Michael Bostwick can play at the highest level - Smith

Stevenage boss praises talented midfielder after 1-1 draw at Walsall

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Stevenage manager Gary Smith says Michael Bostwick can play at the highest level after seeing his midfielder score the equaliser in the draw at Walsall on Saturday.

Bostwick was head and shoulders above his team-mates in Saturday’s stalemate – Boro’s third successive draw – and his wonderful strike from 25 yards was the highlight of a solid second-half performance from Stevenage after a bit of a stinker in the first.

“[Bostwick] was man of the match for us,” Smith said afterwards. “His development and the quality of the player, knowing that there are other teams that are very much interested in Michael, means that he is an individual who has certainly got another level if not the top level in him.

“He’s got both sides to his game, his energies and determination defensively are absolutely terrific, and when he goes forward his distribution is good and he knows where the back of the net is.

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“Although we have seen in the past some real decent opportunities not hit the target, he’s been working ever so hard to make sure he’s working the goalkeeper and the last two or three games he’s done that a lot more often.”

Stevenage began the match in the worst possible way, conceding within the first four minutes.

Walsall had already had one corner and a free kick when, in a move stemming from another corner, Manny Smith knocked the ball down for Andy Butler who turned Darius Charles with ease to fire home inside the post.

Walsall built phases of attacking play and were quicker to the ball in the opening stages. Jamie Paterson was the best player on the pitch in the opening half-hour, and the midfielder was helped by the intelligent running of Jon Macken and Alex Nicholls ahead of him.

It took 40 minutes for Boro to test David Grof in the home goal. A ball to Patrick Agyemang saw the front man control the pass nicely, and when he played the ball to Craig Reid his strike partner took a touch before shooting from some 25 yards.

The shot packed punch, but so did goalkeeper Grof who got his fist to the ball and collected it when it returned to earth.

Stevenage brought on Jennison Myrie-Williams for Agyemang at the break with Darius Charles moving into attack, and the latter was soon in the mix winning the headers Agyemang was unable to in the first half.

It was Bostwick who drew Stevenage level, just before the hour mark. Out of nothing, and from 25 yards, the midfielder caressed a neat effort past Grof, who was slightly off his line, to pull his team back level.

After a poor first half Stevenage upped their game in the second period but although Charles was involved in much of the play Reid was working with scraps.

When he did find himself in a position to threaten Grof, the former Newport County man shot wide under pressure as he tried to make something of Charles’ pass.

Luke Freeman is a man who both promised and delivered plenty when he first signed on a permanent deal for the club, but in recent weeks injury and a dip in form has seen him spend more time on the bench than off it.

Against Walsall he once again started in the dugout but came on with seven minutes to go and with Stacy Long also making a late introduction the pair of wide men looked to pass the ball around, rather than over, the Walsall back line.

The last Stevenage effort of the game fell to Freeman but he was denied a strike at goal by a good tackle after Lawrie Wilson and Joel Byrom had moved the ball through the Walsall half.

The win wasn’t to be, and Boro will hope the same isn’t the case when they entertain AFC Bournemouth this Tuesday.

Walsall: Grof 6, Sadler 6, Butler 7, Smith 6, Beevers 6, Paterson 7 (Ledesma 62, 7), Cuvelier 5, Nicholls 6, Hurst 6, Macken 7 (Bowerman 88), Mantom 5. Subs: Walker, Westlake, Lancashire.

Stevenage: Day 6, Henry 6 (Long 73), Charles 6, Ashton 6, Roberts 6, Wilson 6, Laird 6, Bostwick 8, Byrom 6, Reid 6 (Freeman 84), Agyemang 6 (Myrie-Williams 46, 6). Subs: Julian, Shroot.

Ref: Kettle

Att: 4786 (283)