Stevenage 5-2 Swindon Town: Darren Sarll’s men all give key performances to reach promised land of FA Cup third round

PUBLISHED: 18:31 02 December 2017 | UPDATED: 15:42 06 December 2017

Alex Samuel heads in at the back post to open the scoring in the FA Cup game against Swindon Town. Picture: Amy Haughton

Alex Samuel heads in at the back post to open the scoring in the FA Cup game against Swindon Town. Picture: Amy Haughton

Amy Haughton

Stevenage chairman Phil Wallace used his programme notes to call for Boro to be more clinical – my word how Darren Sarll’s side were on Saturday afternoon as they routed Swindon Town 5-2 to reach the promised land of the FA Cup third round.

Matt Godden races through to double Stevenage's lead in the FA Cup game against Swindon Town. Picture: Amy Haughton Matt Godden races through to double Stevenage's lead in the FA Cup game against Swindon Town. Picture: Amy Haughton

In his previous programme notes Wallace called for KPI – key performance indicators to be met – well, after this glorious show by Sarll’s men the only KPI’s the owner of this ambitious club need worry about tonight are the numbers five and two.

In a superb performance bubbling with excellent pressing, movement and, yes, clinical finishing, Boro were simply too good for the stunned Robins.

The performance was the epitome of a Sarll side at its best – full of hard-work fuelled by an espirit de corps, inventiveness and entertaining football.

Yes there were lapses, and yes at 2-2 it appeared Boro could have been in trouble, but they showed another Sarll trait – mental toughness to win through – emphatically in the end,

Swindown Town fans before the FA Cup game against Stevenage. Picture: Danny Loo Swindown Town fans before the FA Cup game against Stevenage. Picture: Danny Loo

For Stevenage are into the FA Cup third round after a heroic and hugely entertaining 3-2 win over Swindon at the Lamex. Despite squandering a 2-0 lead, Boro battled back to claim victory with goals from Tom Pett and a Danny Newton double.

Boro started on the front foot from the off, with Alex Samuel leading the line with characteristic gusto. Ronnie Henry set a fine captain’s example, too, making a series of meaty challenges in his red-and-white, Boro-themed boots.

The more said about Tom Pett, the better, too: the winger was irrepressible when gliding across the turf with ball at feet. On the opposite wing, Chris Whelpdale was no less effective, providing a series of vicious crosses.

With fifteen minutes gone, and Boro winning corners galore, something had to give. The opening goalscorer couldn’t have deserved it more, either: Samuel steered home predatorily after a very, ahem, un-vigorous punch from Swindon keeper Lawrence Vigouroux.

Swindon Town manager David Flitcroft. Picture: Danny Loo Swindon Town manager David Flitcroft. Picture: Danny Loo

Suddenly, everything was Stevenage, and three minutes later they doubled their lead. Another effortless run from Pett was followed by a superb through-ball to Matty Godden, whose finish was just as effortless, passed low to Vigouroux’s left.

The Stevenage faithful were urging them to make it three, but it was Swindon who scored next. A free-kick on the edge of Boro’s box was flicked on by the imposing Amine Linganzi, and the ball hit the bar, trickling agonisingly over the line. The roar from the away fans was tentative, but once they realised it was a goal, it became full-throated – and decidedly menacing.

Another set piece brought Swindon’s equaliser, but this one really should have been dealt with. Matty Taylor drilled in a corner, which looped over Joe Fryer and straight in. The Swindon fans’ cheer was even more delayed this time, but a goal is a goal: 2-2 it was.

Boro could easily have wilted from then on, but when Tom Pett – never one to wilt under any circumstance – found himself free in the area, the result felt inevitable. He lashed home in front of the Swindon fans to make it 3-2 and end a truly breathless first period.

Swindon Town manager David Flitcroft. Picture: Danny Loo Swindon Town manager David Flitcroft. Picture: Danny Loo

The second half began more slowly, both teams aware of the game’s significance. Although battler-in-chief Alex Samuel had to go off injured after a collision, his replacement Danny Newton fought just as hard. Darren Sarll’s side weren’t giving Swindon an inch.

With the game at a critical stage, it was this season’s new hero Danny Newton who settled things down. A set piece fell to the Liverpudlian’s feet, and – much like Pett before him – he lashed the ball home with bravura. Soon after, he made it five, rounding Vigouroux to nab his brace.

Swindon substitute Luke Norris should have reduced arrears, missing a free header from point-blank range. If that chance had gone in, the last twenty minutes might have been tasty, but Stevenage saw the game out comfortably in the end.

If social media in North Herts is anything to go by on Saturday evening Sarll’s heroic men have made a lot of people happy – which is surely another key performance indicator to write home about.

Chris Whelpdale takes on a defender in the FA Cup game against Swindon Town. Picture: Danny Loo Chris Whelpdale takes on a defender in the FA Cup game against Swindon Town. Picture: Danny Loo

The hallowed third round awaits.

Stevenage 5 (Samuel 19, Godden 22, Pett 45+2, Newton 72, Netwon 77) Swindon 2 (Lanzini 32, Taylor 41)

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