Boro ease into the semi-finals
Stevenage Boro 3 Salisbury City 0 Boro showed their Conference class to ease into the semi-finals of this competition for the second time in five years. And a repeat of their 2002 final appearance must be on the cards if they continue in this rich vein of
Stevenage Boro 3 Salisbury City 0
Boro showed their Conference class to ease into the semi-finals of this competition for the second time in five years.
And a repeat of their 2002 final appearance must be on the cards if they continue in this rich vein of form.
Salisbury look on course to reach the Conference themselves next season but will have to improve to make an impact if this occurs.
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Even their boss, former Southampton man Nick Holmes, admitted afterwards: "I've got no complaints with the result; we were beaten by the better side."
Some of the travelling contingent were not happy with the performance of ref Gavin Ward.
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Although the official was card happy in the extreme - he booked three Boro players and five from the visitors before eventually giving sub Robert Matthews an early bath - there was no doubting Boro deserved to progress.
For Boro, Mark Hughes and Steve Guppy retained their starting berths from the midweek league win at Stafford, meaning Adam Miller and Mitchell Cole had to be content with a place on the bench.
Boro started well and went close to opening the scoring in the 18th minute when Steve Morison foxed left-back Matthew Robinson and sent over a hard, low cross that was diverted goalwards by Aaron Cook.
The ball amazingly ran across the line and hit the post before coming out, just beyond the reach of Guppy.
After Jon Nurse had screwed a shot wide and Mark Beard's bullet header flew straight at the keeper from a Guppy corner, Boro went ahead on 25 minutes.
Nurse's pace took him clear down the right before cutting inside. He lost control under a challenge but the ball ran loose at the edge of the area for the impressive Daryl McMahon to fire beyond Ryan Clarke.
Top scorer Matt Tubbs threatened once for Salisbury just before the break but his rising shot was safely over Alan Julian's bar.
Indeed, Boro could have grabbed a second as they broke upfield and Nurse just failed to connect with a low Morison cross.
Salisbury showed their intent in the opening stages of the second half as Wayne Turk and Paul Sales attempted an equaliser.
Miller and Cole were introduced just before the hour mark for Boro and the decisive second goal came within five minutes.
McMahon released a flying Cole down the left wing. Clarke, who otherwise had an excellent afternoon, rashly came flying out of his goal.
There was only ever going to be one winner to the ball and Cole crossed for Morison to score into an unguarded net.
Skipper Ronnie Henry cleared off the line as Tubbs stabbed an effort goalwards minutes later and this was to prove crucial.
An outstanding save by Clarke at the other end prevented a third as Morison's header looked to be heading for the top corner.
Salisbury lost their discipline with player-coach Tommy Widdrington sent to the stands, quickly followed by one of his players.
Man mountain Matthews lasted just 17 minutes as he saw red for two bookable offences, the second a reckless lunge at Barry Fuller near the touchline.
The incident was not over as Cole shot over when well placed and Julian preserved his clean sheet with a smart save from a Salisbury free-kick.
Boro scored their third a minute from time when Cole and Nurse were both denied by Clarke. Nurse headed the rebound against the bar and sub Jamie Slabber was on hand to tuck home the loose ball.
Home boss Mark Stimson, serenaded by the players as he conducted his post-match interview, said: "To beat any side 3-0 in the quarter-finals is a fantastic achievement, especially one that is top of their league.
"The stuff about the referee is just an excuse. I don't want to talk about him; he would love that.
"I told the players it's a great thing and reward for the draw at Morecambe.
"I've been there (in the final) the last couple of years and I want to make it three in a row.
# Boro will meet the former club of boss Mark Stimson in a two-legged semi-final of this season's FA Carlsberg Trophy.
Following the 3-0 win over Salisbury City on Saturday, they will travel to Grays Athletic in the first leg on Saturday, March 10, followed by the return leg at Broadhall Way a week later on March 17.