‘Gutsy’ Stevenage pleases Westley

Graham Westley

Graham Westley - Credit: Archant

‘We looked leggy, but we dug in and got the points’ says Boro manager

Graham Westley says his side is learning how to win games when they aren’t playing at their best.

Describing Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Crawley Town as ‘gutsy’, the Stevenage manager said that the midweek trip to Crewe Alexandra and an ‘exhilarating 90 minutes’ had taken a lot out of his side but his players ‘dug in’ for a win that moves them up to 17th in the table.

“We defended very well at [set pieces]; we knew that they’d scored 30-plus per cent of their goals at sets and we knew that was where they presented a real threat and we were focused on getting that right, and I thought the boys did that.

“The defensive organisation is important if you’re not going to play your best football.

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“With the tiredness on Tuesday and with the long journey and an exhilarating 90 minutes there was always a danger that we weren’t always going to be at our most fluent [against Crawley].

“I think you could see some of the dynamic players looked as if the edge wasn’t quite there with them but our work rate was, our organisation, our togetherness and our care for the points and in the end that and our set plays have got us home.”

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Stevenage took the lead through centre-back Peter Hartley on eight minutes and the visitors barely posed a threat until the final five minutes of the first half when they had three chances in quick succession, the best of which saw Dannie Bulman fire wide with just Chris Day to beat.

Crawley proved more of a threat in the second period, but it was Boro’s Michael Doughty who scored next – his 90th minute shot securing the win for Boro.

“As the game wore on and opened up them playing one off the front started to cause us a problem,” Westley said.

“We were looking a little bit leggy. As the game opened up and our leginess took its toll, the spaces off their front man started to be areas they could exploit.

“We tried to seal the deal on the game in the second half and get our work rate and organisation on top but not even that really stopped it. We had to be gutsy and dig in, and wait for the late bit of pace and counterattack to put the seal on the game.

“It’s nice to see a defender get some joy and some credit at the other end, and don’t ignore [Greg] Tansey who put a terrific ball in for the goal [from a corner].

“And Michael Doughty was excellent all afternoon. I thought him, and [Luke] Jones and Chris Day were outstanding performers on the afternoon but the team did work hard and they showed a lot of guts for each other.

“It was a Stevenage performance of old. It was one of those days when we weren’t at our best but were we did enough to win the game.

“We were very good at that [in the past] and we won trophies because of that, on a good day we’d win well and on a bad day we won and that’s what we did.

“This group is starting to understand now what it takes to win well on a good day and just win when you’re not at your best.”

Crawley manager Richie Barker says he thought his side dominated ‘80 per cent’ of the match.

“We have played worse than that this season and won games, and we’ve certainly played worst than that and drawn games as well.

“The first goal’s disappointing: we know what we’re going to get when we come here, set pieces are going to be a big threat, but I thought we dominated 80 per cent of the game: most shots, most crosses, most corners, most possession by a mile. Obviously though we’ve come away with nothing.”

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