Mousinho the hero for Boro

Substitute keeps Stevenage’s play-off dream alive with late winner against Carlisle

Stevenage 1

Carlisle United 0

npower League One

JOHN MOUSINHO’S 76th-minute winner against rivals Carlisle United on Tuesday night handed Stevenage a huge boost in the race to reach the play-offs.

The midfielder, who had only been on the field for two minutes after replacing the injured Luke Freeman, latched onto a through-ball from Stacy Long before firing home a goal that breathes new life into Boro’s push for sixth place. This was a vital victory for Gary Smith’s side who are now just a point behind sixth-placed Notts County, but more importantly the last two performances in particular have shown Boro are hitting form at the most crucial of times.

It was fairytale stuff from Mousinho, who only made his comeback from a five-month injury lay-off as a late substitute during Saturday’s demolition of Yeovil. He slotted in the centre alongside Michael Bostwick and seeing those two in the heart of the Boro midfield was a welcome sight for Boro supporters.

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Stevenage deserved the three points but it wasn’t all plain sailing as, again, all the signs were there that this was going to be another frustrating night in front of their own fans at the Lamex Stadium. They dominated the first period and created a hatful of goalscoring chances but none of them found the back of the net.

Their first effort came after nine minutes when Mark Roberts’ cross from the left picked out Craig Reid unmarked in the centre, but the striker side-footed a volley narrowly over Adam Collin’s crossbar when he should have done better.

Boro were well on top in the opening 20 minutes, displaying all the signs of a side brimming with confidence. Full-backs Jamaal Lascelles and Scott Laird got involved with attacks on several occasions, and some of the link-up play in the final third often proved too much for Carlisle to cope with. It looked just a matter of time before the opening goal would arrive.

But it didn’t. Chances continued to go begging – the best of which fell to Lascelles midway through the half. Long’s inswinging corner was met by a towering header from the 18-year-old, who scored his first Stevenage goal on Saturday, but Collin got down superbly to palm the effort away.

Carlisle were much improved after the break as they tightened up the space in midfield which meant Boro found it difficult to replicate the fluid passing moves shown before the interval. The Cumbrians looked more threatening going forward and they came agonisingly close to taking the lead on the hour-mark when Peter Murphy’s 20-yard free-kick floated just over Chris Day’s crossbar.

But if the Boro goalkeeper was helpless with that effort, he certainly wasn’t with Carlisle’s next attempt three minutes later as he made a game-changing save to claw away Danny Livesey’s header from point-blank range following a corner.

Day’s heroics sprung a change in momentum for his side, who had been on the back foot for a considered period, and within two minutes of Mousinho entering the fray on 74 minutes Boro scored the winning goal.

Agyemang, who impressed all evening, flicked a long ball on to Long on the left side of midfield. The wide man then played a delightfully-weighted, first-time diagonal pass over the top of the Carlsile back-line to the onrushing Mousinho. The touch shown to take the ball in his stride as he drove into the box was exemplary, and the fans’ favourite fired the ball past Collin in a fashion not normally expected of a player working his way back from five months without first-team football.

Boro defended resolutely in the final 10 minutes and, at times, found themselves clinging on for dear life as Carlisle pummelled ball after ball into the penalty area. But Stevenage have the second best defensive record in the division for a reason and they repelled everything their opponents threw at them in the dying stages to seal a vital win.

Stevenage (4-4-2): Day, Lascelles, Roberts (c), Ashton, Laird, Long, Wilson, Bostwick, Freeman (Mousinho 74), Reid (58), Agyemang (Myrie-Williams 90).

Subs not used: Julian, Shroot.

Carlisle United (4-3-3): Collin, Simek, Livesey (c), Michalik (Beck 87), Murphey, Berrett, McGovern (Madden 45), Taiwo, Noble (Welsh 45), Cook, Zoko.

Subs not used: Robson, Thirlwell.

Att: 3,438