D-Day for Boro play-off hopes
Stevenage Boro 1 Rushden and Diamonds 0 MARCUS CRAWLEY reports from Broadhall Way It is make or break for Boro s play-off hopes this weekend. Mark Stimson s side take on rivals Exeter City in a crunch game at Broadhall Way on Saturday. Boro need to win th
Stevenage Boro 1 Rushden and Diamonds 0
MARCUS CRAWLEY reports from Broadhall Way
It is make or break for Boro's play-off hopes this weekend.
Mark Stimson's side take on rivals Exeter City in a crunch game at Broadhall Way on Saturday.
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Boro need to win this game - plus their remaining away games at Northwich (next Wednesday night) and Halifax (April 28) - and pray other teams slip up.
Stimson said: "Whoever would have thought this at Christmas?
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"Full credit to the players and they must have no regrets now.
"Saturday should be a fantastic game. Now it's the biggest of the three matches we've had at home. We've set up a massive day."
Tuesday night's result against Rushden was nowhere near as convincing as Saturday's three-goal show against Tamworth.
The visitors were the better side for the first half and only the half-time introduction of Stuart Lewis for the out-of-sorts Mark Beard galvanised Boro.
Boro named the same squad and starting XI as the weekend but the first 45 minutes were a far cry from Saturday.
Adam Miller fired a shot wide and Mitchell Cole was only denied by a last-ditch block minutes before the break but otherwise it was Garry Hill's side who had the clearer opportunities.
Former Boro winger Danny Williams should have scored against his former side after half an hour when he headed wastefully wide from Jon Ashton's cross.
Michael Rankine's cross-cum-shot was well gathered by Alan Julian and strong penalty appeals were ignored when Williams appeared to be bundled over in the area by Barry Fuller.
After Cole's chance, following some great work by Steve Morison, Rushden could have led at the break as Ashton headed wide at the near post from a Paul Watson corner.
There was some half-time cheer as popular former skipper Jason Goodliffe, now plying his trade at Nene Park, won the 50-50 draw!
The partnership of Lewis and Miller helped Boro to grab a foothold in the match as the new half began.
Lewis - who Stimson is hoping to persuade to join on a permanent basis next season - and Miller, now secured in a new two-year deal, did more than most to reverse the first-half fortunes.
A fierce Lewis volley stung the hands of Matt Baker on the restart and a Miller corner resulted in Ronnie Henry's effort being hacked off the line after an hour.
Rushden never fully cleared the danger and Cole was tripped by half-time sub Mark Albrighton, John Nutter scoring from the penalty spot.
Boro then enjoyed their one real period of dominance of the night, sub Jon Nurse thwarted by Baker and Lewis firing wide with another spectacular effort from long range.
The home goal led a charmed life in the 81st minute when efforts from Albrighton and Chris Hope were cleared off the line by Henry and Fuller respectively.
Sub Paul Hakim, who had replaced Luke Oliver up front minutes earlier, went close to a second as his smart turn on the edge of the box was followed by a crisp shot which hit the outside of the post.
The three points were ensured in added time as Julian made a brave block when Albrighton threatened an equaliser.
Stimson added: "The defence has now kept two cleans sheets and we worked extremely hard to get the three points.
"We don't have too many 1-0 results and I was pleased with the boys and their effort."
P The former Boro and Rushden boss Graham Westley is set to be unveiled as the new Kettering manager today (Thursday).