Akinfenwa sinks Stevenage

Boro down to 17th after New Year’s Day defeat to Gillingham

Gillingham 1 Stevenage 0

npower League 2

BORO dropped to 17th place in League 2 as their mid-season slump continued with a defeat at in-form Gillingham.

Graham Westley’s side have now gone five games without a win after Adebayo Akinfenwa’s seventh goal of the season gave the Gills all three points in a close encounter at Priestfield.

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With the departure of two key players last week – Chris Holroyd’s loan spell from Brighton ended whilst Josh Walker was recalled from loan by Watford – and without the injured Jon Ashton and Ronnie Henry as well as the suspended Michael Bostwick and Darius Charles, this was always going to be a tough ask for Boro.

Gillingham, by comparison, were able to name the same squad which put three goals past promotion candidates Port Vale midweek.

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Chris Beardsley and Charlie Griffin led Boro’s attack, with the latter making his first start since October, while new boy Byron Harrison also got a start with Stacy Long and Luke Foster also named in the starting XI.

The opening exchanges saw few chances with the only incident of note being a Beardsley booking on three minutes for an unfair challenge on Barry Fuller.

Chris Day saw his first action of the game on 16 minutes when he was forced into a one-on-one with Gillingham’s Cody McDonald and the Boro stopper stood tall for as long as he could before pulling off a good stop to deny the forward.

The game plodded along at a reasonable pace often associated with post-Christmas games before former Boro stopper and one-time Comet Player of the Year Alan Julian made a stunning save from new boy Harrison’s header to keep the scores level on 30 minutes.

Griffin and Long both had efforts from outside the box but neither made Julian work in what was becoming a hard-fought game lacking inspiration from both sides.

The game was cruising until the 37th minute when wide man Danny Spiller, who signed a new deal with Gillingham last week, received the ball on the right from Akinfenwa before crossing for the striker to head home.

Akinfenwa is a big man but not quick, so although it came as no surprise when he shrugged Luke Foster off the ball on the edge of the box it did come as a surprise when Foster failed to cover the striker’s run into the box before the 28-year-old got his head on the ball.

Robbie Sinclair came on for Long and Yemi Odubade for Harrison in the second half as Boro looked for some creativity to get themselves back into the game but chances were not forthcoming.

Ben May was also introduced to replace O’Shea, but it was Gillingham who almost went close again only for McDonald to see his goal-bound effort cleared by Foster after the Gills man had got past Day in the Stevenage box.

McDonald was the liveliest of Gillingham’s attackers and he headed wide from a corner and forced Day into another save as the hosts looked to take advantage of any gaps left at the back by Boro, but despite their chances the hosts were not in charge of a game which remained open for both sides.

Westley’s men finished well and when Sinclair found some space in the box you would have put your house on the winger to apply the finish. He did apply a finish, but Julian made a strong save and May, running in, saw his rebounded effort blocked from a corner.

Julian saved again from that corner and Boro were forced to register a third zero in the ‘goals for’ column in the past four games.

Next up is Barnet who Boro beat 3-0 last month and who fired former Boro manager Mark Stimson on Saturday and replaced him temporarily with another ex-Stevenage boss Paul Fairclough.

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