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First Team

Feature: There may be a chance for any one of our squad to be that hero


AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

It’s all square in the second leg of a play-off semi-final and the clock is ticking deep into injury time.

Your team needs someone with a cool head to come up trumps and be a hero.

Step forward, Jack Stacey.

Four years ago, Stacey wrote his own Roy of the Rovers chapter in Exeter City folklore during a loan spell from Reading.

With their League Two shootout against Carlisle locked at 5-5 on aggregate and heading towards extra-time, Stacey’s wondrous effort sent the St James Park faithful into raptures.

His first goal for the Grecians, a stunning strike from 25 yards, came in the fifth minute of added time and set up a Wembley final against Blackpool.

And although Stacey featured as Paul Tisdale’s team lost out 2-1 to the Tangerines, his exploits are still fondly remembered by supporters of the Devon club.

In an interview with afcb.co.uk, Stacey said: “The game was played on May 18th and, four years later, I had a few Exeter fans remind me on Twitter.

“It was an amazing night and the fact people still remember the occasion just goes to show how big the play-offs are.

“The first leg at Carlisle had finished 3-3 and we were 2-0 up in the second leg before they got it back to 2-2 with a goal in the 90th minute.

“It was our last attack, my legs were going a bit and I didn’t fancy extra-time. I popped up on the edge of the area and still can’t really explain why I was there.

“But everything came together at the right time and it’s a goal and an occasion that I will never forget.”

Stacey will be hoping the Cherries can avoid any drama in the second leg of their Championship play-off semi-final against Brentford following their 1-0 win over the Bees on Monday.

The defender replaced Ben Pearson 18 minutes from time at Vitality Stadium and after Arnaut Danjuma had bagged the only goal early in the second half.

He added: “It remains to be seen and you never know what’s going to happen.

"There may be a chance for any one of our squad to be that hero. Things like that go down in club history and are remembered forever.

“My goal didn’t get Exeter promoted so that was definitely a downer. We can only focus on the semi-final and if someone does that on Saturday, I would be just as happy.

“We lost in the final that season but I went on to get back-to-back promotions with Luton the following two years.

“I’ve got that experience and we’ve got other players in the squad with promotion experience so that can be vital going into Saturday’s game.

“The first leg was a really good footballing game between two good teams. I felt we edged it in terms of chances created in the first half and then got the goal in the second.

“To be honest, there wasn’t a lot between the teams and it was a really good advert for the Championship.

“When you’re on the bench, you kick every ball and it’s not as enjoyable as when you’re playing.

“When you get on, you just want to help the team. We needed to see out the game and see if we could nick another goal which we weren’t able to do.

“But it’s good we have a slight advantage going into the second leg, although that’s all it is – a slight advantage.”

Stacey netted the first goal of the season in the Cherries’ 3-2 win against Blackburn in September and went on to make 18 starts and 12 substitute appearances as they finished sixth in the Championship.

He said: “It seems a long time since the start of the season and that probably shows just how gruelling the Championship fixture list is.

“I had a few injuries that stunted my progress this season so I would change that but, as a team, you can’t look back and try to change anything.

“We can make the situation we’re in a real positive and that’s the only thing we can look towards. “We had a few negative spells of results during the season and also some really positive ones.

“I think we’ve shown that we can compete with pretty much every team in this division when we’re at our best so it’s up to us to show that for the remainder of the season.

“From the start of the season, everybody connected with the club knew our goal was to get promoted.

“We’re at the business end now and I’ve seen before the difference it can make to careers and how clubs can be defined by promotion. It’s up to us as players to pretty much define the future of Bournemouth.”

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