Cameron Jerome scored his first goal for the Whites as Wanderers booked their place in the quarter-finals of the Bristol Street Motors Trophy, writes Pete Oliver.
Jerome set the holders on their way to a repeat of last season’s semi-final victory at the Wham Stadium as Ian Evatt’s men kept alive their hopes of a return to Wembley.
Aaron Morley’s penalty and a superb late strike from Kyle Dempsey then completed the victory as Wanderers stretched their unbeaten run to six games to maintain their interest in three competitions.
A goal from Alex Henderson eight minutes before half-time to make it 2-1 at the break ensured it wasn’t an entirely straight-forward night for the Whites as League Two Stanley kept alive their hopes of an upset.
But Wanderers ultimately had enough in hand to make their superiority pay as they look to become the first club in the competition’s history to retain the trophy.
With so many games to play and a promotion push to try and sustain in League One, Evatt made seven changes to the side that had started Sunday’s draw at Luton Town to earn a third-round FA Cup replay next week.
Jerome and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson were paired together in attack for the first time and it was their combination – a constant threat to the Reds – that led to the opening goal after 15 minutes.
Bodvarsson’s flick was collected by Jerome and with Stanley keeper Joe Walsh stranded off his line, the 37-year-old frontman coolly lofted the ball over him and into the net to claim his first goal since October, 2022 and make Wanderers the 10th club he has scored for in a prodigious career.
The experienced duo had too much know-how for a young Reds’ back line and Bodvarsson was involved again as Wanderers doubled their lead.
His clever pass to Dempsey was ferried into the path of Paris Maghoma and when Maghoma was tripped in the box by Stanley skipper Seamus Conneely, Morley stepped up to convert the spot-kick with half an hour gone.
It looked like being a comfortable passage through at that stage but when Henderson robbed Maghoma and curled a fine long-range effort around Joel Coleman it was suddenly game on again.
Wanderers responded impressively with a dominant spell either side of half-time as they looked to re-assert control on a tricky tie played at a high tempo in bitterly cold conditions.
Dempsey and Bodvarsson had chances before the break and Will Forrester one just after the re-start.
But with several promising openings not leading to a third goal, Accrington weren’t quite out of the hunt.
Coleman had to save smartly from Jack Nolan, who also missed another opportunity, and so Dempsey’s stunning strike for Wanderers seven minutes from time was a welcome sight.
Cutting in from the left flank, the midfielder shifted the ball onto his right foot and steered a beauty across Walsh and into the far corner to delight over 2,300 travelling fans and have them dreaming of Wembley again.
Wanderers: Coleman; Forrester, Toal, Iredale; Morley; Matheson, Maghoma (Sheehan 72), Dempsey, Ashworth; Bodvarsson, Jerome (Adeboyejo 72). Substitutes: Baxter, Almeida Santos, Charles, Dacres-Cogley, Williams.
Accrington Stanley: Walsh; O’Brien, Gubbins, Nolan, Shipley; Conneely (McConville 81), Martin; Nolan, Pritchard, Henderson; Woods. Substitutes: McIntyre, Mellor, Quirk, Pickles, Adekoya, Trickett.
Booked: Marton, Woods, O’Brien, Hills
Referee: Bobby Madley