By Tony Leighton
As captain and the only ever-present in Accrington Stanley's npower League 2 team this season, midfielder Luke Joyce is feeling the pain as much as any of the club's supporters at the lowly position in the table that Stanley are currently occupying following their fine start to the campaign.
Five wins and only two defeats in their first nine outings saw the Joyce-led team sitting fourth in the table at the start of October, but victories have been few and far between since then and they are now just three places and two points above the relegation zone after taking only five points from the last 33 on offer.
Former Wigan Athletic and Carlisle United player Joyce, who joined Accrington in 2009 and helped them reach the 2011 League 2 Play-Offs, told football-league.co.uk: "We started the season really well, playing some excellent football and entertaining the fans and picking up a good number of points.
"We beat top teams like Port Vale, Southend United and Cheltenham Town, and even since results started to tail off we've beaten Fleetwood Town and Chesterfield, so we've shown that we can compete with the sides that are up at the top end of the table and challenging for automatic promotion or the Play-Offs.
"I feel that we really ought to be in the top half of the table ourselves and that makes it even more frustrating that we've fallen away. As captain it hurts that bit more, but after being at the club for a few seasons now I'm proud to wear the armband and I'll do everything I can to get us moving back up the table."
Manager Leam Richardson, who took charge following the departure of previous boss Paul Cook to Chesterfield, was a team-mate of Joyce's in that 2010/11 team that under John Coleman reached the Play-Offs. Now Richardson is battling to guide the 2012/13 side to safety with the full backing of the players.
"Leam's fairly new to management," pointed out Joyce, "but he's been caretaker a couple of times and after picking up bits from John and Paul, then adding in his own ideas, he's settling into the job and getting us playing decent football but unfortunately at the moment not with the results we want and often deserve.
"This league is ruthless and right now we're feeling that, but you can't feel sorry for yourselves. We've got quite a young team, but the manager's just brought some more experienced players to the club and with them added to the quality and ability we've already got I believe we can start moving in the right direction."
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