Full-time report: Sheffield United 1 Stevenage 0

The cross that led to the only goal of the game. Photo: Alan Millard

The cross that led to the only goal of the game. Photo: Alan Millard - Credit: Archant

Boro are all but down as they fail to win for the ninth consecutive match

Defeat on Monday to Bristol City will see Stevenage relegated to League 2.

That is the situation the club finds itself as a 1-0 defeat to Sheffield United on Friday evening made it nine matches without a win.

Graham Westley’s men went into this match seven points adrift of safety following Crewe Alexandra’s victory at Shrewsbury earlier in the afternoon, and a John Mousinho own goal made it an almost certainty that Stevenage’s three-year stint in the division is about to come to an end.

Boro went into the match needing snookers; they left it having pretty much conceded the frame.

Beset by problems in defence – Saturday’s centre-back partnership of Tom Flanagan and Bira Dembele were missing through injury while skipper Jon Ashton, returning, limped off after 22 minutes – Stevenage conceded early.

They were then unable to find the two-goal reply that was required against a home side that fielded the same XI that had run Premier League side Hull City close in last weekend’s FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.

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Chris Day was forced to get down to his right early on to push away Michael Doyle’s shot, but with just 10 minutes on the clock the hosts took the lead.

Mousinho, also in defence and facing his own goal, attempted to clear a Jamie Murphy cross but instead only managed to put the ball in the back of his own net.

Ashton then went off injured before Boro had two chances of their own.

Firstly Francois Zoko, whose own goals have dried up, set up Lucas Akins but the winger’s sliced shot went well wide of the mark.

Zoko then had a stab at the ball in the area, but when it rolled to Luke Freeman the wide man couldn’t adjust his feet quickly enough and the home side were able to clear.

Stevenage made a change at half-time with Conor Henderson making way for Jo N’Guessan, but the highlight at the start of the second period was a topless conga among the Boro fans.

They may not have been enjoying what was happening on the pitch, but were certainly going to enjoy themselves off it.

Boro’s travelling contingent almost had reason to celebrate not long afterwards when they had their best two chances of the game.

Firstly Freeman was gifted an opportunity following a mistake by John Brayford, but Mark Howard was quick off his line to block the winger’s shot.

Then, from a corner, Luke Jones powered a header goalwards, but there was a defender on the line who managed to kick the effort clear.

It was a better second-half performance from Graham Westley’s men, but as the match went on it was clear that it just would not be enough to get the two goals that were required.

N’Guessan’s pace caused one or two problems, and so to did Freeman when cutting inside and the striker fired straight at Howard with just eight minutes of the match to go.

There was also a debut appearance with five minutes to go for second year scholar Rohdell Gordon, in place of Akins.

The goals, though, never came, and the defeat leaves Boro dangling over the trapdoor with only the thinnest of threads holding them up.

Sheffield United: Howard, Harris, Brayford, Maguire, Flynn, Doyle, Baxter (Paynter 71), Collins, Coady, Scougall (Davies 80), Murphy. Subs: Hill, Porter, Long, Freeman, Kennedy.

Stevenage: Day, Hartley, Obeng, Mousinho, Ashton (Jones 22), Freeman, Smith, Henderson (N’Guessan 46), Heslop, Akins (Gordon 85), Zoko. Subs: Goodliffe, Wedgbury, Burrow, Doughty.

Ref: Mark Brown

Att: 17,629 (193 away)