Boylan strike seals vital Boro win

Stevenage Boro 2 Cambridge United 1 Lee Boylan came back to haunt his former club as his first half winner got Boro s play-off hopes back on track against Cambridge United this evening. The diminutive striker struck just before the break to drive a stake into United s hopes of automatic pr

Lee Boylan came back to haunt his former club as his first half winner got Boro's play-off hopes back on track against Cambridge United this evening.

The diminutive striker struck just before the break to drive a stake into United's hopes of automatic promotion and give Graham Westley's men hope they can still make the top five.

They were made to work for it however as they had to play more than half an hour with 10 men when Mark Roberts was sent off for two bookable offences.

But their rearguard action held firm with the likes of Jon Ashton and Scott Laird inspired.

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Junior Mendes had given Stevenage an early lead before Robbie Wilmott equalised in what was a scintillating first half of football.

But Boylan's predatory finish proved the difference between the two sides and suddenly the prospect of two Wembley finals is very much on.

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Injuries and suspensions had taken their toll on Westley's squad and, having recalled John Martin from his loan spell at Ebbsfleet United, the 27-year-old was thrown straight in from the start in central midfield.

Mendes lined up down the right flank while Lawrie Wilson slotted in at right back in Ronnie Henry's absence having served an additional two-match ban for his red card against Histon in November.

Cambridge almost got off to a dream start in the first minute when left back Anthony Tonkin advanced unchallenged into the Boro penalty area before unleashing a fearsome strike that Chris Day did well to beat away at his near post.

It seemed to give Boro the wake-up call they needed and Mendes fired Stevenage in front with a fantastic goal in the fourth minute.

Wilson advanced well down the right flank before flicking the ball into the penalty area for Mendes, whose deft first touch took it out his feet before blasting past Cambridge 'keeper Danny Potter.

It was exactly the boost Boro needed with all the talk leading up to the match concentrating on injuries and suspensions and, more importantly, it silenced the 1,650 travelling Cambridge fans, albeit briefly.

Morison could have doubled Boro's lead in the 10th minute when Mitchell Cole tricked his way past Dan Gleeson before standing a cross up to the back post but Boro's top goalscorer scuffed his volley into the ground and the ball trickled wide.

Morison had an even better chance two minutes later when Mendes and Boylan linked up well but his glancing header zipped agonisingly across the face of goal.

The miss came back to haunt Boro in the 16th minute when Cambridge drew level although there was more than a hint of controversy about it.

Martin and Wayne Hatswell went in for a 50-50 challenge and the United defender appeared to leave his boot in but the referee waved play on and Gary Brabin's men took full advantage.

They swept up field on the counter attack and Wilmott was there to scramble home against the run of play.

The goal sparked new life into the visitors and seemed to settled them down after Boro's electric start.

But the front three of Mendes, Boylan and Morison were clearly developing an excellent understanding.

The trio combined to good effect in the 28th minute but Mendes' final pass just let him down when Morison looked set to be through on goal.

The Boro faithful didn't have to wait long to see their side hit the front again though as just two minutes later Boylan made it 2-1.

Cole and Laird linked well down the left wing before the defender made it to the by-line and picked out the lurking striker, who stabbed home from close range.

It was sweet revenge for the 30-year-old whose every touch was being booed by the travelling fans clearly bitter at his summer defection to The Lamex Stadium.

Boylan could have extended Stevenage's lead at the start of the second half when Morison sent him clear on goal but, from a tight angle, he sliced his left-footed shot wide.

But Cambridge were determined not to fall to one of their play-off rivals and only a fantastic block from Ashton prevented Wilmott from levelling the scores in the 54th minute.

Four minutes later Boro suffered a massive blow as they were reduced to 10 men for the second game in a row.

Mills was penalised for a foul on Reason and, just after the whistle blew, Roberts hacked the ball away. Having already been booked in the first half, the referee decided not to exercise any common sense and showed the former Northwich Victoria a second yellow.

Boro capitulated when down to 10 men at Kidderminster but, unlike at Aggborough, Westley decided to change things straight away by sacrificing Mendes for Albrighton, who slotted in at centre half.

Cambridge piled on the pressure as Boro dropped deeper and deeper but Westley's men were just about holding firm.

Ashton almost wrapped up the points for Stevenage in the 76th minute when he met Martin's free kick but Coulson cleared his header off the line.

Five minutes of added time prompted jeers from the home crowd but they need not have worried as they held on for a famous win.

Boro (4-4-2): Day 7, Wilson 7, Ashton 8, Roberts 7, Laird 8, Mendes 7 (Albrighton 59), Mills 7, Martin 7, Cole 7, Boylan 7 (Vincenti 82), Morison 7. Subs not used: Bayes, Anaclet, Willock.

Cambridge United (4-4-2): Potter 6, Gleeson 6, Coulson 6, Hatswell 6, Tonkin 7, McMahon 5 (Parkinson 64), Reason 6, Carden 6, Willmott 7 (Phillips 73), Holroyd 6, Rendell 5. Subs not used: Challinor, Ainge, Crow.

Referee: G Sutton

Attendance: 3,408

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