Michael Tonge’s late Stevenage winner sends Boro into raptures as they beat Luton Town 1-0
- Credit: Archant
Stevenage sent their travelling fans into raptures by winning 1-0 against local rivals Luton Town at Kenilworth Road this afternoon.
The experienced Michael Tonge stepped up to take an 84th minute penalty after Ben Kennedy was felled in the box.
The former Sheffield United midfielder made no mistake as he coolly slotted the ball past Hatters’ keeper Jonathan Mitchell – to send the Boro fans behind the goal delirious.
With Boro only seven points clear of second bottom York City – albeit with a game in hand to be played this week against Yeovil Town – a good result was imperative today at the home of their Bedfordshire rivals.
With both sets of fans in fine voice in the frenetic opening stages it promised to be a committed affair for the two teams only 12 miles apart.
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Yet with no history in the fixture to speak of apart from the last five years it was hoped for a passionate contest which would not cross the lines of propriety – certainly not after the small outbreak of stupidity at the end of the 0-0 at The Lamex back in November which resulted in two arrests.
Thankfully there was none of that today in the spring sunshine as both teams vied for supremacy in the opening stages.
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Good work by Luton’s Paddy McCourt on 13 minutes saw Jack Marriot fire over from a central position.
Boro’s Bradley Prichard responded two minutes later by playing in Greg Luer who joined from Championship side Hull City last month, shot across Jonathon Mitchell’s goal, narrowly missing the far post.
McCourt was then book for an illegal challenge on Michael Tongue as both teams vied for supremacy in the middle of the park.
With the Hatters firmly ensconced in middle table safety, finely poised for a last-gasp push for the play-offs, or just plain mediocrity - determining on your view – both teams battled gamely.
Even if - with Luton having lost 2-1 at Barnet on Easter Monday - Boro were looking to build on their encouraging point gained at promotion-chasing Oxford United.
Luton tried to take control of proceedings with the lively Marriot posing problems for the Boro backline with his driving runs.
However Greg Luer again proved willing as he fired a shot at Mitchell after Glen Rea conceded possession in the middle of the park with five minutes until half time. The Luton keeper was equal to the task and the game remained 0-0 as the game meandered to the end of a hard-fought if shapeless first 45 minutes.
Seconds before the whistle however, the temperature was raised as Alan Sheehan grabbed Boro’s Jake Mulraney around the neck. With the linesman yards away but failing to highlight the misdemeanour the Stevenage youngster threw his hands up in frustration.
Both sets of fans were annoyed, as were both teams. Thankfully ref Darren Handley saw sense and neither player was booked – or worse. For Handley however, the weakness of his linesman did him no favours.
As he blew moments later manager Darren Sarll, advisor Glenn Roeder, the team, and the travelling fans – which officially numbered 347 in a crowd of 8,507 – Boro’s constant harrying and pressure was a plus point. As was their willingness to advance when the situation allowed.
With only three minutes gone in the second half the Hatters’ Sheehan was again involved in match – this time for his team in a positive way as he cut inside and fired a shot which clipped the bar.
For the relieved Boro fans and team the ball did not end up in the net. But it was a close run thing - followed up moments later by a shot from McCourt who fired wide on the half volley.
The combative Charlie Adams came on for Mulraney on 53 minutes as Sarll looked to shore up his team defensively following the two scares.
On 61 minutes the tigerish Ben Kennedy showed his power and determination – picked up surely by his devotion to street football as a child in Northern Ireland than any specific coaching – by nearly scoring for Boro.
His shot may have flew just wide but it was an indication of his burgeoning talent.
Luton substitute Danny Green, on for McCourt a minute later fired in a cross for another Hatter replacement, Josh McQuiod, whose low header was blocked by Boro keeper Jamie Jones. The shotstopper who signed from Preston looked comfortable as he dropped down to prevent the home team taking the lead.
The keeper then showed his quality by standing up to the onrushing Marriot and palming away a powerful shot to keep the score goalless with 15 minutes remaining.
With only six minutes left Kennedy appeared to be felled by Olly Lee’s left leg.
Handley immediately pointed to the spot.
Michael Tonge stepped up and coolly fired the ball past Mitchell’s left hand and into the net – sending the travelling fans in front of them into raptures.
Handley added on seven minutes at the end of the 90 but Boro held on for a hard-fought three points that will aid their relegation fight no end, as the team and the fans celebrated in joyous unison at the end.
Jonathan Mitchell, Stephen O’Donnell, Jonathan Smith, Glen Rea, Scott Cuthbert (c) (Mpanzu 65), Cameron McGeehan, Jack Marriot, Paddy McCourt (Green 62), Olly Lee, Alan Sheehan, Joe Pigott (McQuiod 62)
Jamie Jones, Luke Wilkinson, Fraser Franks, Greg Luer (O’Connor 82), Michael Tongue, Dean Parrett (Gorman 78), Dean Wells, Ronnie Henry (c), Bradley Pritchard, Jake Mulraney (Adams 53), Ben Kennedy
Referee: Darren Handley
Att 8,507 (347 away fans)