Liam Osborne, Sports reporter
Monday, May 14, 2012
Chris Porter’s goal denies Boro place in play-off final
STEVENAGE’S dream of a third straight promotion was taken away in the cruellest of fashions as Chris Porter’s 84th-minute winner earned Sheffield United a place in the League 1 play-off final at Wembley.
It was a thoroughly disappointing way to end the season for Gary Smith’s side after doing so well to earn sixth place in their maiden season in the third tier. However they can have little complaint of this result as they were outplayed for large spells at a raucous Bramall Lane.
Boro created a few good chances on the night, but Danny Wilson’s side ultimately showed their undoubted quality and did enough to book their place in the final.
Boro started the match nervously and struggled to get hold of the ball against a United side that looked bright from the first whistle, but their only real chance of an uninspired first half came in the seventh minute. A cross from the left was miscontrolled by Lee Williamson into the path of Porter, but the striker’s header from six yards was superbly tipped behind by Chris Day.
The remainder of the half followed the same repetitive pattern of United dominating possession without creating chances, and Stevenage generally chasing shadows and losing the ball whenever it came their way.
United looked a yard sharper than Boro all over the pitch and as a result Smith’s side rarely got near the Blades penalty area. The final chance of the half arrived at the feet of Williamson, but his effort from 25 yards that ended up in the stand summed up a poor 45 minutes of football.
The second period picked up where the first left off, except United looked far more threatening in attack. Substitute Ryan Flynn looked dangerous straight away and he was first to come close to breaking the deadlock three minutes after the restart. Williamson was afforded too much space on the right-hand side of the box and his low cross fell to Flynn whose shot was bravely blocked by Lawrie Wilson when a goal looked certain.
Williamson was next to come close eight minutes later, as United turned the screw, but his first time shot from Porter’s cross whistled narrowly wide of Day’s post with the keeper beaten. Flynn was next to come close a minute later with 25 yard effort that flew just wide, and it appeared only a matter of time before the opening goal would arrive.
Smith wasn’t prepared to wait and find out, though, and introduced some much-needed physical presence with the introduction of Chris Beardsley and John Mousinho.
Boro created their best opening just before the hour mark after good work from Luke Freeman and Scott Laird on the left hand side. The left back released Freeman with a cute ball inside but after doing so well to manufacture space inside the box, the former Arsenal man’s right-footed shot was easily saved by Steve Simonsen.
United continued to dominate possession, but Boro forged another good chance with 10 minutes remaining. Freeman battled forward superbly through the middle of the park, despite being pulled back by Michael Doyle, and his shot was well blocked by Neill Collins. However the effort rebounded to Laird 25 yards out and it needed a fingertip save from Simonsen to divert his powerful drive over the crossbar.
But despite the odd foray into the final third, Boro continually struggled to mount any sustained periods of pressure.
The winning goal arrived with just six minutes remaining. Boro were left short on numbers at the back, and Matt Lowton’s sumptuous cross from the right picked out Porter at the far post and his downward header from four yards out gave Day no chance.
Smith put Roberts up front for the remaining minutes, as well as introducing Craig Reid, but it proved too little too late for Boro who were unable to claw their way back into the match.
It has to be said a couple of thousand of home supporters let themselves down after the final whistle by running over to taunt the Boro supporters, as well as abusing the players who made their way off the pitch.
This was a thoroughly disappointing end to what has been a fantastic season for Boro, but over the course of the two legs they can have no complaints they failed to make it to Wembley.
Sheffield United (4-4-2): Simonsen; Lowton, Collins, Maguire, Hill; McDonald (Montgomery 45), Williamson, Flynn, Doyle; Quinn; Porter.
Subs not used: Howard, Taylor, McAllister, O’Halloran.
Stevenage (4-4-1-1): Day; Lascelles, Roberts (c), Ashton, Laird; Wilson, Bostwick, Byrom (Reid 85), Freeman; Shroot; Agyemang (Beardsley 62).
Subs not used: Julian, Charles.