Boro give whole squad a run-out at Hitchin Town
Boro score four in last pre-season friendly
FOR the third time in four seasons Stevenage left Top Field with four goals to their name and a win under their belt, but this hastily-arranged pre-season friendly provided much more than simple statistics for both sides.
For Boro, the game offered the players the chance to put Saturday’s defeat at Newport County behind them and it gave Graham Westley the opportunity to give a run out to every one of his match-fit players – and three trialists – in a match which finished with Yemi Odubade playing right back and Tim Sills centre-half.
For Hitchin it was a good, physical run out. It also gave the Canaries the chance to pit themselves against a side four leagues above them and it also gave them the chance to learn in the way that a beaten side must always be open to understand why they were defeated and how they can improve.
Boro began strongly and should have been four goals to the good in the first 15 minutes.
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Mark Roberts turned and shot in the box on three minutes to put Boro ahead before Charlie Griffin failed to make the most of two opportunities within the next five minutes.
First he scuffed a shot and moments later he attempt to chip Martin Bennett only to see his effort float over the bar.
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Boro looked good – their movement and pace had purpose and they carved Hitchin open less at will and more through organised efficiency.
In their rare forays forward in the early stages Hitchin did manage a shot on goal but Tony Fontenelle’s effort from 30 yards went wide, while at the other end Boro made it two when Michael Bostwick headed across goal and inside the right hand post from a corner.
Hitchin were under pressure but quickly got themselves in gear after a sluggish start with Ieuan Lewis the most positive of their attacking players.
Up front Tom Mustapha and Jamie Arlick got little change from Roberts and Luke Foster, but Lewis, a former Boro player, and Zak Burke, another former Stevenage youngster, were able to find the gaps between Ronnie Henry at right back and Lawrie Wilson ahead of him.
Lewis was a menace – though at times he went for an extra trick when a simple lay-off was called for – and Burke was also able to have some of the ball and it was his run across goal that led to a shot from Arlick which had Chris Day scrambling low to his right only to go wide.
Bennett, though, was the busier ‘keeper and he had to tip over a Roberts header and watch Bostwick’s rasping shot go just over his bar before Griffin got the goal he deserved when he ran into the box and rounded Bennett before passing the ball into the goal on 41 minutes.
By this time the Boro substitutions had already begun and by half time Boro had already made three changes with Ashley Bayes, Lee Boylan and Darren Murphy on for Day, Griffin and Roberts.
Another flurry of changes at half time followed and constant changes throughout the second half made the second period less of a spectacle and more of a run-out for both teams.
Chris Beardsley added a tap-in fourth for Boro while Bennett made some good saves from Boylan who looked very lively while at the other end Fontenelle went close with an effort from 20 yards but the game was beginning to fizzle out.
Boro had three trialists on the pitch when the full time whistle went with Patrick Clegg looking the liveliest alongside Ishmial Welch and Kieran Bechan while ex-Boro player Mark Smith got 45 minutes against his old side after replacing new Hitchin defender Jon Wadworth.
Who had come on for whom was anyone’s guess, however, and although the Canaries have one remaining pre-season friendly – at home to Bedford Town on Saturday – both sides will be pleased when the friendlies are behind them and the real business gets under way.
Boro (4-4-2): Day, Henry, Laird, Roberts, Foster, Bostwick, Byrom, Winn, Wilson, Vincenti, Griffin. Subs: Bayes, Murphy, Bridges, Sinclair, Long, Beardsley, Odubade, Sills, Welch, Bechan, Cregg.
Hitchin (4-4-2): Bennett, Fontenelle, Pepper, Gilbert, Wadworth, Lewis, Burke, Lee, Donnelly, Mustapha, Arlick. Subs: Haggerty, Smith, Harrison, Byfield, Lamacraft, Williams.