Haber strike sends Boro up to third
Stevenage flying high after victory over Coventry on Sunday afternoon
Coventry City 1
Shroot 21, Haber 70
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MARCUS HABER’S goal 20 minutes from time sealed Boro’s third away win of the season to send Gary Smith’s side up to third in the League One table.
In an entertaining match in front of a lowly crowd of 9,458 at the Ricoh Arena, Boro came back from a goal down following David McGoldrick’s 10th-minute opener with Robin Shroot’s equaliser out of the blue 11 minutes later. And despite a far from vintage performance, Boro sealed the three points midway through the second half with substitute Haber’s first goal for the club following the Canadian’s move from St Johnstone in the summer.
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It has been clear from Boro’s performances this season that this is a side still getting into its stride following the departure of several key players during the transfer window. But the fact they remain unbeaten after five league games indicates there could be a lot more to come from this group Smith has assembled.
Coventry started the match much brighter than Boro as they set about recording their first win of the season in front of the Sky TV cameras. The visitors looked unusually nervous at the back and several early balls into the box caused more concern than need be considering centre-half duo Mark Roberts and Jon Ashton towered over strikers David McGoldrick and Stephen Elliott.
Coventry rightly had a goal disallowed after seven minutes when McGoldrick fired home after a hopeful cross from Carl Barker, but the referee had already blown up for a shove on Chris Day by Elliott.
The early Sky Blues pressure made it difficult for Boro to get out of their own half and it came as no surprise when the home side took the lead with just 10 minutes on the clock. It came as a result of Boro failing to clear their lines after a succession of set-plays, and when the ball fell to McGoldrick 25 yards from goal, the on-loan Nottingham Forest man curled a spectacular effort over Chris Day and into the net via the underside of the crossbar.
Falling behind didn’t seem to wake Boro from their slumber, and Coventry continued to dominate possession. But out of nowhere, on 21 minutes, Stevenage were back on level terms after a swift counter-attack had caught the hosts cold.
Anthony Grant, who had looked off the pace in the middle of the park for the previous 20 minutes, suddenly burst into life with a run through midfield. The former Southend man played in Luke Freeman into the area and his fierce shot was parried by Joe Murphey into the path of the onrushing Shroot who fired home the rebound into the bottom corner.
The equaliser was scantly deserved, but it injected much-needed vigour into the visitor’s display. Coventry no longer looked as confident going forward while Boro had established a foot-hold in the game.
However, Coventry were unlucky not to re-take the lead on 27 minutes when they had their second goal ruled out, this time against the offside Elliott after a goalmouth scramble. Television replays later showed the striker was onside.
Boro were unlucky not to take the lead themselves minutes later when a strong run from Lucas Akins resulted in Patrick Agyemang seeing his deflected shot rebound off the post, hit Murphey’s back, and roll inches wide of the goal. It was a farcical moment that really should have yielded Boro’s second goal.
The second half began in similar fashion to the first with Coventry taking the game to Boro, who looked a little off the pace again following the break. McGoldrick had Coventry’s first sight of goal when he latched on to a deflected long-range effort, only for his header from six yards to draw a smart save from Day.
His strike-partner Elliott was next to threaten, only to drag his shot wide of the near post after a neat flick from McGoldrick.
It looked just a matter of time before Coventry would score again but, just like the first half, a Boro counter-attack caught the hosts napping and it was this that led to the winning goal.
Darius Charles played a lovely pass-and-go with Freeman to find himself clear on goal, but instead of rounding the keeper, who was 12 yards off his line, and slotting home – the left-back opted to chip Murphy only to see his effort beaten away for a corner. A glorious chance had gone begging.
It was a good job, then, that Boro scored from the resulting corner – and that man Charles made a telling contribution that made up for his miss seconds earlier. Freeman’s delivery was flicked on by Charles to Haber who was on hand to glance home his first goal for the club off the underside of the crossbar.
As the match wound down the home crowd grew more and more frustrated with their side’s inability to threaten the Boro goal, as Stevenage counted down the clock with relative ease.
This was another impressive result for Smith’s side away from home, and now all that is needed is for them to replicate that form on home soil, starting next weekend against Crewe.
Coventry City: Murphey; Clarke, Wood, Edjenguele, Hussey (McDonald 75); Barker, Barton (Thomas 70), Jennings, Kilbane (c); McGoldrick, Elliott (Ball 85).
Subs not used: Dunn, McSheffrey, Daniels, Brown.
Stevenage: Day; Gray, Roberts (c), Ashton (N’Gala 45), Charles; Grant, Dunne; Shroot (Risser 45), Freeman, Akins; Agyemang (Haber 64).
Subs not used: Arnold, Tansey, Comminges, Lopez.
*Stay tuned to this website to read interviews with Gary Smith, Marcus Haber and captain Mark Roberts on Monday.