INTERVIEW: Gary Smith on Boro’s ‘heartbreak’
My players showed wonderful character over the two legs - Smith
Stevenage manager Gary Smith thought his side had done enough to take Sheffield United to extra-time before the Blades struck six minutes from time in their play-off second leg on Monday evening.
Boro had withstood large amounts of United pressure and a couple of good chances before Chris Porter popped up with the decisive goal on 84 minutes at Bramall Lane to break Boro’s hearts.
Afterwards Smith said his team had performed well over the two legs and matched the Blades pass for pass, but admitted his team didn’t create as much of a threat as they did a fortnight ago when the two sides drew 2-2 in the penultimate league game of the season.
“I think we can say that deflation is an understatement, especially the timing of the goal,” Smith told the Comet. “In the end I thought we’d done enough to get ourselves into extra-time.
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“I thought the efforts of the guys were just remarkable. The sort of determination and discipline these guys showed is an absolute credit to the club and the organisation that they work for.
“They’re a fantastic group, it’s been great to work with them and I think just on the display tonight we were just a little bit short in the creative department that maybe put Sheffield on their heels two weeks ago and we didn’t quite make those heights with the ball.
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“I think the difference was they played with an extra midfield player as well. It made the midfield part of the pitch very tight, very difficult to navigate, and for periods they managed to achieve it better although they were not much of a threat to our goal especially first half.
“The second period started to unfold for them and they showed maybe a little bit more of a cutting edge but I never really felt it was going to be too much of a problem. The guys stood firm, we looked in order and well disciplined, but unfortunately in the end that one order makes a big difference.
“If you look at 180 minutes of football against a top side like Sheffield United, one goal separates the teams.
“I think the players, over the two legs, have shown such a wonderful character and quality and we’ve probably missed the boat a little bit at home – taking that advantage here as I might have hoped.
“Now the sequence of games has unfolded, I can look back and say if you score at home it probably asks a bigger question of Sheffield to make something happen and it might leave a gap or two [in the second leg].
“They defended well themselves and mounted some good pressure and probably the enthusiasm of the crowd and the support they get has driven them on and kept them moving forward. It’s wonderful for the players here; it’s such a good atmosphere for them to work in and probably in the end that’s been a bit of a difference. They score a goal when that momentum worked towards the end and it’s heartbreaking for us.”