GALLERY: Cobblers beat 10-man Boro
Darius Charles sent off and Scott Laird has ‘goal’ chalked off in action packed match
Stevenage 0 Northampton Town 1
DARIUS Charles may have been the only Stevenage player sent off against the Cobblers but he wasn’t the only one to see red after Scott Laird saw a ‘goal’ wrongly chalked off in this action packed game.
Charles was introduced as a half-time substitute in place of Mark Roberts only to be given his marching orders six minutes later in what will go down as one of the fastest red cards in Stevenage’s history, but it was the Laird decision which was the real talking point of this match.
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With Stevenage a goal behind, Josh Walker whipped in a corner on 37 minutes to the near post where Laird had made a darting run.
The full-back swung his left peg at the ball and it flew across goal to the far post where Liam Davis was stationed and it was a good yard over the line before the Cobblers man got his boot on it to clear.
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The Boro players appealed, but neither assistant Amy Fearn nor referee Andy D’urso saw it and play continued as Boro looked for an equaliser after a terrific start to the game by the visitors.
Manager Ian Sampson would have told his players to attack Boro, who had been without a competitive game for two weeks, from the off and attack they did.
Within the first 10 minutes, the Cobblers had managed three shots at goal and of those three Ryan Jarvis’ effort had been cleared off the line by Ronnie Henry and John Johnson’s shot at goal was saved by Chris Day.
The visitors, who are on a good run of form which has seen them move away from the danger at the bottom of League 2, were looking lively and they already had Boro against the ropes before landing the knockout punch on 14 minutes.
Davis, gaining territory down the left, whipped in a delightful cross to the edge of the six-yard box where Ryan Gilligan, son of Boro’s head of youth Jimmy, had sneaked ahead of Roberts before turning the ball past Day into the net.
It was a further 10 minutes before Stevenage had their first decent opportunity, but although Chris Holroyd did well to arch his body to get under John Mousinho’s cross for a diving header, he put the ball wide.
After being caught out like rabbits in the proverbial headlights, Boro began to piece their game together and slowly started to play their way into the game.
Holroyd had a shot which was far too high and May should have buried a header which he sent wide instead from all of eight yards.
Laird then has his effort cleared off the line and although it’s easy to criticise officials after a game through the use of photographs and video, in real time it looked like a clear goal.
It was a controversial decision which rather than inciting the home crowd into an outburst of vitriol at the officials seemed to stun them into an almost collective silence.
The decision saw Boro go into the break a goal behind, and boss Graham Westley brought on Charles and Yemi Odubade in place of Roberts and May to try to give his side a way back into the match.
Odubade’s introduction caused the visitors a few problems as the pace of both him and Holroyd stretched the Northampton back line at times, but Charles’ appearance was all the more memorable albeit for considerably different reasons.
Charles is a bullish defender who likes to get forward and drive play through his physical presence and deft touch, and it was during one of these moves that saw his dismissal.
The full-back had won the ball in midfield and had held it well despite having his ankles clipped, but when he lost it a second later and tried to make up for his mistake he caught Johnson’s leg and the referee’s eye and he was dismissed.
Both sets of staff had differing opinions of the tackle, but it left Boro with 10 men and Laird, who had been moved forward, relocated to left-back which is where he saw out the remainder of the game.
Odubade had a shot saved by Dunn before Jon Ashton appeared to flick at the ball with his arm in the Boro box only for assistant Fearn to allow play to continue.
Day was then called upon to stop Billy McKay who had run into the box with the ball and he did just that with his feet before at the other end Dunn made a save from Holroyd.
Davis went close for Northampton when he beat Ashton to a ball before turning and shooting into Boro’s side netting before Boro had thought they had pulled an equaliser out of the bag in injury time only to see Walker’s free kick hit the underside of the bar before it was cleared.
It wasn’t to be and the result clearly left Boro wounded, but they will give those scars a quick flick of the tongue over the weekend before setting their sights on a trip to third-place Bury next weekend.
Boro (4-4-2): Day 7, Henry 6, Laird 6, Ashton 7, Roberts 6 (Charles, 46), Wilson 5 (Dixon, 77), Mousinho 6, Bostwick 5, Walker 7, May 6 (Odubade 7, 46), Holroyd 6. Subs: Bayes, O’Shea, Bridges, Beardsley.
Northampton (4-4-2): Dunn 7, Beckwith 5, Johnson 6 (Rodgers 6, 55), Davis 7, Tozer 6, Gilligan 6, Holt 5, Wedderburn 6, Thornton 7, McKay 7 (McKenzie, 79), Jarvis 6 (King 7, 67). Subs: Hall, Herbert, Jacobs, Walker.
Attendance: 3128 (523 away)
Referee: Andy D’urso
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