Mousinho fires Boro to League 1
Stevenage 1 Torquay United 0 - match report
Stevenage 1 Torquay United 0
npower League 2 play-off final
STEVENAGE FC will be playing their football in League 1 next season after John Mousinho’s stunning strike sunk Torquay United in the League 2 play-off final.
Boro had spent many a season trying to get into League 2 but having finally made it they will have spent just the one season in the fourth tier of English football as their triumph at Old Trafford sealed back-to-back promotions.
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Next season the likes of Charlton Athletic, Oldham Athletic and the two Sheffield sides – United and Wednesday – await, all of them former Premier League teams, and there is plenty of work to be done in the summer for Graham Westley and his board.
Two budgets will have been in place – one for League 2, and one for League 1 – and although planning would have already begun decisions can now be made and progress implemented.
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If Stevenage would have stayed in League 2 there would have been vultures circling for the likes of Mark Roberts, Jon Ashton, John Mousinho and Lawrie Wilson, especially after their FA Cup excursions, and although vultures may still be in the vicinity Boro are in a better position to bat them off.
As for Saturday’s game, this was a battle of a different kind and although Torquay manager Paul Buckle believed his side were the better team on the day, the truth was that the game was much more evenly contested than he would care to admit.
Boro began the day with Ashton on the bench and Michael Bostwick deputising again in the back line, while in midfield came the returning Mousinho after a three-game suspension alongside Joel Byrom added guile to the Stevenage steel.
The early signs were good with Darius Charles causing problems behind the full-backs and he set up Craig Reid early on for a shot which was blocked.
Skipper Roberts was overlooked for the man-of-the-match award, but he was outstanding on an afternoon which began with him throwing himself in front of a Billy Kee effort which came at the end of a simple Torquay passing move.
Charles was a persistent menace up top and when he got in behind the lumbering Guy Branston he pulled the ball back in the box for Mousinho who fired directly at Scott Bevan from all of 16 yards.
Boro had settled the better of the two sides, but there was a moment of danger when Robinson was played in behind Ronnie Henry by Zebroski on 22 minutes.
With players making their way into the box the Torquay man had options but his pull back into the six-yard box came to nothing and Boro cleared their lines.
Moments later Henry was up the other end crossing for Charles in a congested box but under pressure the front man sent his header wide, but Charles was looking dangerous, and he went close on 27 minutes when after Bevan flapped at a cross he fired over from 16 yards.
Again Charles was at the centre of the action when Bostwick whipped a cross in on the half-hour mark. The striker had got behind Chris Robertson and when the ball went past the Torquay defender pushed Charles in the back in the box but the officials did not see enough in it to blow up for a penalty.
Boro were creating chances and there was a belief that they needed to convert at least one before the break while their superiority showed, but this time Charles connected to a cross but headed into the ground and over the bar from eight yards
Bostwick was caught out after dwelling on the ball with 10 minutes to go before the break and was delighted and relieved to see Jake Robinson fire over from 25 yards, but that delighted was nothing compared to what followed.
The move started at the back with Bostwick playing the ball out of defence to Charles midway in the Torquay half.
The striker took a touch before passing inside to Mousinho who carried it on for 15 yards before planting a terrific low, hard effort into the car corner for 1-0.
It was a deserved lead, but it was almost cancelled out straight away when Branston beat Charles to a corner and whizzed a bullet header past a beaten Day but wide of his upright.
Likewise, when Bostwick failed to clear the ball properly seconds before the break he handed the ball straight to Chris Zebroski in the box but the striker, as he often does, wasted the opportunity.
Torquay came out at the start of the second half meaning business, but once again they were left trying their luck from distance.
That said, on 50 minutes Kee did breach the back line and running into the Boro box behind Henry before striking low at Day whose foot edged the ball out for a corner.
The second half was more closely contested and a few niggling injuries caught up with Boro players as both Reid and Joel Byrom were taken off for Byron Harrison and Darren Murphy.
Harrison made an immediate impact teeing up Charles 25 yards from goal but the striker’s first touch let him down and when he did get a shot off after turning a defender in the box he fired straight at Bevan.
Torquay had their moments and when Robinson was gifted the ball 18 yards out on his own by Zebroski, he had enough time to take three touches never mind one. He scuffed it first time, however, and Day got down to his right and got a hand behind it.
Chances were being created by both sides as the game entered its final moments and Murphy had a sitter from eight yards but headed Long’s corner from the left wide of goal. It was a glaring miss.
At the other end, Robinson got hold of a Henry clearance and pinged it onto the cross bar from 25 yards as Torquay looked for the equaliser.
Nerves were jangling at both ends, and when Branston found a yard of space from a corner to get his boot on the ball from 12 yards the United supporters behind the goal held their breath. As it was, the ball ended up with them in the crowd.
Boro’s defence held strong and the best back line in League 2 made it three clean successive play-off clean sheets and propelled Stevenage to a historic victory.
Boro (4-4-2): Day 7, Henry 8, Laird 7, Bostwick 7, Roberts 9, Wilson 6, Long 6, Byrom 6 (Murphy 57, 6), Mousinho 7, Reid 6 (Harrison 62, 7), Charles 8 (Beardsley 84). Subs: Welch, Ashton, Winn, May.
Torquay United (4-4-2): Bevan 7, Nicholson 7 (Rowe-Turner 83), Mansell 6, Robertson 7, Branston 6, Robinson 7 (Stevens 83), Kee 6, O’Kane 7, Lathrope 6 (Oastler 78), Zebroski 6, Tomlin 7. Subs: Potter, Ellis, Macklin, Halpin, Stevens.