Gallery: Boro lose to play-off rivals

Stevenage Boro 0 Exeter City 1 HOW Boro must be sick of the sight of their play-off rivals from Devon this season. Saturday s damaging defeat to their play-off ambitions - televised live on Setanta Sports - followed a brace of four-goal thrashings in the

Stevenage Boro 0 Exeter City 1

HOW Boro must be sick of the sight of their play-off rivals from Devon this season.

Saturday's damaging defeat to their play-off ambitions - televised live on Setanta Sports - followed a brace of four-goal thrashings in the FA Cup and an earlier league meeting.

Boro rarely looked their breaking their scoring duck against the Grecians this season although they could have snatched a point in added time when Luke Oliver's header was cleared off the line.

The pattern of the game was similar in many ways to Boro's midweek win over York City.

Except on this occasion Boro's improvement in the second half after a dismal first 45 minutes failed to yield any tangible reward.

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Boro began the match with the same side that played the majority of the York victory with Scott Laird replacing the injured Fred Murray.

Gavin Grant, looking lost on the left during the half, scuffed a shot wide after some good early play.

But it was Exeter who went ahead in the ninth minute from their first serious attack as Steve Basham fired home on the edge of the area as Boro struggled to deal with a free-kick.

A shot from Steve Morison which was always rising apart, Exeter were clearly the better team at this point.

Ronnie Henry's stray crossfield ball was intercepted before Alan Julian eventually whipped the ball off the toes of Adam Stansfield, and Rob Edwards blazed wide following a corner.

Some rare attacking impetus from Boro saw John Martin's deflected shot go just wide, and then Morison was not able to make sufficient contact on a Martin cross to beat Andy Marriott.

Disjointed Boro had an escape just before the break when Julian dropped another free-kick under pressure and the ball was desperately blocked inside the six-yard area.

Boro badly needed some inspiration and it was provided by a double switch, Calum Willock and Oliver on for Laird and Lawrie Wilson.

This allowed Grant and Mitchell Cole to play on the wings, with Tommy Smith filling in at left-back.

Boro immediately looked more balanced and although Morison could only miskick horribly and Scott Mitchell volleyed well wide, there was hope of another comeback.

The threat gradually subsided with a Willock shot which drifted wide their only effort of note until Exeter were handed a golden chance for a killer second with 20 minutes to go.

Referee Mohareb was every bit as eccentric as the weekend weather with an amazing five minutes.

An Exeter corner saw Dan Seaborne go tumbling - with Smith named as the culprit and cautioned - and a penalty awarded.

Richard Logan's initial kick was saved by Julian but it was ordered to be retaken with the keeper and Ashley Westwood booked for their protests.

Logan and Julian repeated the trick but the Boro keeper made his third penalty save in five days to ensure the home side remained in contention.

Tempers were now at boiling point, cautions for Henry and Morison making it five in as many minutes for the home side, as Boro sought an equaliser.

Cole's promising run ended with a shot straight at Marriott - one of only two efforts on target Boro managed all afternoon - before Willock's deflected drive was just wide and Morison fired over after Oliver beat the keeper to a high ball.

The closest Boro came to a goal all afternoon was in added time when a Cole corner was met by Oliver only for his header to be cleared off the line.

Boro boss Peter Taylor said: "The first half was not good enough, just like on Tuesday.

"We got a little better in the second half and with a bit of luck, we might have got a goal.

"A draw would have been a good result for us after the other results on the day."

Taylor was also candid in his assessment of the referee, branding his performance "unbelievable".

He added: "He is a young referee and he has got to calm down."

Boro: Julian 7, Mitchell 5, Smith 6, Westwood 6, Cole 6, Wilson 6 (Oliver 46m, 7), Martin 6, Morison 7*, Henry 6, Laird 6 (Willock 46m, 7), Grant 6 (Molesley 66m, 7).

Subs not used: McMahon, Masters.

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