Accrington Stanley have delayed a decision over their new manager – despite coming close to appointing Paul Cook as boss.

Stanley initially told caretaker manager Leam Richardson that the job was his if he continued to impress, with the club keen to take their time over an appointment and stressing they had only asked to speak to Cook as they assessed back-up options.

But that stance changed following talks with Cook, with the Reds aware they had to act swiftly if they wanted to appoint their former player-coach.

Cook is currently in charge of Irish side Sligo, who have been keen for a quick decision over their manager’s future. The League of Ireland season starts on March 2.

Stanley agreed compensation with Sligo as they discussed personal terms with the ex-Burnley midfielder, with Richardson then looking likely to be asked to join the 44-year-old’s backroom staff.

As recently as lunchtime today Cook’s agent Gordon Armstrong was hopeful of a deal being struck within days but Stanley sources later indicated the club had decided to cool their interest, even if a revival of the move cannot be completely ruled out.

The Reds released a statement, which made no mention of Cook but said: “A board meeting is scheduled for early next week when the situation will be reviewed, but no decision is expected for some time.”

Support for Richardson among board members has always given the Reds another option, and the club have now intimated the caretaker is in pole position for the job once more.

A Sligo statement said: “Paul Cook is expected to return to Sligo this weekend after talks between Paul and Accrington Stanley concluded unsuccessfully.”

Meanwhile, Richardson today re-signed midfielder Will Hatfield on a deal until the end of the season.

Hatfield spent a period on loan at Stanley earlier in the campaign and recently returned to training with the club, having been released by Leeds in January.