Fleetwood Town 1 Accrington Stanley 4: Town qualify in Papa John's Trophy but can't halt losing run
Fleetwood suffered a first defeat in this season’s Papa John’s Trophy as two outstanding goals helped Accrington to secure top spot in Northern Group G.
Both sides had already qualified and Simon Grayson' s runners-up will discover their opponents for the last-32 stage in Saturday's Sky-televised draw.
And if the satellite broadcaster and sponsors want to help promote the tournament, they should replay Stanley’s stunning first two goals by Harry Pell and Ethan Hamilton.
They will make painful viewing for keeper Billy Crellin but even the greatest goalies wouldn’t have stopped the long-range thunderbolts.
Up to this point the competition had provided some solace for Town head coach Simon Grayson in a season of struggle, with wins over Leicester City's Under-21s and Barrow as emphatic as the 4-1 and 3-1 margins suggest.
But after five games without a win in all competitions heading into this Highbury contest, Grayson had stressed the importance of victory ahead of a 10-day break in the match schedule.
And there were encouraging signs in the opening 20 minutes as Ged Garner shot over and Ryan Edmondson’s goal-bound effort hit the back of unsuspecting keeper Toby Savin.
It was out of keeping with the previous fare when Pell cracked in a 35-yard opener for Stanley after 24 minutes.
He might have doubled his tally but Dan Batty came to Town’s rescue with a timely block.
The Cods celebrated their reprieve with a 36th-minute penalty. Chiekh Thiam’s twisting and turning proved Liam Coyle’s undoing and Garner punished the foul from the spot.
Three minutes before half-time, Accrington regained the lead with a strike arguably even more spectacular than their first.
Hamilton’s angled left-foot howitzer was still rising when it fizzed past Crellin’s despairing dive.
Stanley replaced Lewis Mansell and captain Seamus Conneely with Joel Mumbongo and Tom Scully at half-time.
There was a change too in the scoreline after 51 minutes as the visitors added a more routine third goal, crafted by Pell’s pass and volleyed in from 12 yards by Tommy Leigh.
Callum Morton, who scored first senior hat-trick in the win over Leicester, and Shayden Morris were introduced after 57 minutes to try to salvage a positive outcome for the hosts.
Instead, Accrington almost made it four. Hamilton surged through unchallenged and substitute Mumbongo’s shot pinged off the crossbar.
The woodwork rescued Town again from Leigh’s fierce drive. Respite was only temporary as the resulting corner was headed in by unmarked Michael Nottingham after 83 minutes.
Fleetwood huffed and puffed but offered little threat to avoid spending the next 10 days reflecting on four successive losses.
As group winners, Accrington will be drawn at home against a group runner-up.
Saturday's draw will again be split into northern and southern sections, with the ties to be played in the week starting November 29.
Fleetwood: Crellin, Andrew, McLaughlin, Johnson, Clark, Thiam (Morris 57), Matete, Batty, Biggins, Edmondson (Morton 57), G Garner; Subs not used: Cairns, J. Garner, Boyle, Bird, Thompson.
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