Date: 22nd August 2010 at 12:08pm
Written by: MancBoroFan

With a comfortable yet entertaining performance, Stevenage FC earned their first ever football league win (and their first win under their new name) beating Stockport County 3-1. Whilst the performance was not spectacular, there were good displays all over the pitch, and once the first goal went in, the result was never really in doubt. So early in the season it is difficult to read too much into the opposition, but Stockport were unbeaten from a tough opening two fixtures, and by their own fans’ admission were outplayed today.

The crowd was down from the first two matches at the Lamex, with just over 2700 in attendance, including a fairly sizeable contingent from Stockport [343], considering the distance and their recent fortunes. The Stevenage fans tried to create a good atmosphere, with Ashley Bayes once again acting as head cheerleader.

There were just two changes from the narrow defeat at Bradford, with Joel Byrom relegated to the bench, replaced by the returning Jon Ashton, and Yemi Odubade, presumably injured, being replaced by debutant Darius Charles. To accommodate these changes, Michael Bostwick was moved into the centre of midfield, and Scott Laird was pushed forward to the left wing, allowing Darius Charles to take his place at left back.

In the opening stages, neither side was able to take control. Boro’s first effort came in the shape of a long range effort from Bostwick, which was saved comfortably by Stockport ‘keeper Owain Fon Williams.

Stockport responded with an effort of their own, Greg Tansey’s free kick being deflected wide by Chris Beardsley in the wall, after Mark Roberts had been harshly adjudged to have fouled Barry Conlon.

From this point, Stevenage began to take control. They earned five corners, and a number of well placed free kicks in the next quarter of an hour spell. Rather than simply putting the ball into the box, Boro refreshingly seemed to have a number of ideas from these set pieces. Ashton twice managed to get to the ball at the front post, the first time having his shot deflected wide, and then getting a good flick on, forcing a defender to head behind. Laird also had a half chance, but he dragged his volley wide.

There was still the occasional threat from Stockport. A good cross from the right looked as though it would find George Donnelly, but he couldn’t quite reach the ball, and Ashton was able to clear behind.

Just before the half hour, Stevenage took the lead. A hopeful cross from deep by Ronnie Henry found Charlie Griffin at the back post. It looked from this position like there was not enough power on the cross, and that he was too far out, but Griffin managed to loop his header perfectly over Fon Williams.

Griffin almost had the chance to add his and Boro’s seconds minutes later. Robbie Sinclair provided a wonderful cross, and just as it looked as though Griffin would tap in, Mansour Assoumani stretched to make the clearance.

Stockport attempted to hit back right away. A rare moment of indecision between Henry and Ashton allowed Conlon to head back into the path of David Poole, but the midfielder caught his volley terribly and it failed even to go out for a goal kick. Another dangerous looking move was ended by a superb sliding tackle by Charles, who had a very good debut.

John Mousinho was booked minutes later for a slightly rash challenge, although the booking was maybe a little harsh, his second yellow card in two games.

Minutes before the break, Boro doubled their lead. Another Sinclair cross was headed away by Assoumani, and Bostwick fired a screamer from 25 yards out that flew into the top corner, a stunning goal that even the BBC Live Text labelled as “Brilliant”. Bostwick’s shooting ability has become an important asset, and this goal was very similar to his effort against Portsmouth that was superbly saved by Jamie Ashdown.

The second half started slowly as Stevenage sat back a little on their lead for a spell. However, it was very nearly three as Chris Beardsley’s header from a Laird corner was cleared off the line by Adam Griffin. This led to another spell of Boro pressure where they seemed able to recycle the ball very well, leading to numerous crossing and shooting opportunities, but ultimately no reward.

Stockport’s best spell in the game followed, and they managed to expose Boro’s weakness at defending set pieces twice in a couple of minutes. First a free kick was whipped in from the right and Assoumani’s flicked header bounced off Day’s right hand post. Minutes later a corner from the left was headed just wide, again by Assoumani.

However, signalling an end to this spell, Stevenage did manage to make it 3-0. Sinclair set up Beardsley whose scuffed shot fell into the path of Griffin who had the simple task of tapping in from a few yards out. His second goal of the game and third league goal in three league games.

At this point Boro relaxed and started to play some wonderful passing football. Beardsley crossed for Griffin, but he didn’t expect the ball to get to him and it bounced off him to safety. A wonderful move down the Boro right resulted in Henry crossing for Laird to tap in, but the offside flag was up against Henry.

For the last ten minutes of the game, Boro seemed to take their foot off the pedal. Peter Winn came on to replace Charles and then trialist Njazi Kuqi replaced Griffin. Kuqi seemed to be very keen to get involved, his first touch was a glorious cross field ball to Beardsley, but due to the situation of the game it was hard for him to make too much of an impression. Beardsley had another good effort saved by Fon Williams, but he didn’t manage the goal his energetic performance warranted, and was replaced for the last two minutes by Lawrie Wilson.

Deep into stoppage time, Stockport managed a consolation goal, as a cross from the right found Donnelly, who managed to glance a header across Day into the far corner. Whilst it was never going to affect the result, it was a pity as a clean sheet would have been welcomed, especially after not managing one in the first three games.

Whilst there is still plenty of room for improvement, there were a number of positive signs from the performance. Chris Day did everything asked of him, being quick off his line, and taking a number of crosses, whilst the defence looked a lot more solid with the return of Jon Ashton and the inclusion of Darius Charles. The midfield partnership of Mousinho and Bostwick controlled the game from start to finish, with Bostwick yet again proving that he can play at a much higher level. Sinclair linked the play between midfield and the forwards well with an extremely busy performance, always seeming to want the ball, and the forwards both worked extremely hard. Some of the interchanges, particularly between Mousinho and Laird on the left, and Beardsley and Henry on the right, were both very clever, and very easy on the eye.

After good performances with no reward against Portsmouth and Bradford, it was a relief that the three points were secured, and Boro had their first win as a football league club. Aldershot away will be a very tough fixture, but if Boro can stay as solid as they were today, and continue to improve on their attacking display, there is no reason why it should not be winnable.