Match preview: Stevenage FC v Northampton Town

Graham Westley

Graham Westley - Credit: Archant

Stevenage boss Graham Westley believes the tangible relief of picking up their late League Two win at Cheltenham Town on Easter Monday will generate his side’s best performance of the season in Saturday’s home clash with Northampton Town.

Boro ground out a priceless 1-0 travelling triumph, their first in six league matches, courtesy of Ben Kennedy’s 78th-minute penalty to lift themselves back into the League Two playoffs.

Despite resiliently battling for four draws in their past five games, including at play-off candidates Exeter City and league leaders Burton Albion, maximum returns from each game are the major aim for sides with promotion and relegation aspirations as the finish line draws ever closer.

Consequently, Westley feels a weight was cast from the shoulders of his players following their narrow bank holiday win in Gloucestershire.

Westley said: “I expect the weekend to be the best performance yet from the team.

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“The team has definitely grown in confidence with that scruffy three points on Monday. They were struggling along, nicking a draw, nicking a draw and they suddenly got that win and I could feel almost like a visible sense of relief.

“Now they have got that nervousness out of the way, which is always something that happens in the run-in, I expect to see them relax and let themselves off the leash a little bit and I expect the fans to come together and really produce something.”

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Stevenage face a pivotal four-day spell with the visits of the Cobblers and then mid-table Portsmouth on Tuesday night.

Six points from those two games would add further weight to Boro’s play-off credentials and Westley feels the crowd can play a major part in the final stages of the campaign.

He continued: “We had a tough start to the season with injuries and players finding their feet so we felt a lot of the time we were rehabilitating one group and habilitating the others and pull them altogether as one.

“It can be difficult to grow to love that squad but as the season’s gone along I think the players have endeared themselves to the club and you get that feeling from the terraces now.

“Last weekend, the noise level was a little bit louder than it has been previously and that sense of anticipation is growing around the place.”

This weekend’s opponents Northampton hold some threat, holding the mantel of League Two’s joint-second top scorers behind Shrewsbury, with a manager, Chris Wilder, that the Boro boss knows all too well from their past tussles in the Conference.

Westley said: “We have come up against each other a few times, most notably in the title run-in of 2009/10. Chris has been producing the goods in the last 20 games just like us. They have come on really strong. They have lost big players like Marc Richards (top scorer) which has not helped their cause but he is a man who knows what he is doing and the results show that.”

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