Harrison bags a brace on his return as Stevenage beat Cambridge United to record back-to-back wins
- Credit: Archant
The returning Byron Harrison scored twice to help Stevenage grab a first home win since November as they beat play-off chasing Cambridge United 2-0 in a feisty local derby.
Harrison, who only re-joined Boro on a one-month loan deal from League One Chesterfield on Thursday just over four years after initially leaving the Lamex Stadium, latched onto Jamie Jones’ goal-kick in the 17th minute before beating Cambridge keeper Will Norris with a deft prod.
Boro, looking for a first home win since beating Morecambe 4-3 over two months ago, shaded the opening period but could have been pegged back immediately after Harrison’s strike as Ben Williamson blitzed through the home defence but his left-shot bounced off the post.
As expected Cambridge, unbeaten in their previous four League Two games before their Lamex visit, were not going to lay down and came out at the start of the second half all guns blazing.
With U’s chances going astray though, Boro pounced on the counter-attack through Connor Ogilvie’s positive wing-work and his dangerous ball was diverted onto the sliding Harrison by the unfortunate Ryan Haynes. An innocuous goal but the gangly forward, who helped Stevenage to League One promotion back in 2011, won’t care. An impressive second coming for a man with only three substitute appearances under his belt this season.
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Boro’s second took the wind from United’s sails and the hosts could have added further gloss to the scoreline had Luke Wilkinson’s header beaten Harrison Dunk on the line 11 minutes from the end.
Nevertheless, a second three points in as many games for caretaker boss Darren Sarll and one that adds weight to his case for the permanent manager’s position.
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Sarll made four changes from Tuesday night’s vital 2-1 win at relegation rivals Hartlepool United.
Harrison, super sub Tom Conlon, scorer of both of Boro’s midweek goals, came into the starting line-up alongside Fraser Franks and Michael Tonge.
There were three familiar Cambridge names on the teamsheet for Boro fans in James Dunne, keeper Sam Beasant and Mark Roberts.
Boro, buoyed by their northern midweek exploits, started the brighter. U’s debutant left-back Haynes, who only signed on loan from Coventry City this morning, was the target of the home side’s advances. Ronnie Henry and Pett both tested the youngster’s resolve in the preliminary minutes of this encounter.
Former Stevenage man Dunne was also having a sloppy start to the game, first mis-placing a pass to Swansea City loanee Ryan Hedges and then handling the ball on the edge of his own box. The wall did its job well to block Tom Conlon’s effort.
The hosts were certainly fired up in this derby and when the opener came, it was fully deserved.
Jones’ meaty hoof caught out the U’s defence, bouncing devilishly into the path of the onrushing Harrison, who nudged the ball beyond Norris.
Previously 10th-placed Cambridge had not shown what they are capable of up to then but they almost grabbed an equaliser four minutes later.
Williamson rushed through a huge gap in the Boro defence but his shot, almost in slow-motion, beat Jones but not the post. A real let-off for the home side.
The visitors continued to press and probe with Ryan Donaldson having a shot blocked on the half-hour mark while Dunk’s free-kick came to nothing after Wilkinson had fouled the aforementioned Donaldson.
At the other end, Stevenage almost got a vital second goal moments before the break.
Shaun Derry’s men could not clear their lines and first, Ogilvie then Tonge were denied by heroic blocking.
Then Leon Legge was inches away from slicing past Norris and into his own net.
Moments after a well-earned half-time orange, Legge should have scored at the right end.
The ball was played across the box with purpose and the defender powered a header over the bar when it looked easier to score.
United were now in command and Luke Berry should also have done better with a header. Jones comfortably caught the ball to his right though.
Stevenage were living dangerously but on a rare second-half break, Hedges raced into the box and fizzed a ball across to the far post. However, Haynes blocked Tom Pett’s attempt with the goal gaping.
A drinks break brought a brief halt to the breathless proceedings, and the introduction of Lee Cox for the struggling Conlon, but within moments Boro had the clincher.
Great persistence down the left from Ogilvie eventually brought a cross which Haynes, distracted by the baseball slide of Harrison, could only hook back on the pestering striker andpast Norris into the net. The left-back may have been wishing he had decided against the move this morning.
Boro were good value for this victory and had Wilkinson’s header crept in in the 79th minute it would not have been unjust.
As it was, the buoyant hosts held on for another terrific win. They remain 19th but still crucially 11 points clear of the League Two drop zone.
Stevenage: Jones, Wilkinson, Franks, Hedges, Pett (Johnson, 90), Harrison (O’Connor, 67), Tonge, Lee, Henry, Ogilvie, Conlon (Cox, 62).
Subs not used – Day, Zanzala, Gorman, Kerr.
Cambridge United: Norris, Legge, Donaldson (Simpson, 74), Berry, Dunk, Coulson, Dunne (Spencer, 45), Williamson, Ledson, Furlong, Haynes (Ahearne Grant, 67).
Subs not used – Beasant, Omozusi, Roberts, O’Neill.
Attendance – 3945.