Full-time report: Stevenage 1 Hartlepool United 0
- Credit: Archant
Chris Whelpdale fires Stevenage to all three points
Stevenage began life back in Sky Bet League 2 with an opening day victory over Hartlepool United.
Chris Whelpdale’s strike may have been the difference in terms of goals, but this was as convincing and confident a victory as the Boro faithful could have hoped for from the first game of the season.
Manager Graham Westley said recently that the collection of players he has at the club now is ‘poles apart’ from those that were here last season.
And on this display, they were also poles apart from the visitors and will probably be a little disappointed that they did not add to Whelpdale’s strike.
Of the 11 players starting for Boro only Jon Ashton, Bira Dembele and Darius Charles were at the club last season, while Dean Wells took the captain’s armband for the opening game.
Hartlepool hit the woodwork in the opening exchanges, with Jack Compton’s effort beating Sam Beasant but not the bar.
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At the other end, Adam Marriott had a great chance to open the scoring after Charles’ superb run down the left only to take too long in getting the ball out from his feet by which time the visitors had got players back in number.
Charles, in particular, was back to his nuisance self as he dropped deep to keep the Hartlepool defenders occupied to create the space in which Marriott could operate.
After a slow start, Boro began to dominate the game with the tenacious Andy Bond and Charlie Lee running things in midfield. And Stevenage went close to taking the lead with just five minutes of the half remaining when a well-worked free-kick found its way to Wells whose shot from six yards was kept out at point-blank range by Flinders.
The Hartlepool goalkeeper was again called into action 10 minutes into the second period, this time to keep out Marriott’s effort from close range.
Flinders then made a spectacular stop from Charles as Boro turned the screw, but seconds later he was finally beaten when Whelpdale’s low, swerving shot was struck past him from the edge of the box.
It was a lead that Stevenage deserved, but one they almost blew as when a Hartlepool corner was swung in from the right with just over five minutes to go Beasant hesitated before staying on his line and Sam Collins headed wide when he should have buried it.
By that time Charles had limped off, but that was the only bad news of the day as Stevenage started life back in League 2 with all three points courtesy of a 1-0 victory.
Stevenage: Beasant, Dembele, Ashton, Wells, Worley, Whelpdale (Okimo 83), Pett (Deacon 88), Bond, Lee, Charles (Calcutt 78), Marriott. Subs: Day, Johnson.
Hartlepool: Flinders, Austin, Bates, Collins, Walker (Franks 76), Miller, Compton, Parnaby (Brobbel 76), Duckworth, James, Harewood. Subs: Dixon, Holden, Woods, Hawkins, Richards.
Ref: Mark Haywood
Att: 3.023 (295)