Boro move up to second after victory over Saddlers
Fine strikes from Shroot, Tansey and Akins move Gary Smith’s side up to second in the table
Shroot 25, Tansey 72, Akins 86
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BORO moved up to second place in the League One table after a fully deserved victory over Walsall on Tuesday night.
And they did it in some style with three excellent strikes from Robin Shroot, Greg Tansey and Lucas Akins rendering George Bowerman’s second half equaliser meaningless.
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Despite a less than entertaining first half, Gary Smith’s side really stepped on the gas in the second period, and to a man Boro put in a shift to be proud of. Things haven’t quite clicked for them in previous matches, with some finding cause for concern with their home form prior to tonight. But things really came together against the Saddlers, and they will travel to Doncaster on Saturday brimming with confidence after their best performance of the season so far.
The match started at a frantic pace with both sides denying each other any time to settle in possession. Despite Boro not creating any chances early on, this was seen as a relative success given how poorly they started on Saturday against Crewe.
Without the ball Boro weren’t doing much wrong with Anthony Grant, Greg Tansey and David Gray in particular putting in fierce, but fair, tackles early on.
It was at the other end where things weren’t clicking, and despite a few glimpses of skill from Robin Shroot, Luke Freeman and Lucas Akins, the home side weren’t providing adequate movement as a team to cause Walsall problems.
However, it was a moment of individual brilliance from Shroot on 25 minutes that put Boro ahead. Gray won the ball at right back before finding Shroot who had peeled off the shoulder of centre-half Dean Holden. After taking the ball down the attacking midfielder seemed to have wasted the chance after initially dallying on the ball with options open. But the former Birmingham City man turned his man outside the box, shuffled the ball on to his left foot, and fired a fine effort across David Grof into the far bottom corner.
It was a rare moment of quality in what was a dull first period, but the goal itself proved that Smith was right to recall Shroot, who has now scored four times this season, and three from three starts in the league.
Perhaps the funniest moment of the first half came from goalkeeper Grof. Mark Roberts had been penalised for offside, prompting Grof to wrestle the ball away from the Boro skipper in a rush to take a quick free-kick. But the Saddlers No.1 inexplicably kicked the ball straight out of play – much to the sheer amusement of the Boro faithful and his own embarrassment.
Stevenage were much the better side after the break. At times this season Smith’s side have been slow to get up to speed after the interval, but they took the game to Walsall from the off as they looked to extend their lead.
Akins was becoming more and more influential in the match, and he was unfortunate to see his side-footed effort deflect wide after being played in by Patrick Agyemang.
Despite Boro being on top, a sloppy piece of defending allowed Walsall to equalise on the hour mark. After failing to clear a corner, Jamie Paterson swung in a pinpoint cross into Day’s six-yard box, where Bowerman rose to glance home a header.
The equaliser didn’t knock Boro’s confidence, though, as they continued to press for a second goal. However they couldn’t find that incisiveness in front of goal despite some excellent approach play, as chance after chance went begging.
But the goal did come on 72 minutes, and it arrived in stunning fashion from Tansey. The former Stickport man picked up the ball 35 yards from goal, before thumping a dipping shot that crept underneath the crossbar. A quite brilliant strike.
Boro weren’t finished there, though, as they continued to look dangerous breaking forward against a weak and disorganised Walsall defensive unit.
Akins was now the star man for the hosts, wanting the ball at every opportunity before showing strength, pace and skill to threaten to create a number of chances in the box.
The former Tranmere man got the goal his display deserved three minutes from the end, when good work from Haber and Tansey on the left resulted in the latter crossing for Akins, who volleyed over Grof into the far corner.
Walsall had nothing else to offer as Boro comfortably saw out the match to earn a fully deserved victory.
Stevenage (4-2-3-1): Day; Gray, Roberts (c), Ashton, Comminges; Grant, Tansey; Freeman (Dunne 76), Akins, Shroot (Risser 87); Agyemang (Haber 61).
Subs not used: Arnold, Ball, Lopez, N’Gala.
Walsall (4-4-2): Grof; Purkiss, Holden, Butler (c), A Taylor; Paterson, Cuvelier, Featherstone, Hemmings (Grigg 57); Bowerman, Baxendale (Williams 79).
Subs not used: Taundry, C Taylor, Jones, Downing, Jones.