Cole strike keeps Boro on course for play-offs

Stevenage Boro 1 Ebbsfleet United 0 Mitchell Cole grabbed the only goal at The Lamex Stadium this afternoon against Ebbsfleet United as Boro kept up their challenge for the play-offs. The winger s fine solo goal secured three valuable points for Graham

Stevenage Boro 1 Ebbsfleet United 0

Mitchell Cole grabbed the only goal at The Lamex Stadium this afternoon against Ebbsfleet United as Boro kept up their challenge for the play-offs.

The winger's fine solo goal secured three valuable points for Graham Westley's men, who always looked the better side despite the narrow scoreline.

It could have been a lot more but for some wasteful finishing in the first period but Boro's backline always looked solid and restricted Ebbsfleet to long range efforts all game.

Jon Ashton once again stood out in central defence while Lawrie Wilson provided an excellent outlet down the right in the continued absence of Ronnie Henry through a calf injury.

Westley was forced to name first team coach Dino Maamria among the substitutes as injuries and suspensions took their toll on Boro's squad.

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The Tunisian's inclusion was due to Lee Boylan becoming the latest player to go down with injury as Willock was promoted from the substitutes' bench.

Mark Albrighton deputised for the suspended Mark Roberts at the heart of the defence as the former Northwich Victoria defender served a one-match ban for his dismissal against Cambridge.

Michael Bostwick served the second of his two-game ban for picking up 10 yellow cards while Westley will be hoping long term absentees Henry (calf), David Bridges (knee) and Andy Drury (hamstring) recover soon.

Boro were the quicker out of the traps with Willock having a sight of goal early on after he latched on to Morison's flick on but the big striker could not get the ball under control allowing Leon Crooks to clear the danger.

But Ebbsfleet soon settled and enjoyed a concerted period of pressure on Boro's goal early on. A nice break from midfield by Michael West was halted by Lawrie Wilson but, in trying to clear the danger, the defender almost sliced into his own net as Day stood motionless praying the ball would drift past his post.

With Boro deprived of their shining lights in midfield, they were forced to plough a more direct route to goal with Willock the focal point for their attacks.

A nice lay-off by Willock found Cole in space down the left flank and the winger wasted no time in firing in a low cross that Darius Charles did well to hack clear with Morison poised for a tap-in.

Boro's top goalscorer then spurned a golden opportunity in the 16th minute to break the deadlock when he gathered a poor clearance by Ebbsfleet 'keeper Lance Cronin.

The former Northampton striker showed a cool head in cutting inside Crooks but, with just the 'keeper to beat, his curling left-footed effort floated straight into the arms of the grateful Cronin.

A minute later and Willock was desperately unlucky when he ran at the Fleet back four before unleashing a powerful right-footed shot that cannoned off the foot of the post.

Boro were turning the screw and a long range header from Mills after Morison's cross tested Cronin, but the Fleet shot-stopper back-peddled quickly to gather easily.

But Stevenage weren't having it all their own way with Liam Daish's side showing they were more than capable of causing damage on the counter attack.

Chris Day had to get down well to parry a low Ricky Shakes effort wide after a good run by West.

But Stevenage got the breakthrough they deserved in the 31st minute thanks to a wonderful individual effort from Cole.

The speedster picked the ball up on the halfway line before driving at the Ebbsfleet defence and, after exchanging passes with Willock, he was suddenly through on goal.

Cole did well to hold off Stevens before calmly waiting for Cronin to go to ground and flicking the ball home with his right foot.

Boro were getting a lot of joy down the left flank with both Cole and Laird linking superbly in the first period while Willock and Morison were proving more than a handful for a creaky Ebbsfleet back four.

A smart back-heel from Morison released his strike partner in behind in the 40th minute but the ex-Peterborough man lacked composure in his finish, shooting straight at Cronin.

The front two were at it again just before the break when Willock flicked on for Morison, but Cronin was quick off his line to snuff out the danger.

Fleet again served a reminder of their threat when Stacy Long almost brought his side level against the run of play on the stroke of half time with a long range effort that whistled just wide of Day's far post.

Daish's men had a golden opportunity to get back on level terms just after half-time when Michael Gash's header found Crooks with the freedom of the six-yard area but his left-footed volley produced a wonderful reflex save by Day.

Boro had to withstand a five-minute spell where Ebbsfleet looked the better side but the defence, ably marshalled by Ashton, stood firm.

Boro inched their way back into the game and Cole showed Stevens a clean pair of heels to get past Stevens in the 56th minute before shooting wide.

He had an even better chance just two minutes later when found by Morison but his deft flick over Cronin did not have enough on it and Opinel cleared off the line.

Mendes and Wilson then combined well down the right before the Montserrat international's curler drifted just wide of the post.

Morison should have sealed it late on but completely missed his kick on the edge of the area before Vincenti's rasping effort flew wide.

But it didn't matter as Boro claimed another vital three points in their pursuit of a place in the top five.

Boro (4-4-2): Day 7, Wilson 8, Ashton 8, Albrighton 7, Laird 7, Mendes 6, Mills 7, Martin 7, Cole 8 (Anaclet 72) , Willock 7 (Vincenti 84), Morison 7 (Maamria 90). Subs not used: Bayes, McDevitt.

Ebbsfleet United (4-4-2): Cronin 6, Stevens 5, Crooks 5, Charles 6, Opinel 6 (Pooley 60), West 6 (Purcell 80), Yussuf 5, Ricketts 6, Long 7, Shakes 6, Gash 6 (Ibe 73). Subs not used: Mott, Sole.

Referee: I Smedley

Attendance: 1,913

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