Injury-time strike snatches a point for Boro
- Credit: Archant
Stevenage’s Tuesday night magic continued to sparkle against Preston as Jimmy Smith scored an injury-time goal to salvage a point.
Much like their season, Boro came alive in the final minutes of the game. Tom Clarke had given the visitors the lead in a first half that featured very little in the way of chances.
The game looked destined to be a loss for Graham Westley’s side until Jimmy Smith drove the ball into the net in the 90th minute. With the bit between their teeth, and five minute added time, Boro pushed forward but a wonder save from Declan Rudd ensured Preston escaped with a point.
Stevenage came into the game looking to win their seventh Tuesday night game of the season. The only change for Graham Westley’s side was Dean Parrett, who replaced John Mousinho in the centre of midfield.
For Preston, Scott Laird made his return to the Lamex and ex-England international Kevin Davies started up front.
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Sitting outside the Lamex Stadium it must have sounded like an incident-filled first half due to the atmosphere inside the ground as the Preston North End and Stevenage fans fed off one another. Unfortunately, the action didn’t quite match the atmosphere.
The opening 10 minutes of the game was an even affair as neither side could find the necessary ball to unlock the defences. That all changed in the 16th minute when Bira Dembele fouled Joe Garner near the halfway line, resulting in a card for the Boro man.
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The free-kick was lofted into the box by Paul Gallagher, headed on by ex-Stevenage left back Scott Laird and there was Tom Clarke to fire home from close range. From Boro’s standpoint, it was a sloppy goal to concede after a promising start to the game.
Dean Parrett had the chance to pull Boro level eight minutes later, after a cross by Freeman was headed down to him by Darius Charles, but his header was blocked at point-blank range. It was the only real sight of goal for Stevenage in the first half.
After 40 minutes, Charles, who started the game up front, moved to left back with Akins pushing up front and Freeman switching to the right flank.
Freeman was the most dangerous player in a Boro shirt and his industry saw him work his way into promising positions but each time his shot was blocked.
Despite his Premier League and international credentials, Davies was kept quiet in the opening half by Dembele, his only shot being blocked before it threatened Chris Day’s goal.
With the teams sharing possession and territory and neither defence yielding much in the way of goalscoring chances, Boro could consider themselves unlucky to be behind after 45 minutes.
Preston opened the second half with a cross from Laird that Day had to collect on his line before, at the other end, Freeman whipped in a teasing cross that was smothered by Declan Rudd with Francois Zoko closing in.
Garner had the first clear sight of goal in the second half in the 65th minute. He linked up with Davies before firing high and wide of Day’s left upright. Soon after, Westley reshuffled his pack, replacing Parrett with Michael Doughty.
Freeman, so often the architect of Stevenage’s attacks, almost crafted an equaliser as he collected the ball on the right, cut in and shot. His effort was blocked and curled up to Charles who found Zoko but he couldn’t find the space he needed to test Rudd.
In the final 10 minutes, Stevenage finally started to settle into the game and they crafted two great chances with two minutes.
The first started with excellent work by Zoko down the left, he cut the ball back to Freeman whose shot was saved by Rudd. Then, Jimmy Smith’s volley was cleared off the line by Jack King.
With Boro pressing, Preston took off the ineffective Kevin Davies and brought on Craig Davies. Chris Humphrey also made way for Scott Wiseman. Westley introduced Craig Reid in place of Roarie Deacon as he tried to salvage a point from the game.
It was Boro’s changes, though, that paid dividends as the game came alive in the final five minutes.
Freeman worked a yard of space in the left corner before finding a cross that was cleared to Smith on the edge of the box. He drilled his shot through the crowded box and into the net to level the game.
Suddenly, Stevenage were in the ascendency and only a diving, finger-tip save from Rudd denied Charles’ powerful shot that looked destined for the top corner.
Stevenage starting line-up: Chris Day; Bira Dembele; Jon Ashton; Darius Charles; Lucas Akins; Francois Zoko; Dean Parrett; Luke Freeman; Jimmy Smith; Curtis Obeng; Roarie Deacon. Subs: Steve Arnold; Sam Wedgbury; Jordan Burrow; Simon Heslop; Craig Reid; Michael Doughty; Peter Hartley.
Preston North End starting line-up: Declan Rudd; Keith Keane; Scott Laird; Tom Clarke; Bailey Wright; Chris Humphrey; Kevin Davies; Paul Gallagher; Joe Garner; John Welsh; Jack King. Subs: Thorsten Stuckmann; Stuart Beavon; David Buchanan; Craig Davies; John Brownhill; Scott Wiseman; Neil Kilkenny.