Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Report and PHOTOS from tonight’s Sky Bet League 1 match
Francois Zoko’s fine individual goal gave Stevenage a vital win at home to Crewe Alexandra this evening.
Boro went into the match nine points behind their opponents, who were the side placed just outside the relegation zone, and defeat here could have meant the end of Stevenage’s participation in League 1 after just three seasons.
Yet Zoko’s goal, and a first clean sheet in seven matches, has given Graham Westley’s side a lifeline, and the fans some belief that maybe, just maybe, they can turn this around and stay up.
Boro gave debuts to both Bira Dembele and Curtis Obeng in defence, while Michael Doughty also returned to the side in midfield.
Lucas Akins, who picked up a hip injury at the weekend, started on the bench as did Luke Jones while there was no place in the squad for either Simon Heslop or Craig Reid.
Bradford City boss Phil Parkinson was in the crowd on a scouting mission ahead of Boro’s trip to Valley Parade this weekend, and he will have seen his side’s next opponents take the lead with just five minutes on the clock.
Francois Zoko received a pass on the edge of the area and took a touch to control it before his second sent him past a defender and his third was struck past Neil Etheridge in the Crewe goal for 1-0.
The visitors struggled to build play through midfield for the first 20 minutes with their two central midfielders, one of whom was Anthony Grant, sitting deep to halt Boro’s counter-attacks.
In Stevenage’s midfield Jimmy Smith was pulling the strings with a measured display, and with 25 minutes on the clock he made a burst forward into the Crewe box but was unable to divert a long Dembele pass past Neil Etheridge.
Chuks Aneke then went close with a header, which he nodded the wrong side of the post, before the same player headed at goal on 42 minutes only for Chris Day to catch it before the ball slipped away and on to the cross bar and then back into his hands as he made it safe at the second attempt.
Stevenage started the second half on the front foot, and when Doughty moved into the final third with defenders backing off him his low shot to Etheridge’s left was saved with strong hands by the Crewe goalkeeper.
The visitors had been relying on balls in from the right for the most of the game, and when Byron Moore put in another cross from that part of the pitch Mathias Pogba, brother of former Manchester United and current Juventus midfielder Paul, backtracked before heading on to the top of the goal.
Zoko went close when he struck a sweet shot just wide of goal after Doughty had set him up, while at the other end Pogba’s turn and strike was deflected over by a Boro defender’s leg.
With 23 minutes to go Boro took off left-back Peter Hartley and brought on Akins, with the substitute partnering Zoko up top and Darius Charles moving into defence.
Freeman began to drop a little deeper to help Charles keep an eye on Moore, but Crewe began to create a few half chances as they pushed more bodies forward.
Firstly there were a shot blazed over Boro’s bar, and then Mark Ellis rose the highest at a corner and flicked his head at the ball only to send it flying over.
And yet for all of their wing play the visitors rarely tested Day in the home goal, meaning that when the final whistle went it was Stevenage who had pocketed all of the points.
Stevenage: Day, Obeng, Hartley (Akins 68), Ashton, Dembele, Parratt (Morais 53), Doughty (Wedgbury 77), Freeman, Charles, Zoko. Subs: Arnold, Jones, Burrow, Deacon.
Crewe: Etheridge, Tootle, Davis, Ellis, Moore (Waters 83), Inman, Guthrie, Nolan, Aneke, Grant (Oliver 90), Pogba. Subs: Garratt, Mellow, Dugdale.
Ref: Darren Sheldrake