By Tony Leighton
Accrington Stanley captain Luke Joyce's baby daughter Eva has been learning some new facial expressions from her daddy in recent weeks.
After an early season filled with dreadful results, the League 2 team have hit form in a fine run that has taken them off the bottom of the table and Joyce told football-league.co.uk: "It's been lovely to come home with a smile on my face!
"Eva was born on August 15th and she's doing really well - if my football team had done as well over the last three months we'd be much higher in the table, but we've had an upturn in the last few weeks and things are looking much better."
Things are indeed looking better for Accrington, who collected a miniscule one point from their first eight games but in the last seven have won twice and drawn four times to finally move out of bottom spot last Saturday.
Midfielder Joyce, in his fifth campaign at the Crown Ground, said: "It was the toughest start to a season that we've had since I've been at the club.
"We had a great start last season - after 10 games we were in the Play-Off places - and after then finishing the season well we thought we'd keep the momentum going to give ourselves another good start this year.
"For whatever reason it didn't happen, and although we deserved more than we got early on it was depressing at times and as captain I was really hurting."
Rookie boss James Beattie, the former England striker who is in his first season of management, must also have been hurting as his team went worryingly from one defeat to the next - eight in succession in all competitions at one stage.
But Stanley have recovered so well that Beattie - still registered as a player - is one of the nominees for October's Sky Bet League 2 Manager of the Month award.
Joyce, at 26 nine years younger than Beattie, added: "James has been doing great, especially when you consider he's gone straight from playing into management without any experience as a full-time coach or assistant manager.
"Despite the results we were getting earlier in the season he stayed absolutely positive, stuck to his footballing philosophy and now the results are coming.
"It was great to see him nominated for Manager of the Month and, even if he doesn't get the award, the acknowledgment of his efforts should give him a good boost and hopefully lead to more nominations in the future."
Former Carlisle United player Joyce is also hoping that the future will bring more positive results to speed Accrington away from the League 2 relegation zone.
"The belief throughout the squad has been growing over these last seven games," he said. "We're scoring more goals, defending well too and although it sounds crazy we're just 13 points off the Play-Off places with 31 games left.
"So we're definitely looking upwards and there's plenty to play for." And hopefully plenty more wide Luke Joyce grins for little Eva.
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