GALLERY: Harrison leads Boro’s play-off surge

Striker nets twice as Stevenage put four past Cheltenham without reply

Stevenage 4 Cheltenham Town 0

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SUDDENLY, Boro’s dream of making a surge into the top six doesn’t seem quite so unattainable.

A brace from top-scorer Byron Harrison and one each from Mark Roberts and Michael Bostwick earned Stevenage a third straight victory, this time against a desperately poor Cheltenham Town side who are now without a win in eight matches.

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In fairness, the fact Graham Westley’s team won so comprehensively without ever having to move out of third gear says much about the level of opposition.

It was a strange afternoon at the Lamex Stadium where an unusually subdued atmosphere was noticeable throughout. However, the all-important three points were secured nonetheless and Boro are now within just three points of the play-off places.

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Boro started on the front foot on what was a tricky playing surface and their first sight at goal arrived after 11 minutes when Lawrie Wilson’s left-footed cross from the right was glanced just wide by Michael Bridges from six yards.

But they did go ahead five minutes later, though, when skipper Roberts bundled the ball over the line for his third goal of the season after Cheltenham failed to deal with Stacy Long’s inswinging corner.

There was a worrying moment for Boro fans midway through the first half when centre half Jon Ashton – who was in the wars all afternoon – went down clutching his ankle following a clash with Steve Elliott in the Cheltenham box. It wasn’t serious, though, and the defender was back in action after receiving treatment on the sidelines.

Cheltenham missed a glorious chance to pull level while Boro were down to 10 men as Matt Green found himself one-on-one with Chris Day following a through-ball from Wes Thomas but the Boro stopper did superbly to save the winger’s close-range effort.

He made an even better save just moments later when Green again found himself in space inside the box with only the ‘keeper to beat but Day flung himself at the feet of the attacker to block the ball away for a corner.

Boro doubled their lead just past the half-hour mark when Scott Laird’s floated cross from the left flank was superbly chested down by Harrison into the path of Wilson whose shot was blocked by Elliott only for Harrison to drill home the loose ball from close range.

Long had a glorious chance to make it three shortly before the interval when he skinned right-back David Bird and burst into the box. However, his tame effort was deflected away for a corner when he perhaps should have done better.

Any hopes the Robins may have had of getting back into the match were dispelled six minutes after the restart when Bostwick put Boro three goals to the good. Left-back Danny Andrew, who had a nightmare of an afternoon up against Wilson, lost possession on the corner of his own box, allowing Bostwick to stroll into the area and fire a low shot past Scott Brown that went in off the far post.

The visitors had clearly given up the ghost as Boro scored again just four minutes later with Harrison grabbing his second of the match. The former Carshalton Athletic striker started the move after bringing down a long clearance and laying the ball off to Wilson on the right.

Wilson skinned Andrews before picking out Harrison in the centre who guided a brilliant downward header past the despairing Brown for his sixth goal of the season.

Harrison could have capped an excellent afternoon 20 minutes from time when he had a glorious opportunity to bag a hat-trick after finding himself with only Brown to beat, but he almost seemed to have too much time on his hands and got stuck in two minds and failed to take the ball around the ‘keeper and the chance had gone.

The remainder of the match was seen out without too much incident and despite the poor standard of opposition, this was a thoroughly welcome result for Boro and one that will further increase the team’s growing confidence heading into the latter stages of the season.

Stevenage: Day 8, Henry 7, Ashton 8, Roberts 8, Laird 7, Wilson 8, Bostwick 7, Long 7 (Reid 77), Winn 6 (Charles 81), Bridges 6 (Mousinho 77), Harrison 8. Subs not used: Bayes, Foster, May, Sinclair.

Cheltenham Town: Brown 5, Bird 5(Low 50 6), Riley 5 (Gallinagh 31 6), Elliott 6, Andrew 4, Thomson 5 (Smikle 57 6), Artus 6, Pack 5, Green 6, Goulding 5, Thomas 5. Subs not used: Lloyd Weston, Pook, Lewis, Elito.

Att: 2,733 (233 visitors)

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