Accrington Stanley manager John Coleman’s Christmas list must be very short this year: a goal and a league win.

The Reds are only outside the League Two relegation places on goal difference heading into the festive season after a 1-0 defeat to leaders Plymouth that could easily have been a morale boosting victory.

Coleman’s side did everything but score as their run of one goal in five league games was extended to one goal in six.

They arrived at the Wham Stadium on the worst run in the division, with their last seven league games winless, but that didn’t show in a first half that was at times even and at times in their favour.

A side showing five changes made chances, with Jordan Clark testing visiting keeper Luke McCormick early on from a tight angle.

Argyle were looking to return to the top after Doncaster’s win in the early kick off but they were restricted to defensive duties and counter attacks in that first period.

The breaks were the best bet for the team managed by Derek Adams, with Jordan Slew starting a move on half way after 19 minutes and getting the ball back in a shooting position but dragging his effort wide.

Stanley were to go closer before the break though, with a Rommy Boco shot against his former club blocked before Zak Vyner’s deflected follow up was taken by McCormick and then Clark met a John O’Sullivan cross but saw the keeper turn his firm strike over the bar.

There was more of the same for the Reds in the second half. Defender Yann Songo’o was close to own goal, McCormick saved from O’Sullivan and the visiting defence was put under pressure by a series of crosses as they looked to make a breakthrough.

The momentum was all with Coleman’s team but still no breakthrough. A near post header from Billy Kee flew just beyond the other post and the arriving Mark Hughes as they got closer and then closer still.

McCormick was finally beaten in the 62nd minute when an O’Sullivan cross was only cleared as far as Seamus Conneely. The captain’s shot looped up off a defender, leaving McCormick stranded, but hit the inside of the post and was pushed out by the grateful keeper.

If that moment summed up Stanley’s attack of late the next one encapsulated their defensive fortunes as the Pilgrims took the lead.

Sub Craig Tanner exchanged passes with fellow replacement David Goodwillie, burst into the box and his angled strike from the right squirmed horribly through the legs of goalkeeper Elliot Parish and into the net.

McCormick has been Stanley’s nemesis in the past and lived up to that billing as O’Sullivan looked to level a minute later, turning the drive round the post for a corner.

Buoyed by the goal the visitors then enjoyed a spell of pressure, with Paul-Arnold Garita seeing a shot cleared off the line before Tanner’s effort met a similar fate thanks to Matty Pearson.

The last ten minutes was all Stanley though as they looked to take a point that was the least they deserved.

Lady Luck’s Christmas holidays had started early though as after Clark felt he was pushed in the area he met Conneely’s pass to seemingly stroke the ball into the net – only to see it deflect, possibly off team mate Kee, straight into McCormick’s arms.

It summed up a game and a run that has seen Stanley go from promotion candidates to relegation battlers. They need some fortune for 2017 and maybe some scoring boots from Santa.