Match report: Stevenage 0 Notts County 2
Stevenage lose at home in the league for the first time this season
Stevenage 0 Notts County 2
Npower League 1
It was always going to be a difficult task, a repeat performance of last week’s Lord Mayor’s show.
And just as Boro put on the sort of performance against Sheffield Wednesday that made people stand up and take notice, their follow-up would have made those same observers sit back down with a sigh.
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Boro weren’t awful – in the same way that Notts County weren’t great – but it was a subdued display from Graham Westley’s men, and the sort of performance that lacked energy and purpose.
Too few chances came courtesy of good build-up play for both sides and County’s goals smacked of opportunism, but at least Martin Allen’s side took them.
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It says much that Boro’s best opportunity came not in open play but from the penalty spot when Craig Reid saw his spot kick saved by Stuart Nelson, on his 30th birthday, after just seven minutes.
Reid had been brought down in the box moments earlier after centre back Krystian Pearce sliced a clearance into his own area and had tripped the front man in his efforts to recover. It was a surprise to see Pearce escape a red card, a decision which irked Boro boss Graham Westley.
Stevenage had begun the match on the front foot by forcing three early corners, while Reid struck the post on 14 minutes only to see the linesman had raised his flag for offside.
County’s first effort on target was a Jeff Hughes free kick, straight down the throat of Chris Day.
There were moments of thrills in Boro’s forward play but it didn’t last, and the swagger that was evident in the win over Wednesday was missing in what was a staccato display lacking in fluidity and tempo.
If the visitors were lucky not to have had Pearce sent off, they were luckier on the half-hour mark when Charlie Allen, son of manager Martin, only saw yellow for a late challenge on Jon Ashton. That he was then substituted by his father said much.
A vocal Allen clearly wanted to see more from his team, and his charges delivered just before the break.
Nice build-up play down the right saw Lee Hughes get in behind Mark Roberts and the striker crossed first time for Jeff Hughes, running into the area 14 yards from goal. The midfielder’s low shot was saved at close range by the feet of Chris Day, but from the following corner and after a spot of pinball made up of shots, blocks and failed clearances, an unmarked Lee Hughes tapped home from two yards.
Boro made a double change at the break with Josh Walker and Chris Beardsley coming on for Scott Laird and Joel Byrom, and Beardsley was straight into the action.
A quick throw by Day caught County napping and Lawrie Wilson burst through midfield with gusto. The midfielder sent the ball out wide to Beardsley who crossed into the box but strike partner Reid, at the far post, was unable to reach the ball.
What Boro were unable to do - score - the visitors did for the second time on 49 minutes.
Ben Burgess got the goal, heading home after a long cross from Jon Harley, but the fact that the striker was afforded so much room will be a concern for the Stevenage coaching team.
Boro attempted to push on, but the options in the final third were not there for a midfield with the added creativity of Walker, who himself shot wide with 12 minutes left after being set up by Stacy Long.
Last week Wednesday fans left the Lamex Stadium before the final whistle, but this time it was the home faithful heading for the exits early following the club’s first home league defeat of the season.
The County fans stayed behind and cheered their team to the rafters, but there was very little to cheer about for the hosts.
Stevenage (4-4-2): Day 6, Henry 6, Laird 5 (Walker 46, 6), Roberts 5, Ashton 6, Wilson 6, Long 5, Bostwick 5, Byrom 5 (Beardsley 46, 7), Charles 5, Reid 6 (Harrison 72). Subs: Julian, Edwards.
Notts County (4-1-3-2): Nelson 6, Kelly 6, Harley 7 (Montano 60, 6), Edwards 6, Pearce 5, Mahon 7, Allen 4 (Judge 30, 6), Bishop 6, J Hughes 7, L Hughes 7 (Hawley 72), Burgess 6. Subs: Mitchell, Sodje.
Att: 3,434 (661)