Match Preview: Stevenage v Southend United

Graham Westley on the sidelines

Graham Westley on the sidelines - Credit: Archant

With the dust settling on Thursday’s General Election results, Graham Westley was in topical mood whilst looking ahead to Sunday’s League 2 play-off semi-final first leg clash with Southend United at the Lamex Stadium and the potential route to Wembley.

Having grabbed their play-off place two weeks ago with a 1-0 home triumph over Carlisle United, the identity of their semi-final opponents was revealed on the final day of the campaign.

In Phil Brown’s Southend, Boro are faced with a side, that prior to their Morecambe defeat that condemned them to the play-offs, had notched eight clean sheets in a row, seven of those shut-outs delivering three points.

Stevenage themselves can boast a run-in record of just two defeats in 16 matches and Westley believes good form will count for themselves in their battle for promotion to League 1 with United, Plymouth Argyle and Wycome Wanderers.

Westley said: “It’s certainly not a lottery anymore than the General Election was.

“Were there favourites going into the General Election..? Probably. It was pretty neck and neck at the start of play yesterday so everyone thought, but there was a resounding victor.

“In any situation, anyone is going to want to get themselves up for the fight. I’m sure Ed Milliband thought he was going to be in No. 10 today but he’s not and it’s the same in the play-offs.

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“Four clubs get themselves excited and they hope for the best. One club gets the prize of promotion though.”

Boro have a record of one win and one defeat against the Shrimpers this season, however, with their one win coming in a classic 4-2 comeback victory back in February, ignited by a dazzling Ben Kennedy cameo off the bench in which he won a penalty, scored and supplied Dean Parrett for the fourth to confirm maximum points, Stevenage certainly have the potential to take an advantage into the second leg.

For Westley though, it is a game of two legs.

He continued: “It is inevitable that there will be a slightly different feel to the first game, knowing there is a second game a few days later.

“We have played semi-finals both home and away in the first leg and what we know is it is 180 minutes of football and actually home or away doesn’t really matter. It is about going into the second half in as best shape as possible.

“Whether you play that first leg away - we went to Kidderminster and won that first leg 5-1 in the FA Trophy semis - or you play that first leg at home - we knocked Accrington out after winning 2-0 in the first leg at home and went on to win at Wembley, it doesn’t matter.

“Therefore, whatever way round it is, you can still win the game away or at home [and still go through]. The job at work is to stay clean, score as many as you can and put yourself in the best possible position for that second half.”

Don’t forget to pick up your free copy of The Comet’s 16-page Boro play-off supplement from outside the Lamex Stadium prior to Sunday’s encounter.