to play a Posh side lacking in confidence but there's no doubt that Michael Appleton has stabilised the club amid more turmoil off the field.

A nine-point cushion has now opened to the relegation places and with Norwegian forward Erik Huseklepp starting to show why Portsmouth went in for him over the summer, Pompey look on course to maintain Championship status.

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Chesterfield clambered off the bottom of League One by beating Bournemouth at home. The win followed up their victory at Colchester which was the Spireites first three pointer since September. Having Jack Lester available again is critical to any chance of survival but after a miserable season its still a long haul to safety.

Lester got the first at Colchester but the winner against the Cherries came from a very unlikely source. On loan defender Liam Ridehalgh bagged his first goal in senior football in just his fourth game for the club. He's never hit the target as a Huddersfield Town player, or at Swindon on a previous loan.

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Hugh Larkin

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