Luke Joyce’s early penalty maintained John Coleman’s 100% record since returning as Accrington boss, making it three wins in a row with a 1-0 victory at Mansfield Town.
The skipper converted from 12 yards after Marcus Carver was felled by home goalkeeper Sasha Studer and, despite missing a number of chances to extend the lead, the Reds defence held firm for a second successive clean sheet to claim all three points.
The manager made one change from the 1-0 home win over Plymouth last weekend as Marcus Carver replaced Josh Windass. Returning hero Lee Molyneux had to settle for a place on the bench after rejoining the club on loan from Crewe earlier in the week.
It was Carver who had a couple of early opportunities, seeing a shot blocked before rolling another wide of the post after being played in behind the home defence by an intelligent pass from Sean Maguire.
Maguire was causing all sorts of problems for the Stags and he slipped Naismith away down the left wing but the shot from last weekend’s matchwinner was saved by the feet of Sasha Studer in the home goal.
Carver’s industry was invaluable for Stanley and led to the opening goal. The striker chased what appeared to be a lost cause but beat the goalkeeper to the ball and was upended, leaving referee Scott Mathieson with no choice but to point to the spot.
Skipper Luke Joyce took responsibility for the penalty and slammed it beyond Studer for his second goal of the season to give the Reds the lead.
Maguire, having been provider for chances earlier on in the half, had a hat-trick of efforts on goal but the first was wide, the second held by Studer and the third saved by the legs of the goalkeeper after superb work from Naismith to get the better of Lee Beevers.
Mansfield’s first real attack of the half saw Matt Rhead’s tame effort from the edge of the area roll comfortably into Adam Chapman’s arms.
Shortly afterwards, Beevers burst into the Stanley area but John O’Sullivan’s challenge was enough to put the full back off and his shot skewed wide of the target in the final goalmouth action of the half.
The Stags came out after the break with an intensity that put Stanley on the back foot and Rakish Bingham rifled over from six yards out to fire a warning shot.
On the hour mark, Molyneux made his third Stanley debut, replacing the hard-working Carver with Maguire moving into the role of lone striker in Coleman’s preferred 4-2-3-1 system.
The efficiency of Stanley’s defending meant that the home side were being forced to take shots from range as Bingham curled over from 25 yards before Fergus Bell’s effort was deflected to Chapman.
Rob Atkinson deflected an Ollie Palmer effort wide from five yards out before the hosts were reduced to ten men. Atkinson was guiding the ball out of play when Mansfield captain Adam Murray slid in from behind on the centre back. Referee Mathieson deemed it to be serious foul play and brandished a red card to the midfielder.
Stanley were living dangerously despite the one-man advantage and were grateful to Tom Aldred for clearing the ball amidst a goalmouth scramble before substitute Josh Windass found space on the edge of the area following a smart turn at the other end but his shot was wild and flew over the bar.
Atkinson was again involved in the thick of the action, this time seeing a header from a corner cleared off the line by a combination of goalkeeper and defender as the clock ticked into five minutes of added time.
A late free-kick gave Mansfield a chance to grab a late leveler but Bell’s effort from 30 yards cleared the crossbar as Stanley claimed another valuable three points.
Stanley: Chapman; Hunt, Aldred, Atkinson, Winnard; Joyce, Procter; O’Sullivan, Maguire, Naismith (Windass 72); Carver (Molyneux 60).
Subs: Simpson, McCartan, Hatfield, Mingoia, Bowerman.
Attendance: 2,699 (125 away)