GALLERY: Stevenage 1 Port Vale 0
Lawrie Wilson fires Boro to victory to keep Stevenage on track for play-off place
Stevenage 1 Port Vale 0
npower League 2
STEVENAGE’S quest for back-to-back promotions continues after a Lawrie Wilson goal effectively put an end to Port Vale’s chances of making the play-off places.
A sturdy defensive display – and with it another clean sheet - was the key to this victory which ended Boro’s three-game winless run and moved them up a place to sixth.
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Now Northampton Town and Bury are all that stand between Boro and a League 2 play-off place, and if results go their way – if Chesterfield beat Torquay United on Friday evening – Stevenage could book their play-off spot with a win over The Cobblers this weekend.
Wilson, the goalscorer against Vale, could be a doubt for Saturday’s match after going off with a knock on Monday, but he left the pitch to a standing ovation after a superb display which saw him run Vale left-back Lee Collins ragged for most of the afternoon.
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His pace and tricky down the right meant the Boro front line of Byron Harrison and Chris Beardsley, making his first start since February, were supplied with plenty of ammunition as Boro looked to make the most of a lack of height in the Vale back line.
Boro played some good, passing football at times in the first half without seriously troubling Vale ‘keeper Chris Martin but their build-up play was encouraging with Wilson being consistently fed by his team-mates on the right.
In the first minute of the game a long Jon Ashton pass was knocked down to John Mousinho by Beardsley, and the ball was sprayed out wide to Wilson who beat Collins before whipping a cross in to the far post where Rob Sinclair went down under a challenge only to see referee Jock Waugh wave away his protests for a penalty.
In the opening five minutes alone Wilson beat Collins four times, and it was a surprise when Vale substituted the injured Sean Rigg on 10 minutes for replacement Louis Dodds that Collins was not pulled from the game as well.
The first shot came from Mousinho who curled an effort wide of Martin’s far post from the corner of the box, before fellow midfielder Michael Bostwick tried his luck from distance only for his low drive to be held by Martin.
Boro were offering much, and when Beardsley tried scooping a header into the net only to miss the target just after the half-hour mark, there was a feeling that the writing was on the wall.
But it was not, and Vale entered the break 15 minutes later having themselves had the two best opportunities of the game.
With their first meaningful attack, Robert Taylor ran on to a long pass down the right before cutting inside on the edge of the D. Seeing Chris Day a yard or two off his line, he hit a superb curling effort towards the corner of the goal only for Day to produce a stunning right-handed save to tip the ball over the crossbar.
Day was in inspired form all afternoon, but he was beaten once only for Marc Richards to see his ‘goal’ ruled out for offside on 41 minutes after flicking on a pass to the near post past the Boro stopper.
Stevenage themselves had a glorious opportunity to go ahead just after the restart, but Harrison, for once, fluffed his lines.
The striker has been in good form since he joined the club in January, but that form temporarily deserted him as he headed a whipped cross from the right yards wide from just five yards.
The excitement of the opening minute fell away as both teams matched each other tooth and nail over the next 20 minutes, with few chances created,
Marc Richards fired over from 16 yards for Vale while on the turn, before Day was forced to tip another Richards effort over the bar after the striker had looped a header to the far post.
Vale were looking a match for Boro, but it was not to last as on 70 minutes Wilson got the winner.
Harrison had made a good run into the box on the left, and skipping past a defender pulled it back for substitute Craig Reid who struck his shot at a defender, before the ball fell kindly to Wilson who touched it home with a little help from a defender on the line.
Collins, given a license to get forward in the second half, shot over for Vale as the visitors looked for a lifeline but they came up against a rock-solid Boro back line.
Next to try their luck against the best defence in the league are Northampton this Saturday, and with the Cobblers just a point above the drop zone it is all to play for at Sixfields.
Stevenage (4-4-2): Day 8, Henry 7, Laird 7, Roberts 7, Ashton 7, Wilson 8 (Charles 81), Mousinho 7, Bostwick 8, Sinclair 6 (Foster 70), Harrison 6, Beardsley 7 (Reid 65, 5). Subs: Welch, Long, Byrom, Bridges.
Port Vale (4-4-2): Martin 6, Yates 7, Collins 5, McCombe 6, Owen 6, Rigg (Dodds 13, 6), Taylor 7, Roberts 7, Griffith 6 (Morsy 46, 6), M Richards 7, J Richards 6. Subs: Tomlinson, Taylor, Haldane, Sutton, Davis.
Att: 3146 (282).