JOHN Coleman is encouraging Accrington Stanley to see where their Checkatrade Trophy journey can take them, after viewing it as a realistic road to Wembley.

The Reds twice came back from behind to beat Middlesbrough Under 21s to clinch a late 3-2 win at the Wham Stadium in their opening Northern Group B clash.

Scott Brown and Mallik Wilks cancelled out Boro’s goals, before Liam Nolan sealed it in stoppage time.

Having changed all 10 outfield players following the weekend League Two win at Chesterfield, handing debuts to Erico Sousa and Callum Johnson, Coleman noted that his squad's strength in depth was on show.

And he is looking at marrying promotion hopes with a chance at the Checkatrade.

“This is a realistic cup you can win,” said Coleman.

“We are unlikely to win the FA Cup or the League Cup but this is a cup that we are capable of winning, so we will give it a good go.

“I would like to progress through the group and see where it takes us.

“I’m delighted with the win and over the whole game I thought we played really well.

“We were absolutely devastated when they went 2-1 up because you couldn’t see it coming. You could only see one winner or one goal going in.

“To come back from 1-0 down and 2-1 down shows a bit of character from the lads and a bit of determination.

“And it was a good football match, with some smashing football played and some great chances, and the lads who played showed a smashing appetite.”

While Boro fielded a young team, only two of Stanley’s players were aged over 23, and Coleman added: “I thought Callum had a smashing game, he tired a little bit towards the end but he hasn’t played a lot of football.

“I think we saw the quality of Tyler (Forbes) and I think he is going to be a big plus for us - as a few of them are going to be.

“I just wish Jonny (Edwards) had got the goal his performance deserved because he worked himself into the ground. His overall play was good and his aerial challenges were good. He has got on the end of things, he is just unfortunate he couldn’t hit the net.

"But it will do his confidence good that he has played well."

Coleman was also pleased with the contributions of wingers Sousa and Mekhi McLeod.

"Erico was a lively threat all night," he continued.

"Mekhi is going to be one of those who will frustrate the life out of you one minute and delight you the next.

"Sometimes you need players like that who have got that bit of special magic who can go by people - pace and power and a little trick here and there.

"It's nice for Mallik to get a goal as well."

Midfielder Brown, who scored Stanley's first goal, was one of the two most senior players, and Coleman felt his experience shone through.

"Time and time again he popped up in the right place at the right time, winning balls, spraying balls around and it was a smashing goal he scored as well," said the Reds boss.

"I'm pleased for Scotty.

"He is unfortunate Liam has been playing so well but he doesn't let his head drop. I know he is frustrated at not playing but he has worked hard and he has got himself into good shape.

"It shows how strong we are in depth for the players we can bring in."

Despite reduced ticket prices, less than 600 fans watched the game.

But with the next group game at home to Blackpool next month, followed by a trip to Wigan Athletic in November, Coleman is hoping Stanley's ambition for the competition, and level of performance put in by his players, will encourage more fans to get behind their Checkatrade Trophy charge.

"The ones who didn't come have missed a smashing game of football," said the Reds chief.

"It's a chance to put eyes on lads who haven't played a lot of games this season.

"My message is come and watch us and see what you think."