Boro nearly ace Premier League test
- Credit: Archant
Stevenage almost aced their Premier League test at the Lamex with a 2-2 draw over Sam Allardyce’s West Ham United.
League Two Boro were the better team from the first whistle to the last and goals from Tom Pett and a trialist underlined it. However, Matt Jarvis pulled on back for the Hammers in the 86th minute before Stewart Downing grabbed a last-gasp equaliser.
Graham Westley stuck with the same 11 that started in the 3-0 win over Arlesey Town on Wednesday while Allardyce employed two different teams in each half.
Both teams tested the defences with long balls to start the game but the first real chance fell to the Hammers. Aaron Cresswell lined up a free-kick on the right of Boro’s box but his attempt was well over Sam Beasant’s goal. At the other end, Darius Charles placed an effort wide following a knock-down from Harry Worley.
Then, new-signing Tom Pett did well to peel off the last man. His first touch got away from him but Charles collected the ball and was fouled 25 years from goal. Roarie Deacon curled his shot towards the top corner and only a diving save from Adrian kept the ball out of the net.
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Westley’s new-look Boro were the better team for the opening 30 minutes, holding firm against West Ham’s surprisingly patient attack that beared little resemble to the long-ball side that Sam Alladyce is known, while pressing high up the pitch and attacking quickly when they had the ball.
All their hard work paid off in the 32nd minute as Pett netted his second goal of pre-season. A diagonal ball into the box was chested back to Adrian by Aaron Cresswell but, as the keeper slid to collect the ball, he fumbled it at Pett’s feet who had the easiest of tap-ins. Hammers’ players looked around in confusion expecting a foul by referee Andy Woolmer signaled a goal and a deserved lead for Boro.
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The otherwise unimpressive Nolan had a great chance to level the game when an attempted clearance sat up for him but he side-footed his effort wide when he should have done better. The former England man then got in behind Boro’s defence but Dean Wells recovered to distrupt Nolan before he could get a shot off.
Adrian’s miserable half continued late into the first period when he spilled a cross to Andrew Bond but, from a tight angle, he thundered the ball against the post from three yards out.
Stevenage saved their best football for the end of the half. Simon Walton powered into the box before cutting the ball back to Charles who was denied by a last-ditch challenge from Leo Chambers.
Allardyce sent out a completely different 11 for the second half, hoping to turn the tide in his favour, as Jarvis, Mo Diame, Downing, James Tomkins, Danny Whitehead and James Collins were introduced to the game. Westley, on the other hand, stuck to his guns and entrusted the same 11.
Still, the newest crop of Premier League stars made the same mistakes as the first. Jussi Jaaskelainen came out to claim a free-kick and spilled the ball to Charles to headed it on to Demebele. The right-back headed the ball into the net but the linesman’s flag scratched off the goal.
The strike partnership of Charles and Marriott showed its potential on the hour mark. The ex-Cambridge City man picked up the ball in his own half and drove towards goal. Spotting the run, Marriott played a reverse pass to Charles, who got the better of his man but pulled his left-footed shot wide.
West Ham finally carved out a chance in the 66th minute but Kouyate headed over under pressure from Beasant.
A fluid counter-attack in the 72nd minute almost resulted in an equaliser. Downing swept a cross field ball into the path of Guy Demel, who had a clear run at goal. However, Wells recovered win the ball and earn a goal-kick.
With 15 minutes to go Boro extended their advantage. The only trialist in the squad came off the bench to fire the ball past Jaaskelainen and give the hosts a 2-0 lead.
The last 10 minutes against a fresh 11 and only a game under their belt was always going to be a test for Boro and so it proved. Demel beat Ryan Johnson down the right and stood a cross up at the back post which was headed in by a diving Jarvis.
Boro were denied the win they deserved when Downing popped up with a last-gasp equaliser with the last kick of the game.
West Ham starting line-up: Adrian, O’Brien, Cresswell, Reid, Chambers, Noble, Poyet, Vaz Te, Nolan, Morrison, McCallum.
Stevenage starting line-up: Beasant, Henry, Worley, Wells, Dembele, Pett, Bond, Walton, Deacon, Marriott and Charles