When it mattered the most, Stevenage failed to produce the goods in a result that leaves them teetering on the edge of relegation

The Comet: Filipe Morais of Stevenage is sent off. Photo: Harry HubbardFilipe Morais of Stevenage is sent off. Photo: Harry Hubbard (Image: Archant)

Sky Bet League 1

Graham Westley said before his side’s vital match with Colchester United this afternoon that this was a ‘must-win’ game.

Yet, not only did they not win – a defeat that made it eight games with a victory for the club – but based on this performance it is difficult to see where another three points will come from this season.

After going ahead on 11 minutes, Stevenage conceded goals either side of the interval and then let in a third with just under 20 minutes to go.

Yet for a team fighting for their League 1 lives, they failed to have a shot of any note for the first 35 minutes of the second period, only coming to life when 3-1 down with 10 minutes to go when it was much too late to change the outcome.

That late goal came from a Luke Freeman free-kick when he reduced the deficit to one goal, but Boro had Chris Day to thank for it not being far worse with the goalkeeper making a number of important saves in a second half.

Captain Jon Ashton was missing with a foot injury, and so his position in the starting XI was taken by Tom Flanagan who put in a decent performance given the circumstances in which the on-loan MK Dons man’s first start for the club came.

To be fair to Stevenage, they played reasonably well in the first 30 minutes during which time Doughty scored the opener.

Roaming 30 yards from goal, the midfielder ran on to a pass from Lucas Akins with his first touch tapping the ball past David Wright, before his second pushed the ball into the area and his third saw him strike past Sam Walker and into the net.

That was Boro’s only shot on target in the first half, and their opponents also scored with their only effort on goal a minute before the break.

It was a fine finish from Freddie Sears, a player who played well in the first half and then took control of the match in the second, but it was avoidable as Stevenage failed to close down the cross from the right before Obeng’s header landed near Sears 12 yards out and the striker flicked a foot at the ball to direct it in.

In his programme notes Westley had said that this has been a ‘dreadful’ season, while adding, “I am a serious person, here to win, not a clown and I do not like being surrounded by clowns”, as he referred to circumstances at the club earlier in the season.”

And yet the second goal from Colchester, just three minutes after the break, had something of a circus element to it.

When a corner was played short and a cross came in from the right Smith and Chris Day got into a muddle with the ball bouncing off a player and tapping the post before Jabo Ibehre poked home to put his side ahead.

Not pleased with a second the visitors pushed on, and Sears firstly forced a block out of Flanagan before the same player tested Day with a low drive that the keeper got behind.

Boro made a change with Filipe Morais coming on for Conor Henderson while Freeman pushed further up the left, but the winger was left chasing shadows when Colchester broke soon afterwards with Sears forcing Day into yet another save.

It came as no surprise when the U’s scored a third, and unsurprisingly it was Sears who got it with a low drive through the legs of Bira Dembele and past Day into the far corner.

It took 10 minutes until full-time for Stevenage to have their first chance of the second half, a deflected effort from Freeman that Walker saved.

Stevenage’s shots were like buses though, as after waiting 35 minutes for one a second soon followed with Freeman testing Walker from 20 yards.

The same player, at this point Boro’s most dangerous, then made it third time lucky when he curled in an 89th minute free-kick to reduce to deficit by one.

One, though, was enough, and to add insult to injury Morais was sent off following an altercation with Clinton Morrison late in the half as Boro finished the match with 10 men and no points. It is a result that leaves them four points from safety with just four games remaining.

Stevenage: Day, Freeman, Obeng, Flanagan, Dembele, Smith, Doughty (Heslop 74), Mousinho, Henderson (Morais 59), Akins (Burrow 70), Zoko. Subs: Goodliffe, Ashton, N’Guessan, Hartley.

Colchester: Walker, Wright (Olufemi 46), Okuonghae, Watt, Sears (Morrison 85), Bean, Wynter, Ibehre, Eastman, Massey (Vose 85), Gilbey. Subs: Cousins, D Wright, Szmodics, Kent.

Ref: M Heywood.

Att: 3,108 (511)